Thursday, December 10, 2020

Is Eternal Conscious Torment Compatible with MSLN?

Epistemic status: provisional in the sense that, I think somewhere in MSLN there is reason to not believe in eternal conscious torment, but these arguments in their exact form may need revision; and also that I can only provide natural theological arguments right now.

Eternal Conscious Torment (ECT) is the doctrine that some people will go to hell, existing forever in a state of conscious torment. It is an offensive doctrine, but one which may yet be true. Ordinarily we look at the Bible as the source for this doctrine. In the future I may be able to consider what the Bible says, overall, but for now, I will consider natural theology: reasoning about God. Reason is used in interpreting the Bible, and many people find reason trustworthy in itself, perhaps more so than the Bible. Natural theology and the Bible talk about the same subject: God. So what does the natural theology of MSLN say about ECT?

Would God want to or need to send people to hell in MSLN?

One popular definition of hell is "separation from God".

God may be able to bear us for a long time, but what is unbearable at all can't be borne forever. Fundamentally, God is the way he is (he is the right way he should be from the beginning). We differ from God in some ways that he can't bear (we are "sinful"). So either we must change to fit God, or we must be separated from God. A separation into ECT? Or a separation that destroys us? (The latter view is called annihilationism; "Annihilation": to make nothing.) Presumably, no one can exist when completely separated from God.

MSLN argument: the metaphysical organism

The idea of the metaphysical organism is a hypothesis about the means by which otherwise separate consciousnesses connect. In it, a consciousness connects to another consciousness by being conscious of its exact consciousness. Further, whatever connects me to the outside world experiences exactly what I do. So that being would experience ECT as well as I would. If God is the being who connects all consciousnesses, he would have to experience the ECT of all those who made themselves enemies of him. Could God ever rest? He would experience the unbearability of their torment for all time. They might not have the ability to stop experiencing what they experienced, but he would. Arguably, unbearability can't be endured forever, not even by God, because God would experience the unbearability as unbearable. So then God would shut down their consciousnesses, and this would be like them being annihilated, rather than experiencing ECT.

MSLN argument: simantism

However, maybe it is possible to think that God could cut himself off from these consciousnesses, and they could somehow exist apart from him. They would "speak" experience to themselves, in place of God, the Speaker. They would have a very limited simantic vocabulary compared to God. Maybe they could only speak the barest proto-conscious sense of will, preference, and trust. If he left them to an existence so minimalist that they couldn't torment themselves, it wouldn't be ECT, and it would resemble annihilation.

If they had a less-minimalist existence, could they torment themselves? Maybe, but not against their will, and though they might be the causes of their torment, the experience of the torment itself would be against their will. So it would be a case of them relating to what was not-them (simantism), and their torment would have to be spoken to them by another being. I have written in this paragraph as though it is possible to speak simantic words without God, but then, the simantic word of the entirety of reality, which is implied by a person's experience in the moment, would be spoken to them, and who can do that other than God? So God would have contact with them and would suffer as they did.

MSLN argument: legitimism

From the point of view of legitimism, whatever exists, in some sense should be, and should be absolutely. Absolute ought comes from a truly worthy will, is a truly worthy opinion. An opinion is conscious and personal, is part of a person. If God's opinion founds all of reality, he is conscious of all that is. Any lack of awareness on his part is of what does not yet exist. And what kind of opinion is so valid that it can found reality? The answer given in legitimism is that God is willing to take on the burdens he lays on others, and is maximally receptive to reality. So then, God would know of and directly experience the ECT of any who suffer it.

Summary so far

These considerations strongly suggest that God himself can't escape ECT if any of us remain in it. It is reasonable to guess that God would prefer to rest than to suffer, and it seems that in the very nature of unbearability, there is the inability to willingly endure it forever. So these make a case against ECT.

Does MSLN in some way support eternal conscious torment?

On the other hand, do these natural theologies lend any weight in favor of ECT? Perhaps legitimism does. Legitimism says that there is an absolute ought, which can be violated by personal beings. The violations are an offense against what should be. We know as humans that sometimes exacting a just penalty from someone heals an injustice. And this may be a foundational principle of reality. So, when people do what is unjust, they must pay the penalty so that legitimacy can be healed, unless the penalty is paid for them. So if their injustices are infinite, they deserve infinite punishment, and this could lead to ECT. ECT as a means to justice.

Finite beings don't have the power to cause infinite injustice in a positive sense. So we wouldn't merit ECT. But perhaps by us turning away from helping others, we are willing to shut the door on potentially infinite numbers of people, for all we know or care about, in order to enjoy our small pleasures. This could be considered in some sense an infinite injustice for which we might have to pay eternally.

The past is broken, made illegitimate by our acts. To fix it, someone could pay the penalty. But we can't pay for all our acts -- we would all die, have to be destroyed. But God doesn't want us to be destroyed. So he created reality with a more-finite partner, who shares his character. The Father (the metaphysical organism and Speaker), creates with a Son. This Son is legitimacy, as much as the Father is, because they decided on reality together as beings who were disposed to experience the burdens they lay on us. So he can take on the penalty. He dies existentially alone, facing annihilation. He does this willingly. Because he is legitimacy, he does not deserve to die, and so in himself is able to pay the penalty. And so legitimacy is healed. (The penalty is paid once -- if the Son died again, that would create a new injustice, for which there could be no further healing. Having paid the penalty, the Son does not need to remain dead/destroyed, and so he is brought back to life.) This healing of the past of legitimacy, healing of justice, makes it so that the underlying issue of justice is not an obstacle to us avoiding hell.

Though God does not need to punish us for justice's sake, God may still find a kind of punishment useful. We sometimes forget that he loves foolish people and people with a certain amount of psychopathic traits, people who might only repent if they feared death and punishment. There is a place for death, and for suffering hell, in the plan of salvation. But the suffering need not be eternal in order to provide an incentive for the salvation of those who require it. On the other hand, the idea of ECT, in some cultures and time periods, might have been one we liked to believe as a civilization, and were benefited by, even if the reality is that there is no such thing. The stronger image of hell doesn't seem to have been as unacceptably scary in the past, and may have saved some people that the softer image would not have.

A parent might say, "The consequences for hitting your brother are that you don't get to play video games for the rest of the night." They don't want you to do that kind of thing or be that kind of person, and want to give you a reason to see things their way. Hitting your brother is replaying the story of Cain and Abel -- you should be cast out of your house with a mark on you for the rest of your life. But the pain your brother felt, and the pall you cast on the trust and trustworthiness of the house, only merit you missing out on your greatest pleasure for a few hours. So God as the parent can ordain consequences for injustice without them directly paying for the deeper, truer injustice. And like a parent, he would ordain these, one would think, in order to preserve the good of his children in the long run, not for justice's sake.

The natural theologies of MSLN say that ECT is unlikely (God wouldn't want to experience unbearability) and that the parts of legitimism that lend themselves to ECT don't have to (given the death of the Son).

However, this is only part of MSLN. What remains is the interpretation of the Bible (the New Wine System).

What about the biblical component of MSLN?

I may turn toward study of the Bible itself, for myself, at some point, in evaluating MSLN. It seems like something I should do at some point. Until then, I will appeal to a few outside perspectives: the developer of the New Wine System, Philip Brown, favors annihilationism (giving arguments for that position in New Wine for the End Times) and this article and this article give me reason to believe that there are valid arguments for annihilationism, and that there is a debate -- it's not like annihilationism is a strange thing that no respectable Bible interpreter espouses. So for now I can leave the question of what the Bible says undecided, allowing for the possibility that the annihilationist part of the New Wine System is biblical, so that the Bible agrees with MSLN natural theology.

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