Resolved: A Christian can hope that all souls will be saved

I argued against the resolution. I had two arguments. The first one is here.

I.) The first argument was disjunctive: either hope is understood as (1) the theological version of hope, or (2) not. Either way is impossible.

1a.) “Faith is the substance [stands under] things hoped for. Hebrews 11:1

Therefore, hope rests on things that are held de fide. 

But the doctrine that all souls will be saved is not de fide, but a speculation or theological hypothesis.

Therefore we do not hope that all souls will be saved.

Note that we are working with a broad sense of de fide here that ought to work for both Catholics and Protestants. At the strictest level, it includes the matter of the creeds and the first seven councils of the Church. More loosely, it includes theological opinions that enjoy a broad consensus throughout the history of the Church. For Catholics it will include ex cathedra pronouncements of the Popes, later Ecumenical councils, and even some widely held theological opinions that fall outside of this (like the belief that the canonized are in heaven, or that there are three criteria for mortal sin.) So we are clearly casing a very wide net here. But even on the widest cast of the net we do not get Universalism.

1b.) If Christian hope is speculative, hesitant, and open to change, then the love it gives rise to is speculative, hesitant, and open to change.

But Christian love is nothing like this.

Therefore Christian hope cannot be speculative, hesitant, and open to change.

Again, if theological hope does not rest on the certitude of faith, it cannot give rise to an unwavering and dedicated love. And so it seems impossible that we could say we hoped for an empty hell with the theological virtue of hope.

2a.) But if we do not hope with the theological virtue of hope, what sense of hope are we speaking of? Again, we cannot mean the hope that is a confident expectation in the power of God to deliver what he is promised, so what do we mean?

It seems it can only mean a wish. We wish that all souls will be saved.

2b.) But we can wish for things that are not even possible and even contradictory.

We can wish, for example, that we were all born Kings, or that we never were born. So to say we wish all souls are saved does not even tell us if such a state is possible. So what is this debate about if the other side does not even know if what they are arguing is possible? If this is all “hope” means, then the other side is open to the possibility that their whole claim is as contradictory as changing the past.

2c.) Wishes need not give rise to action.

But Christian hope must give rise to action. (Here I think of the parable of the talents. In looking forward to the future, a Christian must do something.) Therefore, the hope for all souls to be saved – if we take hope in this second sense – is not a properly Christian sort of hope.

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16 Comments

  1. March 25, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    I’m curious, you say you argued against it and that this is one of your arguments. Did the arguments of others affect your view at all? Would you still argue against the resolution?

  2. March 26, 2014 at 2:30 am

    “But we can wish for things that are not even possible and even contradictory.”

    Thanks for mentioning this. As far as i know, this experience falls under what was in scholastics was called “desiderabilia” – only possible or even impossible beings as the object of desire.
    I know I am little off topic now, but – I have to write the seminary work at the desiderabilia topic at my university studies. So if anybody knows about any articulus or question from any of scholastic scholars that deals with this topic and told me about it, I would be very grateful! So far I know only about Thomas´ and Scotus´ questions “Whether will is about impossible” … and then about one secondary-literature article by Jeffrey Coombs …

  3. R. Mulvey said,

    March 26, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    This is well reasoned! I think, however, that there are two “senses” by which we can understand your resolution. You seem to acknowledge only one of them. Both senses ultimately flow from the distinction between the sufficiency and efficacy of Our Lord’s redemptive mission.
    Now, the first sense is this: “I hope that all souls will be saved by necessity and with certainty.” The second sense approximates the following: “I hope that all souls will be saved because men, of their own volition, enjoy the possibility of salvation.”

    It seems to me that the difference between these two “senses” depends whether or not we hope that all men will enjoy Paradise as a factual matter, that is, as something unconditionally predestined. If we believe that every man will be saved regardless of his cooperation with the Divine Will, then we must ignore the reality of human freedom and admit, as you implicitly argue, that we’re on the path to the sort of universalism inherent in Origen’s theory of apokatastasis.

    But just as we don’t know that all souls will, in fact, be saved, we can’t know whether any souls will, in fact, be damned. While we must believe that God has resolved to predestine certain men to Hell, the incidence of reprobation is left open. It may be the case—even if it is extremely unlikely—that there are no souls in Hell. The converse to this mystery, of course, is our limited understanding of predestination. We don’t know how many are saved; that number is known only by God. The reprobate and the predestined are real “classes” of souls, but the content of each is unknown. (The exception here is the Mother of God, who has been granted anticipatory enjoyment of the glorified human state. We could also quibble about whether declarations of canonization are infallible and the saints enjoy the Beatific Vision.)

    In any case, the Logos became Incarnate in order to redeem man. He did this freely and as a gift to us. Through Christ’s death on the Cross, all of mankind was reconciled with God. His sacrifice had redemptive effect sufficient for the salvation of all, not just for the predestined or the faithful. And because God universally desires the salvation of all men, and provides them sufficient grace to attain salvation, it seems well-established that all souls could, in theory, be saved. If this is true, then it seems entirely possible to hope for the salvation of all souls without falling into the heresy of universalism.

  4. May 12, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    Are there some “evil” souls that cannot by their very nature be saved? If not, then why wouldn’t God save them?

    In a post, I suggest that in discussing “transcircumstantial depravity,” Craig has simply added a pinch of utilitarianism to the Calvinist doctrine.

    It’s not that there are subhumans and supermen; rather, everyone is a subhuman whose salvation depends on God alone and in no wise on himself; moreover, God saves people until a Pareto-optimal state is reached, in which for all damned persons X, saving X would cause at least two other saved persons Y and Z to end up damned.

    God cannot create any more good without a greater amount of evil being create ipso facto. The reason is that the damned, like the devils, are needed to challenge or tempt the saved. This, of course, implies that X suffers positive reprobation,

    the absolute will to condemn to hell and, in order to obtain this end effectually, also to sin… those who are reprobated positively are directly predestined to hell from all eternity and have been created for this very purpose.

    What else can we conclude from the fact that God created Smith a subhuman, used him for external to Smith ends, and when Smith has outlived his usefulness, threw him in the gas oven? The Catholic Encyclopedia calls this a “repulsive doctrine.”

    However, Craig would say in his defense, this is the best possible world, and a world in which a better outcome is achieved is “unfeasible” to God. For example, the only way to ensure the salvation of everyone might be for God to create a world with just 5 people in it. Clearly, such a world is worse than this one, despite the fact that in our world, some are damned.

    • May 13, 2014 at 8:54 am

      “The reason is that the damned, like the devils, are needed to challenge or tempt the saved.”

      Why there should be any need of challenging and tempting?

      “For example, the only way to ensure the salvation of everyone might be for God to create a world with just 5 people in it. Clearly, such a world is worse than this one …”

      I really do not see why it is worse, and even “clearly”.

      • May 13, 2014 at 10:19 am

        Just consider a basic soul-making theodicy in which evil is justified as leading to (e.g., moral) good through struggle with and overcoming the evil. Thus, the Lord’s prayer does not say: “Lead us not into trials,” because victory in trials brings glory to saints, but “Lead us not into temptation,” as in help us not to lose.

        St. Thomas says: “In the state of innocence there would have been generation of offspring for the multiplication of the human race; otherwise man’s sin would have been very necessary, for such a great blessing to be its result.” I think it’s obvious that billions of people living is better that 5 people, though this value judgment may change if the fact that some of those billions are lost is added to it.

      • May 14, 2014 at 3:00 am

        ” I think it’s obvious that billions of people living is better that 5 people”

        I really do not. I have read whole quaestio from Summa from which you have quoted (thanks for it) and I do not see any direct argument that the greater multitude is better than the lower multitude. This can be supported also with scholastic reply to the Leibniz best-possible-world objection, which says that the best possible world is contradictio in adjecto: for if you use this reply to the question “why God had not actualised the possible world with trillion of trillions PLUS one people instead of the possible world with trillion of trillions people only?”, thenI think you have no argument to say that the world with billions of people is obviously better that the world with five people only. Moreover, I still think that the world with five people with no damned soul is better that the world with billion people but with no single damned soul. Which can from thomist point of view be supported by Thomas´ argument that one mortal sin, i.e. the supernatural evil, is incomprehensibly greater evil that some enormous evil that happened in natural sphere (i.e. one sexual thought which can be properly evaluated as a mortal sin against sixth commandment is worse than explosion of ten atomic bombs killing millions of people)

      • May 14, 2014 at 5:02 am

        “Just consider a basic soul-making theodicy in which evil is justified as leading to (e.g., moral) good through struggle with and overcoming the evil.”

        I see this as highly controversial. From my point of view this theodicey leads to the necessity of moral evil, the necessity of commiting a sin by someone. But is this compatible with Christianity? Imagine that Lucifer would not fall and neither Adam and Eve nor anyone of their successors would not commit (original) sin. Then who would be source of necessary moral temptation when this tempting alone is classified as a sin? And when God cannot tempt anyone?
        Anyway, basic question is, whether we need any progress and therefore the challenges at all. Me personally, I would really prefer to be created as determined to happines then to be created with possibility to be damned, although “free”.

  5. May 14, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    “I do not see any direct argument that the greater multitude is better than the lower multitude.”

    It’s not an argument but a value judgment. St. Thomas has the normal sentiments and is not a moral fanatic.

    Regarding the Leibniz’s objection: the large number of people in the world is not the only criterion of its goodness. For example, we can say: “the world serves its purpose of being conducive to the creation of human saints.” Or: “A significant part of the world features what economists call ‘moderate scarcity’: neither extreme dearth nor superabundance, such that people are required to fight for the their happiness but can actually succeed at building a civilization.”

    Moreover, given that we start with some sort of Adam and Eve, the number of humans depends on humans’ own procreation speed, the state of the economy, rate of child mortality, etc. God cannot just up and “actualize the possible world with trillion of trillions of people.” Besides, if in some distant future we colonize the stars, there may well be trillions of people. Why “trillions” and not “googols”? Maybe that’s “enough,” but 5 people certainly ain’t. Again, in my opinion.

    Regarding your second objection, the story of the Original Sin can be (and has been) interpreted in a variety of ways. Here are a couple of my own: 1, 2.

    I’m not defending William Lane Craig here; in fact, I think reason inclines toward universal salvation, even of Lucifer.

    All of it is very speculative, I concede. (For example, instead of the warm and fuzzy description of Lucifer in that link, we may instead say that he wanted to be literally Goodness, but since that is impossible, he decided to be Evilness, vowing to destroy what God created, in so doing apparently beating God. One problem is that this suggests that God and Lucifer are equal and opposite forces duking it out, when of course, God has no opposite.)

    • May 14, 2014 at 3:20 pm

      It’s not even that trillions are enough; rather, by having children we decide how many humans there will be. Leibniz would have it that God creates the trillion humans, but in fact it’s “our” human decisions, not God’s. But fixing the precise number 5 or however many humans beforehand, God would override our preferences with His own and nix sexual reproduction. Far be from Him to do that.

      • May 15, 2014 at 8:26 am

        ” by having children we decide how many humans there will be. Leibniz would have it that God creates the trillion humans, but in fact it’s “our” human decisions, not God’s.”

        I appreciate that you put the word our between quotation marks 🙂
        This is extremely difficult problem, but if God chooses and actualises the only possible world from the infinite set of worlds, the world has to be fully concrete, fully determinate – not incomplete as a fiction. So it has to include also all the people who will exist there (and also my typing of this comment). But then it is very hard to say that it is our choice to have a child – it is God´s one. Ours seems to be only in metaphoric sense. The problem becomes even much more difficult if we realize cases such as when the new baby was conceived through rape or artificial insemination, because also these facts (=sins) are necessary co-determining the completeness of possible world being actualised …

      • May 15, 2014 at 7:25 pm

        As a political libertarian, I see ugly phrases like “we went to Iraq” and “our government” all the time, and I try not to imitate statists. One of the marks of undeveloped personality is inability to distinguish between self and others.

        Now what you are saying is that in implementing human reproduction, God must have had the end of a great multitude of people in mind.

        It’s not like God created us male and female and said: “I don’t care how many people will have lived in the end; that decision is ‘up to you’.” If God had foreseen that only 5 people will end up existing, He wouldn’t have actualized this world.

        That sounds reasonable. Can we judge therefore that, since this is the best possible world, then God’s fecundity and prolific creative might is fully manifested in it through human population numbers?

      • May 16, 2014 at 6:55 am

        First of all I would like to apologize: not being a native english speaker, I sometimes have problems with exact understanding of whay you have typed.
        Currently I do not understand exact binding of this your paragraph to what I have written previously:

        “As a political libertarian, I see ugly phrases like “we went to Iraq” and “our government” all the time, and I try not to imitate statists. One of the marks of undeveloped personality is inability to distinguish between self and others.”

        To the next paragraph:
        “Now what you are saying is that in implementing human reproduction, God must have had the end of a great multitude of people in mind.”

        And you think what? That he need not have had? More, there is a question, what does it mean to “implement human reproduction”, because some can say that this concrete (i.e. sexual) implementation of reproduction basicly flows from human´s essence which is “part” of necessary God´s essence, his eternal idea of human (i.e. Him himself insofar he regards himself as an idea of human) and therefore it cannot in any possible world be different than it is in current world. I am not saying that I am happy with this but the argument is not weak.

        “It’s not like God created us male and female and said: “I don’t care how many people will have lived in the end; that decision is ‘up to you’. If God had foreseen that only 5 people will end up existing, He wouldn’t have actualized this world.”

        Well, but how this goes together with what you have written previously? I mean: “Leibniz would have it that God creates the trillion humans, but in fact it’s “our” human decisions, not God’s.”
        More, your second sentence fits very well – in my opinion – with what thomists object to molinists, when they speak about molinist “determinism of circumstances” (I personally see determinism of circumstances as very good and difficultly refutable position)

        One more to: “If God had foreseen that only 5 people will end up existing, He wouldn’t have actualized this world.” Again, it depends on what is better: to have the world with only 5 people but with no damned, or to have the world with billions of people but with thousands or millions of damned. It is difficult on one hand to say that “God wouldn´t do this” and simultaneously say that his decisions and thinking is very secretful and incomprehensible for human intellect, to uplift his inconceiveability …

    • May 14, 2014 at 9:23 pm

      I don’t want to pretend to be Medivh in WarCraft III, whose “knowledge of demons alone is staggering.” This is all speculation, and here is my version of the Christian understanding of Lucifer.

    • May 16, 2014 at 6:58 am

      Wow, I see yesterday I completely missed this your post from May 14, 2014 at 2:59 pm.
      Thanks for the links, I will look at it.


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