I believe that if there is a God, then God would do everything he can to make sure they spend eternity enjoying the gifts he offers. This statement is what we call a conditional sentence; my statement is true if and only if there is a God.
I reason that if there is a God, he must be maximally good, and a maximally good God would do what he could to insure that his creatures enjoy his goods.
From this it follows, first, that hell is definitely not a place where God punishes people for eternity. He instead needs to help us enjoy his goods.
so far then we have:
if and only if there is a God,
then he wants us to enjoy his eternal goods
so he won’t punish us in hell for eternity.
[I added the “for eternity” to the clause for the sake of logic. Technically, it’s possible that God could punish people for a day and then teach them about his goods the next day, which is to say that some level of suffering could be necessary before some people want his goods; I don’t believe that, but it’s a logical possibility. Conversely, it’s not a logical possibility that God can punish people for all eternity and share eternal goods with us; those two cannot coexist at the same time.]
Of course, now we face another factor, that of free will. Suppose that someone does not want to enjoy God, but only wants to benefit from his goods. Now the question is, can this be true.
if and only if there is a god
then he wants us to enjoy his goods
so he gives them to us, and we can receive them, without enjoying or partaking of god himself
I think the first two are true, and the third is false because the third cannot be inferred from the second. I believe that iff (iff = if and only if) there is a god, he wants us to enjoy his goods, but in order to us to receive them, we will have to enjoy god.
I reason that
iff there is a god
then lasting joy, goodness, and abundance flows from him
so we have to partake of a piece of god to accept them
The second premise above is the most contested. Why does the joy, goodness, and abundance flow from him? Here I am talking about supreme goods, as opposed to goods that diminished or divided.
Suppose that I have 19 kids. My love is divided between multiple children. It’s not that I love some kids less than others (though I could), or that I can’t love all kids at once (though I might not), but that my attention is divided. I can grow tired. I can lose my cool. I can’t talk to everyone at once. Sometimes I might have nothing to give. If nothing else, one day I will die, and my goods can no longer be shared, at least in the same way it was.
The nature of temporal goods is that they are either diminished or divided as they are shared; they are good, but not unlimited goods. If you think I am wrong that love divides with 19 kids, change the story and suppose I have 1000 kids, or 10,000 kids or 100,000 kids. At some point, my ability to love and care for other children reaches a limit; it starts to divide and diminish.
Temporal goods are still goods. They are here for a reason, and I suspect that even if there is a place called heaven, there will still be temporal goods. There is nothing wrong with temporal goods.
But there is nothing in a temporal good that is eternally sustainable and lasting. I could be wrong. But if heaven is like earth, but there is only temporal goods, and no supreme goods (that is, goods that do not divide and diminish when they are shared – more on this below), then that is hell to me, because an eternity on earth is hell.
Now back to where we were,
iff there is a god
then lasting goodness, joy, and abundance flows from him.
This basically means that while my gifts that I offer others (i.e. a mothers love) are very, very good, but not lasting. God, however, is a maximally great being, so all lasting goods could flow from him.
okay, next part,
iff there is a god,
then lasting goodness, joy, and abundance flows from him,
so we have to partake of a piece of God to accept those goods.
Why do we have to partake of a piece of God? Return to my previous example, where I have 19 children. I can love them at a distance, but they will never receive that love for themselves at a distance. I fail to see how God is an exception.
Now what partaking of God demands of us, I don’t know. I also suspect that all of us already receive of God to a degree but to a different level than those in heaven (or where it is that we go when we die), and we will continue to receive God to a different extent at different parts of our journeys. That is no criticism. If I were to die today, there is no way I could wake up and receive God in the same degree as an angel that always lived with God. There is so much hesitation and broken pieces of me that is simply not ready.
Again, I reason logically.
iff there is a god
he is maximally great and good.
I, on the other hand, am temporal, and all my goods are limited and finite. I can’t just walk up to God and grasp 100% of him, because I’m small. But on the other hand, I do suspect that I could open myself up and receive a lot of him, and on the other hand, I could be stubborn and receive less of him.
The dichotomy of heaven and hell seems false to me. I’m not all heaven and all hell. I still experience both hell and heaven, and I might always. Conversely, I don’t believe there is such a place as hell where God completely takes away all gifts from people (at least for people – I can’t speak for angels, if there are angels, because I am not one).
On the other hand, people often presume that if I’m a universalist, then I would believe that all people will wake up in heaven and we will have a party for the rest of our lives. And that this means that we never have to worship him or partake of his power, goodness, and abundance, that we can continue to be the kinds of people that sit on the pews every week and never actual touch God or know God.
I don’t know that I can just camp out in heaven and really experience heaven. It seems that heaven would be hell to me if I only ever have temporal goods, and it does not seem I could ever have anything but temporal goods if I could not really partake of God and be near him, since supreme goods necessarily derive from him and not me. (Again, our goods diminish and are divided)
Here I want to be clear. I am not saying that belief in this life has to do with where you end up in the next. As Aquinas talks about, you can believe in God all day long and have no hope to obtain perfection of the will. Belief is not magic. At the same time, nonbelief does not mean you have done nothing to prepare yourself for greater goods. I reject the idea that Christians are necessrily ahead of everyone else.
All any of this means is that
iff there is a God,
there are eternal goods, beyond temporal goods.
and someday we need to partake of those, if we want an experience of heaven.
People always want to know if I think people could end up in hell. I don’t know if I believe in such a place. The bigger question is iff there is a God, and we die, could we still experience hell? Yes, it’s possible that humans remain closed to eternal goods and prefer temporal goods that will always be divided and diminished. I hope that does not happen, but I suppose it’s possible. Put another way, it’s not a logic impossibility that someone dies and refuses eternal goods, so it remains a possibility, though I’m not claiming to believe in this possibility.
My hope, again, is that iff there is a God, then all people eventually learn to receive God’s love and love this God in return.
Everything I say is on the premise that there is a God. If there is no god, then none of this holds.
Conversely, if there is a God, then I am not sure where I am wrong, because it seems to me that God means that he won’t dump his wrath out on people for eternity (he is maximally good, so would not hate people for all eternity), and it also seems to me that we cannot receive eternal goods without partaking of those eternal goods (God can love me from a distance, but I can’t receive it from a distance). Iff there is a god, then it seems to me that it’s not possible for there to be people in heaven who experience heaven without drawing to God. The whole concept of an experience of heaven seems to me to imply that we partake of eternal goods, that we really, really reach forward and partake in them, and that gratitude and joy flows from us when we reach the point where we begin to see.
This post is not to say there is or isn’t a God (though I believe in one), but to say that I think the nature of God and eternal goods excludes the universalist notion that heaven is just a party where everyone is happy and there is no reception on our part. Sure, heaven can be a party, but it is a party where we acknowledge God, receive him, and I suspect love him.
If you camp out in heaven, but never delve into God, then at best, you get earth #2. At worst, you are left with hell, because an eternity on earth #2 is a kind of hell, at least to me.
If you think I’m wrong, please tell me which premise is wrong and why the premise is wrong, or why the premise cannot be inferred from another premise.
Do keep in mind that my first premise “iff there is a god” is a conditional. I feel the need to say that because even if you are an atheist, you can accept my formula because nothing in the statement “if and only if there is a god” assumes that there is a God, but is to say that the things that follow are true if there is a God.