The Unfundamental Conversion

What Heaven Would Mean for a Theistic Universalism

March 26th, 2016 | Posted by Lana Hope in Philosophy | Religion

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.

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  • Timothy Swanson

    Very interesting. I tend to agree with you, and love how you logically laid things out.

    • Since you like Dante, see the Purgatorio, canto 15, line 49-51, or start reading above at around 43. It is on how temporal goods lead to envy. Dante gets this from the philosophers, of course, but I like how he lays it out.

      • Timothy Swanson

        I keep hoping Robert Pinsky will get around to translating the rest of the Comedy. His version of Inferno was so good, I am spoiled. (I own a classic verse version of the whole thing, and a prose translation as well.) I may have to just go ahead and dive in with what I have.

        • Does Robert Pinsky’s translation rhyme? The Inferno is the part with the least substance. It’s fun and good literature, but the purgatorio and paradiso are much more substantive. What Dante says about purgatory and heaven, if I’m allowed to call them that, makes so much sense to me.

  • Alice

    That was interesting. I think it makes more sense and is more appealing than the other concepts of “heaven” I have heard.

  • Alice

    If there is a god, can we then assume humans are more than temporal beings? That God intends for us to live forever after death?

    • HI, alice,

      Perhaps God does not necessitate human immortality. A lot of Christians believe that animals have souls that aren’t eternal, so it’s possible for that to be the case with humans, although I’m doubtful because it makes a mockery of human suffering.

      But yes, I agree with you that if there is a God, we are not temporal beings, or at minimum our souls not. But the objects of our desires, which aren’t rooted in God, are temporal, because there is only temporal satisfaction in them before they being to wane. (for what it’s worth, if there is a place called heaven, most definitely there will still be temporal goods – i.e. food. The difference is we’d have a greater perspective of those goods, then we do on earth where the object of our desire can create envy towards those who have it.

  • You have a HUGE missing link in your thoughts in your post

    • okay, name the premise or inference where I go wrong. You are not allowed to reject the conclusion without rejecting a premise.

      • Your premise is a good one when it comes to Universalism. If you go back and put in ‘sin’ into your write up how much would it change the storyline of thoughts? That is the elephant in the room that is not acknowledged. What do you think? What does God do with Sin?

        • he forgives them.

          • Try it more in the context of repentance on the part of the mortal. It changed the theme of your post and I believe makes for a more accurate storyline.

          • I never denied the repentance aspect. But I think or hope all people will do so. Does that makes sense?

          • Your initial thinking makes sense because it is wishful thinking BUT is it based in reality? A key issue. What does the bible say about such a thing? That is where the reality comes in. To Support the wishful thinking here is a scripture.

            1 Tim 2:4 …… 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

            What is the reality?

            John 3:16
            For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

            Matt 7:21 21″Not
            everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of
            heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will
            enter. ( I find this to be very sobering)

            Matt 8:11-12
            say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the
            table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; 12but
            the sons of the kingdom (Referring to Israel will be cast out into the outer darkness; in
            that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

            Rev 20:15
            15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

            Put these into your post and it changes the storyline to reality based on what is known from the bible.

            Agree or disagree?

          • Would a better suggestion to your post be to insert this into it? How would it change the dynamics?
            Romans 1:18
            18 For the wrath
            of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and
            unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

            -wrath of God suggest that he is a God of love but also of wrath judgment. How would that change your story?

          • You don’t think she’s thought of wrath and sin, too? She grew up just like you, maybe even more conservative! You act like she’s never thought of this before, when she’s probably thought of it more than you have. She doesn’t owe you or us an explanation for her reasoning, either. She shared with us what she wanted to share.
            She has her own relationship with God, just like you.

          • No. Lana did not grow up just like me. You have made an uninformed judgment. I give you grace on that.

            My fear for Lana is that she is allowing liberal thought to come in between her and scripture. Liberal thought, methodically, erases core teachings from the bible and brings a form of godliness while denying its power.

            Jude 3 exhorts us to earnestly contend for the faith because there are many deceivers and those who desire to usurp the authority of scripture for something ‘more tolerant’.

            To begin to deny sin is the open door for other things such as hell and judgment. It is the slippery slope to apostasy. I don’t want to see Lana slipping into that crevice.

            Lana’s posts are her explanations and the comments section invite people to give her feedback. I don’t think you like what I said in response to her blog article. I didn’t condemn her at all.

          • Well, Jesus was the original liberal. He hung out with sinners, encouraged people to pay taxes, even gave away free health care. 🙂 And if he was “calling them out” half as much as his followers do, I guarantee you he would have never been invited to their parties! Haha! 🙂

            She is contending for her faith, just like you are contending for yours. She seems to respect your relationship with God–why not respect hers? If she’s wrong, and sincere (and she seems to be), then God will show her. Are you open to whatever God wants to show you? 🙂

            And you unintentionally lied about the bible here. I read Jude 3, and nowhere does it ever say anything about any kind of tolerance being bad, or being apostasy. You read that into the scripture, when it’s not there.

            Remember, the Pharisees did not think of themselves as condemning people, either. They were literally just quoting the bible, taking it “literally”–just like you.

            God bless you, brother. You will be in my prayers.

          • AJ
            Lana is contending for her faith but she is not contending for the Christian faith. There is a major difference there.

            Jude 3……. when did I say anything about that being about tolerance? I referenced Jude 3 because it refers to fighting for the faith. What faith? Certainly not my own faith that I make up along the way. Let’s look at it in context.

            3 Beloved,
            while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common
            salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend
            earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
            4 For
            certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for
            this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into
            lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

            A faith delivered to all saints so if you have a faith that is very different from Orthodox teachings then it is a good bet you are wrong. V4 talks about some of that heresy.

            To contend is to fight.
            My fear with Lana is that she is being seduced by philosophy and gradually throwing away the doctrines of the bible for something a bit more edible to the modern mindset. For something that may appear to be more ‘loving’ but in the end it is not. She questions the reality of hell. What will be next?

            There is a reason Jesus died for mankind. There is a reason why men reject Jesus and there is a reason why men deceive and become deceived.

            If a Christians faith is not founded upon the bible then that ‘faith’ is no faith at all but merely a dream or fantasy.

          • You said that she must contend for the faith, and then tried to contrast faith with tolerance. Those two are not irreconcilable. For goodness’ sake, tolerance simply means letting people live their own lives–would you rather gays be punished for their “sins”? If so, then you are going against Jesus, who stopped the sinful woman from being killed.

            And it is very arrogant for you to set yourself up as the decider of what is “true” Christianity, and what isn’t. You are NOT God. LGBT people, and their allies, are not some people to be reached by the church, etc–we ARE the church. Whether you like it, or not.

            You cannot prevent me or others from being a Christian and having a relationship with God. I have done my biblical research, and I go back to the original manuscripts. I don’t trust our modern translations, from a church that was burning gays at the stake, and needed justification. So don’t preach to me about the bible. My life, and my Christianity, is NOT up for debate. Thank you. 🙂

          • AJ, I am trying to find where I contrasted faith with tolerance. Help me out there buddy. What post are you looking at for that because I don’t see it.

            Tolerance does mean letting people live their lives but when it comes to the Gospel tolerance goes out the window because that means people will die in their sins. Scripture commands all men to repent. That is not tolerance but that is the command of God in Jesus. Repent or we perish.

            Jesus told the woman in adultery to go and sin no more. He didn’t just say your sins are forgiven.

            My intention is not to prevent anyone from believing in God. My intention, on this article, is to warn about the danger of slippy away from the Orthodox faith of Christianity and into apostacy.
            These would include some of the following:

            -Denying Jesus is God and has come in the flesh

            -Denying Jesus Blood forgives us of our sin

            -Denying that being born again, or adopted of God, is how we obtain salvation from God through Jesus.

            -Having no need to repent of sin
            -Believing sin doesn’t exist

            – Thinking we are basically good when the bible says all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.

            – Thinking our works will save our souls.

            -Believing God will save everyone when the bible says no such thing because not everyone will repent. Those who do not fall under condemnation

            You will find all of this points line up with scripture. Scripture judges me and it judges you and that judgment should drive us to repent of our sins and build one another up in the faith and exhort each other when we fall.

            I leave you with this proclamation from Paul that shows that any sinner can be forgiven and changed by the Power of God.
            1 cor 6:9-11

            9 Do
            you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?
            Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers,
            nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And
            such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified,
            but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit
            of our God.

          • You said that one must contend for the faith, then that tolerance was bad. That is contrasting faith and tolerance. You think you are contending “for the faith,” but you are actually contending for your version of the faith, which does not like tolerance. Which is a perfectly fine thing to do–but not if you pretend that you cannot possibly be wrong and that only you and those who agree with can possibly be right.

            You would have to be perfect, in order for it to be impossible that you are wrong, and only God is perfect.

            Have you read about the man lowered in from the roof? Because Jesus DID “just tell him” that his sins were forgiven, before he even opened his mouth to repent! He also only told people to stop sinning AFTER he had either saved their life, or healed them from chronic illness. How many “sinners” can say that of you?

            Jesus forgave a man who had not repented yet. That is a very interesting story, when you say that God can’t forgive people unless they repent, especially if you think they have to express their repentance out loud. I’m not trying to make an argument for universalism, here, but it is interesting, nonetheless.

            As for that verse, that was deliberately mistranslated by a church that was burning gays at the stake at that time, and looking for justification. There are more accurate ways to translate it, such as “dirty old men,” and “those who abuse sexual slaves.” During the Reformation it was translated as “masturbators,” not “homosexuals”! 🙂

            Bottom line is, my life and relationship with God are NOT up for debate. I don’t answer to you, I answer to him. End of discussion.

            God knows I am open to his leading, in case I am wrong. ARE YOU? Are you open to God’s leading, in case you are wrong, here? Please answer this question. No anti-gay person has ever had the courage to say yes, in my experience–even though it should be easy for them! 🙂

  • Julie Weinheimer

    Please look up Dr. Kent Hovind on youtube – evangelical pastor(and former science teacher) who will gladly debate on the topics of evolution vs creationism. There is too much scientific proof to deny our gracious God any longer.
    He is real, and he is returning soon!
    May God Bless you all and PLEASE believers and non- check this man out!
    He will blow your mind.


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