Tag Archives: Conscious

Book review of “Four Views on Hell”

Spotted this on the Apologetics 315 Twitter feed.


The purpose of this article is to critique Four Views On Hell, a book written by four theologians representing their respective views namely: literal, metaphorical, purgatorial, and conditional. This presentation will first give a summary of the book, and then offer several key points of analysis. The first point of analysis will be each author’s theological perspective and background because it serves as their interpretive lens. This naturally leads to examining the scriptural evidence for each view and how the author interprets it. While scripture is the ultimate arbiter, arguments offered from logic and emotion will be examined as well. Finally, criticism will be offered on the basis of exegesis and rational coherence. This critique will attempt to show that the book leads one to accept eternal punishment as the most coherent biblical position, while the biblical descriptions of hell are more likely metaphors for a larger reality.

The four views literal, metaphorical, purgatorial, and conditional are represented by John F. Walvoord, William Crockett, Zachary J. Hayes, and Clark H. Pinnock respectively. Each author contributed a chapter followed by responses from the other three. This makes for a very lively and useful book as each view is well argued and subjected to thoughtful criticism. Walvoord makes a strong case for a literal everlasting hell with actual fire. His exegetical work concerning the eternal nature of hell based on the term aionios is convincing. He remarks, “If exegesis is the final factor, eternal punishment is the only proper conclusion.”[1] While Crockett stresses that hell is an existential reality, he argues against claiming exacting knowledge concerning its nature. He stresses, “the Scriptures do teach about a real hell, a place of frightful judgment.”[2] Still yet, he argues that the literal view makes the Bible say too much and compares it to the Egyptian topographers of the underworld.  He presents a compelling argument for the metaphoric view, emphasizing the use of conflicting language, “how can hell be literal fire when it is also described as darkness?”[3] This point is reiterated ad nauseum against the literal view in several responses throughout the book. The organization of the book is interesting in that the further one reads the more speculative the argumentation and the less scriptural the basis. The slope is slippery indeed.

Hayes argues for an interim state which he believes is rooted in the redemptive work of Christ. His position on hell proper is obfuscated by his argument for purgatory. He bases a lot of his argumentation on history and tradition, which is not surprising as it is its only real grounding. He also petitions a humanistic sense of fairness, an emotional appeal which he shares with the next alternative. Pinnock’s case is based more on a negative argument against the classical view than evidence for his own. Accordingly, he exaggerates the traditional view at the outset. He contends one is asked to believe that God “endlessly tortures sinners by the million, sinners who perish because the Father decided not to elect them to salvation, though he could have done so, and whose torments are supposed to gladden the hearts of believers in heaven.”[4] He argues forcefully that eternal torment is sadistic, vindictive and unjust. It is not befitting of God’s character. He proposes annihilationism or “conditional immortality” as a preferable alternative.

You can kind of see where Pinnock is similar to Rob Bell – he is being forced by his Calvinism into universalism in order to be fair. Molinists like me have no such pressures – if you’re going to Hell it’s your fault. If you’re going to heaven, you would NOT be going there if God didn’t do ALL the work. You just have to not resist him. You have a choice to resist or not. That’s it.

I love reading these Three/Four/Five view books. The whole series is good.

New collection of essays published to defend mind-body dualism

Here’s the new book on J.P. Moreland’s web site.

Full text:

In the Soul Hypothesis: Investigations into the Existence of the Soul (Continuum), co-editors Mark C. Baker and Stewart Goetz have assembled an impressive interdisciplinary team of scholars to address questions about the existence and nature of the soul.

“The Soul of the Matter” – Charles Taliaferro
“Minds, Brains and Brains in Vats” – Daniel N. Robinson
“Brains and Souls; Grammar and Speaking” – Mark Baker
“Making Things Happen: Souls in Action” – Stewart Goetz
“Energy of the Soul” – Robin Collins
“The Measure of All Things: Quantum Mechanics and the Soul” – Dean Zimmerman
“From Seeing to Seer” – Hans Halvorson
“Souls Beastly and Human” – William Hasker
“A Scientific Case for the Soul” – Robin Collins

You can preview the book here.

The book is unique is combining philosophical and scientific arguments for dualism, and the result is a rigorous, exciting, persuasive presentation of the issues and a stimulating challenge to so much of the reductionism that reigns in the sciences. As was noted in a recent review of the book in the WSJ,

Sooner or later, the contributors to “The Soul Hypothesis” warn, scientists will pinpoint the exact three neurons whose firing accompanies the thought of our deciding to make a phone call or, if you prefer, deciding to get up and get a beer from the refrigerator. As ever more such micro-couplings are observed, we will—so scientists tell us with unseemly glee— gradually come to see that our cherished conscious life is nothing but a long series of electrical impulses, not an autonomous realm of free will and free thought. Co-editor Mark C. Baker cites the psychologist Steven Pinker, who finds it plausible to say that neural “activity in the brain” simply “is the mind.”

The book’s contributors set out this scientific challenge fully and engagingly, but they also expose its fallacies. They note, for instance, that even if two things differ in their essential nature, as do mental thoughts and physical actions—or legislatures and laws—there is no reason why the one can’t cause the other. As David Hume argued, what establishes our idea of cause and effect is the regular “conjunction” of two events. That a physical act regularly follows a mental decision suggests, as co-editor Stewart Goetz writes, that the one is “causing” the other and that voluntary human action exists.

The Soul Hypothesis is an excellent text that is sure to provoke a vigorous dialog about its content. I highly recommend it.

I really would like to be able to use this argument more – I just need a good book. I’m a big admirer of Charles Taliaferro. I even met him once at a conference!

How reliable are persistent vegetative state diagnoses?

Check out this article from The Weekly Standard. (H/T ECM)


The case of Terri Schiavo–who died five years ago next March, deprived for nearly two weeks of food and water, even the balm of ice chips–continues to prick consciences. That may be one reason the case of Rom Houben, a Belgian man who was misdiagnosed for 23 years as being in a persistent vegetative state, is now receiving international attention.

In 1983, Houben suffered catastrophic head injuries in an automobile accident. He arrived at the hospital unconscious. Doctors eventually concluded that his case was hopeless, and his family was told he would never waken. But the Houben family, like Terri’s parents and siblings, didn’t give up. They diligently sought out every medical advance. This wasn’t delusion or pure wishful thinking. Several studies have shown that about 40 percent of persistent vegetative state diagnoses are wrong.

[…]During the years that Houben was thought unconscious, society changed. Bioethicists nudged medicine away from the Hippocratic model and toward “quality of life” judgmentalism. Today, when a patient is diagnosed as persistently unconscious or minimally aware, doctors, social workers, and bioethicists often recommend that life-sustaining treatment–including sustenance delivered through a tube–be withdrawn, sometimes days or weeks after the injury.

One thing that stands out to me about this story is how the medical profession has accepted the idea that it is OK to kill people who do not have a high enough quality of life. What is behind this view? Well, I think it’s caused by secularism. Secularism has marginalized the Christian worldview that dominated the West. One component of that Christian worldview is that it is morally good to deny yourself happiness to care for the needs of others. And that the right thing is not based on your opinion or the arbitrary views of the majority of people in your culture.

On the secular worldview, though, there is no “right thing” that we “ought to do”. The universe is an accident and there is no design. The only thing to do on an atheistic worldview is to be “happy”. And you can’t be happy if other people need you to take care of them. So, I think that this is what is behind the push by secularists to kill the weak and stop them from using up resources. Secularists look at people who need them, and they want to kill them. There is no objective duty of self-sacrifice for others, on atheism.

Christopher Hitchens is fond of asking people he debates to name one thing that a Christian can do that an atheist can’t do. Here’s one: an atheist can’t rationally ground the decision to sacrifice their own pursuit of happiness to take care of the needs of others. On atheism, self-sacrifice is irrational, unless it makes you happy. You only have one life. There is no way you ought to be. The purpose of life is to be happy. The needs of the weak diminish your happiness. It’s survival of the fittest. That’s what is rational on atheism.

UPDATE: I just got back from breakfast at Denny’s and I was reading Jennifer Roback Morse’s “Love and Economics”. She was talking a lot about the helplessness of babies, and what mothers and fathers do that make children grow up capably. She writes that early on in the baby’s life they scream for everything and the mother has to be there to meet those needs or the child will never learn to trust. Later on, the parents try to encourage the child to be better-behaved and self-sufficient.

All this made me recall this post. If a selfish person believes that it is too much work to care of someone sick who needs extra love, then that person isn’t going to be willing to take care of babies, either. And I guess that’s exactly where we are as a society now, with people having fewer babies, but more abortions and day care. And of course people divorce when they have small children as well, which (usually) deprives the child of a father.

Man thought to be in vegetative state was actually conscious the whole time

Story from the UK Daily Mail. (H/T Ace of Spades via ECM)


A man thought by doctors to be in a vegetative state for 23 years was actually conscious the whole time, it was revealed last night.

Student Rom Houben was misdiagnosed after a car crash left him totally paralysed.

He had no way of letting experts, family or friends know he could hear every word they said.

‘I screamed, but there was nothing to hear,’ said Mr Houben, now 46.

Doctors used a range of coma tests, recognised worldwide, before reluctantly concluding that his consciousness was ‘extinct’.

But three years ago, new hi-tech scans showed his brain was still functioning almost completely normally.

[…]Mr Houben said: ‘I shall never forget the day when they discovered what was truly wrong with me – it was my second birth.

‘I want to read, talk with my friends via the computer and enjoy my life now that people know I am not dead.’

What are we to make of the Terri Schiavo killers now? Is it morally praiseworthy to advocate for getting rid of inconvenient people? Shouldn’t we look on the misfortunes of others as opportunities to act out our love and compassion for our fellow man? Doctors can be wrong in their diagnoses.