Publication Date

2011

Abstract

The paper considers the objections to Christianity raised by David Lewis, which accuse Christians of immorality on the grounds of their worshipping a monstrous being who punishes finite evils by the infinite punishment of hell. It distinguishes between the objection that God is a monster because such punishment would be unjust, and the objection that even if damnation is just, God is a monster because he wills or allows the dreadful evil of hell by creating beings that can be justly damned. It asserts that Aquinas’s defence of the traditional Christian doctrine of hell provides an answer to this objection. The traditional doctrine is that those who die having committed serious sins for which they have not repented will be punished by endless mental and physical suffering in hell. Aquinas argues that the endless punishment of the damned is just because the damned endlessly and freely choose evil, and that it is good because the punishment of impenitent sinners, while bad for the sinners, is good absolutely speaking. The basis for his claim that the damned freely choose evil forever is his understanding of practical reason as ultimately motivated by a choice of a particular kind of life to live, and his view that all motivations that are independent of practical reason have a physical basis. The basis for his claim that the punishment of the damned is a good thing absolutely considered is his teleological view of good and evil. The paper defends these bases and their application to the question of damnation.

Document Type

Journal Article

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