11

When God created the world, He had to accept the fact that some of His creatures would sin and ultimately fail to repent and be saved (I'm assuming that universalism is false, to be clear). For example, suppose that X is one of such people. In this world, X fails to repent and gets condemned. One could ask the following question about X: "Okay, X gets condemned in this world, but was it theoretically possible for God to have created a different, counterfactual world in which X would have been saved?". For example, if X had been born and raised in ideal conditions, say, if X had been filled with the Holy Spirit since he was in his mother's womb (like John the Baptist was), who knows, perhaps under those counterfactual conditions X would have been saved. However, God didn't create that ideal world for X. Instead, He created this world. And in this world, unfortunately, X doesn't make it to Heaven ... Which sounds terrible. If God is a loving father, and if there is at least one possible world in which X would be saved, for sure God would create that world so that X gets actually saved, right?

This can lead to entertain the idea that, perhaps, God didn't create a world in which X would get saved because there is no such world in the first place. That is, no matter what world God could have created, in all possible worlds X always systematically fails to be saved. God exhaustively searched all the "alternative worlds space" and couldn't find a single world in which X is saved. And perhaps, all the people who freely reject salvation in this world are people who would have also freely rejected salvation in all other possible worlds. In other words, some individuals are just unsavable. They freely mess up always, no matter the world in which you create them.

Does this belief have a name?

I found this related question How do molinists justify a world where not everyone freely chooses salvation?, and so Molinism is surely relevant to this discussion of free will and counterfactual worlds, but I'm specifically interested in finding out if there is an official name for the specific belief that some individuals are unsavable in all possible worlds. Or at least I would like to know if there are any Christian groups who believe this.

5
  • 1
    It is held by at least some people, I've encountered several, but to my knowledge the idea does not have a name, it might be too specific Commented May 15, 2023 at 4:54
  • 1
    Alvin Plantiga coined the term "trans-world depravity"
    – Luke Hill
    Commented May 15, 2023 at 14:25
  • Not an answer, but I couldn't help but realize that this dilemma seems to not exist in the teachings of ancient Gnostic Christianity. They hold to the belief that the "Demiurge", the god of the Old Testament, is the creator of this Universe and since he is a false god, all of his creations (us) are damned. The true God of the gospels of Jesus is attempting to save us by giving us a choice to reject the Demiurge (death) and embrace Him. Transworld damnation is not applicable to us, though MAY be to other creations of the true God (angels). Commented May 15, 2023 at 15:28
  • 1
    Not an answer, but Romans 1:20 and Luke 16:31 both speak to this idea, that there are some who will not believe short of coercion.
    – Matthew
    Commented May 15, 2023 at 16:20
  • This is a prime example of why "free will" and "give us a choice" doctrines are seriously flawed. Once you go down the "God gives us a free choice" path, you end up with silliness like this.
    – B. Goddard
    Commented May 16, 2023 at 13:42

2 Answers 2

10

Thanks to Isaac Middlemiss and Luke Hill's inputs, I can answer my own question. There are at least two relevant terms:

  1. Transworld damnation:

The proposal of transworld damnation is not the doctrine that most individual human essences would reject God in any possible world. Not at all. The doctrine suggests that in any world feasible for God that anyone who is damned is someone who would have been damned in any feasible world in which God might have created him. This is a Molinist proposal that makes a clear distinction between possible worlds and feasible worlds. The idea is that those who are damned in the actual world would have been damned in any feasible world in which God might have created them. Therefore such persons cannot complain to God when they stand before him on the judgment seat and say to God, “Oh, but if only you had created another world then I would have believed! Then I would have been saved!” And God will say to them, “No, I knew that no matter which feasible world I created you would have rejected me and separated yourself from me forever.” Therefore your lot is your own doing, and you cannot use the excuse that you are the victim of bad luck.

https://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/reasonable-faith-podcast/questions-on-christs-resurrected-body-transworld-damnation-and-the-word-of-god

  1. Transworld depravity

An agent is transworld depraved if in any possible world in which he is created, he freely performs at least one morally reprehensible action. The notion was introduced by Alvin Plantinga in The Nature of Necessity (1974), as part of an attempt to reconcile God's goodness with human depravity.

https://www.oxfordreference.com/display/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803105501919;jsessionid=69B8939586606404BF6FF313818634CB

3
  • 2
    Since you've been serial downvoted - but the downvoters have been clever enough to space their votes so the algorithm doesn't catch them, take an upvote 1) to discourage serial downvoting (the net effect of the serial downvoter's efforts here is now +8 reputation for you) & 2) because you've written an effective answer to the question Commented May 15, 2023 at 18:23
  • 1
    @HoldToTheRod Thanks, I really appreciate it.
    – user61679
    Commented May 16, 2023 at 2:52
  • 1
    Great answer, learned new terms today. Has a nice ring to it, esp. as a fan of Star Trek that has some episodes featuring alternate universes where a character can be seen to be consistent in multiple worlds. Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 2:48
5

On a quick Google, the idea that those who die unsaved would not have believed no matter what else could have happened is called Transworld damnation. You're not wrong that it is directly related to Molinism, and there are a few Molinists who lean towards the idea that I've personally spoken with, but I don't believe the idea is collectively held by a particular denomination or group.

1

You must log in to answer this question.