Monday, April 23, 2007

Limbo is a reductio ad absurdum

In this post I noted with surprise that people take the notion of limbo (where children who die before being baptized go) seriously. It now strikes me that the problem raised by the question of where children who die before being baptized go is really a reductio ad absurdum and should have stopped a lot of theologizing a long time ago.
  • The innocent should go to heaven.
  • Newborn children are innocent.
  • No one who dies before being baptized goes to heaven.
  • Therefore, newborn children don't go to heaven even though they are innocent. But this is a contradiction. So one of the premises or underlying assumptions must be wrong.
Catholics used to solve this by claiming that even newborn children were not innocent. But apparently the Pope is now questioning this premise.

A simpler (and to my mind preferable) solution would be to give up the ideas of innocence, baptism, and heaven entirely. They may be comforting stories one can tell oneself, but as the preceding shows they don't really work as rigorous thought.

I wonder how much mental energy has been devoted to attempting to deal with issues of this sort.

3 comments:

Dale said...

A huge amount of energy has been expended on this issue. See St. Augustine...and on and on... The problem from a purely anthropological standpoint is that religious systems need a basis of supernatural reward/punishment which explains the apparent arbitrariness of reward/punishment on earth. Reincarnation or afterlife. But then you inherently have issues of defining them in human terms, and/or shaping them to control human behavior.

I personally think that newborn babies can´t go to heaven because then heaven would be full of screaming babies.

Blue said...

Of course. That's the answer. No theological reasoning needed!

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