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Escaping hell but not heaven

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Benjamin Matheson (Int J Philos Relig 75:197–206, 2014) has recently critiqued the escapist account of hell that we have defended. In this paper we respond to Matheson. Building on some of our work in defense of escapism that Matheson does not discuss (in particular, Buckareff and Plug, The problem of hell: a philosophical anthology, Ashgate, Burlington, 2010) we show that the threat posed by Matheson’s critique is chimerical. We begin by summarizing our escapist theory of hell. Next, we summarize both Matheson’s central thesis and the main arguments offered in its defense. We then respond to those arguments.

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  1. 1.

    What follows is a brief summary of our theory of hell as outlined in (Buckareff and Plug (2005), pp. 42–45).

  2. 2.

    That is they are capable of developing the appropriate desires and attitude that will allow them to enter into communion with God.

  3. 3.

    The following line of reasoning is a modified and updated version of an argument we originally presented in (Buckareff and Plug (2010), pp. 84–86).

  4. 4.

    See Brown (1985) and Walls (2002).

  5. 5.

    The next two paragraphs build on some of what we argued in (Buckareff and Plug (2010), pp. 84–86).

  6. 6.

    For a defense of wide source incompatibilism, see Timpe (2007).

  7. 7.

    We have gone further in our 2009 paper to argue that escapism is consistent with the notion that there must be some finality in the eschaton. In particular, we argued that escapism is consistent with the notion that there could come a time when those who are still in hell will remain in hell (Buckareff and Plug 2009, pp. 86–89).

  8. 8.

    For a critical survey of approaches to the problem of hell, see Buckareff and Plug (2013).


  1. Brown, D. (1985). No heaven without purgatory. Religious Studies, 21(4), 447–456.

  2. Buckareff, A. A., & Plug, A. (2013). Hell and the problem of evil. In J. P. McBrayer & D. Howard-Snyder (Eds.), The blackwell companion to the problem of evil (pp. 128–143). Malden: Wiley-Blackwell.

  3. Buckareff, A. A., & Plug, A. (2010). Value, finality, and frustration: problems for escapism? In J. Buenting (Ed.), In the problem of hell: a philosophical anthology (pp. 77–90). Burlington: Ashgate.

  4. Buckareff, A. A., & Plug, A. (2009). Escapism, religious luck, and divine reasons for action. Religious Studies, 45, 63–72.

  5. Buckareff, A. A., & Plug, A. (2005). Escaping hell: divine motivation and the problem of hell. Religious Studies, 41, 39–54.

  6. Kane, R. (1996). The significance of free will. New York: Oxford University Press.

  7. Kvanvig, J. (1993). The problem of hell. New York: Oxford University Press.

  8. Matheson, B. (2014). Escaping heaven. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 75, 197–206.

  9. Plantinga, C. (1995). Not the way it’s supposed to be: a breviary of sin. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

  10. Smith, M. (2004). The structure of orthonomy. In J. Hyman & H. Steward (Eds.), Action and agency (pp. 165–193). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  11. Timpe, K. (2007). Source incompatibilism and its alternatives. American Philosophical Quarterly, 44, 143–155.

  12. Walls, J. (2002). Heaven: the logic of eternal joy. New York: Oxford University Press.

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Correspondence to Andrei A. Buckareff.

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Buckareff, A.A., Plug, A. Escaping hell but not heaven. Int J Philos Relig 77, 247–253 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11153-014-9490-1

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  • Hell
  • Heaven
  • Afterlife