Typically, infernalists argue that the damned cannot be saved because of their deprivation due to original sin and without special graces. For them, the chances of the damned refusing union with God on any occasion of choice is (close to) 1.
In this post, I argue that God would not create anyone who has any chance of suffering forever.
Premise 1: A perfectly good God would not create someone who has a 99.999999999999999% chance of suffering forever
Premise 2: If a perfectly good God would not create someone who has a 99.999999999999999% chance of suffering forever, then a perfectly good God would not create someone who has any chance of suffering forever
Conclusion 1: Therefore, a perfectly good God would not create someone who has any chance of suffering forever
Defense of the Premises
So, why believe the premises? For the following reasons:
- Suppose you have a dream in which a divine messenger tells you that 99.999999999999999% of the people in Gabon, Africa will end up suffering in hell forever because of their background culture and innate personalities. Do you believe it? Probably not, even if you didn’t believe God existed. You’d probably think the following: “A good God would not permit there to be a person whose chance of avoiding infinite suffering is so terribly slim.” This is the intuition behind the first premise.
However, suppose God were to create someone who has a 99.999999999999999% chance of suffering forever. God creates Alice, the most rebellious rebel. Alice’s chances of refusing union on any occasion of choice is .99. Give this rebel an infinite number of chances to accept, and the chances are 1 that she accepts some time or other. But, of course, on every occasion of choice, her chances of refusing the offer are by hypothesis .99. So even if Alice knows she will eventually accept, she is still free to refuse or accept on each occasion. In fact, she is likely to refuse on each occasion. All the more, she is likely to refuse on the occasion when, finally, she does not refuse; but, no doubt, she is really choosing when she does choose union with God.
But what about traditional Augustinians, e.g. Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists, who believe that (without special graces and because of original sin) the chances of any person refusing union with God on any occasion of choice is 1? In response, I think there is good reason for universalists to believe that there are no such depraved and persistently rebellious beings. It seems plausible enough that if God is a universalist, then He would have good reason not to create beings who would need strong coercion to enter heaven. So, prima facie, if it’s possible for God to do so, then He would do so.
Of course, it might be that every creature He could create is transworld depraved. In which case, it’s possible that He couldn’t create any subset of heaven-bound essences in any world that wouldn’t need strong coercion to enter heaven. But barring such bizarre worlds, we should expect greater compliance with God’s will among the beings He chooses to create.
- Think about it this way: the difference between 99.999999999999999% and any other percent is finite, whereas the consequence is always infinite. How could there be a percentage that permits risking infinite suffering, but a finitely different percentage that doesn’t? Why not think about it this way: for every percentage p, either p is worth the risk of infinite suffering, or p is not worth the risk. Neither of these terms are vague, so if the second premise is false, then there’s some percentage p, such that a perfectly good God wouldn’t create someone who has p chance of suffering forever but would create someone who has a slightly smaller chance of suffering forever. Why should a slight difference in chance warrant an infinite difference in the consequence that may be risked? It seems it shouldn’t.