Payback Time

C.S. Lewis once asked what we would feel if we were told that we had to share Heaven with an entirely unrepentant Adolf Hitler. He thought it would offend people’s sense of justice. The same would probably apply even if Hitler had repented. Hitler’s sins and ours may be equally heinous and equally forgivable in the eyes of God, but that is not the sort of God that most human beings actually want. We want Him to tell us that yes, it wasn’t our fault, the bad guys gave us a rotten time, and do we want to watch the execution through the glass window?

If God is just, and Shit still Happens to me, then there are only two ways out: either I deserve it after all, or there is a recompense after death. Contrariwise, if God is just and Shit fails to Happen to the wicked – that is, the people who make Shit Happen to us – either they are not that wicked after all, or else their accounts will be settled in the hereafter. Once the just-God paradigm is accepted, therefore, the idea of Judgment Day is one of the only two possible answers to the rhetorical question, ‘Why do the wicked prosper?’ The first solution, that everyone gets their just deserts in the here and now, was explicitly rejected as long ago as the Book of Job (though some modern American preachers have since decided that the book is all wrong, since Shit only Happens if you lack faith or fail to donate). Believing in a just God, therefore, in the sense of a God whose sense of justice coincides with our own, does actually commit us to a Judgment Day. If we don’t like the conclusion, we ought not to start with the premise.

Posted on June 14, 2009 at 09:59 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: THE LONGEST CON, Shit Happens

2 Responses

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  1. Written by James Beck
    on July 8, 2009 at 01:35

    Theologically speaking, why would anyone in a putative ‘heaven’ care one way or another? It’s not like their situation can improve; they should in fact be perfectly happy. Then again, C.S. Lewis wasn’t much of a theologian. It is the earthbound, who have to imagine their own reaction to finding themselves sharing heaven with Hitler, who may be offended by the question.

  2. Written by Hugo Grinebiter
    on July 8, 2009 at 10:27

    Whatever Lewis meant, and AFAIK he was thinking of the earthbound, that is certainly what I meant — the theodicy here is indeed about our imagining having to share Heaven with Hitler, and how that makes us feel.

    As for the happiness of the souls in heaven, that would very much depend on whether they carried over their earthly psychology. If not, I don’t know what is meant by their being the same people, what might be meant by “soul” in the absence of our current memories, drives, habits and traits. That’s always been my problem with any kind of immortality, including reincarnation. If they are the same creatures, OTOH, they will most certainly be spending the entire time kvetching over who else is there, and how little they deserve it. That is who we are.

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