Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Science fiction and theology

A post at Slacktivist on science fiction, theology, and what things would be like if Calvinistic predestination were taken to its logical conclusion via knowledge of everyone's final desitnation ..... Theology & science fiction: A Calvinist dystopia.

It's a pretty scary thought - everyone knowing for sure who is elected and who is damned - and it reminds me of the worth of John Rawls' idea of justice as fairness, because he posits that only when people are unaware of their own state and the state of others will they make laws that treat everyone justly. But still, you don't have to be a Calvinist - I guess most Christians of whatever denomination do believe that some people are going to go to hell, though their end isn't known until the last minute. As Fred Clark writes in his post, if Calvin was right ...

[...] Some people are God’s children and some people are not. Legal equality, justice, the Golden Rule, universal human rights and human dignity are still necessary in this framework, but only because of our incomplete and imperfect knowledge. Better knowledge, more complete knowledge, would allow us to stop treating all people equally because, in this scheme, people are not equal. There would be no reason to treat everyone the same because, according to this doctrine, everyone is not the same.

Some are loved by God, others are not. Some are God’s children, others are irredeemably damned. If we knew for certain who was who, then our ethics would be transformed — reshaped to align with the character of God that this scheme suggests. Ethics, in other words, would revert to something more like the ethnic cleansing of Jericho and Ai.

By ethical horror I mean parents and children. Limited atonement is quite limited. The gate to salvation is narrow, but the gate is wide that leads to destruction. Most people, in other words, are not among the elect. And thus most children are not among the elect.

Calvinist parents can cope with the implications of that only because our incomplete knowledge allows room for denial. Complete knowledge would make that impossible. Parents — most parents — would know that the children they are raising are preordained for eternal conscious torment. They would know that the children they love are not loved by God as the children of God.

A majority of the population would come to see — to know — that they possess a greater capacity for love than God does. I don’t think any religious system could long survive such horrifying knowledge ...

As Fred notes, this is the neat thing about science fiction - if you imagine a world where what Calvin believed was true and also that those who were going to heaven were marked for all to see, then the real awfulness of predentination and the God who would sponsor it is revealed in a felt way.

This reminds me of a sci fi trilogy I once read by James BeauSeigneur - The Christ Clone Trilogy - in which all the really good people get 'raptured' into heaven and all the not so goods are 'left behind' until Jesus' imminent return. Somewhere between scary and depressing.

Hey, it's not too late to become a universalist, like me :)


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