St Maximus the Confessor, Hell, and the Final Consummation

by Pastor Thomas Belt

“God has put all things under his [Christ’s] feet. But when it says, “All things are put in subjection under him,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” (1 Cor 15.27f)

I had an Alex Grey painting in mind for this post because I like the way it illustrates the unity of all things in the Logos. But reason won out and I went with St Maximus instead. I’ve been listening in on the disagreements here over Maximus the Confessor’s eschatology. For my own part, I start at the end, with Paul’s conviction (1Cor 15.28) that God shall be “all in all.” It’s a wonderfully sobering and challenging vision to contemplate. But what exactly is Paul imagining? It’s already the case that God is “over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4.6) and that “Christ is all, and is in all” (Col. 3.11). Is Paul imagining something else when he speaks of God’s being “all in all”? Or does this thought simply repeat God’s all-encompassing sustaining presence in the world?

Mention was made in one conversation that Maximus’ triple ontology of nature (physis), subsistence (hypostasis), and mode (tropos) of being suggests that God is “all in all” in that God gives subsistence to all things but that this is fulfilled irrespective of their final mode of being. One may rest finally perfected in God as one’s end and fulfillment, or one may resolve oneself permanently in absolute self-contradiction and failure to rest in God as one’s end. Both modes manifest God’s being “all in all.”

I have no special expertise to interpret Maximus with any authority, but I am a fan for life, and what I have come to appreciate about (and be moved by) Maximus prompts serious doubts in me about whether it can be said that he believed God’s being “all in all” is reducible to God’s merely sustaining rational created beings in whatever mode of being finally defines them, whether they rest finally in God as their end or are finally and permanently lost. I want to suggest that this cannot be Maximus’ view of things, and I take my cue not especially from any single line from Maximus (though in my final reference from Ambiguum 7 I think he is explicit), but from the sustained logic of his cosmology, specifically his understanding of created beings as “moved by desire” (an “appetitive movement”). It seems to me that Maximus understood rational created beings as irrevocably open to God and moved by a desire for the Good which cannot rest until it is satiated in God.

Let me start with Ambiguum 7 (Constas’s translation):

From these examples we are able conjecturally to derive an image—not of that participation in goodness which existed long ago and fell to corruption—but that of which the worthy shall partake in the age to come; and I say an ‘image’ because what we hope for is beyond all images, surpassing vision and hearing and understanding, according to Scripture. Moreover, this perhaps may be the subjection of which St. Paul speaks when he describes the Son subjecting to the Father those who freely accept to be subjected to him, after which, or rather on account of which, the last enemy, death, will be destroyed.

Paul’s point in 1Cor 15.28 cannot be simply to repeat the fact that God created and sustains the world. In Paul’s argument God isn’t “all in all” until all things are under the Son’s authority and the Son himself is made subject to the Father (“so that” God may be all in all). God’s being “all in all,” then, is the consequence of Christ’s uniting all things under his rule and then submitting them, with himself, to the Father. I’m not suggesting God does not embrace all things presently, giving them being. He does. But this in itself is not his being “all in all” in the sense Paul expects.

Eschatologically speaking, then, can it be the case that Maximus believed God will be equally “all in all” both in those perfected and glorified in Christ and in those eternally perverse and forever estranged from him? If so, God’s being “all in all” would not be convertible with God’s being creation’s end or telos. The irrevocably lost will have failed absolutely to rest finally in God and in this very state God will be “all in all.” This strikes me as very unlike Maximus, for in this case creation’s intended end in God would not be God’s intended end in creation. This appears to violate Maximus’ ontology of created being grounded in God. Consider a few further comments from Ambiguum 7:

…everything that has received its being ex nihilo is in motion (since all things are necessarily carried along toward some cause), then noting that moves has yet come to rest, because its capacity for appetitive movement has not yet come to repose in what it ultimately desires, for nothing but the appearance of the ultimate object of desire can bring to rest that which is carried along by the power of its own nature.

…no created being has yet ceased from the natural power that moves it to its proper end, neither has it found rest from the activity that impels it toward its proper end….

…[rational creatures] are moved from their natural beginning in being toward a voluntary end in well-being. For the end of the motion of things that are moved is to rest within eternal well-being itself, just as their beginning was being itself, which is God, who is the giver of being and the bestower of the grace of well-being, for he is the beginning and the end. For from God come both our general power of motion (for he is our beginning), and the particular way that we move toward him, for he is our end. [emphases all mine]

Maximus’ “movement” is an “appetitive movement” (Amb. 7), a “desire” that moves us, and “nothing but the appearance of the ultimate object of desire [God] can bring to rest that which is carried along by the power of its own nature.” This “movement,” then, is not something added to the nature of rational creatures, a contingent mode (tropos) of its being. We may variously misrelate to our end. But even then, we misrelate within its invitation. We cannot misrelate out of it absolutely and so escape the God-given structures of created rationality as “appetitive movement.” This is a huge thought with enormous implications for eschatology.

creation-icon

In his book The Christocentric Cosmology of St Maximus the Confessor (esp. ch 3), Torstein Tollefsen speaks at length of Maximus’ view of the divine logoi (God’s loving designs for created things, convertible with his sustaining act within them). Tollefsen argues they are both “irreducible and God-willed.” Being uncreated, the logoi and the Logos are one and the logoi are thus “open” to the Logos. Pseudo-Dionysius identifies them as “divine acts of will” intended individually. In his contribution to The Oxford Handbook of Maximus the Confessor, Marius Portaru describes them as “created essences marked by a Godward movement” and argues that they define our “existential scope.” I love this last description. The existential connection is crucial because it bridges the logoi as God’s sustaining act in creatures to the whole realm of their future possibilities. The logoi delimit the scope of possibilities for creaturely becoming. They are our ‘eschatological essence’ if you will, and as such they speak to the question of whether or not an irrevocable foreclosure of appetitive movement is imaginable within Maximus.

Tollefsen comments on Ambiuum 10’s metaphysics of prepositions:

In Ambiguum 10 Maximus employs the three prepositions εκ, εν, and εις to characterize the relation between created beings and God. Everything has come to be from (εκ) God, is held together in (εν) Him, and ‘everything will convert to Him’ (εις αυτον τα παντα επιστρεφεσθαι).

My interest here is to bring this aspect of Maximus’ thought into relationship with the question being debated, namely the possibility that Maximus held to an understanding of hell as irrevocable and absolute privation of created being sustained by God with no “capacity for appetitive movement.” This would seem to be a real violation of the logic of his overall cosmology and specific claims he makes about created nature. One would have to suppose Maximus to have believed (in spite of all that is explicit in his writing on the matter) that created rational beings may:

  • irrevocably foreclose upon themselves all “appetitive movement” toward the Good,
  • permanently revoke the transcendental orientation of their being,
  • reconstitute themselves without reference or openness to the divine logoi,
  • be sustained by God while being void of God’s logoi,
  • become those for whom God imparts existence but who are no longer constituted for God as their end—in other words, a non-teleological act of God.

Such an end state is, as far as I understand Maximus, impossible even to conceive.

Allow me one final quote from Ambiguum 7 (around 1076C):

I am not implying the destruction of our power of self-determination, but rather affirming our fixed and unchangeable natural disposition, that is, a voluntary surrender of the will, so that from the same source whence we received our being, we should also long to receive being moved, like an image that has ascended to its archetype, corresponding to it completely, in the way that an impression corresponds to its stamp, so that henceforth it has neither the inclination nor the ability to be carried elsewhere….

Where does his thought end? It ends with our longing to receive being moved, our corresponding to the divine will the way an impression corresponds to its stamp so that henceforth we have neither the inclination nor the ability to be carried elsewhere. What is he describing? Our irrevocable conformity to the divine image. Those who freely surrender themselves to God finally become incapable of willing otherwise (“having neither inclination nor ability to be carried elsewhere”), finally and unchangeably disposed to willing God in all things.

So far so good. But where does the thought start? What is it about us that gets us there? Maximus is explicit. It is “our fixed and unchangeable natural disposition” (την κατα φυσιν παγιαν τε και αμεταθετον) to be at liberty to voluntarily surrender ourselves to God. We are, if I may rephrase things, irrevocably open to God. He cannot suppose this fixed and unchangeable disposition to be a fixed openness both to surrender to and to reject God. On the contrary, Maximus explicitly says this unchanging natural disposition exists “so that” we might in fact become irrevocably fixed in willing God alone, finally having “neither inclination nor ability to be carried elsewhere.” The capacity to choose other than God is ours presently, but it does not define what Maximus believes is “fixed and unchangeable” about our nature. Rather, it is the irrevocable openness to move freely (if even precariously at first) toward God so that eventually, having freely “longed to receive being moved,” we come to have neither inclination nor ability to will anything but God.

What of the claim that Maximus explicitly declared his belief in the traditional view of an eternal hell? I don’t pretend Maximus is easy to interpret. But I think the texts in which he appears to affirm an irrevocable torment are plausibly understood otherwise, while I see no plausible alternative to understanding him here as claiming that our “natural disposition” (Constas), or simply our “nature,” is “fixed and unchangeably” (irrevocably) open to God. We can end our journey in God. We cannot end it anywhere else. The ‘traditional’ view of Maximus on this question must suppose him to have believed human nature capable of irrevocable dispositional foreclosure against God. But then what could he possibly mean in the above passages?

However silent Maximus may have chosen to be regarding the possibility of final apokatastasis, it seems impossible for the logic of what he does say not to betray him. As I say, I’m no expert on Maximus, but if he was a consistent thinker who took his own metaphysics seriously, it seems to me he could not have anticipated the final, irrevocable privation of rational beings.

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79 Responses to St Maximus the Confessor, Hell, and the Final Consummation

  1. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    Tom, speaking (I think) for many EO readers, thank you for not using the Thomas Grey painting. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tom says:

      Alex Grey. 😀 I’m hoping to find one or two of your readers who like him!

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      • brian says:

        It’s suggestive of a mandala that shows the cosmic reach of God-Manhood. The symbolism is more than a pointer towards gnosis — or rather, it indicates the nature of Christian gnosis. As Aquinas wrote, “where there is love, there is an eye.” It’s also undeniably a bit spooky, but the strangeness is precisely the kind of disorientation that can unsettle sleepy conventions.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        Tom, I’ll put the Alex Grey painting right next to my Elvis Presley Mandala. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    This is a very interesting post, Tom. Thank you. I’m going to have to read Amb. 7 and see what’s going on. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tom says:

    Maximus’ ontology of creation (so far as rational creatures are concerned) boils down to “appetitive movement.” And that in itself means created being is irreducibly “teleological” (perhaps “aesthetically teleological,” if we try to rephrase “appetitive movement”). And since the traditional notion of God sustaining the wicked in hell eternally must void created beings of all teleology and reduce created ontology to absolute ateleology, I conclude Maximus could not have held to it.

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  4. Tom says:

    Another interesting passage from Ambiguum 7 (at 1097D):

    For God created us in such a way that we are similar to Him (for through participation we are imbued with the exact characteristics of His goodness), and from before the ages He determined that we should exist in Him. In other for us to attain this most blessed end, He gave us a mode by which we could make proper use of our natural powers. However, a man voluntarily chose to reject this mode by misusing his natural powers, and in order to prevent man from becoming completely estranged from God, He introduced another mode in its place, more marvelous and befitting of God than the first, and as different from the former as what is above nature is different from what is according to nature.”

    He immediately goes on to identify this marvelous mode as the Incarnation.

    So Maximus sees the Incarnation as that divine act which (among other things, of course) “prevents man from becoming completely estranged from God.” But what is eternal hell but complete estrangement from God?

    Tom

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    • Tom says:

      It’s especially interesting because Amb. 21 (1252B) expresses the idea that those who make wrong use of their powers in the coming life will receive dreadful condemnation “being estranged from God” for infinite ages, and here in Amb 7 he says the Incarnation was undertaken “to prevent man from becoming completely estranged from God.”

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      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        How’s your Greek, Tom? Please take a look at the Greek text (p. 438) and see if you can figure out the word(s) that Constans translates as “infinite ages.” That would be good to know, I figure. (That request goes out to anyone who knows Greek and has access to the Greek text of Ambiguum 21.12.)

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    • brian says:

      Even though Maximus was prudentially silent about apocatastasis, it’s really hard to grant his metaphysics and language like the above and come to the conclusion that he believed otherwise. Though of course, it’s not hard at all for some folks.

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  5. christianhollums says:

    Thanks for the contribution to further study on Maximus. I like that Ramelli’s argues from the Ontology of Maximus and it seems now there is also a metaphysical argument as well. As always thanks for the thoughtful engagement.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. bradjersak says:

    Tom, this is a wonderful article. A keeper. A few points and a question:

    1. In light of this and my own readings in Maximos, it seems to me that his alleged silence on apokatastasis is overstated, esp since the all in all of 1 Cor 15 had virtually become synonymous with it in Gregory and Maximos… Or at least a euphemism that allowed him to address it directly.

    2. You’ve shown us how he interprets these texts that for those who demand biblical engagement and dismiss the patristic arguments as merely philosophical, we could simply engage 1 Cor 15 in a way that emulates Maximos so that the hermeneutical debate is over 1 Cor 15 instead of over Maximos in the future.

    Question – In light of the logic of his interpretation, and the irrevocable desire, why do you think he narrows the field to *the worthy*? in saying ‘but that of which the worthy shall partake in the age to come.’? I can imagine a Calvinist saying, ‘See, ALL means all of the worthy, not all created beings!’ While you’ve shown it does refer to the inclusive all, why would he restrict it like that?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Surely all who are ultimately defied in Christ have been made worthy, don’t you think, Brad.

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    • Tom says:

      Good question Brad. I’ve been thinking on that very point. And it’s a point that gets repeated in Maximus (the idea that only the ‘worthy’ enjoy final beatitude).

      I think he’s explicit on this because of the strong emphasis he places upon freedom/choice (what Constas translates as “self-determination” [αυτεξουσιος]). He doesn’t want to be understood as suggesting that God becomes ‘all in all’ unilaterally, by somehow voiding or dismissing those very created powers God endows us with (the “voluntary surrender of the will” Amb. 7). Of course, the ‘worthy’ for him simply means those who qualify for final beatitude through the proper exercise of those very powers of nature God gives. Nobody enjoys final fulfillment automatically.

      But in laying out an understanding of human nature as ‘irrevocably open’ to God, the conclusion that final eschatological closure is ‘automatic’ has to be avoided too, so the capacity of that nature for voluntary surrender limits eschatological closure to ‘the worthy’ (even if all are irrevocably open to becoming worthy). That’s why I think he uses “apeiros” (infinite, or ‘indefinite’, or better yet, ‘as long as it takes’ 😀 ) in Amb. 21 when he describes the suffering of being unworthy. What else could he say? There’s no terminus ad quem at which our powers of voluntary self-determination are mysteriously by-passed by God to secure the end he desires, because the powers he created us with already are the means God adopts to secure the end he desires) and yet those powers cannot foreclose upon themselves in evil. So the working out of it (which is the ‘timetable’ everybody seems to be interested in) has to be unpredictable or ‘indefinite’.

      Just my guess.

      Tom

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      • Tom says:

        Brad, see Ramelli (745ff). Looks like she makes the same point from Maximus’ emphasis upon freedom.

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      • Mike H says:

        Tom,

        Apologies for interjecting here.

        Regarding the “suffering of being unworthy” and the usage of “apeiros”, I think you’ve made a compelling point within the larger context that you’re arguing for.

        In our contemporary (punitive) justice system, we have the language of “doing your time”. A person is convicted of a crime, they “pay their debt to society” and then it’s over (theoretically of course – a person continues to “pay” in other ways). The essential points are that the imprisonment has a defined end at which the law deems that a “debt is paid” AND that the imprisonment itself is a suitable form of payment (justice).

        That’s precisely what we’re NOT talking about here. The “suffering” that you’re talking about doesn’t “run its course” in a penal sense. Suffering itself doesn’t right any wrongs. I don’t think that enough time in the fiery furnace, or after enough lashings by the “scourge of love”, or enough centuries being tormented by one’s conscience propitiates God in such a way that He becomes pleased and, at some arbitrary point, grants a “legal pardon”. This would attribute some sort of divine worth to suffering in and of itself – and frames the problem in a penal light more than an ontological one. This seems terribly wrong to me (and tangentially brings in the nature of “justice” and atonement theory).

        No, I think “apeiros” as “indefinite” makes a lot of sense when being used in relation to “punishment”, particularly within the larger context of God’s love, and the nature of freedom as teleological (if those are affirmed). I don’t think this does violence to “apeiros” with the larger picture in view.

        Whether that’s what is originally intended, who can say? But it does make sense given the “sustained logic” that you argue for. And an understanding of an overall thought process is much more valuable than individual citation bombs.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. Maximus says:

    Fr. and Gentleman,

    There are patristic interpretations of “all in all” that do not mean universalism. For instance, St. Neilos the Wise wrote, “In order that God might be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28; Eph. 1:23), He is Light to those who are worthy of light, but a chastising Fire to those who deserve eternal chastisement.” (Epistle 1.47 To Dositheos)

    To reject God, in Whose image we are made, is to go against our nature, right? Doesn’t this particularly origenistic predestinarian reading mean that there is no freedom to reject God for eternity then?? It was recorded by his disciple, St. Anastasios, that St. Maximus explicitly anathematized Origen and his teachings at his trial. What did St. Maximus mean when he referred to a fire which more violent and feared than the one St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote about?

    “…the fire “which proceeds before the face of the Lord” burning “His enemies” is the energies of God. For they characterize the face of God, that is, His goodness, love of humankind, meekness, and things similar to these. These energies enlighten those who are like them and burn up those who oppose and have been alienated from the likeness. And the passage did not say these, the forms of fire, are eternal, since according to Gregory of Nyssa nature must recover its own powers and be restored by full knowledge to what was from the beginning, so that the Creator may be proven not to be the cause of sin. And he called the “more feared” fire, that “which is fused eternally into one mass with worms, not able to be quenched but existing perpetually for wicked”. For this reason, when the divinity appears and is offered to the worthy for their enjoyment, they who do not, through good works, illumine themselves, like a little worm which always uproots one’s memory, are devoured, evaluated by their failure and endless deprivation of the good, and are continually put to test by a more violent fire. (St. Maximus the Confessor’s Questions and Doubts pp. 95-96. Question 99)

    And how do you read these fearful passages?

    “If, however, it makes the wrong or mistaken use of these powers, delving into the world in a manner contrary to what is proper, it is obvious that it will succumb to dishonorable passions, and in the coming life will rightly be cast away from the presence of the divine glory, receiving the dreadful condemnation of being estranged from relation with God for infinite ages, a sentence so distressing that the soul will not be able to contest it, for it will have as a perpetually relentless accuser its own disposition, which created for it a mode of existence that in fact did not exist.” (Ambigua to John, Ambiguum 21)

    Let us think of the bitterness of the soul in hell, in the awareness and recollection of all the evil it has done in its body. Let us think of the final consummation of the entire world, of the immense conflagration destroying the universe in a frightful tumult of elements dissolved by flames: the heavens precipitously fleeing the terrifying development of fire purifying creation for the Parousia of the Pure; the sea disappearing; the earth shaken to its foundations, casting forth the countless myriads of the bodies of all men without exception. Let us think of the dread hour of reckoning at that time, at the dreadful and terrifying judgment seat of Christ, when all the powers of heaven and every human creature since the foundation of the ages will see right down to the most naked of our thoughts; when the ineffable light will welcome some for the brilliance of their works and when the illumination of the holy and blessed Trinity will cause to shine with even more brilliance those who can see It and endure the sight by the purity of their soul. Outer darkness will welcome the others, as well as the gnawing, untiring worm and the inextinguishable fire of Gehenna. Finally, the most serious of all, the eternal shame and regret of conscience. Think of all that so to be worthy of the first and not to be condemned to suffer this trial; let us be with them and with God, or rather wholly with God alone, totally within Him, with no longer anything of the earthly within us; in order to be close to God, become gods, receiving being gods, from God. In this way the divine gifts are venerated and are awaited in the love of the Parousia of divine joy. (Letters, 24, PG 91, 609C-612D.)

    I’m asking seriously not merely in attempt to refute but in an effort to understand your reasoning and interpretation.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      And here’s another citation we can add to the list:

      “This is eternal being, in which souls celebrate their Sabbath, receiving cessation from all motion. The eight and the first, or rather, the one and perpetual day, is the unalloyed, all-shining presence of God, which comes about after things in motion have come to rest; and, throughout the whole being of those who by their free choice have used the principle of being according to nature, the whole God suitably abides, bestowing on them eternal well-being by giving them a share in Himself, because He alone, properly speaking, is, and is good, and is eternal; but to those who have willfully used the principle of their being contrary to nature, He rightly renders not well-being but eternal ill-being, since well-being is no longer accessible to those who have placed themselves in opposition to it, and they have absolutely no motion after the manifestation of what was sought, by which (manifestation) what is sought is naturally revealed to those who seek it.” [Ambiguum 65: 279-281 (1393A)]

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    • Tom says:

      Maximus, if you’re still here, let me ask you to do me a favor.

      Help me understand how you find the traditional view of hell s irrevocable torment meaningful. I hear supporters of the traditional view appeal to the 5th Ecumenical Council and to patristic consensus. But if I may, those are arguments from a particular ‘authority’. I appreciate their force. But they’re not argument that expose the failed reasoning of the particular positions they condemn. In the case of Athanasius vs Arius or Cyril vs Nestorius we do have the reasoning of their debates leading up to conciliar condemnation. They had ‘reasons’ for condemning those views. That’s what I’m looking for in the case of universalism.

      I’m seriously interested. The Ecumenical Council and patristic consensus arguments aside, what arguments of reason kill the possibility of universalism for you? Or I could ask it this way—WHY do you think the 5th council condemned universalism per se (in all its forms)? In the case of previous Councils condemning this or that can track the debate and listen in on their reasons (rational, biblical, theological, historical—all of those). Do we have this in the case of the condemnation of universalism?

      Is it just the exegesis of the relevant NT passages? Even then the heart and mind want to understand. Given that the Bible teaches it, how do you make sense of it for yourself? Is it the argument from ‘freedom’? Perhaps you think God’s ‘holiness’ being infinite demands and infinite price or punishment? Perhaps you understanding of divine ‘justice’ makes God’s unending pursuit of the lost problematic? Or perhaps (like Jerry Walls) you feel created rationality really is empowered by God to freely and irrevocably choose to reject God? I’m just running through the options I’m familiar with. I really want to understand how you do eternal conscious torment in your head. If it were not dogmatically condemned, for example, if Orthodoxy really did leave this question open, I take it you’d still reject universalism. At THAT point you must have some reasons for doing so. What are they?

      Tom

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  8. apophaticallyspeaking says:

    Maximus, in regards to “all in all”, this is understood to support UR on the basis of creatio ex nihilo. It’s a very strong argument and explicated at length here on this site (Edvdokimov, DBH, come to mind). UR doesn’t negate the existence of hell/punishment (for purgative purposes), but denies its existence into eternity.

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  9. Maximus says:

    Apoph,

    Thank you so much for the response. But I specified “patristic interpretations” of that verse, which I contend to be different than contemporary speculative philosophical interpretations.

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    • apophaticallyspeaking says:

      Maximus,

      You asked for reasoning, so there it is. Such is no more contemporary, speculative or philosophical than “infernalist” interpretations.

      Such is the nature of hermeneuntics….

      Liked by 1 person

  10. christianhollums says:

    Maximus,

    I am by no means a scholar on Maximus, but I’ve had the privilege to read those who are and it seems here what Fr. Maximos is suggesting is simply his own opinion based on how he has interpreted the evidence of Maximus’ writings. As Tom has demonstrated as well as other scholars certain interpretations offered concerning Maximus such as Maximus believed in Eternal Damnation create serious conflicts with his ontological teachings as well as his philosophy on metaphysics.

    My observation is that I can take away one of three things from Maximus.

    1.) He contradicted himself if he taught eternal torment
    or
    2.) He held to apokatastasis in silence, and his teaching on the ontology of sin, and metaphysics reveal that to us
    or
    3.) The Jury is still out and we can’t conclusively affirm either 1 or 2

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    • christianhollums says:

      I’m sure there are other options that could be offered but just some of the options that have come to my mind as a result of reflecting on this particular subject. Again I’m not a scholar there are others in this thread that are far more convincing and grammatically precise in their discourse on this subject.

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  11. brian says:

    Yes, Father Daley even translated Hans Urs von Balthasar’s classic work on Maximus (Cosmic Liturgy), but apparently was unpersuaded by Balthasar’s nuanced argument. One will find scholars on both sides. To say there’s nothing in Maximus anthropology to suggest universalism is tendentious. There are certainly places where Maximus tends to see all of humanity as essentially one. Bottom line: there is equivocity and individuals with differing criteria will come to make different judgments. Hart gives a list of universalist thinkers in the patristic era — Gregory of Nyssa, Origen, Evagrius, Diodore, Theodore, Isaac of Nineveh. This leaves aside the disputed view of Maximus. Aside from the fact that it is certainly dishonest to treat the patristic record as if it were monolithic, it is troubling that traditionalists are so complacently satisfied with their notion of authority that they make no serious effort to understand so-called metaphysical arguments which actually derive from an acute examination of the implications of Christian revelation.

    Liked by 2 people

    • christianhollums says:

      exactly what I was thinking Brian but you are so much more eloquent lol. Also Brian I think you said you don’t have Ramelli’s work. I hope I can do this Fr. Aidan but shoot me an email at christianhollums@gmail.com. I have the PDF Version she gave out for free

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  12. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    Hi, everyone. I’ve been away much of the day, reading, as it happens, Ambiguum 7 down at the cigar store. 🙂

    As requested by Maximus, I have deleted hiscomment that included the quotation from Fr Maximos and his recommendation of the article by Brian Daley. Unfortunately, it appears that by doing so, the responses to that comment also disappeared. Sorry about that. I didn’t know that would happen. Feel free to repost your thoughts on the present scholarly debate on Maximus and apokatastasis.

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    • Maximus says:

      Thanks Fr. I was hoping that he would participate like Fr. Christiaan, but he’s a monastic and a instructor at Holy Cross, so he’s likely.

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  13. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    [I was able to find Brian’s comment, though I cannot figure out how to make it visible, so I am reposting it.]

    Yes, Father Daley even translated Hans Urs von Balthasar’s classic work on Maximus (Cosmic Liturgy), but apparently was unpersuaded by Balthasar’s nuanced argument. One will find scholars on both sides. To say there’s nothing in Maximus anthropology to suggest universalism is tendentious. There are certainly places where Maximus tends to see all of humanity as essentially one. Bottom line: there is equivocity and individuals with differing criteria will come to make different judgments. Hart gives a list of universalist thinkers in the patristic era — Gregory of Nyssa, Origen, Evagrius, Diodore, Theodore, Isaac of Nineveh. This leaves aside the disputed view of Maximus. Aside from the fact that it is certainly dishonest to treat the patristic record as if it were monolithic, it is troubling that traditionalists are so complacently satisfied with their notion of authority that they make no serious effort to understand so-called metaphysical arguments which actually derive from an acute examination of the implications of Christian revelation.

    Like

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      And just as Brian Daley was apparently not persuaded by Balthasar’s arguments, Balthasar was not persuaded by Daley’s arguments. 🙂

      Daley’s essay: “Apokatastasis and “Honorable Silence” in the Eschatology of St. Maximus the Confessor,” Felix Heinzer – Christoph Scönborn (ed.), Actes du Symposium sur Maxime le Confeseur (Fribourg, 2-5 september 1980), Éditions Universitaires, Fribourg Suisse 1982. I have been unable to obtain this volume through ILL. If anybody has the essay, I sure would appreciate if someone could email or send me a copy!

      For Balthasar’s response to Daley, see Dare We Hope …, pp. 245-248, n. 21.

      And the debate goes on … 🙂

      Like

  14. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    [And here’s Christian Hollum’s comment that was disappeared.]

    I am by no means a scholar on Maximus, but I’ve had the privilege to read those who are and it seems here what Fr. Maximos is suggesting is simply his own opinion based on how he has interpreted the evidence of Maximus’ writings. As Tom has demonstrated as well as other scholars certain interpretations offered concerning Maximus such as Maximus believed in Eternal Damnation create serious conflicts with his ontological teachings as well as his philosophy on metaphysics.

    My observation is that I can take away one of three things from Maximus.

    1.) He contradicted himself if he taught eternal torment
    or
    2.) He held to apokatastasis in silence, and his teaching on the ontology of sin, and metaphysics reveal that to us
    or
    3.) The Jury is still out and we can’t conclusively affirm either 1 or 2

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  15. Tom says:

    I’m not gonna pretend Amb. 65 doesn’t appear to affirm the contradiction of everything else in Maximus that suggests universal apokatastasis. Was Maximus really that inconsistent (or self-contradictory)? Brilliant people can be inconsistent and hold contradictory beliefs. Nobody’s perfect. But on such core beliefs so essential to Maximus? That’s hard to imagine. Ramelli does deal with Amb. 65. I did find her helpful, though there are a few other words (not just aidios vs aionios) in that passage I wish she would have commented upon. I didn’t notice any “spaghetti.”

    I think the strongest thing that rules out reading Amb. 65 as affirming an eternal/irrevocable hell is how obviously this then contradicts Maximus’ very strong view of evil as privation, of being as teleological, and the nature of rational creatures vis-a-vise their logoi. What would one even be who was absolutely privated without remainder, logoi-less (pardon the awkward combination there), without telos? God sustaining an existence without willing himself as its end. It would essentially be the hypostatization of evil, which Maximus knows is impossible.

    Is this “philosophy”? (I ask it in response to the objection that the reasons for reading Maximus as at least tacitly universalist.) Well, of course it’s philosophy. But it’s Maximus’ philosophy. That’s the point. The debate here is about what Maximus belived.

    Tom

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    • christianhollums says:

      Tom,

      Quick question noticed you mentioned Ramelli’s contribution to aionion and aidios but said there are a few other words; do you mind telling me what those words are? Where can I find the material you are perhaps referencing?

      What say you of her work on the difference between timoria and kolasis and it’s qualifying the meaning of aionion? Have you read Clement of Alexandria’s commentary on aionion, and kolasis in the Stromata?

      Also are you also being continually burdened by the straw argument concerning Philosophy? It seems that many people who disagree with Universal Apokatastasis have a tendency to criticize philosophy as a whole.

      Maximus,

      Perhaps it may be helpful if we all have a moment of self realization and recognize it is impossible not to come to the Scriptures, Councils, and Patristics without some mode of philosophical hermeaneutics. After all, Clement of Alexandria did say “philosophy is the handmaiden of Theology.”

      Like

      • Tom says:

        Christian,

        I was just referring to a phrase Maximus uses in Amb. 65 (quoted above). He says of those who willfully misuse their freedom that “well-being is no longer accessible” to them. That’s interesting. On the surface, it sure looks like it refers to an “irrevocable” consequence. I would’ve like Ramelli to have explored that phrase some. Of course, Maximus says well-being isn’t accessible “to those who have placed themselves in opposition to it” which might just mean that “so long as” one chooses to reject faith, well-being is out of one’s reach, and so we’re back to Maximus’ insistence upon the role of free choice. But if by “no longer accessible” Maximus means God ceases to be one’s telos, that one ceases to have the “divine logos of human being” (I think that’s Maximus’ term) as the ground of one’s existence (which logos defines the scope of one’s future possibilities), then we have a real problem in Maximus. If one has no future possibility in God, one exists without logos, and that’s contradicts Maximus’ understanding of creation itself.

        I’m not familiar enough with Clement of A to comment. I’ve dabbled.

        And yes, I am a bit fatigued by the objection to any philosophical reasoning for apokatastasis. All the Fathers attempt to reason well, and they all do so in terms of the philosophical conversations of their day.

        Tom

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        • Tom says:

          I hate typos.

          Like

        • christianhollums says:

          This is a long shot here and I could be way off base but do you know of any scholar or writer who thinks Maximus could have held to Annihilationism?

          Reflecting on Ramelli’s Ontological considerations of what Sin is or the final outcome if you will to result in Non-Being; what implications or light can it shed on his seeming or actual contradiction in Amb. 65 with Maximus’s metaphysical philosophy and his ontology?

          Also is the context of Amb. 65 regarding the age to come or is Maximus referring to the present age? My apologies if that seems like a silly question.

          Like

  16. Edward De Vita says:

    Consider the following two passages: the first from Ambiguum 7 , as quoted in Tom’s article, and the second from Ambiguous 65, quoted by Father Aidan:

    from Ambiguum 7:
    “…everything that has received its being ex nihilo is in motion (since all things are necessarily carried along toward some cause), then noting that moves has yet come to rest, because its capacity for appetitive movement has not yet come to repose in what it ultimately desires, for nothing but the appearance of the ultimate object of desire can bring to rest that which is carried along by the power of its own nature.”

    from Ambiguous 65:
    “He rightly renders not well-being but eternal ill-being, since well-being is no longer accessible to those who have placed themselves in opposition to it, and they have absolutely no motion after the manifestation of what was sought, by which (manifestation) what is sought is naturally revealed to those who seek it.”

    The first of these states that nothing comes to rest until “the appearance of the ultimate object of desire.” The second says that those for whom well-being is no longer accessible “have absolutely no motion after the manifestation of what was sought.” It seems to me that the only way to reconcile these two passages is to understand the “ultimate desire” of Ambiguum 7 as whatever an individual seeks in the present life. If he seeks God, then God is his ultimate desire; if he seeks something other than God,then that is his ultimate desire. When what he/she ultimately desired is manifested, the individual will come to rest in that, whether for good or for ill.

    On the face of it, of course, this makes little sense. For, it would seem that it is impossible for any merely earthly desire to be anyone’s ultimate desire. It is, after all, God’s moving us towards Himself that is the ultimate end of all desire and it is precisely this ordering of each individual toward God that enables us to desire anything else at all. Nevertheless, unless I have misunderstood these passages, I don’t see any other way to square them.

    Like

    • Tom says:

      Edward,

      Yeah, I thought on that too for a while. Why can’t our essential nature (our “appetitive movement”) simply be the drive to finally end in just whatever it is we happen to desire most, or whatever object of desire comes to finally define us? The problem for me at least is that this is a pretty easy thing to say if it’s one’s view, but Maximus never brings things together to say it. And in the end it does seem to violate some firm commitments he holds to (i.e., the inseparability of the uncreated logoi from created actualities, the non-substantial nature of evil as privation, etc.).

      What you’re suggesting seems to presume a kind of relationship we sustain to God that separates in God what Maximus seems to view as one and the same. That is, in any view of hell we still have to place God as the One who sustains our existence. We wouldn’t ‘be’ at all (in any mode of being) without God *immediately* present grounding our existence and sustaining whatever natural capacities are ours, even if we experience such being as torment. But though God is immediately present willing one’s existence in such a hell, God would not will himself as the end of his own sustaining act. And that, I think for Maximus, is a problem. God creating/sustaining that for which he does not will himself as end? God doing something pointless (without telos)?

      It seems to be a kind of hypostatization of evil. It has God giving ‘being’ to privation, for the irrevocably estranged from God have no logos, no telos, no true desire, no relation. That’s exactly what evil as privation is. We set our desire upon something other than God and eventually come to rest in that object irrevocably. But presumably hell strips us of all these fantasies and falsehoods. To the extent hell is ‘just’, it’s designed to confront us with the truth of our sinful choices. It’s a reckoning, a ‘giving account’ of ourselves. But if we “have” what we desire forever, we never give account of anything. (And we haven’t even talked about Maximus’ view of hell as therapeutic-remedial!) Part of this process (again, presumably) means having the very false objects of desire we sought to ground ourselves in during this life (possessions, status, power, base physical pleasures, what have you) exposed as false. Hell consumes them. We’ll have no job prestige in hell, no 501K to boast in, no sexual partners or liaisons, nobody to impress with our big house, no cars to drive, nothing, and no one else—none of the objects of desire we falsely pursue will survive. So in what sense will our natures as ‘desire’ finally/irrevocably rest in them?

      Tom

      Liked by 2 people

  17. Edward De Vita says:

    Ambiguous 65 should be “Ambiguum 65.” Autocorrect can be a pain.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    Maximus, you ask above how someone who supports the universalist hope might interpret the damnation passages to be found in St Maximus. Remembering that I have read very little Maximus, here’s how I might approach these texts:

    1) I strongly believe that beginning with the damnation texts is the wrong way to approach Maximus (and Jesus and the Apostle Paul, too). Having spent several hours today slowly reading through Amb. 7, it’s clear to me that we must first grasp Maximus’s understanding of the relationship between the Good, humanity’s natural desire for the Good, and human volition before we even look at the damnation passages. Otherwise, we will end up reading Maximus through our modern (voluntarist) notions of free-will.

    I figure it will take me anywhere between 5-10 years before I feel confident that I have a handle on Maximus’s understanding of volition; but I’m a slow learner. YMMV. 🙂

    2) Once we are feeling confident in how Maximus understands human volition, then we can look at the damnation passages. Perhaps you read patristic Greek, but I do not, so I’m going to have to befriend a patristic scholar to read these passages along with me. For example, in the Amb. 61 passage I cited above, the English translation employs the word “eternal.” I want to know what Greek word(s) Maximus used here. Is “eternal” the best way to render the original Greek word(s)? I’ve become sensitive to questions like these after becoming aware of the tendency of English translators of the New Testament to translate the word aionios by “eternal,” thus obscuring the nuances and possible meanings of aionios. I’m not questioning Dr Constas’s translation skills, but I always want to get a second opinion. 🙂

    How eternal is eternal damnation for Maximus?

    3) Let’s assume that we reach the conclusion that, on the basis of the damnation passages, Maximus really did believe that human being have the capacity to permanently, irrevocably, eternally close themselves off to the grace of God, i.e., that hell is a genuine possibility. We then have to ask, is this reconcilable with Maximus’s understanding of humanity’s natural desire for God, etc.? Perhaps we conclude that the two are logically integrated in Maximus’s thought. In that case, he falls into the perditionist camp. Case closed. (And Tom goes to bed crying himself to sleep.)

    Or perhaps we may conclude that an antinomy or even contradiction exists in Maximus’s thinking. It might well be the case that Maximus’s metaphysics lead in a universalist direction but that Maximus himself simply refused to follow it to its logical conclusion, perhaps because he believed that the Church had dogmatically rejected apokatastasis, thus compelling him to hold two opposites together. Not a tidy solution, but theology is often untidy.

    Or perhaps, while acknowledging the possibility of eternal damnation, he also harbored hope that God might accomplish the impossible. Several scholars of Maximus in fact believe that this is the case. See, e.g., Andreas Andreapoulis’s essay “The Eschatology of Maximus the Confessor” in the Oxford Handbook on Maximus the Confessor. There’s a real debate going on here among scholars. Clearly matters are not black and white.

    I’d love, of course, to be able to claim Maximus as a proponent of the universalist hope; but if, in the end, it turns out that he, like St Augustine, believed in eternal damnation, then that is that.

    Ultimately, what is important for us is to examine Maximus’s arguments and see what we can learn from them. Are they compelling or not so compelling arguments? Whether he was a universalist or a perditionist, it doesn’t matter if his arguments are poor. But if his arguments are good (for whatever position), then we all need to pay attention.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    From Hans Urs von Balthsar, Cosmic Liturgy:

    Maximus speaks of hell in many places. The most famous passage is the great exhortation in the Liber asceticus, which employs a strict and sober eloquence to wring from the heart contrition and a sense of sin. On the other hand, we can find a number of passages that use the language of Gregory of Nyssa to speak, in general terms, of God’s universal will for human salvation and of the redemption of the whole of human nature because of its indivisible ontological unity. Maximus speaks of the unity of the Mystical Body as if no member should ever be missing from it. The incarnation of God is realized in everyone, the whole species will be saved from death, “the works of sin will disappear into nothingness”, all will share in the resurrection, the whole world, in the Son, will be “subject” to the Father (1 Cor 15:28]. The sheep that was lost and found again is the one, complete human nature. The whole world will be brought home by the Logos, for he saves everyone, the whole race, just as his ineffable mystery embraces all ages and every place. (pp. 355-356)

    Balthasar then suggests that the hell texts and the universalist texts can be resolved by Maximus’s interpretation of the two trees in Paradise in ad Thalassium.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 407kwac says:

      Father, what is Maximus’ interpretation of the “two trees?” Could you post the relevant excerpt from ad Thalassium?

      Karen

      Like

      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        Ahh, I was afraid someone might ask me that. Balthasar discusses the two trees in his book. I do not know if the relevant passages are available in English translation or not.

        Hopefully, someone who has read Maximus might be able to help us here.

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  20. yieldedone says:

    Here is what I think:

    If…

    1) the natural movement of human nature demonstrated in Jesus qua Maximian dyothelitism includes openness to voluntary surrender of the will to the Good [God] as one’s “ultimate desire” and grounding of “appetitive movement”…

    AND…

    2) the natural movement is “fixed and unchangeable” as an aspect of God’s unbroken image in humanity….

    AND

    3) the “motion” of human nature only truly ends in the Good because “nothing but the appearance of the ultimate object of desire [God] can bring to rest that which is carried along by the power of its own nature.”

    Then…

    …the idea that openness to God can be irrevocably, eternally foreclosed by self-will (gnomic self-contradiction) or some new perception of reality (the 8th Day) is impossible.

    Agree or disagree, all?

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    For everyone’s interest: Polycarp Sherwood devotes a chapter to apocatastasis in his book The Earlier Ambigua.

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  22. Tom says:

    A bit above, Yieldedone brought Maximus’ dyothelitism into conversation with eschatology. Haven’t seen that done, and to be honest I passed it by. But he’s a friend and we chat almost daily, so we talked on the phone and I do now see his point. Not sure what others will think of it, but I thought I’d try to make it more explicit.

    Basically, Yieldedone is saying that the essential openness of human nature to God (which is all my blog piece was about) is implied in Dyothelitism, and Dyothelitism certainly has the full force of Orthodoxy behind it.

    Dyothelitism (for which Maximus fought and died) maintains that the divine Logos has two wills—the divine will (essentially, as God of course) and a fully natural human will as Incarnate. Two wills. Maximus also argued Christ had no gnomic will. That is, his human will did not hesitate deliberatively in choosing between good and evil.

    Yieldedone’s point is that if we say the Son assumes a full, complete human nature, not lacking in any of the natural powers which define created, human nature essentially, and if we also argue this nature in Christ’s case was in fact irreducibly open to God essentially, then are we not committed to positing the irreducible openness to God of human nature per se?

    It might seem this can be gotten around by claiming the uniqueness of the Incarnate One, as an event, as a process of human development, etc., and that while God’s human nature (yes, God has a human nature—that’s the Good News) is essentially human in every necessary and definitive way, lacking nothing that unites him truly, existentially, to every other human being, we nevertheless have to suppose Christ’s human nature was unlike ours in this respect: his is irreducibly open to God, ours isn’t (and ours is ‘necessarily’ not irreducibly open to God). But isn’t that a tough sale?

    I think Yieldedone has a point. If we’re going to own that Christ’s human nature is fully human, lacking nothing essential to human nature per se, and suppose it to be irrevocably open to God (which I’m guessing all Orthodox are committed to via Dyothelitism), then what are the implications of that for our understanding of human nature per se (which is what this debate is about)?

    Tom

    Liked by 1 person

    • yieldedone says:

      Thank you so much for that clear articulation, Tom! 🙂

      Like

      • yieldedone says:

        Question:
        “If we’re going to own that Christ’s human nature is fully human, lacking nothing essential to human nature per se, and suppose it to be irrevocably open to God (which I’m guessing all Orthodox are committed to via Dyothelitism), then what are the implications of that for our understanding of human nature per se (which is what this debate is about)?”

        Answer:
        One chief implication for the dyothelitist is the metaphysical impossibility of a human being experiencing “eternal ill-being” (ie. irrevocable closedness to God). Another implication is the eternal possibility of all human beings –no matter how sin privated– to be open to God and future Godward movement.

        Can we all agree on this?

        Like

  23. christianhollums says:

    Tom,

    Can you help explain what you mean by irrevocably open to God? I like where you are going with this.

    Like

    • Tom says:

      I’ll just ramble for a moment…

      I mean Godward movement is always a possibility for rational creatures who bear his image. We can never be so depraved, so privated by evil, that we foreclose upon ourselves all possibility of moving in God’s direction. So final, absolute, ‘hopelessness’ is metaphysically impossible.

      And this essential openness is entirely God’s doing, not ours. It just is the gift of being. It doesn’t lie within our natural God-given capacities to exclude God from our scope of those capacities. Though their ‘exercise’ lies within the scope of our ‘say-so’, that ‘say-so’ doesn’t include exiling God as our ground of being. So we could no more foreclose upon the possibility of Godward movement than we could give ourselves being.

      So there’s no separating into a two-storied ontology God’s giving us being, on the one hand, and our essential openness to God, on the other; God’s sustaining us in being, on the one hand, and God’s willing himself for us as our end, on the other. Our existence is always already invitation, call, gift, possibility. But to get to an irrevocable hell, we have to separate what is in fact a single divine act and say that God gives being without telos, that he sustains those for whom he does not will himself as end. It implies that God first gives being and THEN adds teleology to being as an act separable from both creation and his present sustaining of creation.

      Tom

      Liked by 5 people

      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        Well said, Tom.

        More and more I am beginning to understand why David Hart is so impatient with the usual analytic construals of human freedom—specifically, libertarian freedom vs compatibilist freedom. These categories just don’t apply because of humanity’s divine-given orientation to God as its happiness and fulfillment, yet it is this fundamental orientation that is typically ignored in contempoary philosophical discussions of hell. We think we already know what free will means (e.g., “the freedom to choose otherwise”), and we then project our understanding back on the Maximus and other Church Fathers.

        Liked by 4 people

  24. christianhollums says:

    Tom and Fr. Aidan,

    Thanks so much for your response Tom, I just wanted to make sure I understood you correctly, and I couldn’t agree more with both of you. Tom you state “And this essential openness is entirely God’s doing, not ours. It just is the gift of being.” I love this and in more simple terms how involved was our will in the act of creation itself? Did God wait for our will to say yes to creation before he began to create? Obviously not. I think on some level if God is truly the Good He must possess a Freedom that isn’t constrained by the very freedom He has freely chosen to give us. At times it seems people pit these two against one another yet in the very act of creation itself; their is absolutely no restraint on God’s freedom to create life by His creation.

    What implications does the act of creation and God’s unlimited freedom in that act have on the freedom of God to resurrect (recreate or renew) humanity in the age to come? Can human beings by any act of volition and free choice resurrect themselves? I have to admit I feel as if much that I learned from my experiences in Calvin touches on this in different ways. I would never agree on how Calvin presented Limited Atonement and it’s implications, but much of what I learned about his perceptions on freedom seems to be in some ways synonymous with much of what is being said at least in the realm of volition.

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    • Tom says:

      Christian: What implications does the act of creation and God’s unlimited freedom in that act have on the freedom of God to resurrect (recreate or renew) humanity in the age to come? Can human beings by any act of volition and free choice resurrect themselves?

      Tom: I don’t think God’s freedom includes doing the logically impossible (make square circles), or—and this is where disagreement emerges—relational/existential impossibilities like predetermining guilt (how much does Hart hammer on Calvinism for that, right?), or predetermining our choice to love, or relating to creation outside the very limitations of the nature he gives it. Is God free to save or obring creation to fulfillment outside Incarnation? I think not. Am I limiting the divine freedom. I don’t think so.

      Am I at liberty to cooperate with the Spirit on some issue in my life today or resist? If *freedom* isn’t the word to describe the sort of ‘space’ that explains what it is that makes me the final arbiter here, that’s fine. I can change up the language. But let’s say I resist; then I’m interested in rejecting the idea that God is transcendently willing me to resist, and I don’t have any interest in attributing all creaturely action to God’s will in that sense. But I do agree with Hart that the sort of libertarianism that supposes we’re absolutely unconstrained by context or nature, or that we’re only ‘free’ when choice is a spontaneous act of the will, is incoherent.

      I think divine freedom establishes the integrity of creation. So God’s not free to relate to creation as if it were something other than it is. But when one lands on a conviction about the ‘way’ creation is and insists upon understanding God’s actions relative to that ‘way’, folks object on the grounds that God’s freedom can do anything. But is that true? To bring creation to theosis, for example, God has to incarnate. There’s no accomplishing that end by divine fiat. I’d say that’s just the metaphysical price-tag (so to speak) of bring finite, rational creatures to fulfillment in God. Of course, it’s not a constraint upon divine freedom that’s determined by some non-divine standard outside God. It’s just another way of saying what kind of God God is. But it has to be maintained once it’s ‘said’.

      To finally get to your question—I don’t think God can ‘save’ people (pre- or postmortem) by acting as unilaterally or asymmetrically as he does when he ‘creates’ them. We don’t participate in our own creation. We actually do participate in our salvation. So things are different. Bringing a rational soul to theosis involves that soul’s willing cooperation. Pretty sure we have Maximus on our side for that. It really is a work of synergy (which your Calvinist friends will only condemn). HOW that gets maintained/applied by universalists (postmortem) is a point of contention I think.

      Tom

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Tom says:

    Just ran into Fr Andrew Louth today:

    “This hope, amounting to a conviction, that there is nothing beyond the infinite love of God, that there is no limit to our hope in the power of his love, at least regards as legitimate hope the universal salvation of all rational creatures, maybe even of the devil himself and his demons.” Fr Andrew Louth, “Eastern Orthodox Eschatology” in The Oxford Handbook of Eschatology (p. 245-246)

    Liked by 2 people

  26. christianhollums says:

    Tom,

    Concerning Predestination and Free Will St John Cassian writes the following:

    “The intention that God had when he created the human being, not that this should die, but that it might live forever, remains unchanged. And when God’s goodness sees even the most tiny sparkle of good will shine in us, a sparkle that it was God to draw from our hearts, the Godhead cherishes and encourages it, and endeavours to make it grow, and nourishes it with its bread. For God wants all human beings to be saved and to reach the knowledge of truth. Indeed, he says: Your Father, who is in heaven, does not want any of these little ones to be lost, and again: God does not want to have any soul lost, and rather calls it back. In this way he demonstrates that even the one who has gone far (from God) will not perish altogether […] Because I live, the Lord says, I do not want the death of the sinner, but I want him to convert and live.”

    In regards to the Epinoia of Christ he states:

    “Like an extremely benevolent physician, for our own sake he will bring us what is opposite to our will, and sometimes delays and prevents our evil intentions and deadly attempts, that they may not have their horrible effect, and while we rush toward death, he pulls us back toward salvation, and, while we are unaware of this, he saves us from hell’s jaws.”

    Ramelli observes concerning Cassian:

    “According to Cassian, God helps human free will when it is good, and if it is not good it turns it toward the Good. It seems that for him, just as for Origen, human free will is not an impediment to God in reaching his goal, that is, the salvation of all. Origen, indeed, observed that if not even death or the powers of evil will be able to separate humans from God’s love, human free will shall even less be able to do so.”

    I am not as good with words as you are brother; but I hope I can clarify what I mean in reference to my comments on Calvin. Calvin gets off the tracks in many ways and I definitely wasn’t agreeing with really much of anything Calvin has said: however what I’m trying to say is that if True Freedom as defined by DBH is actually hard wired into the very fabric of our will itself in creatio ex nihilio, how active or passive is our choice? I am not referring here to monergism or synergism. I think on some level this activity transcends those categories.

    Obviously our gnomic will has been fractured in some sense due to the fall, but I also think it is evident that even in the act of Creation we never shared in the essence of perfection which on some level justifies how humanity could have mistaken the bad for good in the first place. Let me try to give a personal example of what I’m saying forgive me I have difficulty at times explaining my thoughts in these comments.

    Some time ago when I was in the despair of my addiction something happened that I can’t quite explain but only share. I was traveling to go on a short vacation and had been doing drugs heavily for several months, and I couldn’t find the strength at all to stop using. Free choice seem to evaporate out the window and I was completely powerless. On this trip I bought a large amount of drugs and I ran out of drugs roughly about half way into the trip. Suddenly I began to weep and was overwhelmed by the reality of the eventual outcome of the choices I was making. Somehow someway I knew how things would end, I knew the pain that lay ahead. I am sure my past experiences played a role in this and this is where the difficulty of explaining the unexplainable occurs. Deep within the very fabric of my soul was a intrinsic desire for good, for life, and for joy. My will if you will…lol really wasn’t involved. I just knew in my heart that I could no longer keep moving the direction I was. I turned around that day and from that point on the addiction cycle stopped.

    Call it conscience, call it the gift of being as you have stated. There is something about me as a human being that is in opposition to evil that I have no rational, or philosophical explanation for. While I was high out of my mind that I didn’t reflect on the rationality of my decisions and came to the logical or philosophical conclusion that my current decisions were defective and destructive. I don’t deny that I cooperated with this voice, but it was as if to continue my current direction would be a betrayal of my very being a betrayal of my true self. So I think what I was trying to get at is simply that I wasn’t involved in that conviction by virtue of any act of the will it was the grace of God towards me and His creating me in His image that I believe is the very reason that I am alive today. This very act of creation didn’t require my cooperation. I find that the synergistic or monergistic philosophical construct really can’t offer an explanation that is sufficient for my experience. I find on some level I agree with both, disagree with both, and say there is something going on here that is rather mysterious and inscrutable. Something Godlike, and Christlike.

    Perhaps this is the alétheia for every human being post-mortem the very epinoia of God grafted and gifted into us that leads us to our natural, rational, and humanely divine telos. While I believe the philosophical, metaphysical, ontological arguments are the strongest for the Universal Apokatastasis I must admit my experience that day transcends those constructs and it the reason I have hope for the entirety of humanity in this age and the age to come. Thanks as always for your deep and reflective comments as well as the article.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Tom says:

      Christian,

      I’m either confused about or just disagree with Ramelli’s comment re: Cassian. It’s obvious that our misuse of liberty of choice can’t separate us from the love of God. God loves us when we choose awry. We’re loved and can do nothing to separate ourselves from being loved. But our experiencing the full benefits of that love, our being perfected in it as love, that’s something we obviously do separate ourselves from, even if never irrevocably so. So your question then has to do with how it is that God finally secures the choice of all to surrender themselves to God?

      I don’t have a formula or a recipe for that. All I think I know is that the (I’ll go with Hart’s terms) “liberty of choice” (or “power of choice”) remains the “minimal condition” for our “pilgrimage toward the good.” God may arrange hell as an eschatological prison that brings us unavoidably face to face with the existential Void, but that “power of choice” is never itself foreclosed upon (i.e., determined) for us. As Hart says, that power is an integral part of the journey, even if the end of the journey is that power’s being finally subsumed into the higher power of our truest freedom. Check out Hart’s opening words from his presentation last November at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture:

      “To choose awry, then, through ignorance or maleficence or corrupt longing, is not a manifestation of freedom but of slavery to the imperfect, the deficient, the privated, literally the subhuman. Liberty of choice can be at most then only the possibility of freedom, not its realization, and society can be considered just only insofar as it allows for an aids cultivation of the soul. But to think of freedom thus one must not only that we possess an actual nature which must flourish to be free, but also that there is a transcendent good towards which that nature is aboriginally directed. To be fully free is to be joined to that end for which our natures were originally framed, and whatever separates us from that end, including even personal choices, is a form of bondage. We’re free, that is to say, not because we can choose but only when we have chosen well. Thus ultimate liberation requires us to look to the sum of the good in order to learn how to choose. But the more we emerge from illusion and caprice, and the more perfect our vision becomes, the less there is to choose, because the will has become increasingly inalienable from its natural object, whether that object lies within or beyond itself. The power of choice, however indispensable it may be to this pilgrimage toward the good, is nothing but the minimal condition for a freedom that can be achieved only when that power has been subsumed into the far higher power of one naturally unable to sin, a paradisal state in which the consonance between desire and its proper object is so perfect that goodness is hardly even an ethical category any longer.”

      Our truest “freedom” is in our final and irrevocable conformity to and perfection in Christ’s love. Agreed. But how do we get there? Well, the “minimal condition” is that blasted “power of choice” (or earlier in the quote, “liberty of choice”). And that bugger is also the minimal condition for choosing awry. So when Hart says that to choose awry is not a manifestation of freedom but of slavery, privation, and the literally subhuman, there’s a potential problem there. Yes, choosing awry enslaves the power of choice over time and turns us into something less than human. But that power itself isn’t a privation of being or something less than human. I’m sure Hart would agree. It’s a grace. It’s God-given. It defines us prior to any chosen privation or deficiency. It’s on account of that power’s openness (to good and evil) that we are able even to take this pilgrimage toward the Good at all. The sticky point is how long one holds to this condition. For me, there’s no final rest in the good apart from that power surrendering itself precisely as the power to do otherwise to God, and not all universalists want to say that.

      Tom

      Liked by 1 person

  27. christianhollums says:

    my apologies for the grammatical errors

    Like

  28. Tom says:

    Christian,

    Thanks for sharing your story! Amazing.

    So you ask: “If true freedom as defined by DBH is actually hard wired into the very fabric of our will itself in creatio ex nihilio, how active or passive is our choice?”

    My answer: Yes.

    Just kidding. 😀

    I don’t think anybody will ever succeed at observing the inner structure of things and answer that sort of question by laying out the ‘causal nexus’ for us to pick apart—this part’s God, and that part is me. But phenomenologically speaking at least we know our wills do engage. Even when we hit rock bottom (like in your story) and the force of conscience grips our heart with overwhelming force, there’s still that movement of the will to embrace it. Some embrace it with such an ease of response (like you did) it really does seem as if the outcome ‘chooses them’ and they’re just along for the ride, experiencing (passively) themselves as the unfolding of forces at work outside their will. But others in similar circumstances really do ponder the moment and ‘intentionally’ embrace it. Others find a way to postpone listening to conscience and pick up some more drugs.

    I’m just a hack thinking this stuff through, Christian, but my sense is that hell (if we’re saying it’s remedial and redemptive) is about bringing people to that rock bottom place you described. You hit rock bottom in this world, and by ‘this world’ I mean you processed that experience in a created context full of this-worldly goods, people who love you, access to others who could help, and on and on. Even though you were alone in the moment, those goods were part of your story, and that whole story was there in the moment. (I’m not describing it well, sorry.) But hell, it seems to me, is an ‘other worldly’ arrangement. The creaturely comforts are gone. The gloves come off, so to speak. Those who manage to postpone hitting rock bottom until then experience things in terms of eschatological judgment. Making the choice for God in THAT context involves a pain/torture of soul unlike anything accessible by us presently. But I haven’t been there, so I can’t say for sure. 😀

    But I think you’re right on the essential point: The impossibility of foreclosing upon ourselves all possibility and hope of waking up is antecedent to any act of will on our point. (Whatever we call it—conscience or something else; I think something other than ‘conscience’, but ask me about that later.) Just as a compass contributes nothing to determining its irrevocable attraction to the magnetic force that ‘moves’ it, so we have nothing to contribute to our fundamental orientation to the Good. But even a compass’ recognition of magnetic north can be compromised if other forces interpose themselves in sufficient proximity to redirect its attraction. The analogy finally fails because we’re not just mechanics. But you get the point.

    Working this out in terms of hell might mean hell is where we experience the existential pain of the loss/death all those false attachments and attractions that have actually defined ‘who’ we are. In the end, it really is about identity formation. Where I might be a bit different than DBH or others on this (not sure, but this gets to the point of your question) is that I think part of hitting rock bottom and waking up to a restored mind that perceives the truth must involve the will’s increasing acceptance of the truth as it is revealed. Maybe the first truth a damned soul suffers through to confess is, “I guess I really am responsible.” Perhaps that confession empowers another, “It’s nobody’s fault but my own that I’m here,” and that in turn leads to another, and so forth, each confession painfully following the death of an ingrained false self fighting for its life. At some point the soul hopes itself loved by God, then believes itself loved, then prays the Jesus prayer. Then it’s home.

    Tom

    Liked by 3 people

  29. Edward De Vita says:

    Okay I’ve been looking into what Ramelli says about Amb. 65. On pp. 748-749 of her book she writes:

    “in Amb. 65, in which he is engaging with the interpretation of Nazianzen’s discourse concerning the eighth day, which is described as the first, the last, and indestructible, on which the souls will even cease to celebrate the Sabbath. He surely remembered Gregory of Nyssa’s interpretation as well: in In Inscr. Ps. 83–84 Nyssen identified the eighth day with the final day in which Christ will rise as Sol Iustitiae and will never set. And in In sext. Ps. 188–189 Gregory identifies the seven days with time (χρόνος) and the movement of the world, and the eighth day with the eternal new creation. Maximus offers three exegeses: in the first he observes that the seven days indicate time and the sequence of aeons, at the end of which there will come the cessation of all aeons and the access to “being always” (τὸ ἀεὶ εἶναι) by grace. This condition will be peace and quiet, without beginning or end, when, after the movements (according to the meaning that “movement” bears in Origen, as moral movement of choice toward good or evil) of the limited beings, there will be the manifestation of the realities that are beyond any limit and measure. Souls will then rejoice in the Sabbath, when they will receive peace after their movement. The end will be the eighth day, God’s Parousia, which determines “being always well” (τὸ εὖ ἀεὶ εἶναι) with a participation in it, or else “being always badly” (τὸ κακῶς ἀεὶ εἶναι) to those who have used “the logos of being” against nature.”

    Note that she says that Amb. 65 is concerned with the interpretation of St. Gregory Nazianzen’s discourse on the eighth day. Moreover, she states later that Maximus offers three exegeses of this discourse, the first of which speaks of both a “being always well” and a “being always badly.”

    If I have understood her correctly, she then goes on to say that this first interpretation is not that of St. Maximus. She gives several arguments to support her thesis. Among them is the following on p. 750:

    “A further confirmation is that Maximus in Dub. 65 states that τὸ ἀεὶ εἶναι is related to the mystical celebration of the Sabbath, but even this will pass away on the eighth day. At this point is probably to be placed the “being ἀϊδίως” (whereas for previous stages only a “being in time” or “being αἰωνίως” is possible), which Maximus, here too, honours with silence. In this “being ἀϊδίως” it is impossible that any shade of evil may subsist. The profound gap, from aeons to eternity, that marks the passage to the eighth day is clear from the last two alternative interpretations of Nazianzen’s aforementioned “eighth day” offered by Maximus in Amb. 65: the seventh day is to go beyond the moods conforming to virtue and the arguments conforming to contemplation, but the eighth day is the complete transformation, by grace, of all that which has been done and contemplated; or else—in an alternative exegesis that is redolent of Evagrius—the seventh day is the impassibility that follows active philosophy, whereas the eighth is the wisdom that follows contemplation. All activities are over only in the very end.”

    Note here that “to aei einai” (“being always”) is said to be something that passes away on the eighth day. It is replaced with “being aidios.” This would mean that the “being always well” and the “being always badly”, can only be understood, for St. Maximus, as continuing throughout the aeons. So, while it is true that evil can last through the successive aeons, it will, nevertheless, be eventually extinguished on the eighth day, which corresponds to absolute eternity (“aidios”).

    She goes on to state the following:

    “Indeed, that Maximus envisaged a progress also in the world to come is evident from other passages as well. One is Amb. 59, in the context of the Logos-Christ’s descensus ad inferos. Here, Maximus overtly states that adhesion to God is still possible after death, through faith and conversion. That Maximus admitted of a spiritual progress in the next aeon, after universal resurrection, is manifestly shown also by Amb. 63, in which he identifies the first Sunday with the resurrection, but after this Sunday there is the New Sunday and many other feasts that lead to a progressive participation in the goods and are called “mysteries” (again with an eye to the silence that must cover the very last things).”

    I don’t know if this is a valid interpretation of St. Maximus, but I throw it out there so that those who know more may respond.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Tom says:

      A lot for somebody to figure out. My brain hurts. I’m going to put books down and watch Doc Martin tonight.

      But I do think Maximus’ conceding postmortem Godward movement/adhesion after the general resurrection was very interesting. How’s that integrate with the belief that death permanently fixes one’s destiny? I don’t see that it does.

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