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."
PHILOSOPHY AS ONE BIG "IF"
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.
PHILOSOPHY AS ONE BIG "IF"
POINTS FOR PLANTINGA AND VIC TO PONDER CONCERNING EVIL AND FREEWILL
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.
BACK TO THE QUESTION OF "ETERNAL SEPARATION"
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.)