This month an article I wrote defending the traditional doctrine of hell was published in Themelios 42.2. In this article I argue that despite being subject to a serious philosophical objection, an Edwardsean doctrine of hell is defensible. In order to defend this version of the doctrine of hell I suggest we start by thinking about Edwards’s doctrine of heaven.
Here’s a bit of the article:
Among recent trends in evangelicalism, one of the most prominent has been the resurgence of interest (especially within the “young, restless, and reformed” segment of the church) in all things Jonathan Edwards. One sees this in the vast quantity of recent books, blogs, and conferences dedicated to Edwards’s life and thought. These works have done much to lift him up as a pastoral, homiletical, and theological example to be emulated. The result is that certain Edwardsean themes and theological views have begun to exert greater influence upon evangelicalism, for instance: the importance of revival, preaching in order to change religious affections, the New Testament use of the Old, and even Trinitarian theology. One can certainly appreciate the positive influence that Edwards the exemplar has had upon the contemporary evangelical church. However, one aspect of Edwards’s theology that we may want to question the value of following his example is his account of the doctrine of hell.
Many Americans are familiar with Edwards’s account of hell through his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” in which he depicts one of the most horrific, ghoulish, and even terrorizing portrayals ever presented. In particular, his depiction of hell in this sermon is cited by many as evidence why we ought to abandon the traditional account. It has been said that Edwards’s doctrine is morally intolerable and that we should abandon it. Those who are interested in defending the traditional account and more specifically Edwards’s account have reasons for mining his works in order to find resources within it to defend not only his account but the traditional doctrine of hell as well. This essay aims to accomplish those two tasks.
On the fifth week of the AT Seminar Series Sameer Yadav, Assistant Professor of Religious
Studies at Westmont University, delivered a paper titled “Love: Creaturely and Divine.” In his paper Yadav dealt with Schellenberg’s divine hiddenness argument by providing what could be called a “Plantingian Divine Imaging Defense.”
An Overview of “Love: Creaturely and Divine”
Although not new, the problem of Divine Hiddenness (DH) became the subject of extensive philosophical discussion when J.L. Schellenberg published his book, Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason, in 1993. Schellenberg and others who put forth this argument appeal to existence of non-resistant non-believers as evidence for the non-existence of a perfectly loving God. We can summarize the main idea of DH as:
If God is perfectly Loving, then non-resistant non-belief does not exist. But it seems as though non-resistant non-belief does exist. Therefore, a perfectly loving God does not exist.
“When we’re talking about God we can’t afford to be sloppy.” As you probably know I am studying in a new field that seeks to revive an ancient form of theological reflection: analytic theology. This discipline that combines the rigor of philosophy with the wonder of theology, I work with Dr. Oliver Crisp, professor of systematic theology, and a team of visiting scholars to reflect carefully on prayer, love, and human nature. In the following video – directed and produced by Fuller Studio – I share my passion for theology, the dangers of muddled thinking, and my hopes for the church to be informed by good theology.
“Theology done well not only impacts people’s lives, says something to the world about who God actually is.”
Earlier this year (I forgot I wrote this post, its been sitting in my drafts) Terence Cuneo the philosopher from The University of Vermont, best known for his work in metaethics and early modern philosophy, especially the work of Thomas Reid, came in to our Analytic Theology Seminar to give a paper on liturgical theology…..
Scripted movement-touching sequences: involve participant in the liturgy moving through space to approach some person or thing for the purpose of bodily engaging that person or thing by their touching it or touching some person or thing in its near vicinity
Why do these SMTS play such a prominent role in the performance of Eastern liturgies?
SMTS have religious worth
Instrumentalist view vs. non-instrumentalist view
Defends a variant of non-instrumetnalist view: Authorization-appropriation model
God authorized the composition of and appropriated the scripts that perescribe the performance of such actions
Two primary commitments of instrumentalist view
Proper role of scripted bodily liturgical action is for an agent who performs these actions to stand in some instrumental relation to religious attitudes
Religious worth lies wholly in the fact that the performance has ability o instill, evoke, express religious attitudes that are fitting in how we relate to God.
Doesn’t fit so well with the text we have in the liturgies
Doesn’t handle some cases well – i.e. child who dies young, the performance of these bodily actions would not have any religious worth because they would fail to play the role that they were meant to play had the child grown up.
Paul on illicitly sexual activity – makes reference to the body as the temple
The Authorization- Appropriation Model
Task of the approach: ID a relation that God bears to liturgical participants such that their performing scripted movement has religious worth in virtue of their bearing this relation to God.
Proposal: having authorized and appropriated the liturgical scripts that prescribe these actions to these participants
Two parts to the model:
Authorization: Deputization and Delegation
The authorization to compose the church’s liturgies is a blend of the two
Three types of decisions: 1) scope, 2) which actions to prescribe, and 3) scope and normative force of the prescriptions
Criteria for selection: divinely required and fitting
God doesn’t simply authorize, but appropriates the scripts as his own
In eastern tradition – there is a synergistic relationship between the church and God in the composition of liturgy
But this is not enough- appropriation and authorization must take place
Applying the Model
Most things in the liturgy are “fitting” not “required”
They are cultural expressions of love, awe, wonder, among other attitudes, etc.
Difference between an action expressing an attitude vs. an action which is expressive of an attitude
Prima Facie worthworth on the whole
Some actions have prima facie interpersonal worth, but they are easily defeated
Acts can be expressive of attitudes that are apt in one sense but lack interpersonal worth because they lack something
The authorization-appropriation model explains why MTS can have stable non-easily defeasible religious worth.
MTS have religious worth because they fittingly relate us to God. Being fittingly related to God consists not simply in mental states but in the way we use our bodies. Worth of MTS is not wholly determined by the attitudes agents are in, but by the attitude that God has to their performance. This addresses the issue that there is supposedly something defective about ritualized activity which is by its nature “dead” – and says this objection is off because there may be things in which God delights in the way we use our bodies in worship.
How do you go about figuring out which actions are “authorized” or “fitting?”
Come up with some story for how taking communion with chocolate chip cookies and mountain dew expresses in some cultural form attitudes which are appropriate towards God?
Who is “authorized?”
Its clear on the story of President sending secretary of state, or a ceo having her secretary write a memo and send it out to the company.
Among recent philosophical responses to McCall’s position a paper co-written by Philip Gons and Andrew Naselli and another by Bruce Ware stand out as the most significant. Gons and Naselli argue that McCall’s argument conflates the term “essentially” with “belonging to the essence.” Ware puts forth a reductio ad absurdum argument against McCall and shows McCall’s logic entails a denial of homoousios.
This paper enters into this debate by examining Gons and Naselli’s argument. It engages with recent philosophical literature dealing with the meaning of the term “essence” in order to show that their argument against McCall is unfounded.
The paper then turns to Ware’s argument to show that he has made a category mistake in comparing the property of being eternally begotten and the property of being functionally subordinate in all time segments in all possible worlds. Having critically examined these recent philosophical responses to McCall we see that McCall’s argument still holds up against its objectors.
The full-text of this paper is available for FREE by clicking here.
Attendance is open (and free) to all who would like to come, but you must register by emailing kleinsch [at] usc [dot] edu no later than December 15th, 2016. Please include your full name and university affiliation in the email. You will not receive a confirmation email, but your name should appear on the list of participants within 30 days. Also, let Professor Kleinschmit know if you are a graduate student from outside CA and you are interested in being an assistant organizer!
Note: This conference lineup looks so good that I can get set aside the UCLA vs. USC for a weekend. I guess….