Plantinga's Ontological Argument and Hell


#1

I’ve been reading up on Alvin Plantinga’s argument recently. Here is wikipedia’s version of the argument for those that want to examine it.

The argument seems to suggest that God is necessary in every possible world. I’ve always heard that hell is a world in which God is not. If it is possible for a world to exist in which God does not. Then God is not necessary in every possible world.

So… doesn’t that suggest that either God exists or hell exists, but not both.


#2

A world or state of affairs… it means in any given overall… I dunno reality. In a world with hell, there is also a heaven.

Hell is a place without God, but not a, “world.”

-Rob


#3

I’m no philosopher, but I think the ontological argument is plainly a losing proposition from the get-go, and I wouldn’t be inclined to devote a lot of energy to trying to clean it up around the edges. The idea that you can define God into existence just seems hopeless – and I say that as a committed Christian theist.

CThomas


#4

To my mind this is sort of like the argument about whether God can make a rock so heavy that he can’t lift it. (To which my answer is, Certainly, God could create such a rock that Jesus, in His human capacity only, could not physically lift.)

In this case, we have a similar idea.

God could exist as an omnipresence and yet in His omnipotence, choose to withdraw Himself from Hell.

Because He has the capacity to be everywhere does not preclude a decision on His part to not be somewhere in particular.

In my thinking, this knowledge would make the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell all the more grievous.

I hope that is concise enough and helps.


#5

God’s presence (at least in philosophy) is often defined as a causal presence, not a physical presence. In that sense, God is causally present in Hell, just as He is causally present everywhere else. There is no place God is not causally present. “Where can I flee from Your presence? If I make my bed in Hell, behold, You are there” (Psalm 139).


#6

You’re missing two major nuances:

  1. Hell is not a whole world, but only a part of one.

  2. Plantinga does not argue that “God is necessary in every possible world,” but rather, “If God is necessary in any possible world, then He is necessary in every possible world.” Huge difference :slight_smile:

Jeremy


#7

I don’t think you can subdivide possible worlds like that. That is like saying, “Overall 2+2=4, but not in my basement.”

  1. Plantinga does not argue that “God is necessary in every possible world,” but rather, “If God is necessary in any possible world, then He is necessary in every possible world.” Huge difference

You’re going to have to explain how that is a big difference, because I’ve lost it. Haven’t you mearly added an argument by which the conclusion was arrived? Please explain why this nuance is important.


#8

Thanks for the insight.

Such proofs seem to have very little to do with actual faith, and more an attempt to prove the validity of ones faith. I think of it like a lake. Let’s say that you could measure the size, depth, longitude, and latitude of a lake and then plot it on a map, but it isn’t what helps you decide on whether you want to swim there.


#9

Hell isn’t a world. Hell is a part of a possible world. Saying that hell is a world unto itself is like saying that my basement is a world unto itself. Modal arguments like Plantinga’s use the term “world” to apply to “all that exists,” and possible worlds are different sets of things that exist or different arrangements of the set of things that exist. Hell is just a thing that exists in some possible worlds; it is not a world in itself.

You’re going to have to explain how that is a big difference, because I’ve lost it. Haven’t you mearly added an argument by which the conclusion was arrived? Please explain why this nuance is important.

The conditional statement, “If God is necessary in one possible world, he is necessary in all possible worlds” is as different from the statement “God is necessary in all possible worlds” as the equation “2+2=4” is from the number “4.” I don’t know how to explain it any further: it’s a fundamentally different claim. In one case, you’re saying that Plantinga is claiming to have proved the existence of God in all possible worlds; in reality, Plantinga is merely claiming to have proved that the necessity of God’s existence is universally true or universally false. You’re saying he proved a proposition; what he’s really saying is that he’s proved a certain modal property of a proposition.

Jeremy


#10

That does seem to answer the problem. I mean 2+2=4 doesn’t have to exist in my livingroom for the rule to apply in my livingroom. It doesn’t have to a have a physical presence, I mean. God could be the absentee cause of hell, without any interaction with hell. Which means that God could also be the absentee cause of this universe. You could accept this argument, and still not believe that God has any care or concern about what happens in this world.


#11

Indeed, “world” is a technical word when philosophers like Alvin Plantinga use it.


#12

#13

Indeed, “world” is a technical word when philosophers like Alvin Plantinga use it.

I understand that it is a technical term. A possible world is a set of conditions under which something can be the case or not. By saying something is necessary, one is saying that there are no set of conditions in which the thing is not the case. Under no set of conditions is a squared circle possible. You are saying that hell is just a subset of this possible world. But that is like saying there can be a subset of a set that contradicts the conditions of the set. It is like saying 2+2=4 in this world, but not in my basement.

If God is necessary in this set of conditions, then God would necessarily hold in hell as well as everywhere else. “Place” is just a set of conditions.

Now as it turns out, if the proposition “God” does not need to be in the world for the proposition “God” to exist, then fine. There can be a hell and a God. But “God” needs to hold as true there as everywhere else.

The conditional statement, “If God is necessary in one possible world, he is necessary in all possible worlds” is as different from the statement “God is necessary in all possible worlds” as the equation “2+2=4” is from the number “4.” I don’t know how to explain it any further: it’s a fundamentally different claim. In one case, you’re saying that Plantinga is claiming to have proved the existence of God in all possible worlds; in reality, Plantinga is merely claiming to have proved that the necessity of God’s existence is universally true or universally false. You’re saying he proved a proposition; what he’s really saying is that he’s proved a certain modal property of a proposition.

The argument I referenced is on Wikipedia. It makes a definite truth claim about the existence of an “omniscent, omnipotent, and wholly-good being.” Could you check it to see if you think it is the right interpretation of the argument? There is no point in arguing unless we both agree about what we are arguing.


#14

I’m not sure I’m catching the drift of what you’re saying, but I THINK :hmmm: I disagree. The idea behind causal presence is that God is intensely involved with every aspect of creation, all the time; in other words, creation isn’t something that happened once, a long time ago, but creation happens all the time, due to God’s continuing causal presence in all features of creation. So God wouldn’t be thought of as “absentee,” but as intensely invested in His creation.

I have no problem with God’s presence being in Hell but unknown. Isn’t the same true for *this *world?—at least for many people. God is with them, but unrecognized.

I have this argument that Hell is an expression of God’s love for humanity, but maybe that would be for a different thread. :slight_smile:


#15

Oh please, Uncle c! Don’t leave us hanging. Give us another thread.

:bounce:


#16

You’re so funny. Well, instead of a different thread, here’s a nutshell version: Aquinas argues that all things are good insofar as they possess real existence (this would include fulfilling their functions, flourishing in their functions, etc. An example would be a cup with a hole in the bottom. It’s no longer a good cup, but that’s merely because it has lost “being” as a cup. Since it lost being, it correspondingly lost goodness as well).

If humans reject God to such an extent that they end up in a Hell-type situation, they have lost the goodness of their human-ness as well, and correspondingly lose their being as humans. It could be that the only good they could know in eternity—the only bit of God they could know, in other words—is continued existence, continued being, in a minimal state.

So God allows them the goodness of continued existence by stopping them, “freezing” them, so to speak. Otherwise, they would continue to progress away from Him, and lose existence entirely at some point. They would lose even the piece of goodness they have retained.

Therefore, hell is a manifestation of God’s love. I’m thinking of Dante right now: this is why Dante (influenced by Aquinas) does two things: (1) He puts on the sign over the entrance to Hell, “Primal Love made me.” (2) He makes the bottom of Hell, where he places Satan, a vast swamp of ice (instead of fire). Satan cannot move out of the place he is frozen. In other words, he is as far from God as possible, and God will not allow even him to go any further away.

Metaphorically speaking, of course. I don’t think Satan is frozen in ice anywhere. :twocents:


#17

Was it hearsay or did you read this somewhere ? My understanding is that sheol/hades is a temporary destination, to which those who are imprisoned there will arise to the Final Judgment and afterwards be cast along with ‘death and hell’ into the lake of fire (Tophet/Gehenna). If numbers are anything to go by, to house a community which numbers must be in the billions, will certainly have to be big enough to be called a world.

It is after all set on fire by the breath of God and does not King David ask, ‘Can I escape from Thee O Lord ?’

What think ye scribes ? :wink:


#18

So folks in hell become slug popsicles forever instead of simply winking out.


#19

Uh—yeah. That’s how I was going to put it myself. :eek:


#20

‘If humans reject God to such an extent that they end up in a Hell-type situation, they have lost the goodness of their human-ness as well, and correspondingly lose their being as humans’

I wonder how far a person would have to go to completely erase one’s conscience so as to no longer experience guilt regarding their rejection of God ? If one removes the pressures that are affecting a person, they must surely come to their senses before the Judgment throne of God?


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