Commentary on A Contra-Positive Deductive Anti-Theist Argument from Suffering

Warning!--a long and dense post is approaching.

Several weeks ago, I posted up (here on the Cadre Journal) a revision of Richard Carrier's deductive anti-theistic argument from suffering, which he attempted during his debate with Tom Wanchick a few years ago (which for reference can be found here at the Secular Web.)

Now comes the commentary, where I take some time to explain the tactical and strategic applications of my revision.

For an even longer commentary, where I discuss in more detail why I made the revisions I did, as well as discuss the level of similarity to Richard’s original argument, please see the doc file posted in the second comment of this thread at The thread’s initial post is the revised argument found here on the Cadre as well.

Note: all argument element references afterward in this article, such as P1 or C1, refer afterward to the elements of my revision of Richard's argument, not to the element labels given by Richard to his original argument. Please see the first link above (which I recommend opening as a second window or tab) for the text of that revision.

I don't foresee proponents of Basic Theism (or varieties thereof) even trying to deny P1, P3, P5, O1, C1, O2, P10, or O3 (even O3a, although in principle O3a isn't necessary for the argument from O3 to obtain).

I can foresee some theists trying to deny P4; but the new phrasing is set up to avoid Molinist rebuttals. The only way out for the theist here is to either deny God is moral at all; deny God may be trusted to act morally; or else deny that God will act in any way that has any bearing to what we recognize as morality. Either way, in trying to deny P4, a theist will have essentially conceded an argument against Basic Theism (as so described for Richard and Tom's debate) either in principle or for all practical purposes.

I can foresee some theists wanting to deny P9, but strictly speaking I think they'd have to accept it pretty quickly or else affirm that God had to create (instead of being free to create): since, strictly speaking, if unfairness is a potential of creation (which can be quickly established if a theist is inclined to deny it), and if God was free to create, then God at least had the ability (from our temporal perspective) to prevent any unfairness from even potentially happening: i.e. by not creating at all.

Once P9 and P10 are accepted, the theist has to accept C5, too. If they insist that God was not free to create, but was compelled to do so by some power greater than Himself, then the anti-theist can tag them on not being ontological supernaturalistic theists at least. (Which may or may not be a problem, depending on whether they're trying to claim that kind of theism elsewhere.)

I can foresee more than a few theists wanting to deny P8, on the ground that once a situation obtains it might be contradictory for some other situation to follow in total disjunction from that situation; mending a particular unfairness would require such a disjunction; and even God cannot do that which is inherently contradictory (which some theists again would deny, but then they have to surrender any attempt at having logical analysis about God--which the anti-theist can then ping them on for the rest of their lives every time they try to have logical analysis about God anyway. And they will! {wry g}) But P9 covers for potential success on rebutting this element; since God could just not have created at all, preventing any even potential unfairness. Or not created persons at all, insofar as only persons can meaningfully be objects of unfair treatment per se; which from the standpoint of persons engaging in argument, like theists, might as well be no creation by God at all.

I have seen more than one theist deny P7; but their attempts to do so amount to trying to claim that there is fair reason in allowing an unfairness that by choice will not be mended later, i.e. that the one allowing the unfairness and refusing to mend it later is still being fair and not unfair. (Notice that P8 helps block a move against P7.) This is a subtle point, but it's a vulnerability where a theist insists on it. At worst the anti-theist can tag the theist with a total logical disjunction here. Otherwise they'll have to accept P7. (Even if not emphatically so. {g} Though in my experience most people who accept P7 do so emphatically--so long as they don't see it as being a problem for their own beliefs elsewhere.)

It's possible that a theist may try to deny P11, depending on how gung ho they are about original sin, i.e. whether they consider suffering (even of original sin itself) dependent on inheriting original sin to be fair to the sufferer and not unfair to the sufferer. But I don't think most theists will deny P11, though--not even ones who would in theory claim to deny it, when it comes time for practice! And if the ones who do so use a variety of denying P4 (which seems extremely likely), then the anti-theist has got them there.

A theist may reflexively try denying P12, mistaking this for a denial of a chain of reasoning incorporating P2; but strictly speaking that would be no reason to deny P12, since the hypothetical connection can be granted without granting the actuality of P2. If the theist accepts P11 (and if he doesn't the anti-theist has probably got him anyway), he might as well accept P12 hypothetically at least.

There are theists who would deny P14 (that the Golden Rule also applies to God); but so long as it is made clear that the statement is not trying to say that God is obliged to obey (or else be in rebellion against) a more fundamental reality than Himself, the only way the theist can deny P14 is by either denying P4 or else by seriously severing the connection between the Golden Rule and P4. Few if any theists (not to say anyone else!) would find the latter move coherent; and a theist who denies the former will have ceded this argument relevantly already (by denying P0 as defined).

Up to this point, the anti-theist should have little to no trouble defending elements. After this, defense of elements becomes a little more problematic.

P13 may be deniable by a theist on various technical grounds. If the anti-theistic appeal is to the principle that with more details in the character of existence, more vulnerabilities are at least potentially introduced, the theist can reply that this ignores the other side of the equation--that with more details in the character of existence more positive options are at least potentially introduced, too. I think it would be difficult (though perhaps not impossible) for the anti-theist to appeal more than merely suggestively to the idea that there will necessarily be more disadvantages introduced than advantages introduced.

The anti-theist can properly avoid this kind of rebuttal, however, by reconfiguring the focus onto the question of ontological vulnerability to unwilling suffering, i.e. if a created mind requires some kind of environment to which it is necessarily vulnerable to some degree (whether it chooses to be vulnerable to that environment or not), then it doesn't matter whether the mind has a brain or not, or whether it is even physical or not. I have made some initial steps in this direction elsewhere in the argument, but I also thought I should try to keep as much formal similarity to Richard's argument as possible (at least on a first run-through). Thus for at least one premise I kept his claim entirely unaltered. Ideally, though, I would recommend revising it to the broader topic of ontological unwilling vulnerability, which ought to be quite doable.

After such a revision, a theist could only deny it by affirming naturalistic theism (i.e. pantheism, which is not Basic Theism defined for Richard's debate, thus denying P0); or by affirming some relevant variety of P2 (which would involve denying supernaturalistic monotheism--not perhaps denying BT so defined for the debate, but then the theist must allow for P2 to be deployed later in the argument.)

Most theists may try to deny O4 (or a premise equivalent thereof); but since it can hardly be denied that some humans have been observed to die without their disability being mended (possibly leading to the death itself), the theist can only reply by noting that the argument thus points toward some kind of healing and restoration being true, even beyond death, if Basic Theism is true (aside from the question of whether the theist already has that belief as part of his overall set of worldview beliefs).

This could be avoided by eliminating consideration of whether the mending of a temporary unfairness necessarily allowed prevents the allowance of the temporary unfairness from being intrinsically unfair itself. (Such as, perhaps coincidentally, Richard does not consider in his original argument.) But once the topic is broached, such a move could only be ad hoc on the part of the anti-theist. It would be better for the anti-theist to fairly anticipate the move and incorporate the topic into the argument. (The anti-theist could appeal to P2, for example, shifting the debate to the question of why God wouldn't bother to create multiple independently invulnerable God-type entities in the first place; without having to deny, or worse merely ignore for his own convenience, the principle of the theist's rebuttal here.)

Meanwhile, if a Basic Theist denies there is a 'heaven' (loosely speaking) for created persons after death, then he affirms O4 in principle and cannot object to incorporating O4 per se later. Most BTers won't do this, but some do.

More pertinently, especially for the anti-theist: a variant of O4 (though probably in premise form) can be designed such that, insofar as a BT proponent also believes in a hopeless condemnation where, among other things, restitution necessarily can never be made between sinners and victims, the theist will be affirming O4a in principle (except in premise form) even if also affirming heaven for some people. This would require more argumentation than I cared to get into for the revision, but I consider it a legitimate move for the anti-theist to make here. Its main weakness is that it still can be denied by those theists who the deny the hopeless condemnation of sinners (in various ways, some of which may still be vulnerable to other portions of this argument or to other arguments). Such a theist would avoid C9 and so Con4, but might not affect other conflicts detected by the argument.

So those elements, while more problematic, I wouldn't call seriously so for the anti-theist.

Incidentally, I would affirm the following elements myself: P1, P3, P4, P5, P7, P8, P9, P10, P11, P12, P13, P14, O1, O2, O3, C1, C5. As noted, some other theists might also affirm O4 (or the anti-universalism variant rather).

This leaves over three (or four) key problems--which aren't any better put in Richard's original argument, but which are still seriously problematic here, too.

In roughly increasing order of importance:

O4. Already largely discussed above. As a universalist I would reject this. (And, not-incidentally, my universalism follows as a logical corollary from my orthodox trinitarian theism, disputed though that may be by other theists. {wry g} The point being that the position is not ad hoc against this argument.)

I would also reject this by believing both in some kind of heaven (bodily resurrection or mere spiritual survival, either one) and that heaven counts as a mending to relevant unfairnesses which follow from living in this kind of reality. If I derive this belief from acceptance of referent authority (e.g. religious scripture), the denial isn't ad hoc to this argument (problematic though such acceptance might be for other reasons). If I derive this belief as a conclusion from this argument, this might or might not be ad hoc, depending on whether or not I have prior rationales for previously accepted premises and/or observations. If I lack sufficient prior rationales, then my acceptance here would be ad hoc in order to protect one of those other elements from being equivalently threatened by the argument. (I happen to think I have superior rationales for the relevant elements, logically prior to this argument; but I thought I should mention this qualification in favor of the anti-theist.)

The anti-theist doesn't have to attempt O4, of course, thus conceding that non-universalism makes no difference to the morality of the situation; and/or conceding that future improvement, development or compensation would make a difference to the morality of the situation. The question of process then leads to:

P6. Richard's original presentation simply ignores the question of whether mending an unfairness that had to be necessarily allowed for a time, makes a difference in the morality of allowing that unfairness to occur even temporarily. Thus there is nothing in his original argument corresponding to P7 & P8.

Most people in my experience, though, including anti-theists, agree in principle that if an unfairness has to be temporarily allowed, the morality of doing so is not necessarily endangered so long as the allow-er believes (and especially is acting so) that the unfairness will only be a temporary condition. Since I agree with that in principle, I deny P6: one way or another it requires that allowing any unfairness at all must be intrinsically immoral regardless of development of the situation later. (Admittedly, an appeal to deferred mending of temporary unfairness can be abused; but this does not in itself abolish the propriety of the principle.)

I have still kept P6 in, since Richard's argument tacitly requires ignoring the topic. (P6 explicitly attempts to claim that it is proper to ignore the topic, even if the wording of P6 could still stand improvement.) But Conflicts 1, 2, 3 and 4 currently rely on P6 being agreed to (i.e. that allowing any unfairness to occur at all is itself necessarily an immoral act regardless of intention.) Ignoring the topic practically amounts to agreeing to it, if someone not ignoring the topic challenges it. At that point, the anti-theist is the one making the ad hoc maneuver.

That being said, it is possible that some theists would want to affirm P6 (if only begrudgingly) under the mistaken impression that developments of natural conditions must imply some kind of substantial alteration in God Himself. Also, I suspect the argument can be revised so that it can proceed without P6 being tacitly or explicitly required.

So, while it's a serious problem, it's probably fixable. And of course if a theist insists on it, then anti-theist could hardly be to blame for incorporating it into his argument!--whether or not he agreed with it himself.

O5. This (or a premise equivalent thereof) is only a problem if the anti-theist is going up against theists who affirm the Incarnation and Passion of God. Which, admittedly, was not part of the "Basic Theism" characteristics agreed upon being debated between Richard and Tom. It is also only a problem to the extent that the anti-theist makes an application of the Golden Rule crucial (pardon the pun {g}) to his argument. In my revision, the GR only comes into play specifically toward the end (since it isn't really necessary earlier for the force of the argument, even in Richard's original form).

This portion of the argument, though, even in Richard's original version, only works if O5 (or a premise thereof) is accepted as true: there are two ways of fulfilling the Golden Rule, one of which is to share in the hardship required of others. So I have made this tacit qualification explicit.

Since non-Incarnational Jews, and all Muslims (by definition), as well as all non-Incarnational Christians (of whom there are several varieties) and even some Incarnational Christians (such as docetists) as well as most (if not all) other supernaturalistic theists, are required to affirm O5 (or its premise equivalent; but they might actually consider it an 'observation' via revelation, which is why I phrased it like that)--then this is not really much of a problem for Richard's appeal to the GR, in most cases. If Tom moved to bring this in later in the debate, then the proper reply is indeed that he was only supposed to be defending BT; if Richard's argument inadvertently points toward orthodox Christianity being superior to BT, great for Tom, but it's nevertheless outside the boundaries of his debate parameters. Hopefully Tom had enough sense to mention this as an amused aside. But it isn't Richard's problem if he didn't.

Similarly, if Richard (or the anti-theist more generally) has already established before arriving at this argument that God, even if He exists, could not possibly be expected (for this or that reason or reasons) to fulfill the Golden Rule by subjecting Himself to the same P13, P12 etc. that He has chosen to otherwise allow or enact; then he could import that conclusion here as a premise. It wouldn't be immediately unchallengable, but a discussion of it would have to take place on other grounds.

Still, for an orthodox Christian, this portion of the argument will be instantly rejected as dealing with false data (or, in regard to Richard's original argument, ignoring data we consider to be true). Nor would that rejection necessarily be ad hoc. If the Christian has already established on previous grounds a belief in the Passion of the Incarnation, then he is bringing this to the argument. Yet again, a theist who considers the other relevant premises and observations, including P0, to be already solidly established, leaving a premise version of O5 for consideration of acceptance or rejection; might well conclude (deductively even!) from an anti-theistic appeal to the GR that we ought to expect God to do such a thing sooner or later in our history. If the theist insists on O5 (or a P-version thereof), however, then by the validity of the argument some other relevant truth-claim will have to be revised elsewhere.

So while this is a very significant problem depending on who Richard is deploying even his original argument against, and on how insistent he is on incorporating the Golden Rule per se (which incorporation, as I've shown, isn't necessary for the strength of his argument in principle), it isn't the most fundamental problem; even if Richard insists (as he does) on GR being primary in his argument.

It might be replied against the relevance of O5, that it is not that God never gives Himself a brain, but that even if He did, He did so for a specific limited purpose that was situationally unique, and thus not relevant to the design of human beings.

If a theist thereby insists that the Incarnation (if it happened) has nothing to do with God loving humans as He loves Himself, then of course the anti-theist is home free!--against that theist. Assuming that the anti-theist is uninterested in the question of whether the Incarnation (despite what that particular theist or theistic group may think) does in fact fulfill the Golden Rule (along with any other purposes to it). Or assuming that the anti-theist has already established elsewhere, apart from this argument, that voluntarily sharing vulnerabilities with humans could not possibly involve God loving humans as He loves Himself. (Richard certainly didn't make that establishment in the argument, as presented in his opening statement.)

Most orthodox Christians of my acquaintance and experience, though, think that the Incarnation and Passion had something to do with God loving humans as He loves Himself. As do I. Quite a few of us would affirm that the Incarnation wasn't only for a situationally unique specifically limited purpose, either, although that concept is admittedly more common among Christians, at least at a popular level. But even those Christians who think God only Incarnated as some kind of emergency last-ditch expedient to save us from sin, still usually think that God lived and died (and rose again) because He loves us and so chose to act in some kind of solidarity with us.

P2. This represents the most fundamental problem for the argument as it stands, whether in the current revision or in Richard's original attempt. The particular form Richard has given it, is itself dependent on the concept that suffering occurs unwillingly when the sufferer is intrinsically dependent on an overarching system of causation. As I've noted earlier, he might as well revise to that broader concept; which the wording of my P2 is a first attempt at doing.

However, whether he revises the scope or not, Richard is going to be running into the problem, that any Basic Theist who is also an ontological supernaturalistic theist (which is most of them, in principle) is talking about God alone being the final independent fact of reality. To claim that God could have created other equally independent entities (thereby preventing even the risk of them suffering involuntarily), is tantamount to denying ontological supernaturalistic theism. It would be like claiming that a merely naturalistic Nature could produce of itself entities equivalent to itself existing separately and independent of itself--which is to deny philosophical naturalism, where the Natural system (even if portions of it are undetectable from within this portion of it) is the one and only substantial system of existence.

Put shortly: P2, or the equivalent thereof (including Richard's original way of putting it), is simply not addressing the theology that most of Richard's targets are supposed to be holding and defending. While denying P2 simply to avoid the strength of Richard's argument would be an ad hoc maneuver (and so proportionately weak), denying P2 due to positive content of a previously established religious belief is not an ad hoc maneuver--personally annoying though that may be to the anti-theist.

Trying to paint most theist's denial of P2 as only ad hoc to save themselves from the force of this argument (my revision or Richard's original either one), would be like an anti-evolutionist admitting that genetic mutation would ruin his deductive argument against evolutionary theory, and then trying to get around this by stating that he has never heard of evolutionists appealing to genetic mutation before and cannot imagine how genetic mutation would work or even why it would be brought in at all except as an ad hoc defense against his anti-evolutionary argument (therefore weakening a Bayesian evaluation of biological evolutionary theory by adding a further implausibility for no reason other than to defend against the anti-evolutionist's deductive argument). And then expecting neo-Darwinian gradualists to be impressed by this tactic.

Richard's argument here and hereafter, whether in his original version or my revised version, utterly depends upon accepting the concept that God could have created derivative persons with minds of the sort that occur at His own level of existence (whatever that is, but by terms of BT it is superior to Nature and being unembodied it doesn't suffer from the list of ailments Richard mentioned, at least). If Richard, or an anti-theist more generally, insists that we accept the terms of BT, in order to bring out a conflict with accepting the terms of BT, then we're going to insist that Richard accept the terms of BT, too, for those same purposes of hypothetical analysis. The BT God exists (hypothetically) outside Nature in an unembodied mind. Richard's complaint is that the BT God could have given derivative minds the same kind of mind that He exists with, but didn't, and so was acting unjustly since the result of this is that God did not do unto others what He would have done (and does do) for Himself.

But in order for this to obtain, the derivative person would have to exist in total independence from any overarching natural system: 'outside' of the system, in that regard. The question then is whether BT theists (or particular kinds of theist agreeing with at least BT) agree that God could have created equally independent God-entities like Himself.

Supernaturalistic theists (including certainly orthodox trinitarians) would typically say no. A Mormon or cosmological multi-theist might say yes; whether they count as BT so defined for Richard's debate with Tom, though, is their problem. Not ours.

So, to recap: elements of my revision of Richard's argument which I currently accept are P1, P3, P4, P5, P7, P8, P9, P10, P11, P12, P13, P14, O1, O2, and O3. Thus also C1 and C5 by logical consequence. (To which I would also add that I accept P0 for reasons logically prior to the topic of this argument, intrinsically related to this or any argument being 'an argument' at all instead of only being an illusion of argument; but be that as it may.)

Elements I currently reject are P2, P6, O4, O5. Thus also C2, C3, C4, C6, C7, C8, C9, C10, Con1, Con2, Con3, Con4 and Con5. (Insofar as this particular argument goes, anyway. It is conceivably possible that I might agree with, or be required to agree with, these elements as a result of other consequential inferences.)

The same goes for where either set is tacitly as well as explicitly included in Richard's original argument.



Jason Pratt said…
Whoops, forgot to sign in yesterday for comment tracking...

(Fortunately, this is not likely to be much of a problem. {g!})

Anonymous said…
"P1, P3, P4, P5, P7, P8, P9, P10, P11, P12, P13, P14, O1, O2, and O3.BINGO!!? ;-)
Jason Pratt said…
Dangit!--oh, whew, according to my grid, I sank your battleship first. That was close.


Brad Haggard said…
Thanks for the long and dense post. I had to read just because you put so much time into it.

I really liked seeing how O5 shows the superiority of Christian incarnation/atonement theology. And, of course, P2 would always be a complaint for an anti-theist, I haven't met one online who really understands the ontological argument or necessary existence.

I don't follow with you on universal salvation, but I'd be interested to learn more of your reasoning.
Jason Pratt said…

since this is an ecumenical site focusing on establishing and defending Nicene Creed orthodoxy claims, I try to avoid making arguments for universal salvation in my main posts, including in this one.

I establish the key groundwork for it as a corollary of trinitarian (or even merely bi-nitarian) theism, though, in this main post here, which is part of the systematic metaphysic I've been publishing on the Cadre Journal now for several years. (I'm currently missing Sections Two and Three, but I hope to start posting those up later this year.)

A brief summary of my argument from trinitarian (or at least binitarian) theism to a particular type of universal reconciliation theory, can be found at the EU forum, along with a lot of related discussion on the topic. Since the formal argument can be hard to find on that page, though, I'll reprint it here:

P(roposition)1.) Supernaturalistic theism is true. (Setting aside how one gets to this proposition, which would require prior metaphysical analysis.)

P2.) Theism involves intentional behavior at (and as) the foundation of all reality; distinct from atheism which involves either no behavior or only unintentional behavior at (and as) the foundation of all reality. (Also requires prior analysis.)

P3.) God is a self-begetting, self-begotten interpersonal unity. I.e. at least binitarian theism is true. (Should be established on prior analysis. Note that because the entity is singular and personal, singular-personal terms can be used in reference to the entity, which when being spoken of corporately should be considered singular. Notice connections to OT references to God.)

C(onclusion)1.) God's self-begetting and self-begotten-ness involves intentional behavior at (and as) the foundation of all reality. (from P2, P3)

C2.) God's self-begetting and self-begotten-ness involves intentional behavior at the foundation of His reality, too. (from P1 (if true, God is real), C1.) i.e., positive aseity is true: God depends upon His own action for self-existence.

P4.) Not-God entities exist. (Part of P1; i.e. pantheism isn't true.)

P5.) Some not-God entities (included within P4) are also persons. (Should be established, insofar as possible, on prior analysis. Incidentally, I would analyze this proposition and counter-propositions before arriving at P1 etc. One result is the discovery that this can only be self-reflexively presumed, not proven; although hypothetical counter-presumptions can be analyzed and rejected as incompatible with claims tacitly made in argumentation.)

C3.) All not-God persons depend upon God's intentional self-begetting and self-begotten behavior for existence, including as persons. (from C1, P5.)

C4.) God's own self-existence depends on the Persons of God acting to fulfill cooperative interpersonal unity. (From P3 (God exists as an interpersonal unity), C2.)

C5.) God would cease to exist if any or all of the Persons acted against fulfilling cooperative interpersonal unity. (implied by C4.)

O(bservation)1.) I exist.

C6.) I can be sure God (in any Person or corporately) will never act against fulfilling cooperative interpersonal unity between persons. (from C3, C4, C5, O1.)

O2.) I sometimes act against fulfilling cooperative interpersonal unity between persons (i.e. against fair-togetherness, i.e. "unrighteously").

C7.) I sometimes act against the foundation of all reality, including my own. (from O2, C3.)

C8.) My action against the foundation of all reality, including my own, leads to my cessation of existence, without intervention from God. (from C3, C5 (implied subordinate parallel), C7.)

C9.) God intervenes to save me, the doer of non-fair-togetherness, from cessation of existence (from O1, C7, C8.)

H(ypothesis)1.) God eventually chooses to allow me to cease to exist (at least as a person), or acts to take me (at least as a person) out of existence. (Note that this covers annihilationistic versions of Calvinistic soteriology as well as Arminianistic soteriology, practically speaking; the difference between the two being God's original intention regarding the ultimate salvation of the sinner from sin.)

H2.) God keeps me in existence as a person; but either refuses to ever act to lead me to fair-togetherness, or else gives up acting toward this end. (Note that this covers non-annihilationistic versions of Calvinistic and Arminianistic soteriology. Note that "Calvinistic" and "Arminianistic" are meant to broadly cover principly similar doctrinal sets of salvation and condemnation in groups or denominations not historically Calvinist or Arminian per se.)

H3.) God keeps me in existence as a person; and persistently acts to lead me to fair-togetherness with other persons (including with Himself).

O3.) If H1, then contra C6.

O4.) If H2, then contra C6.

O5.) If H3, then no contradictions through C9.

C10.) If set through C9 is true, and if set H1-3 is exhaustive as a response from God to my sin, then H3 must be true.

A systematic scriptural analysis to the same conclusion would take very much longer, but I hope to begin posting up entries on that for evaluation over at the EU forum eventually, once I get caught up on some other things. There is a vast amount of scriptural data to cover, especially if I'm going to try to do it fairly. (Obviously there's a bunch of discussion on scriptural witness going on there at any given time, but in a scattershot fashion.)

In regard to my original post (and commentary): since Richard's original argument didn't address a key concept shared by most people (theist and anti-theist alike), namely that temporary unfairnesses sometimes have to be allowed in order for fairness to be ultimately fulfilled; and since most Basic Theists also believe that God intends and will bring about remission of temporary unfairnesses that had to be allowed for sake of fulfilling fairness more completely later; then there was a weakness to his original argument that I thought should be made more explicit and (if possible) addressed in various ways. (Keeping in mind, as I said, that the anti-theist might in the last resort punt back to P2 or some equivalent thereof.)

But it should take only a moment's thought to realize that very many theists have taught and still do teach, that there will never be reconciliation between some sinners and those whom they have sinned against; consequently, the anti-theist could reply by revising O4 to include this feature of such theist's official (and practical) theology.

Whether a non-universalist theist could still escape from that revision, is not something I bothered to discuss, because my goal was not to certainly establish the theological superiority of universalistic theology over other soteriological options: I only noted in passing that a universalist such as myself would still deny O4a, as well as O4 (thus avoiding C9 and Con4).

On the other hand, if O4a is left up for debate and all other relevant premises and options are granted, then O4a would have to be denied in order to avoid a logical conflict. (Maybe, unless there was some other way around O4a.) But in my own case this is hardly necessary; I am bringing my universalism to the table as a corollary of ortho-trin already. So I would be denying both O4 and O4a (aiming against non-universalists) very solidly, regardless of whether a non-universalist could get around having to affirm O4a.

From an anti-theistic perspective, the point is that I would consider a revision to O4a to be a legitimate tactic: the anti-theist is certainly free to make use of whatever his opponent is bringing to the table in affirmation. The only salient question is whether an a non-universalist is in fact bringing O4a to the table. But the anti-theist can at least try and see what happens.

Anyway, thanks for the comment! {g}


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