Thursday, April 28, 2016

A reason why God might not give second chances

Jones definitively rejects God in this life. He dies. Should God give Jones a second chance at salvation? While an endless--or just extremely long--sequence of second chances might damage Jones' freedom to decide his ultimate destiny, a single second chance seems to be clearly a good thing.

Not necessarily! By giving Jones a second chance to choose God, God would also be giving Jones a chance to reject God all over again. But it is much worse to do wrong than to have bad things merely happen to one, at least when the wrong and the bad are proportionate. And rejecting God is among the worst of all wrongs--maybe even the worst of all wrongs. So there is definitely a risk of further gravely harming Jones by giving him a second chance.

This risk was already present when God gave Jones a first choice for salvation. But once one has done something terrible, doing it again is easier. If Jones has once rejected God's overtures, rejecting them again will be more probable, other things being equal. So, normally, the risk increases. Granted, God could decrease this risk to the level of the first-chance risk by changing Jones' character, but in doing so, God would be overriding Jones' freedom to decide on his character.

None of these considerations show that God shouldn't give a second chance. God could override character or take the risk of letting Jones reject him all over again. But what the considerations do show is that God could be acting reasonably and lovingly towards Jones in not giving Jones a second chance.

This argument depends on theologically incompatibilist simple foreknowledge or open theism: it doesn't work given theological compatibilism or Molinist.

15 comments:

Michael Gonzalez said...

Pruss: I think it's evident that your understanding of the resurrection and of life after death is quite different from mine. So, perhaps I'll be completely off-base in my answer vis-à-vis your worldview. However, it seems that the Scriptures do teach that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous (indicating a second chance). Now, if a person has rejected God's overtures, but is then resurrected by Him during a time when Satan's influence has been stifled and the world is thus a much more righteous place overall, might that person not be moved by the mercy and kindness God has shown him, and by the miracle of the resurrection itself?

Of course, the Molinist will say that God knows which people would respond to such a second chance, and which wouldn't. But, regardless of that, I don't think God would bother resurrecting any unrighteous ones if not for the purpose of giving them a second chance.

Again, I acknowledge that that may be totally different from how your church views the matter. I can justify my view on this from the Bible, but that's not to say that other views aren't possibly true.

Alexander R Pruss said...

I think there is continual existence between death and resurrection. One reason for the resurrection of the wicked is, I suppose, to complete them as human beings--the disembodied state is an incomplete state.

It may be that God already gives everyone such a degree of grace in this life as would equal the effect of seeing the miracle of resurrection.

Michael Gonzalez said...

Why would God want to complete them as human beings? I don't understand.

It may indeed be that that same amount of grace has already been given. If so, then I would agree with you that there doesn't seem to be any good accomplished by giving them a second chance. However, since I see the Bible as teaching that they DO get that second chance, I'm obliged to think (by a sort of inverse of your own logic) that they MUST be receiving some additional grace by virtue of being raised, and that some will thereby accept Him while not having done so previously.

Alexander R Pruss said...

"Why would God want to complete them as human beings?"

Why would a doctor want to re-attach a severed finger on a wicked patient?

Walter Van den Acker said...

" So there is definitely a risk of further gravely harming Jones by giving him a second chance.This risk was already present when God gave Jones a first choice for salvation. But once one has done something terrible, doing it again is easier. If Jones has once rejected God's overtures, rejecting them again will be more probable, other things being equal."

I am not sure I understand this. What does "further gravely harming Jones" mean? That Jones will have to spend two times eternity in hell?
If Jones defintely rejects God, then if he doesn't get a second chance at salvation, he has exactly chance of salvation. If he gets a second chance, his chances of salvation are better than 0. Better than 0 seems like a better option than 0, so God should give a second chance.
If He is good, that is.

Michael Gonzalez said...

"Why would a doctor want to re-attach a severed finger on a wicked patient?"

My understanding was that God's intention (on your view) is to punish these people in torments forever. That doesn't seem analogous to the goals of a doctor (unless the doctor works for the torturers and is just making sure the patient is fully capable of experiencing the torture they're about to receive....).

Alexander R Pruss said...

Walter:

Remember that doing wrong is worse for one than suffering bads. The risk is of Jones becoming a two-time rejecter of God, which is worse for Jones--completely apart from questions of punishment--than being a one-time rejecter of God.

Michael:

Bodily integrity is still intrinsically a good thing even if someone is being punished. We provide medical care to people in jail, even those sentence to life in jail.

Michael Gonzalez said...

Pruss: I promise I'm not just being picky, but isn't the idea of hell to give people a very very bad situation? Wouldn't a lack of bodily integrity (if it is an intrinsic harm) fit very well into the program?

It's interesting to me to consider this, since, on my view, God is not concerned with causing as much harm as He can or with how much harm is fitting. God just ends people's existences, not only as punishment, but so that they no longer contribute to the overall badness in the world.

But, in your case, I really don't see why leaving someone disembodied (if that is a harm) wouldn't be considered appropriate in hell.

Walter Van den Acker said...

Dr Pruss

I don't think you can just take for granted that doing wrong is worse for one than suffering bads. Can you tell me which consequence other than eternal punishment there are for Jones?

Alexander R Pruss said...

There is a dignity of the criminal that should be preserved amidst punishment, so it doesn't seem unfitting for there to be a resurrection of the body.

Alexander R Pruss said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alexander R Pruss said...

Walter:

The consequence is simply that he becomes a wrongdoer once again. Wrongdoing is bad for one, in and of itself, independently of any other consequences.

Why? Well, there is the argument from the authority of Socrates. That doing wrong is intrinsically harmful, and more harmful than the harms we ordinarily worry about, is his great discovery. :-)

Two arguments not from authority:

1. Something is good for one to the extent that it constitutes fulfillment of one's nature, and bad for one to the extent that it constitutes non-fulfillment of one's nature. The more central and deep the non-fulfillment, the worse it is for us. But the moral life is central to our nature, and wrongdoing is a non-fulfillment of our moral life.

2. That people should avoid wrongdoing no matter how much benefit people get from the wrongdoing is evidence that wrongdoing is very bad for people.

entirelyuseless said...

Doesn't "wrongdoing" just mean things you should not do? If this is the case, you are just saying "you should not do what you should not do, no matter how much benefit you get from doing what you should not do." But this is a tautology and cannot be good evidence that wrongdoing is very bad for people -- it simply shows that if you shouldn't do something, you shouldn't do it.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Good point. But fill it out in the concrete. You shouldn't commit adultery or murder, even to save all the rest of humanity.

Walter Van den Acker said...

"The consequence is simply that he becomes a wrongdoer once again. Wrongdoing is bad for one, in and of itself, independently of any other consequences."

That very much sounds like my mother. Why can't I do this? Because I tell you.

So, forgive me if I don't take this argument form authority very serious.
As for you other arguments.
Jones has already failed to fulfill his onw nature by refusing God. If he doesn't get a second chance, his nature will most certainly not be fulfilled. If he does get a second chance then there is a non-zero chance that Jones will eventually fulfill his nature. Denying someone the chance to fulfill is also wrong, so if what you say is true, God is wrong.

Lastly, I have no idea how doing something that benefits everybody and hurst no-one could be very bad for people. That's the whole point. You cannot just call something wrong unless someone is actually harmed by it. And since Jones cannot be harmed any more than he already is, and god cannot be definition be harmed, there simply is nobody left to be harmed, hence, there is no way in which Jones can in any way be worse off when given a second chance.