How Can a Good God Permit Eternal Damnation? Thomism and the Problem of Hell

Mats Wahlberg (Ph.D., Umeå University, 2010, Ph.D., Stellenbosch University, 2014) is docent and associate professor of systematic theology at Umeå University, Sweden, and a member of the Academy of Catholic Theology.

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6 Responses to How Can a Good God Permit Eternal Damnation? Thomism and the Problem of Hell

  1. The Beautific Vision is not at all similar to friendship with God or marriage to God freely undertaken. In the end, self is either consumed by God or ceases to exist. God does not sustain consciousness in existence forever because consciousness precludes the Beautific Vision.

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  2. Robert Fortuin says:

    For Wahlberg personal autonomy is defined as the “power of self-determination” which is cast by him as the ultimate trump card which even God cannot violate. Another version of the “hell is locked from the inside” defense of never-ending damnation. The cost of an eternally damned creation is the price to be paid for Wahlberg’s version of the “greater good.”

    I find this thoroughly unconvincing, for it assumes, one must, that autonomy (and its renunciation, which becomes a nasty by-product) is a possibility. But how so? I cannot envision a creation which is outside the reach of the will of the God who creates it. And why is determination of the person defined as set against the will of God? But set that aside, I would not want to be married to someone who is willing to have others pay the ultimate and eternal price for his bliss. No, thank you very much!

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  3. Calvin says:

    Since, according to what Wahlberg himself says, according to the school of Thomism to which he subscribes God can directly and infallibly determine the result of a decision without that decision ceasing to be free (somehow), what possible reason would God have not to do that if that was the only way to get someone on board? This solves absolutely nothing, and it doesn’t even pretend to address Hart’s argument on the fundamental unity of mankind.

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  4. archangeelll says:

    Well he is the first I have heard to actually offer an argument back at Hart. Eloquently arguing for eternal damnation.

    Our relationship with God is much more fundamental than he portrays, it just doesn’t seem analogous to the situation. I guess on his model of true freedom this works, but it still can’t be reconciled with the nature of God.

    I’d be interested to know what he finds is the acceptable ratio of “saved to damned” that makes the situation justifiable? I just don’t see how God allowing the majority of souls to damn themselves for eternity can achieve any “incommensurable good” that outweighs that fact.

    I would be interested to hear Hart’s response, I would like my order with extra “rhetoric” please 🙂

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    • Robert Fortuin says:

      Hart has addressed this type of argument on numerous occasions. It’s nothing new really, just another variation on the so-called freewill defense of eternal perdition.

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  5. Counter-Rebel says:

    The most lovely wedding engagements are when the woman is so in love that by the time of the proposal, she can’t help but say yes. The analogy between human-to-human marriage and marriage to God only goes so far. Potential grooms don’t create the bride and don’t force her to be in a relationship in the first place (nor subsequently). But creatures, whether they say yes or no to God, will be in relationship with God forever, just not necessarily happily. In human life, she can say no to the finite good of finite marriage but still find happiness in another man or form of life. God is infinite, and so if marriage is the *only* thing that could satisfy one completely and forever, I see no problem with the “yes” being necessitated (I have a view of freedom where a choice can be free-yet-determined so long as its being necessary is the result of a prior undetermined free choice). He says (this is me paraphrasing:) marriage with God is an incommensurate good that justifies any risk. I say eternal hell is an incommensurate evil that justifies the inevitability of the wedding ceremony. Nobody would consent to being born if there was a non-zero chance of being tortured forever for rejecting God’s proposal. No woman in her right mind would even start dating a man if she knew that saying “no” later on could result in eternal misery. It would be a courtship based on anxiety.

    He says we can be responsible for rejecting God as long as we are *sufficiently* free, not *maximally* free. He points out that we can be held responsible for murder and other crimes with such freedom. Universalists agree that we can be responsible for bad things (whether stealing candy, murder, or rejecting God) with sufficient freedom. The issue is that *in all examples*, the person is not *completely* responsible. They may responsible enough to need punishment (or better, restoration which may be painful), but not permanently. In all bad choices, ignorance and/or weakness reduces responsibility.

    I’d submit that his response to the final question [Note: they cut it out] reveals that deep down, he knows the doctrine is evil. Logically, you should have no problem with one person going to heaven and the rest of creation being damned if the rest of your presentation is sound. After all, the others did it to themselves, right? They freely said no. It was all worth it just for that one Saint. But he can’t escape the intuition pouring from the core of his heart (the part untainted by evil) that that is problematic, which means there must be something wrong with his presentation even if one can’t pinpoint exactly what it is, though I have tried to do that here.

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