Friday, 14 November 2014

¿Four possible outcomes after death?


On the basis that Christ's work did two things: enabled resurrection and atoned for our sins:

1. We accept both resurrection and the atonement: happy, conscious, embodied life - Heaven.

2. We accept the atonement but not resurrection: happy, spirit life; impersonally absorbed into harmony with the divine - Nirvana.

3. We accept resurrection but not atonement: unhappy, conscious, embodied life,  - Hell.

4. We reject both resurrection and the atonement: a spiritual, witless, demented half-life - Sheol/ Hades.


Note: In case it confuses people - I here adopted the (¡excellent!) Spanish practice of placing an inverted question mark at the start of a question, as a way of informing the reader that what is to follow will be a question. I did this is in order to emphasise the tentative and conjectural nature of this post - as something for the reader to consider, rather than my own considered belief.


Adam G. said...

The issue is whether resurrection is a choice. We just don't know enough to know. Alternatively, it may be that it is a choice, but the lure of being incarnate is so strong that literally everyone accepts it? If so, one version of damnation might be the Nirvana-types (I take the Nirvana desire to be a 'sin' in the sense that it is a lesser, less complete desire) spending eternity claiming that they'd be happier without a body and wish they hadn't taken one in a moment of weakness.

Joel E. said...

You use the word acceptance instead of faith, which is correct. Acceptance is conscious recognition while faith is a great big bag of things, including serious life change, etc.

But why would acceptance change our personal destiny in such a big way?

Paul's telology of faith is fairly simple, in comparison. If you have faith you want to join the right side, and if you have faith God lets you join the right side. And of course God will save his side.

We like to think of God as bigger than that nowadays. He's not just a football coach in the sky. This more than anything else had driven the great theological crisis.

But getting back to acceptance. It seems too random fallible, as compared to deeds or love, etc. I have trouble thinking that it had grand theological significance. Maybe we can turn the discussion to faith, a much bigger thing, but faith is not at all binary enough for the thesis.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Adam - One problem that the above scheme is designed to 'solve' is that it looks as if the accounts of Sheol (in the Old Testament - which was the destination - albeit temporary, as it 'turned-out', of all the dead) was nothing like so bad as the accounts of Hell (in the New Testament).

If that is all there is, it does not seem to fit with the actions of a loving Father - for the Atonement to lead to something even worse being forced-upon the unsaved in Sheol.

Therefore I assume there may be something missing from the explanation; and that the resurrection may perhaps be chosen - it being possible to reject it and remain in the lesser state of suffering of Sheol (those who chose incarnation and Hell, doing so will-fully, and from pride).

Additionally, I take seriously that we consented to/ chose mortal incarnate life (because a loving God would surely not have forced us into this, so ill-equipped), and knew the range of options, and something of the probabilities.

I find it hard to suppose that we (as pre-mortal spirits) would have taken the risk of mortal incarnation if there was merely a binary outcome and no safe default; not even in pre-Christian, non-Christian and anti-Christian societies; and with the odds making damnation all too likely an outcome.

I would therefore regard Nirvana as sub-optimal, rather than sinful. Again, God would surely not force us into a personal relationship with him, with Hell as the only alternative...

Adam G. said...

Bruce C.,
from my standpoint, suboptimal and sinful are synonyms. There are only degrees of suboptimalness.

I believe the standard Mormon response is to say that Sheol is Spirit Prison/Spirit Paradise and was always meant to be temporary, and that the NT accounts of Hell are overdrawn and metaphorical.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Adam - I don't want to press the above speculations harder than they deserve, which is not very hard; but I think that reassigning the unrepentant from Spirit Prison to a less-metaphorically-tormenting-Hell is probably susceptible to the same moral objection as reassigning spirits from Sheol to (metaphors taken literally) Hellish-Hell - the objection being that by this account the Work of Christ is not unreservedly 'Good News' but instead Bad News for all the unrepentant.

Given my assumption that the damned are essentially self-damned, and actively choose their own fate; any kind of 'from bad to worse' scenario dating from the death and resurrection of Christ just doesn't ring true to me - I feel that something more, or something different, would need to be said to make sense of it.

(What I have said is probably not it, but *something* is needed.)

Adam G. said...

Understood that we're speculating. My speculation is that existence as a resurrected, damned being is no worse than existence a s resurrected, damned spirit and is probably better. this doesn't account for the scriptural data perfectly, but then again, the OT isn't necessarily talking specifically about the damned souls.

an alternative speculation is that being a damned resurrected being is worse than being a damned spirit, but either (1) for reasons we don't have the background to understand, its impossible to offer resurrection selectively, or (2) the damned spirits always choose to be resurrected anyhow.

Putting the resurrection aside, I don't see anyway around admitting that Christ was Bad News for some. We're all sinners, but once the possibility of grace and repentance is offered, to continue in sin is even more wicked. The last state is worse than the first.

Bruce Charlton said...


" I don't see anyway around admitting that Christ was Bad News for some."

I agree that this must be the end result. But I cannot see that the scheme would make the state of anybody *necessarily* worse than before Christ - but only by their own choice.

A way this could happen is that the resurrection of unrepentant sinners from spirit prison would be followed by a period of education, reflection, revelation etc - before judgment/ decision.

Against this, I tend to feel that for resurrection to be of a perfected soul in a perfect body, then this judgment/ decision must happen before resurrection.

"We're all sinners, but once the possibility of grace and repentance is offered, to continue in sin is even more wicked."

This has never made sense to me, I'm afraid. Its like the 'savage' who was angry with the missionary for telling him about Christ because it made his situation worse.

I would assume that the situation of the savage was unchanged by information about Christ per se - and only if he responded to the information by both believing it AND actively rejecting it, would his state be worsened.

Leo said...

I think we ultimately cannot reject the resurrection, so options 2 and 4 would be temporary states with 4 not necessarily being not so witless. See Alma 40. Alma 34:35 brings to mind the end of Book VI of Paradise Lost, with the last four lines as the take home lesson:

"...At thy request, and that thou maist beware
By what is past, to thee I have reveal’d
What might have else to human Race bin hid;
The discord which befel, and Warr in Heav’n
Among th’ Angelic Powers, and the deep fall
Of those too high aspiring, who rebelld
With SATAN, hee who envies now thy state,
Who now is plotting how he may seduce
Thee also from obedience, that with him
Bereavd of happiness thou maist partake
His punishment, Eternal miserie;
Which would be all his solace and revenge,
As a despite don against the most High,
Thee once to gaine Companion of his woe.
But list’n not to his Temptations, warne
Thy weaker; let it profit thee to have heard
By terrible Example the reward
Of disobedience; firm they might have stood,
Yet fell; remember, and fear to transgress."

Not that I take Milton's hell literally, but I do take the lesson seriously.