2008 EPS Papers (Barnard)

November 19, 2008
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Justin Barnard

Compatibilism, Wantons, and the Natural Consequence Model of Hell

Abstract: In a recent essay, Michael Murray describes what he calls a “natural consequence” model of hell. Together with the “penalty” model, which Murray also discusses, the natural consequence model has a number of virtues as a response to typical objections against the traditional Christian doctrine of hell. However, the natural consequence model suffers from a small defect that leaves it open to an important objection. Specifically, as described by Murray, the denizens of hell in the natural consequence model are arguably there against their wills. In addition to this being apparently at odds with what ought to be the desires of a just and loving God, it is also paradoxical given that one of the purported virtues of the natural consequence model of hell is that its occupants are there as a natural consequence of their choice(s) rather than as a result of having been forcibly consigned there for eternity. In this essay, I articulate this problem in light of Frankfurt’s account of compatibilist free will ultimately showing that the objection(s) to the natural consequence model can be avoided if we imagine that hell is populated by what Frankfurt calls “wantons” rather than people. I conclude by suggesting that this is what C.S. Lewis – another natural consequence theorist – had in mind when describing the denizens of hell. Thus, this essay serves to bolster the case of the natural consequence model (or hybrid models in which the natural consequence model figures prominently) as a response to the problem of hell.