Let us evaluate the effectiveness of this collective truth check. Fortunately, we will not have to look far. The first part of the e-mail will provide plenty to review. Frank (And Peers) open the e-mail blast with a response to a “Recent Controversy Over Hell.” He starts with an oblique critique that some unnamed writers will be making “millions” selling books related to the subject.
(Just curious … but doesn’t Frank sell books for money?)
Anyway, we will take up the discussion at point three, the asterisk sub points. (I have designated them A through E for reference.)
Frank Viola says:
3. Here are my concluding thoughts on the matter:
A) hell (judgement after death) is real. It’s ludicrous to try to dismiss this fact.
So this is how peer review argues a doctrinal point—by blithe rebuff? This “concluding thought” is a mere dismissal combined with an assertion of mental defect. So people are just stupid to disagree with Viola and Peers’ conclusions. I’m not interested hashing out the doctrinal details of Hell but rather to dissect the logic employed to demagogue a conclusion. Here are two errors. (Well, here are the two errors I care to talk about.)
1. Frank and Peers call those who disagree with their definition of “real” as mentally unfit. This is called Special Pleading: the use of arguments that condemns rational challenge against.
2. Frank and Peers are failing to make the effective distinction between facts and beliefs.
Let me dig deeper.
Point 1a: No need to spend time rebutting the special pleading; it speaks for itself.
Point 1b: For anyone with the argumentative ability of a 15-year-old, the rebuttal to the assertion that Hell is “Real” is: “Prove it!” Of course, Viola and Peers cannot prove the existence of Hell or of judgment after death. This is not detailed in the comment, but Frank and Peers are making an appeal to authority. The authority is what vouches for Hell’s “factualness” and “realness.” And my readers know the moment we start talking about authority, we are really having a conversation about force.
Point 2: I need to explain the distinction between facts and belief.
It is a fact that the Protestant Bible speaks of final judgment.
It is a fact that the Protestant Bible references a place of torment for “evil” doers.
It is a fact that the some English Protestant Bible translations render the words Gehenna, Sheol, and Hades as Hell.
It is a fact that medieval theologians integrated these “facts” (plus many others) into the doctrinal tradition that modern Christianity understands as the place of eternal torment where all the bad, bad sinners go because they didn’t believe the missionaries.
It is belief to declare the historic philosophy/theology—that specific synthesis of facts—the only valid understanding.
Frank Viola Says:
B) Whatever hell is, it’s monumentally unpleasant.
Here again are two errors that I want to address.
Point 1) Uh … yeah, so what? There are places on earth that are unpleasant: monumental or trivial. The Sahara Desert and Antarctica are monumentally unpleasant, but their existence is irrelevant to my habitation good pleasure. Equally true is this: Utopia is reported to be glorious but that does not mean it exists. Santa Claus’s North Pole with all the elfs and toys and hot cocoa is supposed to be nice, but that doesn’t mean it exists.
Point 2) These six words do not follow: a.k.a a non sequitur. “Whatever hell is” is a concession to metaphysical ignorance, or maybe better said, it is conceptual punt. Frank Viola and Peers are fully aware that Hell’s specific characteristics are a metaphysical construct, so they have no rational choice but to concede what they cannot measure. By itself, this would be a manifestation of humility, but connected to the next three words, it is a window into the logical failing of Frank and Peers. “It is monumentally unpleasant” persists with the assumption that Frank and Peers know exactly what Hell is.