Non-Exclusivism, Universalism, Evil, and, Philosophy As One Big "IF"

America's leading Evangelical Christian philosophers (influenced perhaps by the struggle to find a way to justify the devilish amount of sheer ignorance in the world) are more attracted to ideas of "non-exclusivism" (i.e., people who are not born-again nor confessing Christians can still be "saved"), including even universalism (i.e., everyone will one day be "saved"), than are America's leading Evangelical Christian theologians, the latter of whom spout relatively more exclusivistic views based on a stricter linguistic interpretation of the Scriptures.

Though Alvin Plantinga is not a universalist, he is apparently a non-exclusivist who is attracted to the idea that more than just born-again or confessing Christians will be "saved."

Evangelical Christian philosopher, Vic Reppert [who argues on a philosophical basis that there is a likelihood of a "second chance" after death] adds, "There really isn't a firm quotable statement [regarding exactly what Plantinga's views are]. However, when I used to attend SCP meeting on a regular basis, I would have to say that exclusivism was very much a minority position. The philosophers, Robert Merrihew Adams and his wife Marilyn McCord Adams, are both universalists, and next to Plantinga, they are the best-regarded [Evangelical] Christian philosophers." [email from Reppert to Babinski, Tuesday, October 24, 2006]

Victor Reppert at his blogsite also recently posted an entry debating questions concerning God's "middle knowledge," titled, Gale, Adams, and universal salvation, that ended with Vic's observation that "since Adams [mentioned above] is a card-carrying universalist, it looks like he can dodge this objection. Everyone gets saving grace."


I suspect there are even more "ifs" if everyone looked harder at every argument--from eternal damnationism to universalism to simply death and rotting. I think it would demonstrate that philosophy is one big "if" when it comes to such questions.

Such "ifs" must also include the fact that the Bible is a book of words written by human beings, and such words are not equivalent to visibly seeing God, Jesus, the afterlife. Furthermore, people who claim to have seen God and/or the afterlife are also FEW in number. And many such "sights" are brief at best, or hazy (and they grow either "hazier" or "clearer" with the passage of time, depending on whether one is relying stictly on one's memory, or continually redefining one's memory of one's vision in verbal terms linked to increasingly dogmatic influences and interpretations applied from outside). Even of those few visions that some claim to have seen clearly, there's a wide variety of things seen, not simply Christian ones. So there is no coherent interpretation that includes and explains all such visions, let alone a "theologically systematic" whole, and as I said, FEW have ever seen such things.


1) If freewill was truly free than maybe it's logically impossible to assert that a God with "freewill" can also be defined as "good," because a God with "freewill" could also act "evil" by definition of having "freewill." Such a "God" would then have to be defined first and foremost as "free" and His actions defined as "indeterminate" or "vacillating based on choice."

2) Even if someone tries to argue that the definition of "freewill" (i.e., "always being able to choose either good or evil") applies to "God," then there's yet another question.

Let's accept a tri-omni good God exists. The "defense" offered for evil in that case is that anything God creates would be inherently less than God and more subject to temptations toward evil. But such an argument simply redefines the words "less than God," as "evil," but there is no proof that such a redefinition is necessarily true. Being "less" than "God" does not necessarily entail a creature becoming "evil," not anymore than God's own "freewill" might leave God in the exact same situation of always having to choose between two options. And WHATEVER MAY BE SAID IN THE ONE CASE APPLIES TO BOTH. Whatever keeps a tri-omni good God from never using His freewill to choose evil, could just as well apply to a less than tri-omni creation that came directly out of that same God. I stick by that statement, but Plantinga and Vic deny it on no provable basis that I have yet seen.


So there is no way for theistic philosophy to prove it has argued its was to reality or THE truth, because it just tries to redefine "freewill" in different terms for God and man, (or, it tries to equate the phrase "less than God" with "evil," again without proving that it is necessarily so), just based on PRESUPPOSITIONS THAT IT MUST BE SO. And such presuppositions remain as QUESTIONABLE as any other view.

In the end the idea of evil coming out of perfect goodness remains an unproven proposition.


All such philosophical arguments also flounder on the fact that we grow up via experiences of this cosmos. We learn about "'good' and 'evil' and the spectrum of actions lying in the grey area" in this cosmos before we ever learn how to separate those examples and concepts fully from one another in the form of "words," and claim they are fully and absolutely separate from one another. So the separation takes place afterwards (after one's mental development and contact with the world), and only after such a separation do philosophers take one of those abstracted concepts and try to build a bridge over to the opposte word and concept:

Perfect goodness---> Evil

When I read about arguments that try to create such a bridge I can't help noting all of the sheer ingenuity and guess work employed in the process of trying to find a way to bridge those two things that WE as human beings experienced and learned about as they already co-existed together, a world with both good evil and many grey areas of various shades as well. People living in this cosmos in which all those things co-existed, have learned how to pull such things apart mentally, and imagine only one of them existing alone in the beginning, then philosophers try to mentally derive one FROM the other. But that proves nothing about reality itself, the one in which we were raised and in which such things co-existed already.

It's like beginning with

Perfect Cold----> Hotness

Perfect Darkness----> Luminosity

A philosopher can of course argue based on scientific knowledge that the answer in the above cases is that molecules start to move faster, generating more heat and even light. But then the philosopher must also recognize that "perfect coldness" has no molecules that move faster than "perfect coldness" allows. Not if you begin with NOTHING BUT "perfect coldness." So you can NEVER get to the opposite side or cross the bridge from the initial defining point--you can't cross the bridge from one word to the other if both are already so well defined to the complete exclusion of the opposite word. (*Don't misunderstand me, I am speaking in terms of the limitation of going from one abstract word or concept to another, which by definition excludes the former word or concept. I am not speaking in terms of a creationist argument in which the cosmos began in perfect darkness and coldness--and even that argument is fallacious because scientists admit many possibilities not simply the one that the cosmos was created out of an inert cold and dark mass. They admit cosmoses might oscillate, give birth to other cosmoses, there might be an infinity of cosmoses and super-cosmoses throughout infinite time and space. And using "God" to explain the existence of the cosmos is simply to employ an even greater mystery ("God") to explain a lesser one, a more immediate and universally recognizable one.)

Now consider these questions and how they might be bridged:

Perfect Cold----> Hotness

Perfect Darkness----> Luminosity

In nature, coldness can and does sometimes warm up and/or cool down again; and darkness can and does grow brighter, and/or dimmer again. We observe such things happening on earth and via telescopes. So in nature CHANGES OCCUR, including oscillating ones. We observe that to be a fact of which there is no facter. Because there's a variety and mix of forces and co-existence of forces in the cosmos, all of which exist TOGETHER, side by side, rather than there being "PERFECT cold" or "PERFECT darkness." Nature, isn't "perfect" in either respect, and unlike philosophy, nature appears to be multi-sided, changeable and filled with the co-existence of things philosphers simply want to purify down into "perfect" words of which there is no worder.

Therefore, philosophy invents and relies on abstractions from nature that philosophers then further elevate to "perfections" or "absolutes," but they are picked a bit here and there from nature, like gnats from nature's hair, and philosophers claim that each particular thing they plucked from nature mentally is the "IT" that began it all.

That's probably why philosophers continues running into the same debates and obstacles to agreement since the pre-Socratics, because philosophy begins with fragments of the whole natural world of experience and then after fragmenting nature has to try and reunite the fragments back together to get THIS whole cosmos. Philosophy is the Humpty Dumpty rhyme writ large.

Thus the BIG QUESTIONS appear to lay beyond the ability of philosophers to get people to agree upon their answers. Philosophy cannot prove it's various conflicting explanations for reality, for this cosmos in which things co-exist, mix, and change. Philosophy has so far proven nothing. It is a mere wax nose on the faces of all philosophers, as flexible as their brains that keep alive all sorts of opposing views and viewpoints concerning the BIG questions.



Why speak about "eternal separation" as if change is no longer possible after some point? If there is "freewill" and if "freewill" is so vitally important, then why not retain freewill and that means retaining possibilities of change throughout eternity? Maybe people have their "up" and "down" periods throughout eternity? If you're looking at options PURELY PHILOSOPHICALL then eternal oscillation with no point of "no return," remains as good a purely mental option as any. But most people simply want the game of philosophy to end in some definitive way. They don't even begin to think in terms of life the universe and everything as an INFINITE game (rather than a finite one). I suppose that's partly because philosophers are lazy like the rest of the primates on this planet. Finish the job, reach the point of no return and get some sleep. (But read James Carse's FINITE AND INFINITE GAMES too, as well as Alan Watts's THE BOOK OF THE TABOO: AGAINST KNOWING WHO YOU REALLY ARE.)


Steve said...


I'm new to your blog. But I'll be brash and post a comment anyway.

I don't think free will is anything but an illusion of the human mind.

I don't think freedom of will is even possible in any sensible way. If there was an omni-max deity (god), even it would not be able to have a free will.

You say "if freewill was truly free" over and over again. Well what would freewill not being true at all do to your thoughts?


Edward T. Babinski said...

Thanks for the questions. I was simply ASSUMING what some Christian and theistic philosophers assume, namely, that "libertarian freewill exists."

The definition of "libertarian freewill" is that given all the same circumstances, a person or God, could make a choice completely different from the one previously made.

Personally I have just as much difficulty as you do trying to imagine a choice not determined by both the totality of a person's knowledge and experience in life up to that point, or determined by effects and influences so subtle and unconscious as to be unacknowledged. Furthermore, if "choices" are not determined by anything except "freedom" then they are absurd, like a wheel of fortune.

So I agree with you, good questions! But then philosophy is filled with "IFs" not answers concerning the BIG questions.

And of course the study of how the brain/mind functions is increasingly constrained by scientific advances in the study of how human beings make decisions. But there is no such constraint on all the imaginative recipies that attempt to "answer" the problem of a good God and evil, suffering, death and ignorance in the cosmos. It's especially amusing that brain/mind studies are going to continue for a long time, but theistic philosophers already claim they have "answers" concerning things like "God," His "freewill," how his mind worked and why He created the cosmos where everything dies, etc.

One might add the question of what is to become of all those being "less than God" who get to spend "eternity" in heaven? If they still have "freewill," and if they are "less than God," then what can keep them from ever freely choosing hell again? That just goes to prove that even theists have to agree with me that being "less than God" does not mean "less good."


Edward T. Babinski said...

Victor Reppert said...

Ed, The whole defensive operation against the argument from evil is an attempt to who the limits of a philosophical argument and the difficulty it faces in proving the nonexistence of God. Whenever the people you don't like are making arguments, you love to point out our cognitive limitations. When we try to do it to the argument from evil, you object.

Atheists are attempting to prove that God does not exist using the argument from evil. So which is it Ed? Can atheists prove that the tri-omni God does not exist, or not? Does the argument from evil, a philosophical argument if there ever was one, really prove that God does not exist? If it does, then you must maintain that philosophy is not just one big IF, and that it really can prove a significant philosophical result. If, on the other hand, you maintain that the argument doesn't prove the non-existence of God, then you agree with me about the argument from evil. There's no middle ground Ed. It's yes or no.
8:29 AM


Edward T. Babinski REPLIED...

There is no need to choose sides, not if you are arguing in strictly philosophical terms. You can argue all you want in multiple philosophical terms and from all angles, because it's a game. Even physicists who can't see into the depth of matter-energy entertain multiple hypotheses at the same time. (But to Christian philosophers it's one's "eternal destiny" what you choose to believe.)

You make it sound like I've been coy in asserting that philosophy "proves" nothing. I have explained that philosophy appears like a way to exercise one's mind, and a way to weed out the most egregious rational incoherencies (though plenty of rival coherent systems continue to exist), and a way to recognize the questions inherent in every assumption, demonstrating that assumptions prove nothing yet everthing in philosophy rests on them.

But given the limitations of human knowledge, and the sparseness of evidence of things we all can see and touch concerning God and the afterlife, coupled with the ingenuity-imagination of philosophical ways of arguing, it appears impossible to "prove" things about reality, about the BIG questions, simply via "philosophizing" about them.

A God or gods might exist, but it does not appear to me that philosophical arguments are going to prove it, nor are they going to prove much about the God or demi-god or infinite panentheistic, pantheistic deity behind it all or in it all or emerging and evolving with it all.

SECONDLY, concerning the massive amount of common knowledge of things seen and touched in the visible cosmos, concering THAT cosmos that we ALL experience and live in--there is both good and evil and grey areas inbetween, there is both light and darkness and greyness, pain and pleasure and things inbetween, suffering and joy and things inbetween, but in the end the individual living things in that cosmos die. That happens to be a depressing fact if you are an individual living thing in this cosmos, and know consciously you are going to die, and have to live with that knowledge, as well as the sight of suffering and death of others, and the knowledge that living things have been dying ever since living things first arose, and long before human beings even arose on the scene.

Two hundred years ago the French naturalist, Buffon, lamented, “Half the children born never reach the age of eight.” They died of diseases like smallpox, scarlet fever, measles, mumps, the flu, pneumonia, cholera, tuberculosis, meningitis, chicken pox, tetanus and staphylococcus infections. In fact a high percentage of the young of all animals and plants die from bacterial or viral infections. In terms of the theory of evolution it simply means that for eons the young of all species have been “fast-food” for certain strains of bacteria and viruses whose ancestors were on this planet living off the bounty of single-celled creatures for a billion years before multi-cellular forms of life even began to evolve. Bacteria and viruses have been co-evolving and adapting along with their hosts, and so have maintained their complex ability to pry open the lid on animal and plant cells and eat what’s inside the can, even though the animals and plants have evolved complex immune system defenses that succeed in protecting them to various extents. It’s an escalating battle of course, such that the MHC genes, that produce the surface proteins on all our cells that control immunological recognition, show an immense amount of allelic variation. Subsequently, there are thousands upon thousands of different immune types. Meanwhile, bacteria and viruses keep their own surface proteins mutating at a higher rate than our immune system can naturally respond to them. Hence, the evolution of complex immune system defenses in multi-cellular creatures, and the evolution of complex mutating engines and attack systems in bacteria and viruses. Talk about an “arms race!” In the end, nothing is as disrespectful of higher life forms as the tiny microbes that hungrily devour the children of all species.

Seventy percent of us suffer lower back pain, because our vertebrae are better designed to function as horizontal suspension bridges for our internal organs rather than as vertical supports for a bipedal mammal. Other marvels of design include flat feet, weak ankles and knees, varicose veins, heart failure, dangerously thin portions of the skull, teeth that are impacted (or crooked and badly crowded), hernias, hemorrhoids, allergic reactions, eye problems, appendicitis, gall bladder disease, prostate problems, “female problems,” danger of choking (because our breathing passage, eating passage, and speech box are all right on top of each other). Not to mention the pain and mortal dangers that childbirth holds for women, and birth defects both major and minor. (Regardless of whether you believe that Jesus “loves all the little zygotes in the world,” apparently that love does not include giving them all a whole and healthy start in life.)

Most creatures on earth do not obtain all the vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, and protein they need to grow up into the best possible shape, physically and mentally. “Some 2 billion people in the world suffer vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can limit intellectual development, impair the immune system, cause birth defects, and hinder local economic growth.” [Jennifer Kahn, “We RNA What We Eat,” Discover, Vol. 26, no. 10, Oct. 2005] That’s about a third of the planet, and some think the number is nearer to one half than one third.

Lack of vitamin A causes blindness in children, night blindness in adults, a weakened immune system, and hinders embryological development; lack of vitamin C causes scurvy, lack of niacin causes pellagra; lack of vitamins C, E, B-6, B-12 and/or iron, causes anemia; lack of vitamin B-12 is linked to fibro-cystic breast condition; lack of Folic Acid causes birth defects, and heart disease in adults; lack of vitamin D causes rickets, increased risk of colon cancer, multiple sclerosis, and prostate cancer; lack of iron causes low I.Q., fatigue, anemia; lack of iodine causes blindness, mental impairment, goiter; lack of other minerals like calcium or even lack of certain trace elements can cause the body to run inefficiently or cause deficiency diseases, as does the lack of necessary quantities of protein in the diet.

Such deficiencies are especially hard on babies and children where a deficiency’s effects are magnified and lead to lifelong physical and mental problems. As many as 30% of the children in China (a country with the world’s highest population) are believed to suffer stunted growth (and sexual maturation problems) due to zinc deficiency. And there is a “goiter belt” along the Atlantic coast from west to central Africa, where many people lack enough iodine in their system. The worst area for this deficiency is in the Republic of Guinea where 70% of all adults have goiter. “Thyroid swelling was sometimes present at birth and affected 55% of school children...Endemic cretinism… was found in about 2% of goitrous patients...other children, especially those affected by the most severe neurological symptoms, suffer early and high mortality rates.” (“Goitrous Endemic in Guinea,” The Lancet, Dec. 17, 1994)

Microgram for microgram, the poisons produced by some bacteria in our food are more potent than all other known poisons on earth. One tenth of an ounce of the toxin produced by bacteria causing botulism would be more than enough to kill everyone in the city of New York; and a 13-ounce glassful would be enough to kill all 6 billion human beings on Earth. (The same goes for the toxin that causes tetanus.) Is that God’s handiwork? Creationists must imagine God working overtime in His own personal biological warfare laboratory.

Edward T. Babinski said...

[NONE of the comments below were written by Edward T. Babinski]

darkone67 writes...

I suppose I have never been concerned enough about the origin of the world... I find it interesting and have speculated, of course, but it has never offended me not to know. There are a few questions I don't need to answer now... I figure someday I'll know--or I won't, and it may not matter either way.

Those who follow their religion and believe whole-heartedly that creationism is the absolute answer boggle my mind as much as anyone else who suggests a theory with any authoritative certainty.


Daver writes...

i have been going through a rather large psychological and philosophical change the past few years. in the end i say take faith/hope put it in one hand, and cr*p in the other and see what you got. seeing is believing in the end.


David Windhorst (not to be confused with Daver, above) writes...

Speaking from the perspective of a guy who's looking at getting some titanium replacement parts for his spine as soon as the FDA will allow, if there's an intelligence responsible for designing me, I want the number for its tech support line.


[NONE of the above emails were written by Edward T. Babinski.]

ochristian said...

Mr. Babinski,

When you set down your list of all the problems that mankind has to suffer through, from problems associated with physical deformities to viral and bacterial infections to vitamin and mineral deficiencies....well couldn't they also be explaind as the result of mankind living out of step with the natural order that God has established?

Much of these problems can be associated with poverty, overpopulation, wholesale land encroachment, environmental abuse, poor nutritional choices and non-active lifestyles. Perhaps if mankind could do a better job of living in harmony with this earth and what has been abundantly available rather than follow the pursuits of avarice and competition....

ochristian said...

Sorry for addressing your comment first and not your post but I would like to say one thing concerning:

Perfect Cold---->Hotness

Perfect Darkness---->Luminosity

Couldn't you just as easily say:

Negative----->Positive ?

It doesn't really make sense, does it?

Cold is the absence of heat, darkness is the absence of light. Without the positive can one even be aware of the negative? Only with at least some heat, or some light can one perceive it's absence. The total lack of the positive (the total negative) would have to be....nothingness.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Dear ochristian,
Thanks for your questions:

1) Nature kills and causes suffering, and has done so long before humanity ever appeared on the scene, so I do not know what humanity has had to do with the past hundreds of millions of years of death and suffering.

And till the inventions of plumbing and antibiotics, humanity (especially children) was the prey to diseases, not to mention still being prey to natural diseases and disasters. Diseases also continue to kill far more people than wars between human beings each year.

As for the possibility of humanity destroying itself (and/or taking down countless non-human species as well) via reckless reproduction, and pollution of the planet, yes that's also a possibility. We may be too ingenious at spreading ourselves as a species too quickly, having reached the stage of heated homes, cooled homes, plumbing, antibiotics, industries, and pollution. But I don't interpret the Bible as having forseen such a debacle, since the plagues of God in Rev. are depicted as being sent by God, supernaturally. (I definitely disagree with pre-mil interpretations of Rev. or attempts to deny that Rev. depicts the world at the time of "Jesus's return" as being one in which people still drive chariots and still own slaves. Every book in the Bible of course takes the existence of slavery for granted from Genesis to Revelation. But Revelation 6:15; 13:16 & 19:18 take for granted the existence of “free men” and “slaves” (verse 18:13 even takes for granted the existence of both “slaves” and “chariots,” which is odd for a book some believe to be a “vision of the future”).

I also doubt that the historical Jesus ever dreamed of forming a church. According to the Gospels, the man from Nazareth virtually never used the word “church.”

There are no sayings of Jesus spoken in public that programmatically call for a community of the elect and for the founding of a church. Biblical critics are agreed on this point: Jesus did not proclaim a church, nor did he proclaim himself, but the kingdom of God. Governed by the awareness of living in an end time, Jesus wanted to announce God’s imminent kingdom. [Hans Kung, The Catholic Church: A Short History]

The whole of Jesus’s work implied that the apocalypse was imminent; some of his sayings were quite explicit on the point… The prima facie view of the Jesus mission was that it was an immediate prelude to a Last Judgment. Hence the urgency of the pentecostal task, an urgency which Paul shared throughout his life [“...brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly...” 2 Thes 3:1], so that his final hope was to carry the good news, while there was still time, to Spain - - for him, “the ends of the earth.”
[Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity (New York: Atheneum, 1979), p.38.]

See also my online article, "The Lowdown on God's Showdown."


2) Your second point about how you cannot tell one thing without the other, for instance


is similar to the point I made in my article. But note that the point I am making is the failure of philosophical explanations in general, how they make abstractions from reality and assume that only one-sided abstractions existed in the beginning, and then face the problem of getting from one abstract to its opposite.