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McCall on Theological Determinism & Compatibilism part 1

(This is the first entry in a series of posts on Tom McCall’s discussion of theological determinism and compatibilism in his book, An Invitation to Analytic Christian Theology. I am not sure how many parts it will be, but I assume less than five.)

I had the pleasure of picking up Tom McCall’s recent book, An Invitation to Analytic Christian Theology (IVP 2015). It appears to be a fine work, and it seems to accomplish its goal of being an introduction to analytic theology for nonspecialists. Though what follows in this post is largely critical of one small section of McCall’s book, I hope that it won’t detract readers from its overall quality. I encourage you to get a copy, if you haven’t already. We need more (lay) analytic theologians (read the book to find out the content of that term!). (more…)

Mere Evangelical Conditionalism – 1

(Note: This is part two of a series on evangelical conditionalism/annihilationism. Part one is located here.)

In the last post I introduced the terms “traditionalism” and “conditional immortality.” I raised some worries that showed some ways that the terms can give rise to conceptual confusions. I engaged in a bit of clarification and settled on a refined description for each term: (1) Mere Evangelical Traditionalism, and (2) Evangelical Conditional Immortality (which I shortened to Evangelical Conditionalism). I then let “MET” = (1), and “EC” = (2).

One of my main goals for the series is to develop a MET model that is superior to EC, or at least equal in terms of explaining the relevant texts. That model will be presented a few posts down the road. My immediate goal is to lay out what I take to be the EC core. By “the EC core” I mean the main biblical tenets that conditionalists think traditionalism is simply unable to account for, and it is in virtue of this inability to account for these tenets that conditionalism is said to be superior. It’s precisely this core that my MET model aims to meet.

In spelling out this core I will try to follow some of the things conditionalists have told me about their view. The first thing is that conditionalism is consistent with both dualism and physicalism. Thus, a doctrine of anthropology will not feature on the list of core tenets. Second, conditionalists have told me that their view is consistent with a wide variety of views on the intermediate state, namely it is consistent with (i) claiming that the person ceases to exist after bodily death, (ii) the person exists but is in some sense unconscious( a view often called “soul sleep”), and (iii) the person persists consciously through the intermediate state. Thus, a doctrine of the intermediate state shall not appear on the list of core doctrines. Third, these entail that conditionalism is not committed to the view that death just is the cessation of the person’s existence (however, MEC does want to say that the second death (Rev 2:11; Rev 20:6, 14; Rev. 21:8.) marks the end of the person’s existence; a discussion of ‘death’ will be discussed in a future post). A person may therefore exist after death, or not, and we are told that conditionalism is consistent with both of these options. Thus, assuming that death just is the cessation of existence will not feature on the list of core tenets.

In light of this, I propose one more amendment to a term introduced in the last post. Since I am trying to respect the conditionalist’s claims of neutrality between the above views—offering something like “big tent” conditionalism—I will call the view presented below, Mere Evangelical Conditionalism (hereafter “MEC”). This gets at the “big tent” theme, and also is fits nicely with the opposing view, MET.

I shall present the main tenets of MEC over the next three posts (including the present post). In this post I shall discuss what is perhaps the key tenet of MEC: God alone is immortal. By calling this a “key tenet” of conditionalism, I am not thereby implying that other views on personal eschatology deny this doctrine. Nonetheless, to the conditionalist, this tenet can rightly be called “foundational.” I turn to it now. (more…)

The Glory Principle and the Humanity Principle

According to some versions of what I’ll call Augustinianism, God wills all things for his own glory. Call this principle, the Glory Principle (GP, hereafter). On a first read, the GP sounds perfectly pious; but, when we add that it includes God’s willing some proper subset of humans to hell, a non-insignificant subset of contemporary Christians strenuously object. I’ll call these objectors, Arminians. Now, Augustinians will say something like, “God’s willing some people to hell allows for his justice to be glorified.” There are of course many objections an Arminian could, and does, raise to the GP. One objection finds its root in Kant’s principle that we should never treat our fellow humans as a mere means to an end, rather than as an end in themselves. Call this principle, the Humanity Principle (HP, hereafter). It’s important to note that, for Kant, ‘human’ in the HP doesn’t mean only human persons like you and I, i.e., persons identical to or constituted by or associated with a human animal. It basically refers to beings that can engage in rational behavior and direct themselves toward ends of their choosing.

Now here’s the problem (or one way of putting it, at any rate). If God wills that some person S ends up in hell, and the end (purpose) of God’s so willing is his own glory, as the GP would have it, then, the objection goes, God has used S as a mere means to an end, and this is contrary to the HP. In what follows I want to push back against this objection. It will be my contention that this objection ultimately begs the questions against Augustinianism. (more…)