I don’t often comment on other blogs anymore. I have enough trouble thinking of something intelligent to write for my own. But Fr Stephen Freeman has been recently blogging on the greater hope over at Glory to God for All Things, and I couldn’t resist joining the conversation.
I have found that the single greatest obstacle to our imagining the possibility that God might save every human being is a competitive construal of the divine/human relationship. Let’s call it will on will. Here’s the comment I left:
“Will on will” — I’m not happy with this formulation, as it simply states the synergistic problem that makes it impossible to imagine apokatastasis. If it’s my will versus God’s will, and assuming that God graciously avoids all violence, manipulation, and coercion, then the possibility then the possibility that I might hold out forever against the divine will seems logical and necessary (and in my case, inevitable). As a result we often hear people giving half-hearted lip-service to the greater hope (“I suppose it’s possible that God might save all”) but they always conclude with that “but” that evacuates the hope of any real hope. Our logic pushes God to the metaphysical sideline.
The problem is the way we imagine God as another standing alongside us, as someone and something external to us. But this is clearly wrong. It brings God into our creaturely existence as a being. In this picture divine agency necessarily competes with creaturely agency, and so we end up with everlasting Gehenna. But St Augustine opened up a different way for us to think about the relationship between God and creature: interior intimo meo et superior summo meo (“higher than my highest and more inward than my innermost self”). Suddenly the Creator/creature relationship becomes more mysterious than we had imagined, which means that we are freed from the logical deadlock. Instead of “will on will,” perhaps “will in will” (our will indwelling and grounded in God’s will) might be a better way to begin thinking about this. We may still not be able to imagine apokatastasis, but perhaps we can begin to entertain its genuine possibility.
Perhaps we might imagine a child holding on tight to his mother’s hand—who is simultaneously holding on tight to his—as they cross the street. Will in will—the image ultimately fails, as all our images of the God/creature relationship must—but it captures an element often missing in our discussion of this topic.
Does the notion of “will in will” help or obscure?