Apprehending Apokatastasis: Will You Weep for the Damned?

In his third meditation in That All Shall Be Saved, David Hart advances an argument that neatly rhymes with his espousal of St Gregory of Nyssa’s corporate understanding of the Incarnation: we are saved not as solitary individuals but only as we are caught up into the fullness of humanity in Jesus Christ; or as Hart puts it: “There is no way in which persons can be saved as persons except in and with all other persons” (p. 146). Comprehending his argument does not depend upon us having a philosophically sophisticated understanding of personhood. We may begin commonsensically. At every level of our existence, from birth to death, we are shaped and defined by our relationships with other persons, who are in turn shaped and defined by their relationships to other persons, going back in time to the origin of our spe­cies. Philosophers will unpack our communal personhood in various ways, but the observa­tion seems incontestable. We need only think of feral children, abandoned in the wild and raised by wolves or mon­keys. Mowgli may have grown up well and happy in the Disney version of The Jungle Book, thanks to Raksha, Bagheera, and Baloo; but the reality turns out differently in the nonfic­tional world, especially for children who were abandoned before they acquired the ability to speak sentences and think con­ceptually. They are inevi­tably stunted in their intellectual and emotional development. But even this analogy breaks down, given their socialization into an animal family or pack. We cannot even conceive of a John or Mary apart from all the other Johns and Marys, Alvins and Christines, Roberts and Abigails who make up the societies in which they were born and raised.

No man is an island,
entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were.
as well as if a manor of thy friend’s
or of thine own were.
Any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind;
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee.

So what does this have to do with eternal damnation? To bring the matter home, imagine upon your death being welcomed into the blessedness of the saints. You immediately look around, searching for your deceased parents and siblings. Your heart is filled with joy as you see them rushing toward you. But one is missing, your older brother George. He was always the problem child of the family, and in his adult life he turned away from God and became a very selfish person. Yet you still have wonderful childhood memo­ries of him. “Where is George?” you ask, and your mother’s eyes fill with tears. She takes you to the viewer that allows you to see the denizens of Tartarus; and there is George, in unbelievable torment and agony. In your heart you still love your brother, and with all your heart you wish you could do something to deliver him from his suffering. Are you still perfectly happy? Be honest. Has not your happiness diminished at least a tiny bit? My guess is that you cannot imagine even transcendent bliss ever rendering you indif­fer­ent to your broth­er’s plight. It’s just not heaven without him. Now let’s change the scenario. Let’s assume that your parents and siblings and friends and relatives are safe with you in heaven. The man that you see in the underworld viewer is a total stranger. Now that you’ve been per­fected in the love of Christ is indifference toward nobodies easier for you? The condemned deserve their misery, the theologians tell us; yet that damned person is somebody’s parent, child, sibling, lover, friend. Surely some­one in heaven weeps for him—and if not a parent or sibling, friend or lover, surely the Blessed Virgin Mary grieves for this poor soul. If no one does, are you in heaven or are you in hell?

True, most of us do not spare a thought for the murderer in prison—though, frankly, there is nothing particularly commendable in that dreary emo­tional fact, nor is it a good guide to how we should expect to see things from the perspective of eternity, free from sin and selfishness—but it is also true that that murderer’s brother, mother, father, sister, child, wife, or friend must think about him, and must suffer grief at the thought of what he has become and the end he has reached. This means, I submit, that our indif­ference to his fate must also logically be an indifference to their sufferings as well. And it requires little imagination to see how this small, prudent, seemingly rational degree of callousness on our part might be magnified, if carried into the cal­culus of eternity, into an absolute moral detachment from all other persons. After all, taken to its most extreme logical entail­ments, our willingness to surrender even the most depraved of souls to a final unrelieved torment is, tacitly, a willingness also to ignore the suffer­ings of poten­tially everyone. And, as I have noted above, what one is willing to sacrifice to achieve a certain end, even if only potentially, is a price that, morally speaking, one has already paid, whether or not the actual eventuality of that sacrifice should ever arise. We cannot choose to cease to care for any soul without thereby choosing to cease to care for every soul to which that particular soul is attached by bonds of love or loyalty, and for every other soul attached to each of these, and, if need be, for every soul that has ever been—if that is what it takes to be perfectly, blissfully indifferent to the damned. No soul is who or what it is in isolation; and no soul’s sufferings can be ignored without the sufferings of a poten­tially limitless number of other souls being ignored as well. And so, it seems, if we allow the possibility that even so much as a single soul might slip away unmourned into everlasting misery, the ethos of heaven turns out to be “every soul for itself”—which is also, curiously enough, precisely the ethos of hell. (pp. 148-149)

Some theologians have speculated that God will remove our memories of the reprobate; others that our beatific ecstasy will be so consuming that we will give them no thought (see “Heavenly Amnesia“). We have all experienced such moments, while watching a thrilling movie, reading an enthralling novel, making love to our soulmate. Yet our existence as persons cannot be so easily divorced from the everlasting sufferings of the damned.

It is not simply that our identities are constituted by our memories—though, of course, they are, and this is crucially important—but also that the person­hood of any of us, in its entirety, is created by and sustained within the loves and associations and affinities that shape us. There is no such thing as a person in separation. Personhood as such, in fact, is not a condition possible for an isolated substance. It is an act, not a thing, and it is achieved only in and through a history of relations with others. We are finite beings in a state of becoming, and in us there is nothing that is not action, dynamism, an emergence into a fuller (or a retreat into a more impoverished) existence. And so, as I said in my First Meditation, we are those others who make us. Spiritual personality is not mere individuality, nor is personal love one of its merely accidental conditions or extrinsic circumstances. A person is first and foremost a limitless capacity, a place where the all shows itself with a special inflection. We exist as “the place of the other,” to borrow a phrase from Michel de Certeau. Surely this is the profoundest truth in the doctrine of resurrection. That we must rise from the dead to be saved is a claim not simply about resumed corporeality, whatever that might turn out to be, but more crucially about the fully restored existence of the person as socially, communally, corporately constituted. For Paul, flesh (sarx) and blood (haima), the mortal life of the “psychical body” (soma psychikon), passes away, but not embodiment as such, not the “spiritual body” (soma pnevma­tikon), which is surely not merely a local, but a communal condition: Each person is a body within the body of humanity, which exists in its proper nature only as the body of Christ. (p. 153)

We are constituted as persons by our inescapable communion with our fellow human beings, with every human being. No man is an island. Our existence as persons, therefore, resists a final division into the saved and the lost. If some are damned, then surely we are damned with them. This truth leads Hart to this conclusion: “either all persons must be saved, or none can be” (p. 155).

In their book God’s Final Victory, John Kronen and Eric Reitan have formulated a similar argument on behalf of universalism. They title it An Argument from God’s Love for the Blessed (p. 80):

1. Anyone in a state of eternal blessedness possesses both perfect bliss and universal love for all persons.

2. Anyone who possesses universal love for all persons and who is aware that some persons are eternally damned cannot possess perfect bliss.

3. Therefore, anyone who is aware that some persons are eternally damned cannot possess eternal blessedness (1, 2).

4. If anyone is eternally damned, anyone who possesses eternal blessedness would be aware of this.

5. Thus, if anyone is eternally damned, then none possess eternal blessedness (3, 4).

6. God, out of benevolent love for His creatures, confers blessedness at least on those who earnestly repent and seek communion with Him.

7. Therefore, God does not eternally damn anyone (5, 6).

Most Christians will agree that God intends the blessed to enjoy the most supreme and worthwhile form of joy in an eternal communion of love and holiness, and most will agree that they will share in God’s universal love for humanity, including the condemned. I say “most,” because it’s unclear to me where confessors of retributive perdition, particularly hardcore Calvinists and Thomists, fall on the question. But as our two philosophers rightly note: “The prevailing Christian inter­pretation of divine love is that it is unconditional, encompassing even the damned” (p. 81). The blessed will love not only each other but also the reprobate, just as God does. Neither second-best happiness nor defective charity makes the grade. The optimal eschatological condition will thus include “(a) perfect bliss—that is, happiness that is the best kind of happiness a person can know, untainted by any dissatis­faction; and (b) moral sanctification, including being perfected in love such that the saved love as God does” (p. 81). To love is to will the good of the other, to identify the good of the other as my own good; but what if that good is no longer possible? Will my love then cease? Would I want it to cease?

Perhaps the second premise is the most controversial. Assuming that the redeemed share in God’s universal love for all human beings, then their eschatological happiness will neces­sarily be diminished if they know that one or more of their brethren are enduring eternal misery. “If we love someone, how could knowledge of their eternal damnation not diminish our happiness?” (p. 81). This must be true even if the condition of perdition is freely chosen. Damnation is, after all, not just an unfortunate outcome: it is the ultimate tragedy, a calam­ity without end, and thus the worst possible conclusion of human existence. How can love not lament and grieve?

I can imagine myself setting aside the distress caused by the torment of another human being, if I knew that his torment was temporary and reparative; but I cannot imagine being perfectly happy if I knew he or she would suffer interminably. K&R elaborate:

There is a difference between temporary and permanent bad states. Perhaps it is possible for happiness to be undiminished by the former—especially if there is an assurance that the bad state will be redeemed. However, it is something else again to suppose that happiness can be undiminished by the latter, especially if there is no hope of redemption. In the former case, the intentional object of one’s happiness might be the final state that is ultimately realized. Insofar as this state is worthy of unmiti­gated approval, supreme happiness might be fitting given even passing evils. What is not compatible with supreme happiness is permanent and ultimate tragedy–for in that case the final state is not one towards which an unmitigated positive judgment is fitting. (p. 84)

Kronen & Reitan, like Hart, advance the argument beyond the love of loved ones (parent for child, lover for beloved, friend for friend) to reflect the universal intention and character of the divine charity. The blessed have been perfected in love. “The degree to which they love the damned will exceed the degree to which we love even our dearest and closest friends” (p. 83). There are no strangers, no one who does not qualify as our neighbor. No matter how evil and corrupt, no matter how possessed of hatred for God and the company of heaven, the reprobate remain persons made in the image of God and therefore remain objects of love and concern both for God and the redeemed. The blessed cannot be indifferent to the awful plight of those who inhabit hell, precisely because they love as God loves. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 5:33-35). Olivier Clément once asked Elder Sophrony what would happen if a person did not open his heart and accept the love of God. The monk answered: “You may be certain that as long as someone is in hell, Christ will remain there with him.” If such is the case for Christ, then surely also the saints; and if also the saints, then we must conclude that God will find a way to restore all humanity to himself in perfect love and beatitude. The vision of the Seer will be fulfilled: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev 21:4).

The classic objection to the Argument from God’s Love for the Blessed was advanced by St Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century (ST Suppl. 94). He first asks whether the blessed pity the unhappiness of the damned. No, he replies, the blessed do not pity them. They know that the damned now exist in an irredeemable state and are being punished according to divine justice. Therefore the blessed cannot rationally desire their salvation. Pity is both pointless and impossible:

But in the future state it will be impossible for them to be taken away from their unhappiness: and consequently it will not be possible to pity their sufferings according to right reason. Therefore the blessed in glory will have no pity on the damned.

Thomas then asks whether the blessed rejoice in the punishment of the wicked. He famously answers in the affirmative. They do not rejoice directly, he explains, for love does not revel in the affliction of others; but rather indirectly, for they approve and celebrate the right order­ing of divine justice:

A thing may be a matter of rejoicing in two ways. First directly, when one rejoices in a thing as such: and thus the saints will not rejoice in the pun­ishment of the wicked. Secondly, indirectly, by reason namely of something annexed to it: and in this way the saints will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked, by considering therein the order of Divine justice and their own deliverance, which will fill them with joy. And thus the Divine justice and their own deliverance will be the direct cause of the joy of the blessed: while the punishment of the damned will cause it indirectly.

Kronen & Reitan reject Thomas’ argument, largely based on their rejection of the retribu­tive model of damnation and their affirmation of the universality of the divine love (see chap. 6). God does not stop willing the salvation of the lost and therefore neither will the saints. Only a person who does not love could find hell for others sufferable—but then that person would be in hell. If the saints rejoice in the sufferings of the damned, it is in antici­pation of their eventual conversion and reconciliation. But should apokatastasis prove impossible, “then this would give the blessed reason to grieve. They would grieve an eter­nal tragedy, forever saddened by God’s ultimate failure to achieve what is best” (p. 106). Yet the blessed do not grieve; therefore … QED.

The K&R argument might be considered as step one of Hart’s argument. Hart goes beyond it in his elaboration of communally-constituted personhood. We are not monadic sub­stances or solitary individuals. We exist as persons in a solidarity of interdependence and mutuality. Recall Hart’s above-quoted words: “The person­hood of any of us, in its entirety, is created by and sustained within the loves and associations and affinities that shape us.” We exist in the other, all others, as they exist in us. Here is the ontological grounding of Torah: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). If eternal damnation is true, the blessed would quite literally cease to exist as the persons they are and become altogether different persons. “We belong, of necessity,” Hart remarks, “to an indissoluble coinherence of souls” (p. 154).

I’d like to give Dr Hart the final, and lovely, word. How might the damned contribute to the beatitude of the redeemed?

by awakening again and yet again a truly substitutionary love within souls whose whole being and delight consists precisely in such love. And, really, if there is any true continuity between the charity we are called to cultivate in this life and the transfiguring love that supposedly unites us to God, then surely there can be no brake upon our desire to include those still outside the company of the redeemed. Such love could find its complete joy only in the joy of completion. Such love, in fact, would not even be able to distin­guish between this corporate desire for the salvation of all and the indivi­dual soul’s longing for its own salvation. I am not I in myself alone, but only in all oth­ers. If, then, anyone is in hell, I too am partly in hell. Happily, however, if the Christian story is true, that love cannot now end in failure or tragedy. The descent into those depths—where we seek out and find those who are lost, and find our own salvation in so doing—is not a lonely act of spiritual heroism, or a futile rebellion of our finite wills against a merciless eternity. For the whole substance of Christian faith is the conviction that another has already and decisively gone down into that abyss for us, to set all the pris­oners free, even from the chains of their own hatred and despair; and hence the love that has made all of us who we are, and that will continue through­out eternity to do so, cannot ultimately be rejected by anyone. Thus all shall have their share in—as Gregory says in his great mystical commentary On the Song of Songs—“the redeemed unity of all, united one with another by their convergence upon the One Good.” Only thus will humanity “according to the divine image” come into being, and only thus will God be truly all in all. (pp. 157-158)

Amen.

(Go to “Absolute Desire for God”)

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40 Responses to Apprehending Apokatastasis: Will You Weep for the Damned?

  1. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    For those who can’t stop looking at this featured icon of the Theotokos (I’m one such person), click on the pic and you will learn that this is a myrhh streaming icon in Ukraine.

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  2. Grant says:

    What eternal damnation leads to is to an eternal twisting and inversion of the teaching of Christ in the Good Samaritan (and of course pretty much everywhere else), where it is not the Samaritan but the priest and the Levite are the ones that are justified and to which the ‘blessed’ will be called to eternally following, considering with indifference (or celebration of justice or what have you) the suffering of their fellow persons forever, forever walking on by. Instead of loving our neighbours as yourselves, and loving and blessing our enemies, we will leave, abandon and rejoice over them.

    Can so many not see how this warps everything in Christ’s teaching, twisting the teaching of love to one of conditioned provisionality that will be abandoned by God and the blessed for the ‘true’ calling of callous indifference, unforgiveness, hate and fury, of selfishness and inhumane lack of compassion, and to what that does to those teachings now. It makes them some form of play-acting love, but without willingness to fully commit (after-all, that person could be destined to end up damned, so if you believe this how can you truly commit to any person, and give your all). What this does creates a fracture point and cracks and twists all things in Christianity, and begins to twist and affect everything else in the Christian life, well eternal damnation is what is final and eternal, love, hope and faith are made provisional and secondary to the defeated tyrant of death, and instead it and it’s way, the way of death is really lifted to abide forever, for the damned and the ‘blessed’ both.

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    • Grant, I think this is all spot on. I had a somewhat related thought a while ago. It occurred to me that the doctrine of an eternal hell finally denies—or worse, makes metaphysically impossible—a form of self-sacrificial love which would otherwise be recognised by most Christians as morally exemplary. I have in mind something like what Maximillian Kolbe did, in taking the place of Franciszek Gajowniczek, who was to be starved to death, along with others, in retaliation for another camp prisoner’s escape attempt. On a purely human level, one can hardly imagine a more praiseworthy sacrifice than choosing to go to hell in another person’s stead, because here the sacrifice would be made out of love for an enemy who may, from a certain (admittedly problematic) perspective, be seen as “deserving” their fate, but who would be all the more in need precisely in not being an innocent victim. The fact that this sort of sacrifice would be, in principle, impossible, on the infernalist position, seems to me to point to precisely the “play-acting love” that would be involved in such a conception. In the end, the injunction to love our enemies would be revealed to have always been merely provisional, and Christianity would turn out to have been a duplicitous attempt to guide the elect through the vicissitudes and dangers of a fallen world, in such a way that, in the end, self-interest, or at best group self-interest, would triumph.

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  3. Fr. J. Wesley Evans says:

    My objections to this line of argument is that I deny the assumption that “We are constituted as persons by our inescapable communion with our fellow human beings, with every human being.” – and that the Kronen-Reitan argument leaves out the variable of Justice and so does not follow, in particular it fails at point #2.

    I admit a certain sense of being connected to each other, but there are degrees – or at least different kinds of communion which would have different properties. For example, the Church is the Body of Christ and to be Baptized into it is to be in some mystical communion – this implies that to be in the Church and to be not in the Church must be different so that there is a different communion with Christians that with non-Christians. On principal, then, it does not follow that just because there is a real sense of being human together that it must mean that all individual humans need to be in a communion with each other in a sense that would disprove an eternal hell. We are constituted as humans because we are made in God’s Image, we are united in any mystical sense only in Christ. And as Christ would be judge, it is he who can determine the boundaries of that communion in eternity.

    As a subpoint, I see this as collectivism taken too far. What matters is that “humanity” as a collective greater than the sum of its parts is the recipient of divine grace, not each specific individual. There is a real value in the “common good” and in that sense a “distributive justice” for society – but it’s more of a moral imperative than anything ontological or a reflection of a mystical connection with all other humans.

    But really the justice variable is missing. Justice is merely “giving what is due”. So as long as a person is given what is due then justice is fulfilled. In addition to perfect love, in the resurrection we will be perfected in justice – and have a perfect sense of what is due God, each other, and ourselves. Perfect justice means the soul understands that it is not responsible for the decisions of others, regardless of the negative consequences of those decisions made in full knowledge.

    To back up a bit – I’m not really considering an “accidental” act. I don’t think in the end people will be in hell “accidentally”, but intentionally. I take very literally when St. Paul says that “every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”. Now there are two ways a person “bows” to a King. First as an act of love and allegiance, and second as a defeated foe or out of mere submission to the King’s power. Some like Satan will fall into the later, for example. I hold to a strong *possibility* that judgment day will see every intelligent creature called on to give their fealty to the King of kings –some will out of love and enter into the New Heavens and New Earth, and other from fear only, rejecting him in the hearts, and be cast outside of New Creation into the chaotic void of the abyss (hell). There *may* be many whom we assumed were faithful to Jesus who reject him when they fully understand who he is, and some who may embrace him as who they were looking for all along. That latter is speculative on my part and is not intended to undermine evangelism, by the way. Either way it’s a conscious decision to knowingly reject Jesus and his Kingdom (they’re a package deal) that results in a soul put into final exile, exiled from the Kingdom of the New Creation.

    So to make such a decision is to be fully responsible for the consequences of that decision, and perfect justice mean the blessed understand both that truth, and that they are not responsible for the harmful decisions of others.

    It’s an issue of “holy boundaries” not amnesia. To be perfected in justice is to be perfected in both our sense of responsibility towards others but also our sense of our individual personhood and healthy emotional boundaries. As C.S. Lewis said, the damned don’t have the right to steal the joy of the blessed. Our personal happiness is not inherently wrapped up in the decisions of all other human beings, regardless of the actions they make. One can be saddened by their decision, but to be perfected in justice is to be able to move on and accept their actions are their actions alone and the consequences are the justice of getting what is due them. This justice also applies to ourselves. When we establish boundaries we are giving what is due us as individually made in God’s image; so we have a right to not give power to people who make horrible decisions to rob us of our own bliss – their choice is theirs; otherwise it’s a violation of perfected justice.

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    • Iain Lovejoy says:

      Would you *permanently* reject and torture eternally your child (or spouse, or nephew, or niece, or sister / brother as applicable) if they did something bad or rejected you? Even if you thought they needed to “learn their lesson”, and repent of the bad things they had done would you not be sad, and desire to bring them round and have them return to you? Would you not do anything you could to achieve this? Would anything make you glad that they were suffering in this way? Could you enjoy heaven’s bliss knowing they suffered?
      Is your love for them greater than God’s for us? Are you suggesting that we must love each other *less* in order to enter heaven? If this is your love for them, how is it in keeping with Christ’s teaching that you love only your immediate friends and family and not all your neighbours, even heretics and apostates as (to the Jews) the Samaritans were?
      This is all discussed in DBH’s book, which I recommend you read.
      (NB Paul’s express universalism in Philippians 2:11 cannot be ducked in the way you suggest: “confess” is the Greek “exomologeó” which means to openly and freely profess something from the heart, and cannot mean to grudgingly and insincerely concede it under duress.
      https://biblehub.com/greek/1843.htm)

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      • Fr. J. Wesley Evans says:

        “rejection” is not the same as”torture”

        If my wife spiraled into some type of drug use, and became violent and both destructive to herself and to others, and became stubborn and unrepentant over the effects it was having on people around her. I was be heartbroken that she would choose that life for herself, and distraught at the consequences – but then yes, seriously consider removing her from my life in some form of separation.

        In pastoral counseling I do *not* tell people “forgiveness” means to trust an abuser again; nor that they *must* allow narcissistic and destructive people into their lives who are hell bent on harming those around them. I’ve often reminded people they are responsible only for their own actions, not for the actions of others – same reason we don’t blame survivors for a suicide, ever.

        One can love someone and also accept the fact that they may never be able to be in a relationship with you. They may truly remain unrepentant.

        But perhaps that’s the difference here. I’m arguing some people will truly be eternally unrepentant. There’s no guarantee that all people will use their free choice (I’m not a monergist) to repent – ie to have a change of heart and desire reconciliation. Of course in a human world we have more boundaries than God needs becasue God in the Divine Essence, being all-powerful, can’t be hurt (I also hold to divine impassibility)

        This is not about loving people who are different, or who disagree, or of loving people in general – but about requiring repentance as a first step to any reconciliation, and the ability to love someone even while maintaining an emotional and physical boundary for them.

        Loving all doesn’t mean we sometimes don’t also excommunicate people or remove destructive people from the Parish until they repent. And if they never repent then we can treat them like a pagan – ie for evangelism to hope and pray they come back; but they may never do so. And a parish or a family has to move on and not allow someone to be an emotional terrorist by holding others hostage to their unwillingness to repent of their actions.

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        • Fr. J. Wesley Evans says:

          Oh, realized I should clarify – “torture” brings up medieval imagery. I’m arguing for what is technically cosmic exile into the “outer darkness” or “abyss” – no idea what it looks like exactly other then it’s apparently outside of the New Creation in some sense and was made for Satan and the fallen angels.

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        • TJF says:

          If someone told you they thought that jamming a white-hot iron poker in their eyes would enhance their eyesight, and they were planning to do it, would you consider them sane? If you wouldn’t (like most people) how could that possibly be considered a free action?

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          • Fr. J. Wesley Evans says:

            Not sane, no for what you described.

            I don’t think sanity is the right concept here though. This is not about people who say to themselves “I could live in a perfect world, or I could go to hell – think I’ll chose hell”.

            It’s people saying “No matter how bad hell is I reject Jesus and all he stands for and refuse to enter heaven – I’d rather suffer in hell then serve in heaven”. It’s a case of an absolute rejection of God. The consequences are accidental. A better analogy would be a person who hates their family so much they run out of the house into a cold blizzard and would rather live on the street and get hypothermia than be in the house. In real life there are times when this is a best decision, but not when it comes to God.

            The only being I think might be insane is Satan. But that corruption of reason was the result of a sane at the time absolute rejection of the source of his ultimate goodness. In seeking it in himself over time it’s possible something broke. But that’s highly speculative and I have other speculations relating to all of that that don’t seem relevant.

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        • Iain Lovejoy says:

          You are weaselling out of your original post. You have to make up your mind. You said originally that hell was about “justice”, but now it’s about quarantine? It was previously about accepting free choice, but now it’s about still being sad and praying for them but realising that we lack the ability to help some people, which is what all your examples are about?
          Previously you were all about hell being reflective of God’s justice and the blessed robustly sanguine about the damned’s well deserved fate. Are you suggesting now that hell is where God, for want of any better ideas, puts people he is impotent to assist, and heaven is a rather qualified, sad little happiness of full of the survivors mourning their lost fellow human beings?

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          • Fr. J. Wesley Evans says:

            The quarantine *is* justice – it’s giving them what is due them, ie to live according to their unrepentant will in the outer darkness (whatever that will be like – *I* never used the word torture, please re-read what I said. Torment can be the result of many things, like absolute loneliness as a result of being removed from any source of goodness) and giving the saved what is due them, a kingdom without the unrepentant to cause damage and destruction.

            I never said “good people go to heaven” and “bad people go to hell”, so if if so then I miscommunicated. Repentant good and evil people are resurrected into the New Creation and a blessed state, and unrepentant people are tossed out and exiled into the outer darkness of gehenna. This is what I was saying, for the sake of clarity.

            No, no qualified happiness. Any sadness over other people’s decisions ought to be temporary. I’d never counsel a child of an abusive parent to be in continual sadness over it. If there is no true repentance and no reconciliation then an initial sadness over their decision is warranted – but then they *move on with their lives* because they are not morally, emotionally, or otherwise responsible for the actions of another person. There is an obligation to help to a point, but lack of repentance is also a refusal of help; and not to be forced upon them.

            As long as some freedom of choice exists it would seem the only possibilities are
            1- A just idealistic belief that of course people will “just” all repent
            2- People who stick to being unrepentant are destroyed and wiped from existence (which would solve the forever suffering issue actually)
            3- Exile from the lives of the repentant into the outer darkness
            4- God refuses to allow the existence of souls that would be unrepentant (I’ve never heard this, but I’m thinking of the possibilities. This would be a type of preventative molinism?)

            Impotence is only an issue if you’re a monergist. God has the power to help them at any time if they’d wanted it. But even without the NT warnings I’d not easily believe not one single soul in all creation would refuse repentance. I’d be very shocked!

            Now I’m responding mostly to clarify since my point was being accused of changing. No, I’ve not read DBH’s book – so if that is needed before I continue then I shall bow out for now.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Welcome, Fr Evans, to Eclectic Orthodoxy. Perhaps we might begin the conversation by considering this paragraph of your comment:

      But really the justice variable is missing. Justice is merely “giving what is due”. So as long as a person is given what is due then justice is fulfilled. In addition to perfect love, in the resurrection we will be perfected in justice – and have a perfect sense of what is due God, each other, and ourselves. Perfect justice means the soul understands that it is not responsible for the decisions of others, regardless of the negative consequences of those decisions made in full knowledge.

      What does justice, i.e., giving what is due, have to do with God’s love for sinners? Where does merit enter into the equation? I would argue that the teaching and actions of Jesus move us beyond justice to a love that is genuinely unconditional.

      “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt 5:43-48)

      For this very reason I cannot imagine anyone accepting the interminable sufferings of a fellow human being on the basis of mere justice. In the oft-quoted words of St Isaac the Syrian: “Do not call God just, for His justice is not manifest in the things concerning you.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        To follow-up on my above comment. I do not believe that beatified human beings can or will ever become indifferent to the everlasting sufferings of others, whether deserved or not. If we love, we will grieve for their sufferings and will at the very least intercede with God to bring it to an end. Love cannot affirm a suffering that is irredeemable, that does not and cannot serve a rehabilitative and purgative purpose.

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        • Fr. J. Wesley Evans says:

          But that about a protective purpose? To prevent harm to other people? We jail people, for example, also to protect people and not just as punishment.

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      • Fr. J. Wesley Evans says:

        Thank you!

        So, this is the major disagreement then – “I would argue that the teaching and actions of Jesus move us beyond justice to a love that is genuinely unconditional.”

        I don’t see that at all. Jesus talks about divine judgment a lot, and at least in Scripture the first to talk about Gehenna. Jesus offers salvation on the basis on repentance, so love may be unconditional but salvation is not. And Jesus seems to have no problems using threats of divine justice. He came to seek the lost to save them, but also talks about a future when it appears that time will be up,

        I don’t think we can partition God’s qualities into pieces and play them off of each other in a hierarchy – love and justice both exist in God. I mean, if we can’t talk about God as just becasue it’s a human concept then I’d argue that applies to love as well – don’t call God love because his love is not manifest in the things concerning you. Of course, we can talk about God as love – so I don’t see a reason to not apply that to other categories of virtue like justice.

        Love, however, does not mean allowance for destructive people to continue in that and destroy those around them. I think perhaps the bigger disagreement here is I’m arguing some people will truly never repent. We;re not talking about people who do repent but God no longer loves them so too bad – but people who need to be cut off from the community for the love of the others in the community and then who never repent.

        I have had to do this. I did once have to remove a person from a Parish and give them a trespassing warning from the police if they came back without a desire for repentance becasue they were being a genuine threat to others. It was an act of love to the community to remove and exile the one causing the problems. Similar when people have to cut off family or friends – we can desire them to repent and reconcile, but barring that it’s not loving or just to everyone else for a single person to hold an entire group in emotional terrorism out of a belief that it’s immoral to establish some boundaries with them.

        If they did repent that may be different – but I honestly believe there will be a large amount of people who will become eternally hardened in their unrepentance and thus never want to reconcile; This is different I think then seeking people who have a chance and praying for them.

        Another thought – this issue doesn’t technically argue for universalism. I could also make an argument for a form of annihilationism which would not have this problem – becasue no one would be suffering, they would just cease to exist.

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        • DBH says:

          Again, I recommend you read the book.

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        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          Fr Evans, I strongly recommend to you George MacDonald’s homily “Justice.”

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        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          I have to echo DBH’s suggestion that you read his book. In the meantime, I invite you to read the first three articles in this series: “The Incoherence of Everlasting Perdition,” “The God Behind the Curtain,” and “The Damned Are Suffering for Your Bliss.” David poses the question of eternal perdition at a deeper level than that which you are presently considering: namely, does God antecedently will hell? He argues that if everlasting damnation is is true, if hell will be, and is, the destiny of some or many, then we must conclude that God is not absolute love because he freely created the world knowing not only that hell would be populated but also who specifically will end up there. Hence your arguments about the just punishment of sinners are quite irrelevant. It’s not as if God justly responds to the wicked acts of human beings but that he freely creates a world in which there must be hell. The damned, in other words, are the collateral damage, as it were. Hence the import of Jordan Woods’ comment that God’s act to create is identical to his act to reprobate.

          Liked by 1 person

    • DBH says:

      Fr Evans

      In my ceaseless quest to sell as many books as I can, may I recommend that you read That All Shall Be Saved? All the arguments you make are addressed there and dealt with. I know that what you are saying sounds quite reasonable on the surface—or as reasonable as any argument for the eternal torment of rational natures can—but in fact it does not hold together logically or morally.

      Best regards.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Liam says:

        Hi Dr Hart,

        My dad and I both read That All Shall Be Saved? and we both thought it was very good. My dad and I are debating whether God has libertarian free will, and I was hoping to hear your stance on if God has libertarian free will.

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        • DBH says:

          The classical view, with which I concur, would be no. Libertarian volition exists only in finite natures and as the result of a limitation of freedom. God is too free—infinitely free, in fact—to be limited to such “liberty.” He is not subject to a realm of possibility somehow greater than himself.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Liam says:

            I also take the classical view. Do you think the classical view entails that God had to make the universe be the exact way that it is? Also, can Jesus choose which outfit he will wear in heaven?

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          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            Liam, I imagine that Jesus can wear any darn outfit that pleases him–or none at all. 😎

            Liked by 1 person

          • Liam says:

            Hi Fr Aidan,

            Does this mean that Jesus can choose to wear any outfit? Would this entail that Jesus has libertarian free will?

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      • Fr. J. Wesley Evans says:

        That’s fair – no fault in pointing out where you’ve already addressed those issues. I’ll pick it up, thanks!

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    • TJF says:

      This dreary vision of C.S. Lewis is to be contrasted with the vision of Dostoevsky through the characters in Brothers Karamazov.

      “There is only one salvation for you: take yourself up, and make yourself responsible for all the sins of men. For indeed it is so, my friend, and the moment you make yourself sincerely responsible for everything and everyone, you will see at once that it is really so, that it is you who are guilty on behalf of all and for all.”

      “My brother asked the birds to forgive him; that sounds senseless, but it is right; for all is like an ocean, all is flowing and blending; a touch in one place sets up movement at the other end of the earth. It may be senseless to beg forgiveness of the birds, but birds would be happier at your side—a little happier, anyway—and children and all animals, if you were nobler than you are now. It’s all like an ocean, I tell you. Then you would pray to the birds too, consumed by an all-embracing love, in a sort of transport, and pray that they too will forgive you your sin. Treasure this ecstasy, however senseless it may seem to men.”

      “Brothers, have no fear of men’s sin. Love a man even in his sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.”

      The latter rings more true and faithful to the gospel and the Tradition of the Church to me. Much better than the “they get theirs and I get mine” mentality. You see, once you add eternal hell into the mix you have to start making statements that sound profoundly unchristian.

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    • Thomas says:

      Fr. Evans,

      The examples of abused spouses or dangers persons prowling church properties don’t cut to the fundamental issue. I spent a few years working with children who had been abused, families torn apart by opoid abuse, parents who had committed sex offenses against their own family members, and, rarely and tangentially, cases resulting in fatalities. It is of course the case that, given our frailties and the power asymmetries that govern our circumstances, it is often the case that perpetrators need to be removed from their victim’s lives.

      Except in the case of infants removed before their personalities developed, however, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it leave people feeling quite whole. At least as far as I can tell.

      The question is not whether, in the fallen conditions in which we live, we have to be pragmatic. Of course we do. The question concerns the degree of God’s power to set things aright. Through revelation we know that this has the character of asking for and receiving forgiveness. What is forgiveness but a mutual agreement that someone does not get what one deserves, or mercy that someone gets what they do not deserve?

      And we are called to extend our self-focused love to everyone–even our enemies. The current injustices, physical and emotional forms of coercion, and debilitating addictions and temptations which require us to keep our distance or “put our own masks on first” will be eliminated entirely.

      It is rather difficult to say that God’s powers in reconciling victims and perpetrators are limited to talk therapy, or that in the extreme cases his options are limited, like ours, to confinement.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fr. J. Wesley Evans says:

        Asking for, yes, but as long as people have some free choice there’s a real solid possibility of people not asking for forgiveness, and not repenting, and therefore not receiving forgiveness and mercy which requires repentance.

        But, regardless – the original blog was basically “how can people in heaven be happy when there are people in hell”. So to an extent for someone like myself who believes there will be an eternal hell my point was not to prove the existence of hell from scratch, but merely to point out there is a reasonable answer to the issue that does not negate the idea of hell. I could stop believing in eternal hell tomorrow for some other reason and still make the argument I’m making. They’re not inherently related.

        So back to the main issue. We disagree then on the nature of what happens. I think their wholeness will be restored by God as a healing to the soul in spite of the possibility that some of them may not repent in the end. Of course some may and in those cases both parties will find a divine power to reconcile with each other. But no matter, repentance is the requirement for forgiveness in the sense we are discussing. I’d actually argue that Biblical forgiveness is just giving up the right to get even, but does not imply a person has to be trusted again or allowed to have a relationship. What God will do in the resurrection among a repentant people goes beyond mere forgiveness, but must start there.

        That final point is different – again I was moreso responding to the idea of how people can be happy when someone else is suffering. My point is that it is apparently possible becasue it happens in human experience in this cases. People do learn to move on and heal without the other person. They often do get more emotionally healthy with the other person cut off from their lives as well. So it’s true to life, as they say. What God has the power to do is another issue. But with human choice involved then unless God can over ride it, or you just believe that God’s presence is such that people “just will” repent then it seems the more likely possibility to me that many will not.

        But also as I said way above – I’ve not read the book this was based on, and it appears to be something to do first. So I’ll bow out for now until I do so in the future.

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      • Grant says:

        Another factor that would render at least some of the examples invalid would be that whatever the necessity now in our present age of futility at times to separate and keep those who have been victims from those who have abused them in order to keep them safe from further abuse, harm and distress, has no relevance post resurrection in the age to come. Then those already fully blessed will have been raised out and beyond death and not subject to it at all, no any effects of sin or death have any purchase upon them, nor effect them physically, mentally or spiritually, any evil or it’s effects that remained would be completely impotent before them. So there would be no threat, harm or any chance of distress or manipulation to those in Christ, sharing in His indestructible and immortal resurrection life, the former abusers could have no threat or distress, only compassion and love towards them and ability to forgive and aid in healing, freed and healed from all hurt, awaiting and longing only for reconciliation that will bring the full restoration and healing from the terrible evils, but bringing about at last a restoration, restitution and the true relationships that always should and will be.

        But either way, the reasons in our present mortality and vulnerability to separate would simply not apply post resurrection.

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  4. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    I have added a paragraph to better clarify the differences between Hart and Kronen-Reitan. I hope this helps.

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  5. Grant says:

    I also find that Fr. Evans resistance to the unity and inter-connectivity of humanity to go against the teaching Scripture and the New Testament, the parable of the Good Samaritan illustrates that our neighbour is everyone, any and every human around us, who we are to love as ourselves, unconditionally and help as they need with no question of justice (as we humans often see it, as St Issac rightly observed, our sense of justice has little relationship with God’s justice) entering into the question. And more fundamentally, in the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, to help or refuse anyone in need or distress (even prisoners, with no question to whether they are guilty or not) is to help or refuse Christ Himself, it is to meet and interact with Christ Himself, as surely was we do in the Eucharist (a point St John Chrysostom made, linking the two, as does our Lord in the Gospel according to St John in the washing of the feet linked to the Last Supper). It fundamentally underlines that we are all united in Christ, a point St Paul makes in full in Romans particularly, such as our unity together as one with both earthly Adam and celestial Adam that is Christ in which we are all made alive, it is because of our unity in Christ, that by taking on the particularly as Jesus of Nazereth a Jewish man of a particularly time and place, that the Logos took on all human nature, redeeming it, so that becoming as man we could become as God. So I’m afraid that denial of unity seems to fly in the face of Scriptural testimony. Also a point to bowing to the King, in Romans where St Paul affirms all will bow and acknowledge Christ as Lord, he also clearly says none can call Christ Lord in truth but by the Spirit and to their salvation, there is no other way he lays out, if all will acknowledge Christ as Lord and His Lordship, it will be by the Spirit and to their salvation. It’s St Paul himself who gives how we should interpret this declaration.

    And as to the question of justice, well it’s already been touched on by Fr. Kimel and others above, and I would say Christ fully gives the affirmative to Cain’s question, we are our brother’s keeper, and in Him all our brothers and sisters, as to help them is to help Him. As to love holding ransom, that is what love is, it’s the choice of love to never abandon given in true freedom with unwavering commitment, it’s this very commitment Our Lord made to us, and keeps with us, He never abandoned us, but entered the Cosmos, and united with us and broke what held us and draws us back into life, no matter our hatred and bitterness, He loves us even as enemies and reconciles all things to Himself. Since this is what love is, what life is, and our calling to be perfect as He is, to ever abandon any goes against love as revealed in Christ, and as God is revealed, to to become a slave of the way of death. When CS Lewis tried to demonstrate this view of his in the Great Divorce, the portrait he created was of someone demonically inhuman and consumed with selfishness and self-absorbed, as I have talked about elsewhere, something more disturbing then the grumble she was talking over, it proved with his skilled imaginative hand the opposite of what he was intending it to achieve.

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    • TJF says:

      Also from what I understand, the greek word translated as confess really means to gladly confess. It would be really weird if people subjugated against their will in an eternal torture chamber would gladly confess Jesus is Lord and be considered sane rational actors.

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      • DBH says:

        To praise, even. It is the Septuagintal word for glad acclamation and celebration.

        Not that one needs to fret over such details. A coerced “confession” even in the normal sense of the English word is not a confession in any meaningful sense. It is not even a real victory on the part of the one coercing. It is simply a display of brute power, which is itself a confession of impotence: the inability to persuade or correct.

        In truth, would anyone venture the sort of arguments that good souls like Fr. Evans offers in any other context? Would such reasoning strike anyone as sound or plausible, let alone convincing? If one starts from a fundamentally flawed and obviously contradictory premise–that God’s infinite wisdom, love, justice, and goodness could eventuate in the eternal dereliction and suffering of rational natures–and one is convinced one must affirm that premise no matter what, one will inevitably start making arguments in its defense that make no sense but that one must convince oneself *do* make sense.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. mercifullayman says:

    I do have a couple questions about Maximus’ Ambigua to John. Especially Ambigua 10:31A.10

    I’ve noticed before that Origen, Nyssa, and Maximus all bring up this idea of non-existence at times
    (albeit almost in passing). I have also asked this issue before if sin and death are moving towards non-being, then a will could move itself towards what it feels is in its best interest (ie non-being) by misappropriating the will. That somehow, the ultimate price someone could pay is to not exist, and that is their punishment. Now I’m not advocating for annihilationism, but there is this pulse that even with the Fathers we’ve referenced to point towards non-being as a thing. I can’t read the actual Greek of the text, and am doing it through translation, so I’d be curious to know if that is what Maximus indeed does suggest. Origen makes this same inference as well in De Principiis (at least in the translation I’ve read). So while on the one hand, they do seem to argue for a more universal position, is there a piece of them intellectually that may have said some things that would go the other way towards annihilationism?

    It seems as if he is trying to walk the middle way between Universalism of the great teachers, and annihilationism of his time. I do think his explanation of time in 10:31A.9 is helpful in how he delineates “aion” as an in-between of time as related to God’s eternity and time itself. Anyway, just a thought. Not sure how to make heads or tails of it.

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    • mercifullayman says:

      Also, wondering as I just now hit 10:33 and his discussion of Lazarus and Abraham’s Bosom…He seems pretty black and white on who is in and who is out, even if there are degrees of variance based on virtues, one could fathom a level of non-virtuousness.

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      • mercifullayman says:

        And finally 21….that seems pretty explicit unless this is some kind of interpolation. I always thought Maximus was a universalist?

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        • DBH says:

          There is no explicit universalism in Maximus and there is plenty of conventional language about (final?) discrimination between souls. It is simply an interesting reality that his system of thought falls apart if universalism is not the final piece of the puzzle. Which then raises the question of his “honorable silence” and what it was he felt he dared not utter openly.

          Liked by 1 person

          • mercifullayman says:

            I’ve always heard that he was one conventionally, so in my first time through the Ambigua, I was working under that assumption and kind of intrigued to see what he’s suggesting. I do think his use of time is a great help in delineating the justification for a penultimate time before the end. Thanks for clearing that up. I too have always thought that to be such a great intellect, he’d have fallen into our fold. Especially as he tries to update Origen and reclaim some of his positions from all the twisting that happened.

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          • mercifullayman says:

            DBH,

            If you have time, which I know you are incredibly busy, I’ve been wondering about the parallels between Matthew 12:32 and Hebrews 6:4-6. I’ve been reading your translation and trying to see how to fit the word “impossible” in regards to the narrative of universalism with some logical coherence, other than to defer that the NT also expresses that all things are possible with God. How does that term for “impossible” parse out in the Greek, especially in this discussion with time and “the age to come” since the writer seems to suggest it is possible to experience that time now (future aion, correct), and still turn away with no way back. Is it because of the causal link of the Holy Spirit? What exactly are they getting at here, and how do we rectify it?

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  7. John Grinnell says:

    This question is admirably and exhaustively discussed on this blog on Feb 16 2016.

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