Every human being is divinely ordered to God under the aspects of the transcendentals of being—the Truth, the Good, and the Beautiful. We hunger and thirst for union with him, for only in him can we enjoy supreme and overflowing happiness. Divinity is inscribed in the ontological depths of human nature. In the words of Dumitru Staniloae:
Man, without being himself infinite, not only is fit, but is also thirsty for the infinite and precisely for this reason is also capable of, and longs for, God, the true and only infinite (homo capax divini—man capable of the divine). He has a capacity and is thirsty for the infinite not in the sense that he is in a state to win it, to absorb it in his nature—because then human nature itself would become infinite—but in the sense that he can and must be nourished spiritually from the infinite, and infinitely. He seeks and is able to live in a continual communication with it, in a sharing with it. (Orthodox Spirituality, p. 78)
Created in the image of God, we are incomplete without God. Of course, no one is truly without God. As divine Creator, he acts in the ontological depths of every person. He is more intimate to us than we are to ourselves. Yet we suffer from an existential inquietude that evidences our brokenness and alienation. Despite the counsel of the Church’s ascetics and spiritual teachers, we continue to seek our fulfillment in the relative goods and delights of the cosmos, with predictable results. We remain dissatisfied, unsettled, restless and discontent. Once we obtain that which we think will fill the hole in our hearts, we find that we need something else, someone else. And so the quest continues, ad infinitum. We are inescapably drawn to fullness of life. Contrary to the theorists of the natura pura, human beings have not been given two ends, natural and supernatural.1 There is only one telos and beatitude for mankind—eternal life in the perichoretic Love that is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Church calls this theosis. David Bentley Hart elaborates:
Above all, a Christian is more or less obliged to believe that there is such a thing as an intrinsic nature in rational spirits: We are created, that is to say, according to a divine design, after the divine image, oriented toward a divine purpose, and thus are fulfilled in ourselves only insofar as we can achieve the perfection of our natures in union with God. There alone our true happiness lies. This inevitably places Christian thought in the classical moral and metaphysical tradition that assumes that true freedom consists in the realization of a complex nature in its own proper good (the “intellectualist” model of freedom, as I have called it above). Freedom is a being’s power to flourish as what it naturally is, to become ever more fully what it is. The freedom of an oak seed is its uninterrupted growth into an oak tree. The freedom of a rational spirit is its consummation in union with God. (That All Shall Be Saved, p. 172)
God, and God alone, is the true happiness of the human being. He is our absolute good and the consummation of all desire. Under the present fallen condition of ignorance, delusion, and disordered passions, we only apprehend the Good partially and defectively through the prism of finite goods. We therefore often find ourselves choosing lesser goods over greater goods, apparent goods instead of real goods—the Church calls this sin—but if we were ever presented with a full and perfect apprehension of the Good, free from ignorance, delusion, and disordered passion—the Church calls this the beatific vision—we would necessarily embrace the Good as our own, for we would recognize it as the true and final happiness for which we yearn. Or to put it differently, we would know that the happiness that we will for ourselves and the happiness that God wills for us are identical. Hence the Hartian maxim: to see the Good is to insatiably desire the Good. In the unmediated presence of the infinite and transcendent Creator, the will cannot help but to desire and possess him. There is no longer a “choosing” between different possible happinesses: there is only the eternal bliss of the one God who is Holy Trinity. Choosing him is no choice at all. St Thomas Aquinas explains:
Man does not choose of necessity. And this is because that which is possible not to be, is not of necessity. Now the reason why it is possible not to choose, or to choose, may be gathered from a twofold power in man. For man can will and not will, act and not act; again, he can will this or that, and do this or that. The reason of this is seated in the very power of the reason. For the will can tend to whatever the reason can apprehend as good. Now the reason can apprehend as good, not only this, viz. “to will” or “to act,” but also this, viz. “not to will” or “not to act.” Again, in all particular goods, the reason can consider an aspect of some good, and the lack of some good, which has the aspect of evil: and in this respect, it can apprehend any single one of such goods as to be chosen or to be avoided. The perfect good alone, which is Happiness, cannot be apprehended by the reason as an evil, or as lacking in any way. Consequently man wills Happiness of necessity, nor can he will not to be happy, or to be unhappy. Now since choice is not of the end, but of the means …; it is not of the perfect good, which is Happiness, but of other particular goods. Therefore man chooses not of necessity, but freely. (ST I.II.13; emphasis mine)2
In this sense, but only in this sense, we are eschatologically doomed to happiness.
If we still balk at our transcendental determination to the Good, perhaps the reason lies in our defective understanding of who and what God is and therefore what authentic freedom must mean. If we think of Deity as a being among beings, then it might appear that we can ultimately choose other gods and other goods instead of him. Why not Baal instead of the LORD? Why not wealth and power instead of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? But once God is properly understood as the infinite plenitude and actuality of Being, then he cannot be understood as just one option among many. He is not a discrete object that we can simply choose, as one might choose cake instead of a chocolate sundae. He does not stand alongside other beings and other possible goods. He is Truth itself, Goodness itself, Beauty itself. To be free is to flourish in communion with him. We are not free because we have multiple choices available to us; we become free when we choose well, thereby achieving the happiness for which we are divinely destined. This choosing well in turn requires that we “ever more clearly see the ‘sun of the Good’ (to employ the lovely Platonic metaphor), and to see more clearly we must continue to choose well; and the more we are emancipated from illusion and caprice, and the more our will is informed by and responds to the Good, the more perfect our vision becomes, and the less there is really to choose” (Hart, p. 173). The impossibility of a free and final rejection of God becomes even clearer when we recall the teleological structure of human activity:
Neither, though, can God be merely one option among others, for the very simple reason that he is not just another object alongside the willing agent or alongside other objects of desire, but is rather the sole ultimate content of all rational longing. Being himself the source and end of the real, God can never be for the will simply one plausible terminus of desire in competition with another; he could never confront the intellect simply as a relative and evaluative good, from which one might reasonably turn to some other. He remains forever the encompassing final object that motivates and makes actual every choice, the Good that makes the will free in the first place. Even an act of apostasy, then, traced back to its most primordial impulse, is motivated by the desire for God. Even the satanist can embrace evil only insofar as he thinks it will satisfy a desire for what is most agreeable to his own nature. He is in error in the choice he makes, and is culpable to the degree that he abets the error willingly; but it is also then the case that, to the degree he knows the Good in itself, he cannot but desire it rationally. However the “gnomic” faculty may wander, the “natural” will animating it seeks only one ultimate end. You can reject a glass of wine absolutely; you can even reject evil in its (insubstantial) totality without any remainder of intentionality. Neither of these things possesses more than a finite allure in itself. But you cannot reject God except defectively, by having failed to recognize him as the primordial object of all your deepest longings, the very source of their activity. We cannot choose between him and some other end in an absolute sense; we can choose only between better or worse approaches to his transcendence. As I have said, to reject God is still, however obscurely and uncomprehendingly, to seek God.
This means also that God could never be, for the rational will, merely some extrinsic causality intruding upon the will’s autonomy, or some irresistible heteronomous power overwhelming the feebler powers of the creature. He is freedom as such, the fiery energy that liberates the flame from the wood. He is the very power of agency. He is the Good that makes the rational will exist. He is the eternal infinite source of all knowledge and all truth, of all love and delight in the object of love, who enlivens and acts within every created act. As an infinite and transcendental end, God’s goodness may be indeterminate as regards proximate ends, and that very indeterminacy may be what allows for deliberative determinations. There may be conflicts and confusions, mistakes and perversities in the great middle distance of life; as Duns Scotus says, we frequently must deliberate between which aspect of the Good to pursue, whether to be guided in any moment by our affectio iustitiae (our sense of what is just) or the affectio commodi (our sense of what is suitable or convenient); but the encircling horizon never alters, and the Sun of the Good never sets. No soul can relent in its deepest motives from the will’s constant and consuming preoccupation with God. If this were not so, and if reason had no natural, ontological, and necessary relation to God as the final rationale in all desire and agency, then God would himself be something separate from the Good as such, and from rationality as such, and could attract the rational will merely in the manner of a predilection. But then he would not actually be God in any meaningful sense. In truth, he gives his creatures freedom always by making them freely seek him as the ultimate end in all else that intentional consciousness seeks. (pp. 184-186)3
Human beings desire happiness and act toward this end, no matter how perverted and twisted the desire has become. The belief that we may reject God absolutely assumes an absolute—but ontologically impossible—divorce between God and Goodness and therefore between God and happiness. From his very different analytic perspective, philosopher Tom Talbott has come to a similar conclusion:
Religious people sometimes speak of God as if he were just another human magistrate who seeks his own glory and requires obedience for its own sake; they speak as if we might reject the Creator and Father of our souls without rejecting ourselves, oppose his will for our lives without opposing, schizophrenically perhaps, our own will for our lives…. But if God is our loving Creator, then he wills for us exactly what at the most fundamental level, we want for ourselves; he wills that we should experience supreme happiness, that our deepest yearnings should be satisfied, and that all of our needs should be met. (The Inescapable Love of God, p. 172)
God wills our good, and our good is God. He has created us with an insatiable hunger for him, to the end that we might become adopted sons of the God and Father of Jesus Christ. This natural desire for communion with the Holy Trinity is the secret of the universalist hope. John Kronen and Eric Reitan state the argument:
Rational creatures, by definition, can choose based on reasons—that is, they are motivated to act not merely by instinct or appetite, but by the recognition that certain apprehended truths (reason) entail that a course of action is good to do. Saying that rational creatures are ordered to the good means two things: first, when they directly and clearly encounter the perfect good in unclouded experience, they will recognize it as the perfect good; and second, the perfect good (which, by definition, is the standard according to which all other goods are measured) would, under conditions of immediate and unclouded apprehension, present itself as overridingly worthy of love. Creatures’ subjective values will thus spontaneously fall into harmony with the objective good, with all choices reflecting this proper valuation.
Put another way, immediate awareness of the perfect good will so sing to the natural inclinations of the soul that love for the good will swamp all potentially contrary affective states. One would have every reason to conform one’s will to the perfect good and no reason not to. This latter point gains further strength from the Christian notion that what is prudentially good for rational creatures (what promotes their welfare) does not ultimately conflict with what is morally good—both are realized through union with God. Unclouded apprehension of the perfect good will thus harmonize prudential motives such that every rational creature presented with a clear vision of God would have every reason to love God and no reason to reject Him.
From all of this it follows that God could guarantee uniform salvation-inducing motives in rational creatures simply by presenting an unclouded vision of Himself. God’s doing this certainly seems metaphysically possible, and hence within God’s power; and if (as Aquinas maintained) free acts are not random but motivated, it follows that any rational creature presented with the vision of God will freely but inevitably respond affirmatively to the promise of loving union. (God’s Final Victory, p. 136; emphasis mine)
The key to the above argument is the ability of the omnipotent Creator to bring every rational creature to an “unclouded apprehension” of God as perfect goodness. Does God have the power to bring this about? If he does, can he wield it without violating the libertarian freedom of human beings? Exponents of the free will defense of hell seem to think this is impossible, even for an omnipotent Deity. Any attempt by God to effect a happy eschatological ending will inevitably violate human free will. We must be free to damn ourselves if we want to. Hart finds this a curious line of reasoning that ultimately collapses into a mythological construal of divinity. Properly understood, divine causality does not and cannot compete with creaturely causality. God is not a being among beings. Creator and creature do not operate on the same metaphysical plane:
The suggestion, then, that God—properly understood—could not assure that a person freely will one thing rather than another is simply false. Inasmuch as he acts upon the mind and will both as their final cause and also as the deepest source of their movements, he is already intrinsic to the very structure of reason and desire within the soul. He is not merely some external agency who would have to exercise coercion or external compulsion of a creature’s intentions to bring them to the end he decrees. If he were, then the entire Christian doctrine of providence—the vital teaching that God can so order all conditions, circumstances, and contingencies among created things as to bring about everything he wills for his creatures while still not in any way violating the autonomy of secondary causality—would be a logical contradiction. God, in his omnipotence and omniscience, is wholly capable of determining the result of all secondary causes, including free will, while not acting as yet another discrete cause among them. In one sense, naturally, this is merely a function of the coincidence in his nature of omniscience and omnipotence. Knowing not only all the events that constitute each individual life, but also all of an agent’s inner motives and predispositions and desires—all thoughts, impulses, hopes, preferences, yearnings, and aversions—and so knowing what choice any given soul will make when confronted with certain options and situated among certain circumambient forces, God can (if nothing else) so arrange the shape of reality that all beings, one way or another, come at the last upon the right path by way of their own freedom, in this life or the next…. God, being infinitely resourceful and infinitely knowledgeable, can weave the whole of time into a perfectly coherent continuity whose ultimate result is that all circumstances and forces conduce to the union of every creature with himself, and can do this precisely by confronting every rational nature with possibilities he knows they will realize through their own free volitions. It is true that he might accomplish this by imposing limited conditions of choice upon every life; but the conditions of choice are always limited anyway, and deliberative freedom is always capable of only a finite set of possible determinations. (pp. 183-184)
Now we see through a glass darkly, but when we are brought face to face before him and see him in the glory of his goodness, beauty, and truth, how can we not love him?
 For a helpful introduction to the natura pura debate in Catholic theology, see Edward T. Oakes, A Theology of Grace in Six Controversies, chap. 1. The notion of a human nature not oriented to theosis is alien to Orthodox theology.
 On Aquinas’s understanding of human freedom, see Servais Pinckaers, The Sources of Christian Ethics, chap. 16, esp. pp. 394-398.
 For a fuller discussion by Hart of divine transcendence and causality, see his essay “Impassibility as Transcendence,” The Hidden and the Manifest, pp. 167-190. This essay is an indispensable companion piece to That All Shall Be Saved.