Sider’s Puzzle and the Mormon Afterlife

Taylor-Grey Miller, Derek Haderlie

Abstract


There is a puzzle about divine justice stemming from the fact that God seems required to judge on the basis of criteria that are vague. Justice is proportional, however, it seems God violates proportionality by sending those on the borderline of heaven to an eternity in hell. This is Ted Sider’s problem of Hell and Vagueness. On the face of things, this poses a challenge only to a narrow class of classical Christians, those that hold a retributive theory of divine punishment. We show that this puzzle can be extended to the picture of divine judgement and the afterlife found in Mormon theology. This is significant because at first glance, the Mormon picture of the afterlife looks like it fails to co-operate with Sider’s puzzle. In Mormon theology, there are not two afterlife states, but three: a low, a middle, and a high kingdom. There is no afterlife state quite like Hell, and the states that function similarly to Hell aren’t places of eternal suffering. We argue that appearances are misleading. While it may be true that no place in the Mormon afterlife is bad in the sense that its inhabitants suffer eternal bodily harm, it is true that many of the places in the Mormon afterlife are bad in the sense that their inhabitants lack access to significant goods. This allows Sider’s puzzle to re-engage as a puzzle about distributive Justice. After setting out this alternative version of the puzzle, we argue that Mormon theology has sufficient resources to reject proportionality as a constraint on divine judgment by adopting a nuanced version of universalism called escapism.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.12978/jat.2020-8.120817070004

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The Journal of Analytic Theology is a publication of the Center for Philosophy of Religion at the University of Notre Dame.

ISSN 2330-2380 (online)