The Edward Feser Algorithm (How to Review a Book You Have Not Read)

by David Bentley Hart

I suppose that honor (or at least pride) dictates that I respond to Edward Feser’s recent attack on me and on That All Shall Be Saved: “David Bentley Hart’s Attack on Christian Tradition Fails to Con­vince.” Not that it merits serious attention, but he and I long ago established the rules of this game that we have been playing for the last… (I can’t recall when it began, actually). The rules are simple and invariable. We exchange scalding rhetorical and dialectical assaults in public, I win, he fails to realize that he’s lost, we have a somewhat more cordial conversation about it in private and resolve upon a more temperate tone in future, and then we repeat the same bloody pattern a few months later. I thought we had reached a kind of detente when I wrote a positive review of his Five Proofs book (one of the two books of his that I like). But the Christmas armistice is apparently now at an end, the battle is rejoined, and I’ll certainly not prove a recreant from the fight. It is clear that he still wanted revenge for my excoriating review of that cruel and incompetent apologia for capital punish­ment he wrote a couple years back, and was willing to go to new rhetorical extremes to get it. It is also clear, as he has often proved in the past, that—despite his very real gifts in penning “For Dummies” style guides to the narrow range of philosophical topics he has mastered over the years—he no sooner ventures out of his depth than he sinks like a stone. But what is clearest of all—as he inadvertently reveals in several places in his review—is that he did not actually read the book.

More of that anon, however. The first thing worth noting here is the sheer abusive lunacy of the review’s final paragraph, which no respectable journal (and certainly no editor I have ever worked with, for all my reputed polemical ferocity) would have published. Like other reviewers who have only pretended to address the book’s arguments, Feser accuses me of vicious invective. (I pause here to yawn.) This is old news, of course, and the accu­sation remains false, and the issue has been dealt with here and elsewhere already. But Feser’s misquotations are even more cynically dishonest than those of his predecessors. He takes phrases from my description of the prejudices harbored by late antique patrician theologians regarding “the many” and attributes them directly to me, as if they are my own personal opinions. And from there he spins out a personal attack that, even by his posi­tively subter­ranean standards, is loutish. But, of course, why be precise when you can be slanderous?

At least it livens up what was beginning to look like a fading parade. I had been waiting for another inane attack on the book, to see if anyone would be able to surpass those that have already appeared. And, indeed, the victor’s laurels—which is to say, the dunce’s cap—may now rightfully belong to Feser. He may even, at last, have unseated Doug Farrow (I await the judges’ scores). Certainly, no other reviewer has more thoroughly misrepresented the text or produced a more clownish caricature of the few arguments from the text he addresses. I know I have a predilection for writing prose rather than bullet-points, and this may have confused Feser; but his misstatements are so bizarre and extravagant that there are only two possibilities: either he did not actually read the book, but at most skimmed bits of it in his rush to write a review he had already concocted in his mind while doing something else (kicking a puppy, perhaps); or he is, when reading a complex text that has not been carefully explained to him several times in advance, damned near a functional illiterate. Of course, both things may be true at once, but I believe the former to be unarguably true in this case.

For instance, he writes that I “flirt with Gnostic esotericism as a way of explaining why universalism is not to be found in early Christian history.” And he asks, “Why did it take centuries before any Christian even floated the idea [of universalism]?” Now, of course, obviously no one who is familiar with the book’s actual text could possibly have written those lines, since—as I repeatedly make clear, with many names and citations, and in company with the whole of respectable Christian theological historical scholarship, and with bibliographical mentions of secondary texts to consult on the issue—it was precisely in the first four or five centuries of the Church that universalism was at its most prevalent in Christian theology and preaching, throughout the oikumene, and that in some places it was even probably the majority view, and that only in later centuries did it wane away to the margins. This is not even a matter of debate among historians, since the record is clear and since this fact has been known—well, more or less forever. (If you don’t believe me, Ed, take the matter up with three of the earliest witnesses to this fact: St. Basil, St. Jerome, and St. Augustine). Apparently, all my long passages on Gregory of Nyssa, all my mentions of earlier and later patristic universalists, all those scriptural universalist pericopes—none of this actually passed before Feser’s eyes. Feser’s pretense that he read the book simply falls apart at this point.

Though, to be frank, it falls apart everywhere else also. For instance, he makes “scriptural” arguments that all too obviously show that he is unaware that those issues have been dealt with both in the text and in my critical translation of the New Testament (to which the text is explicitly a supplement). And, while he pronounces the book a philosophical “mess,” he goes on to demonstrate beyond any shadow of a doubt that he has no idea what its philo­sophical arguments are. He claims, for instance, that from my treatment of the nature of rational freedom I “infer that no one is culpable” for his or her wicked choices. And so, he asks (as if the book does not provide an answer), “why do we need a savior?”

Where on earth did he get this weird idea that I anywhere deny human culpability for sin? The material on rational freedom in Meditation Four of the book clearly has nothing what­soever to do with the question of culpability, but addresses only the currently fashionable “free-will” defense of hell, and argues only that the kind of direct rejection of God’s good­ness that this line of defense presumes and depends upon is not a real logical possibility for a rational creature. (Which no Thomist should deny.) Where the book does touch upon mat­ters of culpability, in chapter two, it has nothing to do with such things as the “natural” and “gnomic” wills or any other aspect of the nature of rational freedom. I clearly affirm that our guilt for evil deeds is real; I insist only that it is finite, qualified by inescapable conditions within the fallen world, and justly subject only to a penalty proportional to the sinner’s intrinsic powers of intention and discernment; and I insist as well—like Paul and the author of John’s Gospel, among others—that it is precisely slavery to the conditions that make such culpability inevitable from which Christ saves us. For “everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34), but “the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). (But I don’t have time here to give Feser basic instruction in New Testament theology.)

Feser even more completely butchers the argument from personal coinherence in the text’s Meditation Three, somehow coming up with the claim that it is a form of pantheism. I won’t bother to repeat my actual argument, since the book is there to be read by anyone who cares to do so, and life is short. And, anyway, even if he had read it carefully, it would certainly have gone over his head. As his genuinely sociopathic book on capital punish­ment shows, moral intelligence is not one of his more developed faculties.

(Oh, and he mentions the Thomist argument that a disembodied soul cannot change its intentions, as it lacks the senses and the faculty of imagination, which is of course a dubious conflation of sensible inclination with moral intentionality, but which is also quite irrelevant to an eschatological scheme in which the discrimination between those whose works merit a reward and those who will be saved only “as by fire” (1 Corinthians 3:15) occurs in the New Age of the resurrected body.)

But this is pointless. Feser did not read the book. That is simply obvious. I don’t mean he failed to read it intelligently. I mean he has exposed himself as having indulged in scholarly fraud in his review, without any possible means of explaining it away. (He’ll try his damnedest, though, since he—like me—must always have the last word.) I confess, as dubious as I have often been regarding the amplitude of Feser’s talents and achievements, the one thing I had not suspected was that he was willing to lie, let alone to do so with such recklessness. I had, if nothing else, never doubted his honor as an antagonist. I was wrong, and I can say without any insincerity that this is a very disappointing discovery. But maybe it does not matter. Even if he had read my book, his review would have been foolish.

One thing I feel I have learned about Feser over the years, even when I still thought him honest, is that he lacks intellectual curiosity. He knows his line of Thomism and a few other things (basic philosophy of mind, for instance, and various expressions of classical theism) quite well, and can recite them by rote with vigorous proficiency. Good for him, and good for his readers when he’s at his best. But he is definitely not a gifted original thinker, and beyond that confined world of interests that he has mastered, he simply has no real desire to learn anything that might challenge or complicate his settled convictions. On the issue of scripture, for instance, no matter how often I have pointed out to him something that is not even controversial among real biblical scholars and scholars of late antique Judaism and Christianity, not even conservative Catholic ones—to wit, that the idea of eternal hell is not explicitly enunciated in the New Testament, and that the Gehenna of Christ’s preaching is wrapped in the tropes of Isaiah and Jeremiah—he simply refuses to consult any of the plenteously available literature on the issue produced over the last two centuries. In fact, so utterly intellectually lazy is he on this issue that he once tried to prove the presence of an eternal hell in the Bible to me by citing Isaiah 33:14. (Yes, Virginia, he is just that ignorant of his own faith’s scriptural history—he thinks that the doctrine of eternal torment can be found in the prophets.)

Well… (another pause, this time for a long, lugubrious, self-aggrandizing sigh of superi­ority). I suppose it’s time to end. In truth, I would not have minded an honest debate with Ed in these issues. As I say, I thought we had established a new pattern for public interac­tions. But he could not be troubled to undertake an honest survey of my arguments and I am no longer interested. And this, I have to say, is my principal frustration when dealing with Ed. As I have said, he simply doesn’t care to know. He knows what he wants to believe he knows and he’s not going to be swayed by the expertise of, oh, people who read Hebrew and Greek and who specialize in late antiquity and Second Temple Judaism and things like that. The same is true with regard to patristics, or theological currents from outside the Thomist camp of Western Rite Catholicism, or the great modern theological syntheses of Catholic systematics, and so on. It’s annoying to have my book reviewed by someone who didn’t bother actually to read it. But somehow it’s more annoying to be berated as a heretic by a defender of the faith who is so gigantically ignorant of his own religion. It makes even my powers of derision seem inadequate to the reality.

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256 Responses to The Edward Feser Algorithm (How to Review a Book You Have Not Read)

  1. Wayne Fair says:

    Dr. Hart – to my great surprise I recently came across someone (Dr. Matthew L. Halsted) who had actually read “That All Shall Be Saved” and, combining C.S. Lewis and “the libertarian free will” defense, attempted (time and again in his YouTube series: https://youtu.be/ypLm8wHBX1U) to object to your contention that this position as ultimately irrational. There was the repeated refrain that (essentially), “true love requires that the one loved (and whose loving response is desired) must be equally free to refuse to love as well as to reciprocate it.” At the core of this (irrational?) proposition is (it seems to me) an errant assumption that human moral agency can exists in a state akin to “tabla rasa” – and there is no inescapable human nature (fundamentally as God-image bearers) imprinted indelibly upon our very being. I think of this as a “homing device” by which we all (as prodigals) will – eventually – come ” to ourselves” and turn towards home…

    I am curious about your thoughts on Lewis’s views on hell (from “The Problem of Pain” to “The Great Divorce”) – e.g. how could he have been such an admirer of George MacDonald – yet failed to be convinced by his great mentor on the matter of “eternal” hell? His oft repeated aphorism, “The doors of hell are locked on the inside”? – and, “There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than the doctrine of hell, if it lay in my power. But it has the support of Scripture and, especially, of our Lord’s own words; it has always been held by the Christian Church, and it has the support of reason.”?

    Thank you, Dr. Hart – Your tenacious and indomitable defense of universal reconciliation often brings needed fortitude to my soul!

    Wayne Fair
    https://sovereign-love.blog/2020/05/19/embracing-hell-a-response/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Peter says:

    Question for DBH – if the deified saints of our Church, who experienced the Uncreated Light and a most intimate union with God, rejected apocatastasis (e.g. Saint Sophrony: “So the church avoids even Divine – that is, Origenist – determinism, whereby God in His Goodness will, without infringing the principle of freedom, find a way for all men and all things to be saved.”), then on what basis can you throw such outlandish criticism at those who reject the doctrine? I’m not even talking about Feser here – your virulent remarks in your book indirectly slander deified saints of our Church. True, experiential, noetic knowledge differs to knowledge of the rational faculty. If those who had the highest form of noetic knowledge and union with God did not feel your compulsive need to reject universalism, then I see no reason at all why your intellectual arguments should be believed over and above their teachings, which are in accord with the Church’s doctrines.

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    • Your comment fails to account for the army of saints who DID teach universalism. Also, conflating apokatastasis with determinism is a classic rookie error. You should hang out on this blog more and soak up the stuff that fantastic father Kimel writes about.

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    • Peter, you suggest here that the writings of all the deified saints are all inerrant and are completely unanimous. That is a statement that most people reserve only for Holy Scripture. There are many comments uttered by saints that are at variance with those of other saints: and some have been recognized as even in error (such as the chiliasm of St Justin the Philosopher and St Irenaeus of Lyons). I honor St Sophrony of Essex myself and hold his spiritual wisdom in deep devotion: still, he errs in his suggestion that “God in His Goodness will … find a way for all men and all things to be saved” is “determinism.”

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    • DBH says:

      I wonder what “virulent remarks” this person is talking about? I can think of none.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Peter says:

        How about your reference to “religious psychopathology” (p. 94)? Or your multiple accusatory claims against a non-universalist God, which I will not repeat here? My claim is not that since a saint disagrees with you, you are wrong. Rather, my claim is that the arguments in your book are so unequivocal that you admit no possibility that you even could be wrong. Yet countless individuals with actual, experiential knowledge of the Trihypostatic God, those who have felt Christ’s Love and indeed participated in His Love for all of creation (thereby experiencing the consubstantiality of mankind), those whose minds have been opened to another plane of knowledge, do not share this belief which you deem so obvious and, indeed, necessary. This in itself should give you reason to pause and question your assumptions, let alone your claim that you would actually reject Christianity if you were proven to be wrong.

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        • johnjlamb says:

          Theosis in this life does not require a full and complete gnosis of the divine mysteries. We can be drawn in to God’s love without understanding all their is humanly to know about Him; and just as one can love someone without being able to explain the evil or harsh things said about them, so saints have been able to love God without being able to explain why we’ve been told so often about the eternal tortures of hell. The part of the rational mind that receives religious doctrine is a medium of our sanctification, but not the ultimate object of it; so this part of our minds can be mistaken on some points, while the work of sanctification or theosis is taking place in the depths of the soul.

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        • Grant says:

          Peter, first off those aren’t remarks against any particularly person but against a particular belief which Hart finds wholly and completely morally repugnant (as, full disclosure do I and a number of regular posters here). Do you want him to lie about how evil it seems, about how ridiculous it seems to him when those who assert their belief of infernalism claim of God who freely brings this into being from nothing is also Love and the Good as such, clearly that would be essentially lying to pretend from this vantage point that such a idea is worth of respect in itself. You obviously don’t agree, but from this perspective it would be violation of love, of conscience and of faith in God to call that which is (to him and to us) manifestly evil, good, in fact as a Christian we commanded not to do this. Notice his ‘accusations’ are against the picture of the non-universalist God in the Christian infernalist tradition, which he regards is absurd and impossible, and has been just as scathing in relation to say materialism for similar reasons (in terms of it’s incoherence and absurdity). You don’t have to like it or agree with it, but to say he should pretend that it isn’t this from his perspective would be a lie, essentially like him pretending to treat a argument for torture, or say capital punishment (which he equally sees as incompatible with any consistent Christian understanding and faith) as something morally worthy or neutral.

          But again, no one is being attacked, ideas are being attacked, and that is okay, that has happened throughout Christian history and world history, and it’s how understanding and revelation in the world and Church can happen, it’s how Nicene understanding came to be, it’s how slavery came to be abolished and fully understood to be utterly incompatible with Christianity (and other worldviews as well) and so on. I know online culture has personalized so much, so people often feel vigorous attacks on ideas they hold or those they have gained inspiration from have also held is somehow an attack on themselves but this is not so, it is neither an attack on you or them, but on ideas.

          And no you are I believe wrong, it should not give pause, because if you conscience and moral understanding reveals to you something to be wholly evil then to call that good because some authority even be it a religious institution that claims divine revelation, and even if others in the past in that place who have very worthy and exemplary characteristics in other areas have believed it to be good, would be an act of both moral cowardice and capitulation to what your own heart (that which God has given you to know and understand good) reveals to be evil. That is act of faithlessness, an act against God, and that is simply not something anyone of faith should commend. And yes, if to truly be a Christian would mean accepting something that is your reason and conscience wholly self-contradictory, absurd, impossible and morally repugnant, than it would be the only faithful course of action to reject it as such and as an obviously false picture of God. Otherwise your are bowing to what your mind, heart and soul are telling you is a falsehood and in such God cannot have been revealed, choosing instead cognitive dissonance is not a course of faith.

          Now coming back to the saints, throughout history and now doubt into the future for ourselves too, many have and did hold ideas, beliefs and concepts that we have since come to see as at best questionable, and to at times to be clearly immoral or for that matter ideas later decided to be heretical. This can be acceptance and even promoting of slavery, of violence and conquest, of attacking, imprisoning and killing heretics and non-Christian people, for conquest and violence suppression of other Churches (and yes both Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant lands and figures have all be pretty guilty of this at various times and places through the last 2000 years, even into the last century), and with that connivance with royal and imperial powers in the doings of evil. Some saints were even involved in these actions, and otherwise usually did not object to them or their existence (with obvious notable and noble exceptions).

          But then a saint is someone in which the Church feels we can see the life of Christ at work, it doesn’t mean they aren’t fallen like us, bound in the broken, universe warped by comic death like us, with all the finite and shadow-bound restrictions, distortions of vision and understanding, bound by societal and cultural limitations and sins far greater then themselves. They like us, are subject to the fact we aren’t who we should be or will be, that the world and societies they live in aren’t who they should be and will be, and so evils of a particularly age and place aren’t clearly seen due to habitual acceptance and how they are bound into the fabric of that society (again see slavery).

          We need to accept the fallibility of people, which is what the Fall teaches us, in saints we see the glory of God in broken earthen vessels in which like the Japanese art of Kintsugi Christ’s glory shows through the cracks revealing the great glory from within that vessel and story of His life. It doesn’t remove those cracks, or necessarily fully undo them this side of the resurrection, only then will we fully see the gold that gleams from within untarnished and with all the tares burnt away and healed and restored in full. But we do see that glory in them, yet the cracks remain, the misjudgments, misunderstandings can remain both of themselves and their time.

          Unlike the present time, which seems unable to look at past figures and be forgiving, celebrating what did they did do right and their real genius and achievements, but engages in a zero-sum game with cancelling them and tearing down statues and attempting airbrushing from history because they failed in one area. We Christians at least should not do so. We know people are fallen and damaged, even the best can be so, and so yes can be great, truly good and holy and have wonderful insight and genuine love and still have places in their lives, their understanding and beliefs that are misguided, wrong and even immoral. From were we are, with hindsight and in a place where those evils are so much more clearly seen, it is easy to see and denounce them, and indeed we should denounce their beliefs or actions in that area, but we should not usually denounce them altogether, that seems to smack against Christian understanding of people, of the Fall and salvation altogether.

          In the same way, saints can be wrong in their beliefs on a number of things, we already at least all implicitly accept this on some subjects, so no, that many saints held to the majority (and for many areas for most of the last 1200-1500 years the only position considered or allowed to be orthodox and catholic, with the price of being named heretic with all the real consequences that held), enforced opinion no more compels that someone should not be forthright in their view it is false, than should a majority acceptance of slavery compel us either (where for example only St Gregory of Nyssa alone clearly spoke out against it), a vast majority of others accepted it, including many of the saints.

          Basically, truth is truth, and if you believe something to be true, and by contrast something to be false, and indeed a seemingly horrid and evil falsehood, you should never accept it or pretend that it could be so. Again that would be act of faithlessness.

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        • DBH says:

          Peter,

          Proof that I’m bored while going through pulmonary therapy (the steam from the nebulizer makes reading books impossible, because it clouds my glasses): I keep engaging in comboxes. Still:

          Of course I would reject Christianity if I thought it necessarily entailed a morally irrational and evil belief. Because that would mean that Christianity was manifestly false. In fact, that may be the case. I have no emotional investment in Christianity in the abstract, but only in a certain vision of God’s dealing with humanity in and through a crucified slave who, impossibly enough, is the center of all human history and the very form of God. If I decided that this story has no coherent version, however, I would walk away from it without a second thought. Temperamentally, I’m more drawn to Asian religions anyway, and metaphysically I’m already a Vedantist (which is to say a neoplatonist), so intellectually it would be a breeze. It’s only the figure of Christ–the peasant agitator and radical lover of the poor, murdered by the state and the interests of the enfranchised, but still a boundless source of love and forgiveness, the good shepherd who never abandons even one of his sheep–that holds me in place.

          On what basis do you assume that Christianity is in any sense “true”? What makes you trust anyone’s word on the matter, or believe that you can tell the truly holy from the charlatans, or the truly wise from the deceivers? Surely you must employ your reason at some point. Can you really give a logical and coherent and compelling account of your faith that is not reducible to personal preference, based on some personal need, abetted by some private act of judgment? Of course you can’t. You believe because yyou want to, because you choose to, because it brings you something you need whether it’s true or not. Well, I know what I believe, and why I believe what I believe, and what would disabuse me of that belief.

          The notion that a God of love condemns (or permits the condemnation of) rational creatures to eternal torment is a self-evident contradiction. It has always been a lie, and a cruel and sadistic one at that. Everyone else in the world might believe it, but I would still regard it as a vicious nonsense. As you should too. Don’t be brainwashed by people whose authority consists in a) repeating the same nonsense they were taught by rote and b) wearing strange clothes. Use your reason.

          And I will not apologize in describing an evil belief in terms proportionate to the scandal it causes my conscience. Universalists have been apologetic and hesitant too damned long.

          Liked by 1 person

          • TJF says:

            Since you brought it up, can you recommend any introductory books on Vedantic philosophy?

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          • Peter says:

            It really surprises me, from an Orthodox perspective, on how popular the argument from conscience is for universalists. The subjectivity of such a foundation surpasses even Protestantism in its theological anarchy – what does the universalist make of the fact that the consciences of others throughout history disagree with their own? Or that consciences in general differ wildly from one individual to another? Hence the requirement to submit to an authentic and objective standard. Moreover, I see much misunderstanding in the previous comments about my point about saints. A good resource on Orthodox epistemology is “The theory of knowledge of St Isaac the Syrian” by St Justin Popovic, which I suggest you read. See also St Sophrony’s distinction between empirical reason and the knowledge obtained by union with God. You see, the human mind after the Fall simply cannot be a reliable guide to faith, when taken in itself without being supplemented by any other form of knowledge. An example of where human reason gets you: Origen, the father of universalism, was also a clear racist: https://academic.oup.com/jts/article/71/1/164/5817418

            Now, back to the saints – who would you trust to tell you about another human person who you do not know yourself – someone who has written about him, but has never met him, or those who are his friends? Something similar happens with Christ – I trust those who have intimate union with Christ over and above academics basing their conclusions on fallen human reason and their subjective consciences. If they do not seem the existence of eternal hell as incompatible with God’s Love, then neither do I.

            On your point David, I too was attracted to Christ – but in terms of the content of my beliefs *about* Christ, I saw the anarchy of Protestantism and therefore decided to submit my mind to an objective standard – the Orthodox Church.

            Finally, to some of the tigers on this site: before accusing a non-universalist God, I suggest reading a true account of what this position entails. E.g according to Dr Stanilaoe, in hell man’s subjectivity and egotism are grown to monstrous proportions, whereby he closes himself off to communion with Christ and, indeed, others. He remains hermetically sealed within his own “I”, and, immersed in the passions, ultimately tries to find fault with God. Hence, the expression “dreadful judge” has its cause in our own guilty subjectivity, according to Stanilaoe. I suggest reading volume 6 of Fr Stanilaoe’s dogmatics for more in this regard. There are also some beautiful passages in His Life is Mine by Saint Sophrony. Christ does not vindictively punish people like some tyrant – St Sophrony explicitly criticises Michaelangelo’s frescoes in this regard. Also, David, in your book you paint St Silouan as a universalist, which is factually incorrect. Indeed, his disciple St Sophrony even says that belief in universalism would “rule out” the Staretz’s type of prayer, a remarkable claim in itself: https://classicalchristianity.com/2015/06/25/st-silouan-the-athonite-and-elder-sophrony-on-universalism/

            If all are indeed saved in the end, of course we would rejoice! But this is different to the strong claims made by DBH and people on this site which teach this as a dogma

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          • TJF says:

            Peter, if all were saved why would you rejoice?

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          • Grant says:

            Well Peter I did mention reason and moral understanding, but first of this is my response (Hart can as always speak eloquently for himself), I would be careful to generalize my view to all universalists. That would be an error probably, since some view things differently.

            But for me, of course you must follow your conscience, if you choose to ignore your conscience, your reason and your heart, that which God gives you to guide you and to do what it says reveals to you to be evil, than you are willingly according to your own understanding submitting to evil for whatever reason. Institutional conformity, comfort (say some idea of certainty and refuge from doubt), that isn’t subjectivity, in that action you disregard your own God-given means, however contingent, finite and conditioned by living in a fallen world to live and know the truth. Such an act as I said is to turn from the truth, to the extant you apprehend it, and submit to what it tells you is evil, again something no Christian should do, no human should do.

            After-all, as Hart says, you choose Orthodoxy and embrace the reasons you give, the ideas and works you site due to your own judgment, desires thoughts and wishes, you decide this, you came to this conclusion and choose to embrace Orthodoxy because you believe it it delivers you from anarchy of Protestantism, and because you believe you can’t trust human reason which is ironic since you clearly trusted your own to choose Orthodoxy and those reason you already just given.

            The fact is you cannot escape private judgement and discernment, since everything you just said, the views you hold and your decision to submit to the understanding of the Fall and of how you understand Orthodoxy you have arrived at by your own reasoning. Yet you say you cannot trust the human mind and reasoning, how then can you be sure your own reasoning is correct and has lead you correctly, if you cannot trust your own mind, reason and conscience how do you have any basis to trust anything you just said nor your ability to know that is true, you having to able to know that besides your own mind, heart and spirit, you have no other witness to know. So if you cannot trust that, you cannot trust anything that might seem to true to you, after all human reason fails, how can you know that this idea of other and higher understanding is true, how do you judge it, and how you can trust that judgement, and how would you know you got this knowledge and how to trust that witness. Nor any reason on that basis anyone else should trust what you say or your convictions about your beliefs, since you say we cannot trust yours or our minds.

            That is nonsense I’m afraid Peter, greater revelation indeed can enlighten and open understanding to dazzlingly flashes of insight and understanding, but it is illuminating the existing person and their mind. And because the mind is not so debased by the Fall that it can comprehend and understand this, and see beauty and truth for what it is at least in part.

            Sorry but I find some of this silly, and as for the swipe at St Origen (of which similar reasoning can again be found in many fathers and saints, and whether this was racist or not, I’ll leave others who know the matter in-depth to argue), that is beneath you in this exchange. I haven’t named anyone, yet you chose to attack a great older brother in Christ who suffered greatly in witness to Christ and essentially died for it, not to mention his massive contribution to Christian thought that underlay the work of many great father not least St Athanasius who held him in great esteem, nor the Cappadocians. Could he have held views of some being more barbarous than others, a common view of that time which would persist throughout Christian history East and West, maybe, maybe not. But even if true, you are condemning a person for one area of misjudgement common to many, including those you do regard as saints and fathers, doing exactly what I talked about above. That to be honest is distasteful, and where as Hart hasn’t attacked anyone by name, you have Peter, that isn’t right. You can disagree with St Origen’s views, you can reject him as heretic (again, using your reason to decide that you agree with that decision, even if because you use your reason to decide to just submit to a particularly interpretation and teaching and yield any other critical thinking or doubts or misgivings, that is still your reason and human mind leading you and deciding to do this), but this kind of personal attack is uncalled for.

            As as for Dr Stanilaoe position, I believe it doesn’t met the problems in Hart’s argument from either God being God and creating from nothing (and all entails outlaid in his book) nor that what true freedom is (since such persons would not be fully free nor choosing or able choose freely, so God would be abandoning those unable to choose otherwise). But of course again, your preference here, you arrive at by your mind and your reason, which again, you say you cannot trust.

            That concept locks you in agnosticism far worse than any Protestant ‘theological anarchism’.

            Anyway, with such jibs at persons who gives such witness to Christ and essentially died for it, I’m out of this conversation now, whether you agree or not. I wish you well Peter, but hope you don’t resort to such attacks on persons like St Origen again, he deserves your respect if nothing else, and if you dislike his universalist views address those directly.

            Anyway, God bless Peter and good night.

            Like

          • Grant says:

            Hmm, I meant agnosticism rather than antagonism, so I guess there was one last past, anyway goodnight.

            Like

          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            Correction made, Grant.

            Like

          • DBH says:

            Peter
            Staniloae’s view is more than adequately covered by the arguments in my book. Great man Wrong on this.

            Liked by 1 person

          • dianelos says:

            Peter, you write:

            “in hell man’s subjectivity and egotism are grown to monstrous proportions, whereby he closes himself off to communion with Christ and, indeed, others.”

            You realise that what we might become is not up to us but depends on how God made us. And God made us in his image. To be made in God’s image entails that no matter one’s evil choices and perversion what Stanilaoe above describes is actually ontologically impossible.

            How can I be so certain that God’s image in the human soul cannot be utterly destroyed? There are many reasons, including the fact that all that is good is God’s and thus eternal. But another reason is grounded in DBH’s argument in TASBS: God being good would not make his creatures in a way in which the experience of never-ending pain were even a metaphysical possibility.

            Like

          • Wayne Fair says:

            Totally agree! Why do “libertarian free will” defenders think we exist as purely self-defined beings (and therefore completely self-determining)? And it is not only our ontological relationship to the Being of God – we are also “His offspring” – and cannot “un”-offspring ourselves! (Acts 17:28)
            C.S. Lewis (whom I deeply love and respect) simply got it wrong when it comes to hell (if you like, see my post: https://sovereign-love.blog/2020/05/19/embracing-hell-a-response/)
            Thanks!

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you, Fr Al, for posting this, and indirectly, thanks to Dr Hart for writing it. And a more than belated thanks for writing the necessary That All Shall Be Saved. A remembrance of the essentially universalism of the faith is just what is needed these days. I remain perplexed about why so much effort (like from Feser et al) is made in defending the spurious doctrine of eternal perdition. Practically, it seems that eternal Hell has attained credal significance in the minds of many (or, sadly, most). I still wonder why. I suspect it has a lot to do with the protection of wealth and advantage (power), even within the Christian community.

    Please forgive this disarray of various thoughts. One more: Feser’s shallow complaint “Why should their be a Saviour?” is disturbingly close to Manoussakis’ screed/critique of That All Shall be Saved. It makes one melancholy that for many, Jesus needs an eternal Hell in order to be a Saviour.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Fantastic read. Only thing lacking was a bucket of popcorn for me to munch on. I’ll rectify that tomorrow when I read it again after buying my weekly groceries.

    Ed Feser is definitely an expert in Thomism, and his books are helpful for combating the new Atheism with a robust and tenured Catholic Scholasticism, but he definitely over-commits to the Thomistic stream of thought as DBH identifies in this piece. Thank God for the tradition that Origen started, Nyssa polished and DBH has manifestly perfected.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. SF says:

    I think it’s a little misleading to characterize some of your views on eschatological punishment (or lack thereof) in the New Testament — including some of the ways you handle Greek and Hebrew translation here, along with the precise suggested function and significance of Gehenna, and so on — as things that the overwhelming majority of Biblical scholars would be in agreement with.

    Most BIblical scholars are happy to let the New Testament texts on eternal punishment mean, well, exactly they appear to mean, and or in any to see them perfectly in line with contemporaneous Jewish traditions about eternal punishment (however we exactly understood eternal) — in a way that runs directly opposite to much of your interpretation.

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    • Wayne Fair says:

      “Most BIblical scholars are happy to let the New Testament texts on eternal punishment mean” – and (many? are) happy to stay on the payroll of religious institutions – and in the good graces of their peers, family and friends… Your statistical assumptions are not quite as objective as you seem to suppose – nor is your default (unambiguous) phrase “eternal punishment”. This is not a “translation” – it is an interpretation of a word which at its root means “age”… and why the word should have been transliterated instead (as Hart suggests for such as “Logos”)…

      Liked by 1 person

      • SF says:

        Why is it always the irrational who immediately start attacking experts and educational institutions? Yes, there certainly are religious institutions that produce brainwashed students and persons. But the academy is something that transcends your local Baptist seminary.

        In any case, as for “a word which at its root mean ‘age’,” you may be interested in my detailed critique of this: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1BtDAKIv4CexJ0oOVgW4e0Vh2BIVwtwhV/view?usp=sharing

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        • Wayne Fair says:

          You’ve misread my comment – I did not simply “attack” experts and institutions… I made a simple observation meant to convey the fact that, with regard to this incendiary issue (even unconscious) bias “lieth at the door”…

          Your paper is (honestly) very interesting – and deserves an answer by someone more capable than me – but there was one citation of Ramelli and Konstan’s “Terms for Eternity” that is a misdirection for what I am contending for: that (as Ramelli makes abundantly clear in her recent, A Larger Hope) there is no evidence that hell is construed as “eternal” in the New Testament (not therefore considering Josephus, etc.).

          I fully understand that aiōnios can in cases convey the idea of perpetuity (especially when referring to God). But that is why I made the point that it would be far better to transliterate such an ambiguous term to convey the slipperiness of the word(s) – instead of a mere (seeming resolved) and dogmatically laden translation, “eternal”.

          BTW – was it you who said, “Hi there! I’m Stewart, an atheist scholar of early Judaism and Christianity…” on an initial blog post? And (I am genuinely curios) – what are your bona fides as a “scholar”?

          Thanks!

          Like

          • SF says:

            I mean, that’s precisely kind of what I’ve been trying to confetti here: that in insisting so confidently that here’s no evidence that “hell”/punishment in the NT is truly everlasting (whether in duration of punishment or in effect), Hart and Ramelli are very much in the scholarly minority here.

            Incidentally, neither Ramelli nor Hart ever spends much time with New Testament scholarship, nor Second Temple Judaism in general, in their publications. That All Shall Be Saved is virtually absent of relevant critical discussion of these things + bibliographical references here; and the same goes for Ramelli’s work. (That’s probably because the main focus of much of their work here remains on patristics.)

            If you want to see a much more critical treatment of this, which (among other things) brings the full weight of Second Temple Jewish eschatology to bear on these issues, I’ve written a very detailed criticism of Ramelli here: https://semitica.wordpress.com/2020/01/20/eternal-punishment-in-the-septuagint-and-new-testament-a-response-to-ilaria-ramelli-and-david-bentley-hart/

            Like

      • DBH says:

        Apparently SF wants to argue some other point. Ignore it. Of course there’s annihilationist imagery in Christ’s language. And imagery of receiving a certain calculable number of “blows.” And imagery of getting left out of the party. And imagery of getting locked up and whipped and then let out again when your debt has been settled. Metaphors abound, and in abounding contradict one another if taken literally. But there’s no explicit picture of a place of eternal torment, and that is something that New Testament scholarship is pretty well agreed upon. For Jesus the Gehenna was, as far as the texts themselves clearly state, a place where body and soul could be destroyed. What the nature of that destruction was, and whether it refers to intra-historical or extra-historical events, can be argued, concentrating on Christ’s use of Isaiah and Jeremiah, or on the historical content of the “Little Apocalypse,” or on what little we can glean from emerging Rabbinic Judaism in the first century, or on the Book of Enoch, or whatever else. The question is always there to be posed. But the fact remains–and is beyond doubt–that the later picture of hell as a place of eternal torment has no explicit presence in Christ’s teachings, and it seems clear that Paul had no familiarity with such an idea at all. That is all that is at issue. So when Origen or Gregory of Nyssa or Isaac of Nineveh or (keep filling in names till we get to Solomon of Basra, then pause, then start up again) took 1 Corinthians 3:15 as an explanation of the language of the Gehenna, he was doing nothing theologically implausible. It certainly made better sense of the universalist claims of the NT than does the later infernalist orthodoxy.

        Liked by 4 people

        • SF says:

          I mean, I’m comfortable with saying that it’s *indeterminate* whether the gospels offer a picture of eternal torment or not. Certainly there are very early texts and traditions — even pre-Christan ones — that took language like that in Isaiah 66.24 (clearly cited by Jesus in Mark 9, etc.) in very much the direction of truly eternal torment.

          I think people should also be extremely skeptical of the confidence with which you state that the imagery here is so obviously metaphorical, though, and never could have truly been proposing a real irreversible annihilation.

          True critical and rational people are happy to acknowledge the diversity of eschatological traditions both in the New Testament more broadly, and in the gospels more specifically — even in saying ascribed to Jesus himself! Insisting that obviously is so obviously resolved in unviersalist restoration is textbook spiritually-motivated irrationality, though.

          Liked by 1 person

          • DBH says:

            I did not say Christ’s imagery could not be suggesting true and irreversible annihilation. You keep assuming that that is my view. It is not. My view is that the language is so pitched in metaphor that it does not provide a single indubitable picture and that therefore the readings of the universalist fathers were theologically plausible. Theologically.

            What makes you think I deny the diversity of eschatological opinions in the NT? Again, that is entirely your baseless supposition. In my translation of the NT, I mention all sorts of traditions. I point out that the eschatology of, say, 2 Thessalonians differs from that of Paul’s genuine epistles, and that Paul differs from Luke on resurrection. I don’t assume consistency at all.

            But the fact remains that the language of eternal torment does not appear in any explicit way in Christ’s teachings.

            Like

    • DBH says:

      The claim is:

      “the idea of eternal hell is not explicitly enunciated in the New Testament, and that the Gehenna of Christ’s preaching is wrapped in the tropes of Isaiah and Jeremiah”

      That is not an issue of serious contention. In Christ’s language, there are metaphors of destruction, disposal, exclusion, and even temporary imprisonment and torment. There is no language of eternal suffering in an eternal hell.

      I expect that Dimitris Kyrtatas is right about the origins of the later picture.

      Liked by 1 person

      • SF says:

        I’m sure you realize, though, that “[t]here is no language of eternal suffering in an eternal hell” is an assertion, and not an argument. (Though for what it’s worth, I take “eternal punishment” more broadly as something that could be equally applicable to annihilation.)

        An we certanbly have good reason to question the idea that there aren’t good linguistic grounds that the NT plainly affirms irreversible punishment — whether construed as annihilation or torment. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1BtDAKIv4CexJ0oOVgW4e0Vh2BIVwtwhV/view?usp=sharing

        Like

        • DBH says:

          Irreversible? Sure. Every punishment is irreversible, even scolding a child. That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily serially endless. Still, it may be that Christ, in the great judgment scene in Matthew, is contrasting eternal life with eternal annihilation; after all, the typical kolasis of a verdict that went against you in the first century (assuming that the word is equivalent to timoria by that time), unless it was simply a debtor’s court, was death. There weren’t any penitentiaries. I believe apocalyptic imagery is pretty vivid and colorful in general.

          Anyway, I have repeatedly said that Christ’s language is often the language of destruction and disposal–furnaces, threshing floors and fires, the Valley of Hinnom’s heaps of moldering corpses and burning offal from Isaiah and Jeremiah. I happen to be something of a preterist in regard to most of the eschatology of the synoptics, but that is neither here nor there. He also speaks of missing the party and having to weep in the darkness. He talks about getting beaten. He talks about getting put in a debtor’s prison until a debt is paid, and even of getting chastised in that prison. I’m not sure how any of this is NOT metaphorical, or how any of it LITERALLY tells us anything except that Jesus prophesied punishment for…someone. (Again, I’m fairly preterist in these matters.)

          Exegetically, I believe that–just as Christ is recorded as saying–all these things happened in the lifetime of some of his listeners, and that much of it is about the destruction of the temple and the purging of Jerusalem (whether as vaticinium ex eventu or something else). Theologically, I think that the things prophesied did happen, to him in fact, and that it all came to pass in the drama of the Triduum, if any of it is true at all. I don’t believe that ANOTHER final judgment is coming (and I think that’s true of the author of the Fourth Gospel too). If any of it is true, then what lies ahead is a universal incorporation into a judgment that has already come and passed.

          You are free to keep assuming that I am saying more than I have said, just as you keep assuming you know early Christian terminology better than did the drafters of the Nicene Symbol who understood “zoe aionios” as conceptually convertible with “zoe tou mellontos aionos.” But you’re simply missing the point. I am not asserting any particular interpretation. I insist on only two things:

          1) The later infernalist picture of eternal torment is not explicitly present in Christ’s words; and
          2) The universalist tradition, in its synthesis of scriptural language–especially in Gregory of Nyssa–was working within the bounds of possible interpretation, and doing so without having to ignore the verses that, say, Augustine had to explain away.

          For what it’s worth, I don’t believe that there is a single New Testament theological system. I believe there is only a record of responses to an event of revelation that, alas, did not interpret itself in perfectly lucid terms. Whether any of it’s true is a matter of concern to me; but that the infernalist version of the story in incoherent in its own terms is obvious.

          All right, the nebulizer has finished my ampule of albuterol. I’m out of here.

          Liked by 3 people

    • What a load of horse hockey. I am no scholar by any means, but even the slightest review of the history of the Christian faith shows us that the cultural milieu of the Roman Empire had a vast influence upon the thinking of those raised and nutured in it.

      Example. If all I have ever seen in my life are “tall” pine trees, then when the word “tall” would appear in the text of some book or manuscript I perchanced to read, then my mind would immediate conjure up a picture of something about 100 feet tall. I would not be able to think of something a quarter of a mile high, such as a “tall” office building in downtown Manhattan.

      This is precisely the problem with many of the Early Fathers who were raised in the Roman Empire and imbued the Roman Courtroom concept of justice. For them, justice means punishment and that ends the story. Therefore, when the Greek texts, which many Romans such as Augustine could not properly read, were studied, judgment meant the courtroom and certain punishment. They could not refigure their thinking that the word “judgment” could have another meaning, such as a physician making a judgment as to the nature and depth of an illness in order to prescribe the proper antidote and bring the sick patient to wellness.

      Which really leads to this question: are we criminals or patients. Are we guilty or ill? Is God the angry courtroom Judge or the merciful physician? In the Roman Catholic influenced West, the answers are the first set. It is my understanding of the East that the view of mankind is not Augustine’s wretched massa damnata with the prevailing condemnation of even unbaptized babies as direly guilty and deserving eternal torment, but rather that of sin as illness needing a physician. This is why the Eastern Fathers refer to the Eucharist as the “medicine of immortality”

      Liked by 3 people

      • Cristina H. says:

        I think justice could entail some form of punishment insofar as the actions of the accused are harmful to other people. I can certainly see how we might speak of a “wrathful” God in that sense, and it is telling indeed that the most forceful and terrifying “hell” passage of the NT is directed against those who fail to treat their fellow men and women as God’s image-bearers. One is reminded, for instance, of the good father who is enraged to find out that one of his children has done terrible harm to a sibling.

        Perhaps the difference lies in that God’s wrath does not seek, as humans do, merely to destroy the wrongdoer and uphold the wronged, but to heal the brokenness in the heart of the wrongdoer as well as the brokenness brought upon the world by his actions.

        Like

        • dianelos says:

          Christina H.

          “I think justice could entail some form of punishment insofar as the actions of the accused are harmful to other people.”

          I don’t understand the “could”. Justice is something good and thus grounded in God, so either it does or it doesn’t entail punishment for wrong-doing. In my sense of goodness it doesn’t. Indeed, when I wish those who have hurt me to be punished I realise it’s the fallen me – then un-Christ-like me – that wishes this. It is not the image of God in which I am made.

          If I am right then all those who think that God’s justice entails punishment are actually projecting the evil that is in themselves. As for those who would rather trust scripture than their own sense of the good, the story of the woman caught in adultery could not have been clearer. God’s justice entails repentance not punishment.

          Like

          • This is what I understand based on reading DBH. To put it in a quotable chunk: “The passion, crucifixion and suffering-descent-to-Hell reveals the justice of the world (and humanity). On the other hand, the resurrection reveals the divine and eternal justice of God.”

            If someone insists that “Justice demands punishment” (as many of my Catholic and Calvinist friends do), they are as yet still unacquainted with the radical justice revealed by Easter. Justice does not demand retribution; it demands restoration (or in Greek, apokatastasis!)

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          • In other words. The crucifixion reveals the justice of the demons, while the resurrection is the justice of God. God does not punish; he resurrects. If we are in Hell, it is because the Demons with the various laws (secular, shariah, rabbinic, vedic, etc) are pouring out their wrath on us via those laws. God never sends to or allows anyone to remain in Hell; his only action towards us is resurrecting and restoring love. The justice of God is to restore dead sinners to life, not to punish us in painstakingly-calculated-retributive-proportion to our mistakenly-made crimes

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          • Or, once more, “Retribution is the Justice of the Devil. Restoration is the Justice of the Divine”

            Like

  6. also for what it’s worth, as far as I care apokatastasis must be true, because if it weren’t, I would have killed myself back in 2015. It was by reading Father Kimel’s posts on this blog that I was rescued from an abyss of depression and turned back from the brink of suicide. Today when infernalists denounce my universalism as heretical I unapologetically scoff right back in their faces: the day that heresy is able to restore the depressed and dying back to life and joy – just as this glorious gospel of apokatastasis did with me – is the day that I owe the infernalists a beer and a backrub.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Cameron Davis says:

      I resonate with this quite a bit. While I have been a universalist for nearly a decade, I developed a severe anxiety/panic disorder two years ago that was triggered by nothing other than the terrible descriptions one finds in the Christian tradition of eternal torment because I maintained an irrational fear that I might be wrong. If the infernalist vision is taken as true, along with all of the secondary tenets that often accompany it, then the most natural state would be one of despair or terror because we are under the dominion of a cruel master.

      Liked by 2 people

      • This is absolutely true. I was like Luther in despair, not only for my sins, but in the idea that my actions and decisions caused my children to reject Christ (think hard-headed,mean-spirited Bob Jones Fundamenalist). I remember the first time I read about Universalism. It caused me great joy for about two weeks before the Infernalist brainwashing kicked back in. Over the course of the next two years, I studied and thought and studied and thought some more. DBH and Fr. Kimmel have really helped me to believe this must be true, and when I can embrace it thoroughly (the ghosts of Infernalism are still quite alive in the dark corners of my tortured psyche) it brings me peace and joy. Our Father is good and He is love and I wish people like Ed Feser would stop making idols of God cast in their own Hellist image.

        Liked by 2 people

        • exactly. From my perspective Fr Kimel and DBH aren’t merely sitting in ivory towers debating how many angels can dance on a pin-head: In a sense they are in the trenches saving lives and savings souls with their beautiful and heartfelt reflections on the Gospel and God’s love. I know that ultimately it’s God himself who saves, but Fr Al and DBH are definitely two of his most effective prophets and I’m eternally thankful to be blessed with their writings. I get that classic ‘mormon’ “burning in the bosom” whenever I read anything of theirs

          Liked by 1 person

          • Cameron Davis says:

            This all shows just how embedded this is in our culture. I was never directly taught to believe in these things and somehow I still ended up with anxiety! The baggage is real.

            Like

  7. I am beginning to wonder if DBH will ever stop being so coy and let his readers know what he really thinks.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. j1943 says:

    I suppose this might not be much relevant for most of the readers of this blog, but it is important to me: Does anyone here believe that it is possible for a catholic to adhere to DBH’s perspective and remain a catholic? Are there any positive reviews of That All… written by catholic scholars?

    By the way, congratulations, Fr. Aidan, your blog is the most erudite christian blog I know of. I am always astonished to see how the commentators here are able to write profound comments in a short time.

    Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Yes there are Catholic reviews of TASBS, and they are available on my blog. Look under the category “Book Reviews” (sidebar). Check out especially the reviews by Ty Monroe, Justin Coyle, and Jordan Daniel Wood. Or do a search for their names.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Bob says:

      There is —It’s called purgatory

      Like

      • Fr. Alexis Baldwin says:

        Dear Bob,

        You’ve hit on something here. Obviously, it will continue to be ignored. The fanclub won’t (and apparently) can’t renounce their membership. No reason (or argument) is adequate or satisfactory to refute the master.

        But, you’re right. A temporal state after death where you get to go to Heaven anyways, is more or less Purgatory. One caveat, the mainline Catholic teaching at this time is that only folks with veinal sins “get out” of Purgatory and get to go to Heaven.

        One other way Catholic Purgatory is different from some universalist thought is that Purgatory is a place of ‘mitigated’ Joy. You will know you are on the way to Heaven, but you also need to ‘spend time’ repenting of venial sins.

        If ones dies with mortal sin, I suppose there’s always the brown scapular…

        Liked by 1 person

        • With all due respect, Father, some of us don’t see it that way. The idea of “mortal sin” is simply a non-sequitur to the East.

          Like

          • Fr. Alexis Baldwin says:

            Dear reluctant heretic,

            I read your reply several times, but I can’t work it out, sorry. I agree with your assessment of mortal sin. I’m in the East too, even though me being a Priest in the OCA, East of the Mississippi River is a different kind of ‘east’.

            Maybe you could help me understand what you were trying to say by restating it.

            Like

    • I’m catholic and a firm believer in this stuff. Admittedly, it’s much harder to pull off universalism in a catholic context because the latin tradition is much more unambiguous about the fact that the punishment is “everlasting”/”aeviternal”. The vulgate and a bunch of latin church councils have to be wrestled with. BUT there are ways to make this all fit with DBH universalism (although I’ve mentioned them to DBH previously on this blog and he was disinclined to sign up as you have to trade in paradoxical language a lot more as a catholic universalist)

      Like

  9. This “response” is just a big silly, indulgent ad hominem. People who cheer this on – you should raise your standards. Makes me want to read Feser’s review though!

    Like

    • Yes, decorum is sacrosanct. When it comes to interacting with those who hold to theologically neurotic views there is only one valid option; kill ’em with kindness. At no point should we employ the tactics of our Lord when confronting the truly outrageous by naming moral idiocy for what it is. Didn’t Jesus know that naming the Pharisees “a brood of vipers” was the sort of ad homineim that is beyond the pale when engaging in civic discourse with his opponents?

      Liked by 1 person

      • TJF says:

        This is a very perplexing subject to me. I’m absolutely convinced by Evagrius that anger is the worst demon confronting us and must be banished altogether and it is best to be meek in all things. Contrary to what many seem to think, you do catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Meekness is the supreme virtue that Scripture attributes to Moses, David, and Christ.

        Like

        • DBH says:

          Where does scripture speak of Christ as meek?

          Liked by 1 person

          • johnstamps2020 says:

            You must not have grown up with the stately cadences of the King James version or the ASV ringing in your ears.
            “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11:29)
            The latest generation of Bible readers hasn’t had to wrestle with the meekness of Christ.
            Just like they don’t get to wrestle with the meekness of Moses – “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3 – again the KJV)

            Liked by 1 person

          • Tom says:

            Perhaps … MT 11.29 (“for I am gentle [πραυς; cf. MT 5’s “Blessed are the meek|πραεις] and lowly [ταπαεινος] – assuming Christ embodied the virtues he urged upon others). Also 1COR 10.1 (“I beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ”)? Would Paul say such a thing if he thought Jesus was not meek and gentle?

            Liked by 1 person

          • DBH says:

            I grew up with the KJV, being raised Anglo-Catholic. But I confess I have not read the NT in anything but Greek for many years. I hope you realize that what you mean by meek is not what it meant in the 16th century, and not quite what you want it to mean here. But you are right that, in this verse, Jesus identifies himself as someone who is gentle to those who bear his yoke.

            Liked by 3 people

          • DBH says:

            Tom,

            Again, the word “meek” is very different in meaning today from what a 16th century translator used it to mean. Yes, Jesus is gentle to those who wear his yoke. In the passage from the beatitudes, incidentally, the “πραεις” may be the “defenseless”: those unable to offend and therefore unoffending, because they are ταπαεινοι, “impoverished,” “oppressed,” “ground down,” “abased,” “humiliated.”

            Charity wears different aspects, of course. All I know is that the gentleness of Jesus could look pretty fierce when he was denouncing hypocrites (which is what someone who reviews a book he hasn’t read so that he can indulge in personal attacks might be called) or turning over money-changers’ tables or promising the rich that they would be condemned for their wealth.

            Liked by 5 people

        • TJF, there’s a time for everything under the sun, or so Qoheleth says. But what does he know, right? Could it be that ‘meekness’ can, every once in a while, be just a fig leaf for cowardice?

          Like

          • TJF says:

            I’m sorry, but I must with disagree both jedidiah and DBH. Meekness or gentleness is not weakness, but the highest strength because we must put others needs and feelings above our own petty feelings of vengeance and being hurt. Many fathers say that much like Shem and Japheth turned from their father’s nakedness (Gen 9:15) we must likewise look away from the sins of others. Please read my avatar with a quote from St. Macarius the Great. I highly recommend to both of you to read Gabriel Bunge’s work, especially starting with Dragon’s Wine and Angel’s Bread.

            The Lord tells us to be gentle and accommodating in heart (MT 11:29).
            Moses is called meek in Num 12:3
            David isn’t directly called meek but Psalm 50 is a testament to the meekness we are meant to internalize.
            Evagrius in Chapters on Prayer 124 tells us a “monk” is one who is separated from all and who is in harmony with all.
            On Diverse Evil Thoughts 13.15-18 “The one who masters anger has mastery over the demons”
            “Think not that a demon is anything else but a man filled with anger who eludes our sense perception” — Epistle 56.4 Evagrius
            Chapter on Prayer 24 hits the nail on the head — “When you pray as you should, thoughts will come to you which make you feel that you have a real right to be angry. But anger with your neighbour is NEVER right. If you search you will find that things can ALWAYS be arranged WITHOUT ANGER. So do all you can not to break out into anger. (emphasis mine)
            “Prayer is the flower of gentleness and angerlessness (Chap. prayer 14)
            No virtue fosters wisdom so much as meekness (Ep. 36.3)
            Anger causes us to lose peacefulness and fills us with a desire to repay evil for evil which is strictly forbidden:

            Titus 3:2 “to speak evil of no one, not to be belligerent, showing gentleness to all human beings” (DBH translation)

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          • DBH says:

            I regard my reply to Feser as a gentle one. Honesty often looks harsh.

            Let’s agree to disagree. If I understood gentleness (please stop using the anachronistic “meekness”) quite as you do, I fear I should have to think very poorly of Jesus, or of the author of James’s epistle, or of Paul (read Galatians again, old man). Admittedly, I’m not a saint, and so I may be getting it wrong. But I regard as honest denunciation of a lie or of a misrepresentation or of a vicious personal attack or of willful ignorance as all well within the boundaries of charity. (Mind you, I do tend to forget that Mencken is not actually a saint of the church–though Jerome was.)

            And, anyway, I still can’t go as far as Feser goes. Cf. the closing paragraph of his review.

            Liked by 1 person

          • TJF says:

            I’m sorry, but I must with disagree both jedidiah and DBH. Meekness or gentleness is not weakness, but the highest strength because we must put others needs and feelings above our own petty feelings of vengeance and being hurt. Many fathers say that much like Shem and Japheth turned from their father’s nakedness (Gen 9:15) we must likewise look away from the sins of others. Please read my avatar with a quote from St. Macarius the Great. I highly recommend to both of you to read Gabriel Bunge’s work, especially starting with Dragon’s Wine and Angel’s Bread.

            The Lord tells us to be gentle and accommodating in heart (MT 11:29).
            Moses is called meek in Num 12:3
            David isn’t directly called meek but Psalm 50 is a testament to the meekness we are meant to internalize.
            Evagrius in Chapters on Prayer 124 tells us a “monk” is one who is separated from all and who is in harmony with all.
            On Diverse Evil Thoughts 13.15-18 “The one who masters anger has mastery over the demons”
            “Think not that a demon is anything else but a man filled with anger who eludes our sense perception” — Epistle 56.4 Evagrius
            Chapter on Prayer 24 hits the nail on the head — “When you pray as you should, thoughts will come to you which make you feel that you have a real right to be angry. But anger with your neighbour is NEVER right. If you search you will find that things can ALWAYS be arranged WITHOUT ANGER. So do all you can not to break out into anger. (emphasis mine)
            “Prayer is the flower of gentleness and angerlessness (Chap. prayer 14)
            No virtue fosters wisdom so much as meekness (Ep. 36.3)
            Anger causes us to lose peacefulness and fills us with a desire to repay evil for evil which is strictly forbidden:
            “do not fancy yourselves sages — repaying no one evil for evil, providing things in good countenance with all human beings. If possible for you, be at peace with all human beings. Do not exact justice for yourselves, beloved, but yield place before anger” (Rom 12:16-19) DBH translation.
            “Let go of wrath and forsake rage. Do not be incensed to do evil” Ps 36:8
            “So, remove grief and anger from your heart” Qohelet 11:10
            We are to pray without anger or dissension 1 Tim 2:8
            Remove the thoughts of anger from your soul, and let anger not abide in your heart, and you will never be bewildered at the time of prayer. For as the smoke of chaff troubles the eyes, so does resentment trouble the intellect at the time of prayer (On Eight Thoughts 4.16)
            “So let us avoid this disease of malicious talk, beloved, let us have no evil memory against anyone, nor make faces at the memory of a brother” On Diverse Evil Thoughts 37.26
            Titus 3:2 “to speak evil of no one, not to be belligerent, showing gentleness to all human beings” (DBH translation)

            Honestly I shouldn’t have to quote the bible and the fathers to people that supposedly have a high regard for moral intelligence and especially for people who believe all will be saved because God loves them. If He loves them, so should we. Stop this nonsense please! It’s scandalous! I hate it! Causing nothing but further dissension, polarization, and hatred. I’ve had it up to here with supposedly Christian theologians acting in very unchristian ways. It is written in our hearts that we should love our brothers and sisters and all this should be obvious that we should turn our faces away from others shame. Ed Feser is enslaved by demons that are oppressing his soul; have compassion, have mercy. Love the man, don’t write something excoriating him because it makes you feel better that you’ve “won” the argument. Same goes for you Jedidiah, there is no defense against this kind of behavior. I’m sick of it. Ha! The guy I like wrote something mean about the guy I don’t like! Down with the heretics! Burn the fools who dare disagree with me! My side speaks the truth, they are ignorant, immoral fools! We’re right, of course, so we are justified being as rude and uncharitable as possible! Let’s just put it under the guise of us speaking the plain truth and being courageous, but when they do the same thing they are mad, evil fools! It makes me sick, let’s all grow up please and heed the words of Our Lord. Only love we lead us out of this mess. Let’s be examples. Like it or not, we are all in this together. Let’s act like it.

            Peace be to all,

            TJF

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          • DBH says:

            TJF

            What makes you think I’m angry? Why do you keep mentioning anger? I’m not aware of feeling any.

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          • TJF says:

            I have no idea if you are angry or not, though I’ll take your word for it. Just seeing this kind of polemical back and forth upsets me I guess. I think it reflects badly on Christians in general and universalist in particular. Perhaps I should’ve kept my mouth shut, but I felt morally obligated to say something. Now I have, and my conscience is somewhat assuaged, but it won’t be fully until I see you and Ed laughing over beers in the Eschaton. Cheers.

            Liked by 1 person

          • TJF, look I don’t want to disparage your perspective here, I don’t doubt it comes from good motives. But, I think that can be tremendously disingenuous, at least in certain contexts, to hide behind piety when engaging in controversy. Obviously, Scripture does enjoin us to humility, but not false humility. And let’s be careful about vaunting the humility of figures like David and Moses, the biblical record itself doesn’t shy away from the (sometimes extreme) ways that they confronted issues, even to the degree that both resort to violence.

            The truth is, when it comes to the universalist/infernalist debate there really isn’t a middle ground. Perhaps the best we can hope for is an uneasy peace between the two as the ranks of those embracing universalism grows. But, the debate is going to be a hot one because of what is at stake – fundamentally different views of God and what he is doing with creation. I do hope there can be some productive, irenic debate on the issue, but to this point, I haven’t seen much by way of serious engagement with the universalist position, whether with what DBH has written or the others who are writing at both an academic as well as a popular level. Whether we are looking at McClymond’s complete refusal to deal with anything but a caricature of orthodox universalists (and the catastrophic waste of perfectly good trees in printing what is tantamount to a 1500 page failure), or the growing body of reviews of TASBS that demonstrate that their obtuse refusal to engage the substance of what DBH is arguing.

            There is a time to turn the other cheek, but there is a time for blistering rhetoric. I do stand by my defense of DBH’s approach here. But, I know we are coming at this from different perspectives here and my aim is not to blast away at you per se, but to challenge your sense of propriety. Could I be wrong? Sure. But, I can live with that. There are times to roll up the sleeves and jump in the mud – that’s where the action is and to retreat would do a disservice to the importance of what is on the line here.

            Liked by 1 person

          • TJF says:

            Perhaps we do have fundamentally different premises. I put being good on an infinitely higher level than being right per 1 Corinthians 13. Who cares if you “prove” universalism to people logically and scripturally? It’s more important to be good. Which I believe every saint and the NT teaches. So, if in the course of trying to defend a doctrine, you have to resort to being negative and uncharitable you are losing sight of the bigger goal in my opinion. I definitely never said one should retreat, but as I quoted from Evagrius it is ALWAYS possible to defend ideas without resorting to being rude and yes calling someone gigantically ignorant is something that can be avoided. Go ahead, if you guys want to strain out the gnats and yet swallow the camel, I will not follow you. You are going to get stuck in your own bubble and being stuck in an an echochamber is not for me. Getting along with/loving others is extremely important, far more important than being correct on any doctrinal issue. This is my last statement on the matter. Just please don’t insinuate that peacemaking is cowardice.

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          • TJF says:

            Here’s a good litmus test, would you say what you are writing to their face in the presence of their mother? If not, don’t write it.

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          • DBH says:

            I definitely would use the same language in the presence of his mother.

            Liked by 3 people

          • Grant says:

            The thing is TJF, is you are yourself acting as you are telling Hart not too, perhaps not with the same rhetorical flourish, but you perceive what he is doing as somehow unjust and failing in love and falling to anger, and you in you speak the truth as you believe it against his statement and actions in fairly blunt and strong terms.

            Is this not exactly what Hart is doing with Feser, Feser has according to this misrepresented and lied about a fellow academic, theologian and yes, a Christian brother, should not these lies be confronted, both for his own sake and for the sake of the truth? You might not like the means of delivery, but truth is something that Christians should stand up for, injustice is something that should be stood up for, you agree since this is what motivates your own posts here.

            Now you a fully in your rights to disagree with the rhetoric in which it is delivered, but lying about someone else and misrepresenting what they say, calling a heretic and not really a Christian is a serious slander, and the one who does this to a brother or sister (or any human) should be corrected. And this is not in opposition to peace-making, as I’m sure you know, peace making is not appeasement, they aren’t the same thing (despite many who like to portray them as such, I’m an advocate of non-violence, I take Our Lord’s instructions on this very seriously and I know those tending to various levels of just war can misrepresent non-violence as appeasement and refusing to act, which aren’t the same thing). However, where there isn’t truth, where one side is allowed to continue to act towards hurting or attacking another, spreading deception and lies then then until that is brought to the light and challenged there cannot be repentance or real reconciliation. All there can be capitulation in the face of injustice, and silence in the face of wrong-doing, lies, falsehoods and attacks on other persons.

            This is and cannot be a path to peace-making, nor do you bless someone to leave them in their illusions and falsehoods in such a manner, to continue down a path of destruction without being the light to shine into that area of darkness revealing the wounds and hurts.

            Now there is wisdom required to do this, with each person and situation and understanding the right manner, sometimes kind words can help break through, other times though a stronger and more firm approach, including a firm calling out and yest even calling a deceitful and petty action what it is (whether in relation to Feser’s defense of capital punishment, something that should have every Christian crying out defiantly to this injustice that brings society to continue human sacrifice in the name of the state, and to rebuke Christians who still support such evil that literately destroys lives and files against forgiveness, healing and restorative justice, or to his lies and misrepresentation of the position of Hart to the public, attempting to deceive them for his own ideological agenda). Now of course there is a risk in being an ass or going to far, and you need discernment in such calls. Perhaps Hart did go to far, though having read Feser who is a big boy who engages in exactly the same kind of heavy hitting rhetoric as Hart used here (and did so in this review, alleging some fairly extreme things about Hart both explicitly and implicitly) I think it was right tone in this situation to rebuke Feser for his actions (which are wrong, not just an unkind review, it wasn’t a review but a deceptive hit-piece and made direct attacks on Hart and misrepresented what he had to say to others, thus deceiving them as well).

            Of course, you can disagree that Hart has achieved this here, but just as you because of that felt you had to call Hart on it and correct him, Hart equally felt that in relation to Feser, so in the end you also agree and see the need to call and bear witness to the truth, which is an essential to peace-making, love cannot flourish where the truth is ignored and we are silent in the face of injustice.

            I’m not trying to but in to attack you, but to call you to attention that you are motivated to do the same thing Hart is doing, which is part of Christian witness at times, and just as with yourself is part of being peace and justice and is motivated by love. Just as our Lord called out injustice, sometimes in strong and hard words, as did the apostles, as have saints, fathers and godly men and women throughout history both in the Christian and others, love at times cannot stay silence, and peace cannot be had when evil continues unnamed and ignored, including the damage it does on the persons themselves by whom it manifests who are it’s first victims and slaves.

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          • TJF says:

            Grant, no I am not. Hart called Feser a “functional illiterate” and “gigantically ignorant.” It amazes me that I have to say this, but these are not kind words spoken in love to affect the conversion of a fellow brother in Christ in charity. I feel like I’m the only sane person in an insane asylum at times. Can people really not see the difference between saying something like let’s say … Feser is egregiously mistaken here vs. “he is a functional illliterate”. The answer is obvious but I suppose we prefer the darkness to the light. I am in no way calling names or being excessively rude to Hart. As I expressed to Jedediah I do not think this means you can’t criticize whatsoever… just do it WITH LOVE.

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          • TJF says:

            I believe this is hypocritical and IN LOVE and CHARITABLY I am attempting to persuade you all to abandon this tribalism. It’s sickening.

            Like

          • TJF says:

            I’m telling you that we see this pattern all throughout Church history. Person A — Person B is terrible and a heretic or whatever, let’s denounce him, our anger is justified, his is prideful hatred. Person B — Person A is terrible and a heretic or whatever, let’s denounce him, our anger is justified, his is prideful hatred. Each side cheers for their own and cries with laughter at the destruction of the other while love dies. Let’s stop the wheel from turning maybe?

            Liked by 1 person

          • DBH says:

            TJF
            First of all, I did not call Feser a functional illiterate. I said that he would have to be such in order really to have read the book and then have written the review. That is a reductio ad absurdum. The point was that he did not read it.
            Second, please give it a rest. This pearl-clutching is tiresome. I come from the East Coast, and Menckenia in particular, where it’s all in the game to trade robust rhetoric. Trading outrageous insults in public has become a kind of performance art for the two of us. Maybe we’ll sign an armistice some day, but the terms have to be fair to all.
            Try to grasp this: nothing you’re saying reaches me. My conscience is clear. I spoke as I deemed appropriate in response to a lurid personal attack attached to a slanderous and dishonest review. I did not lie, I did not slander Ed, and I don’t give a toss that my sense of humor and my sense of fair play don’t appeal to you.

            Liked by 1 person

          • DBH says:

            Oh, and another thing, TJF:

            Feser uses rhetorical brutality against all sorts of opponents, even those who aren’t temperamentally able to defend themselves very well. Sometimes someone has to push back against him.

            I am accused of being fierce, but I never go after anyone who has not already been an aggressor to someone. Call it lex talionis if you like. I call it a sense of due proportion. And I think it very different from Feser’s antics. Read his capital punishment book, concentrating on his characterizations of those who disagree with him out of moral principle—all the dismissive talk of sentimentality and accusations of indifference to the victims of crime and so forth. He operates in a different moral register.

            Anyway, no, I reject your complaints. Thanks but let fall they blade on vulnerable crests. I’m impervious.

            Liked by 1 person

          • TJF says:

            Fine, I will stop. Like I said, I felt morally obligated to comment. I must just say I have a great love for the works of both of you. Ed Feser’s books pulled me out of a hateful militant atheism and your books DBH pulled me out of a pharasaical traditionalism. I am not alone in this, I know many who are fans of both of you and in speaking with them I am also not alone in finding this feud exhausting and silly. I have taken your book recommendations that I’ve seen in articles and your books seriously and have spent much time lately reading the desert fathers, the dhammapadda and the bodhicaryavatara. I must say that when I read those, I do not feel the spirit of those works in this type of writing. Shantideva, the Gautama Buddha, Evagrius, and Abba Poemen do not seem like they would condone things as I’ve seen here. It is extremely disheartening to me to see people who see the love of God extended to all humanity using the EXACT same BS arguments to defend their “righteous” indignation or namecalling. Many people here have talked about how ECT inspired in them thoughts of suicide and apokatastasis brought them to new life. It did to me as well, but then seeing a bunch of people I highly respect and admire condoning the same tactics as infernalists and not rising to the occasion and following the ideals of the most vaunted spiritual literature and wisdom in our tradition is even more soul crushing to me. What hope do I then have, who have less intellectual gifts and time to pursue it? Well, at any rate, if I in any way offended you please forgive me. This will be my last post on the subject. I guess I just had to speak my piece. I hope for peace and reconciliation.

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      • SF says:

        The biggest problem with condoning anger is usually the hypocrisy of this. We hate when people we disagree with are angry, and call it irrational and inexcusable; we excuse and rationalize the anger of those who we agree, as righteous and justified.

        Liked by 1 person

    • DBH says:

      You did not read Feser’s piece, I see.

      He is a thug. I identified him as such.

      Like

    • DBH says:

      Dale, baby, I always match my rhetoric to that of my antagonist. It seems the only polite thing to do. Otherwise he would be out there all alone, without company. This has always been my rule, whether arguing against Dawkins or against Feser. But by all means read Ed’s review. Concentrate especially on his closing paragraphs. Then tell me how my response stacks up.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Dale, by all means read Ed Feser’s review. Better yet, read That All Shall Be Saved and then judge whether Feser has presented a fair and accurate reading of the book.

      Liked by 2 people

      • TJF says:

        Ed Feser’s review was bunk and it is likely he didn’t read the book and if he did, he surely didn’t attack any of its arugments. But to repay evil with evil is explicitly forbidden by scripture (Rom 12:17) so I, in good conscience, can never condone that.

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        • DBH says:

          Again, where’s the evil? I spoke honestly. No lies, no prevarications, no baseless insults. Really, TJF, your view of these things accords with mine not at all. If I had said something unfair, or had accused him of intellectual laziness with no intention of “fraternal correction,” or spoken of his deficiency of moral intelligence without his book on capital punishment firmly fixed in my memory like a wound that will not heal, then I would be guilty of malice. But refusing to mince words when those words are just is not evil.

          John 8:44 is for me a good guide to Christian gentleness. Or maybe Galatians 5:12.

          Liked by 2 people

          • TJF says:

            So you wrote this in a spirit of fraternal correction? I find it hard to believe, but I guess I must take your word for it. I would say that calling someone gigantically ignorant is an insult even though I know you will insist it isn’t a baseless insult, it is just accurate. That sort of talk is exasperating though. It’s obvious to anyone paying attention that that is an insult and it is meant to be one and you meant for him to take it that way for the explicit purpose of making him angry because he wronged you. I’m not sure if I’m being judgmental or discerning what I’m almost sure to be the case. If I am please forgive me. Perhaps I’m not very morally intelligent. Or perhaps you’re letting the contagion of equivocity infect yourself — how on earth can calling someone gigantically ignorant not be seen as an insult? Might as well say black is white, God is evil, eternal hell exists.

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          • DBH, it’s such a privilege to see you commenting here, but remember that you don’t need to defend yourself in internet commboxes. I can’t think of a worse purgatory. Keep in mind that you can tap out whenever.

            Like

          • DBH says:

            I’m just killing time. Lung inflammation is chrinic with me, and during prolonged attacks it’s good to distract myself.

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    • Thomas says:

      Dale,

      It is not an ad hominem fallacy to point out that Feser attributed to Hart views he does not hold (e.g., that Hart denies moral culpability), or that it raises objections to the book without engaging the answers to those objects that are actually in the book.

      It would be ad hominem, for instance, to argue that Edward Feser’s unsuccessful attempts moonlighting as an epidemiologist mean that his arguments with respect to Hart’s book are unsound. It is not ad hominem to show that Feser did not understand the book, or misrepresented its claims.

      Polemical articles have their pros and cons. In the “pro” column, at least, is the fact that they aren’t boring. In the “con” column is the fact that one must do more than skim the article to grasp its arguments so that one does not confuse it with merely personal attacks.

      As a fairly committed Thomist, I have to agree that Feser’s article was inaccurate and didn’t meet any substantial issue raised in TASBS.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Michael Robbins says:

        Oh dear. If Christians are never to speak sharply to or of their opponents—well, one look at the Gospels dispels the notion, as others have noted—but where would that leave, oh, I don’t know, Jean Cauvin, John Brown, Thomas Müntzer, Martin Luther, Marilynne Robinson, Leo Tolstoy, Jonathan Edwards, G. K. Chesterton … ? Just to name a few from recent centuries.

        Like

  10. Brad says:

    “[Feser] mentions the Thomist argument that a disembodied soul cannot change its intentions, as it lacks the senses and the faculty of imagination, which is of course a dubious conflation of sensible inclination with moral intentionality.”

    Dr. Hart, would you mind quickly explaining this dubious conflation?

    The idea that incorporeal minds are incapable of choosing differently after their first choice (which, apparently according to Aquinas, happens immediately after their creation, for angels, and immediately after their disembodiment, for humans) has always struck me as odd. For one thing, it seems to entail that a finite incorporeal mind cannot learn anything new, and hence, that the fallen angels and damned humans can never discover that they have made the wrong choice.

    Like

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      The key text of Aquinas on the impossibility of repentance after death is found in the Summa Contra Gentiles:

      “For there is no privation of a thing unless one is born to possess that thing; in fact, a newborn puppy is not said to be deprived of sight. But man is not born with a natural aptitude to attain his end in this life, as we have proved. So, the privation of this kind of end must be a punishment after this life. But after this life there remains in man no capacity to acquire the ultimate end. The soul needs a body for the obtaining of its end, in so far as it acquires perfection through the body, both in knowledge and in virtue. But the soul, after it has been separated from its body, will not again return to this state in which it receives perfection through the body, as the reincarnationists claimed. We have argued against them above. Therefore, he who is punished by this punishment, so that he is deprived of the ultimate end, must remain deprived of it throughout eternity” (144.2).

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  11. GregP says:

    Setting aside the invective here, the main point seems to be 100% correct: there is no way Feser read the book. Its just obvious – the review to the extent it comments on the book itself seems clearly to be commenting on ideas related to the topic of the book and not the actual arguments laid out in the book itself. I have to confess to having had a bit of disbelief altogether on reading it to be frank.

    Like

  12. jsobertsylvest says:

    I was initially disappointed with Feser’s lack of earnest engagement with _TASBS_ . At the same time, I do concede that he and DBH have previously gone back & forth rather extensively & substantively. In some sense, one might ask how much more can Feser really add by way of argumentation.

    See, for example:

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2017/01/a-hartless-god.html

    Honestly, I really couldn’t stomach more of Feser’s revival of that ole time religion, i.e. a decadent neo-scholasticism. The disconnect for me & his ilk truly is visceral. I don’t necessarily reject Feser’s counterarguments because they aren’t logically consistent. What leaves me cold or, sometimes, even on the verge of wretching, is that such rationalistic takes as his are so existentially disappointing.

    To proceed from Feser’s valid premises to check for soundness, one must also accept his terms, which, in my case, presuppose that I will have jettisoned all of my most deeply felt aesthetic sensibilities & moral intuitions.

    Now, I fully expect that, post-mortem, we will all travel “beyond” those quotidian evaluative dispositions in various ways, but I certainly don’t expect we’ll travel “without” them, that any acceptable post-mortem anthropology should do such violence to my earthly experiences of all that’s been true, beautiful, good & unitive. For that matter, neither can I set aside my theophanic experiences of the here & now for the morally unintelligible theodicies on offer.

    Rhetorically, I felt like David (I noted the protocol of addressing Professor Hart more casually for the sake of humanization on earlier threads) was interrogating me, asking how I really felt, what I most deeply valued, whom I most fervently cherished and how those relational dispositions imparted normative impetus to how I’d really respond to various thought experiments, whether now or post-mortem, whether regarding God or, let’s say, my precious children. And he was suggesting “Hold that thought! Cherish that feeling!” before engaging any syllogism!

    Others, like Ed, assure me, rather, that … well, if that single damned soul is my son  … “Don’t worry. You’ll get over it.” And when we reflexively recoil & launch an invective, they complain of our harsh rhetoric.

    That’s it. I’ve said much more about much else, elsewhere & here. Sometimes too much, to be sure. So, I apologize again. But these are reasons of my heart. I’m searching for arguments that are not just valid. The most taut tautologies for me will also be existentially satisfying.

    In a more discursive vein, I realize that many have misinterpreted _TASBS_ as a theodicy. What I have described above has more to do with its theophanic thrust. I eschew evidential theodicies. I resist them vehemently. But I do countenance logical defenses regarding the problem of evil. One of the bigger takeaways from David’s arguments, for me, was a deeper appreciation for the conception of evil as privation, which, as a concept over the years, wasn’t wholly compelling to me, although, in some ways, just sufficient. What infused that notion with more meaning was interpreting it (as  a corrollary to _TASBS_) as referring to an eschatological reality. While I had previously bought into the idea that evil had no intrinsic existence, still, it most definitely was real and “existed” parasitically. To suggest that its parasitic existence wasn’t visible, real, etc always seemed to be wholly incoherent, lame, unpersuasive. One just could not convincingly say it was absolutely “no thing.”

    Only per a universalist account can one affirm that, ultimately & eternally, evil will indeed enjoy no parasitic existence &, as a corrollary to all being realizing its Sophianic union with Being beyond being, evil will lapse into utter no-thing-ness, absolutely not existing, since no privations of the good, of being, shall perdure. Evil may not be absolutely no thing “yet” but it is progressively “becoming” nonexisting, for we are poised to exist in fulfillment of the divine Logoi.

    Anything less than the utter destruction of evil’s parasitic existence (hindering our telic realizations) will leaves us with a Manichean residue and a “relatively good” God?

    So, while _TASBS_ proffered no shallow evidential theodicy as misread by folks wearing the wrong hermeneutical lenses, it does seem to provide a theophany which has practical implications for grounding a modest logical defense – not Platinga’s or Stump’s, but – perhaps like M.M. Adams?

    Thanks, David, for your writings. Thanks, Father, for the best theo-blog in cyberspace. If the many aren’t persuaded, at least no too few will be consoled & their faith – once in jeopardy – preserved!

    Thanks to Pastor Tom, Robert, Brian, Chris & Jordan and to my co-religionist, Justin.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jsobertsylvest says:

      To be clear re the normative role that our aesthetic sensibilities & moral intuitions play in how we judge competing theophanic accounts (eg DBH vs Feser):

      Nothing voluntarist going on.

      Our evaluative dispositions are integrally situated within an holistic hermeneutical spiral, which orients us to transcendental imperatives. They represent laws planted in our hearts, experienced by our consciences, which have been further informed by catechetical instruction, moral development, liturgical cultivation, formative spirituality, communal discernments & ongoing conversions, both secular & religious. They are not to be cursorily dismissed, hastily set aside or cynically caricatured. We’re talking conscience formation & primacy of conscience, especially re those of us who resonate with minority reports.

      I personally subscribe to an axiological epistemology, as has been previously articulated by Amos Yong and I in conversation with CS Peirce, Lonergan & RC Neville.

      Like

  13. Dear All,

    I am sorry if this question is over- asked, as I expect it to be, but where can I find some good books on DBH’s views on Metaphysics? I know that there may be some in ‘That All Shall Be Save,’ but the focus of that book is more on arguments for universalism, rather than the underlying philosophical assumptions/positions. The reason I ask is that current analytic philosophy makes different metaphysical assumptions that make the discussion more difficult: as shown by the reviews.

    The typical objections seem to stem from something like this:

    ¬A: the negation of A
    Principle of Possible Action (PPA): A person is morally responsible for a certain event only if he could have prevented it
    Choice Thesis (CT): On at least some occasions when a human agent is trying to decide between two or more incompatible courses of action, that agent is able to perform each of them
    Determinism (D): The past determines a unique future

    (1) If D, then ¬CT (premise)
    (2) If ¬CT, then for all x, if x is an event caused by human agents, then x could not have been prevented (premise)
    (3) There exist persons that have been (or ‘are’) morally responsible for certain events (premise)
    (4) PPA (premise)
    (5) ¬(2) (by 3 & 4)
    (6) CT & ¬D (modus tollens & 2 & 1 & 5)

    It seems to me the argument shows that moral responsibility entails the choice thesis. Thus, if humans are able to repent after death, and for that them to be morally responsible for that process, then they would have to be able to prevent that process, and thus be able to avoid repentance. Thus, it is possible that eternalism is true. Now I have simply suggested that it is possible that one eternally rejects God, but that would be one heck of a self-deception trick.

    Perhaps the ambiguity of the word ‘is able’ in the Choice Thesis above is what makes my argument problematic, and where DBH’s metaphysics would come in. Otherwise, it seems the argument is strong. I think that (1) has airtight arguments against for. See Peter Van Inwagen’s work or his ‘Consequence Argument’. I give (2) as a premise although that is inaccurate seeing that it seems to follow from the definition I gave for CT. (3) is true by virtue of Christian doctrine. (4) is intuitively plausible, and seems to be true; for example, I cannot be held responsible for something that happened before I was born, since I could do nothing to prevent it.

    To avoid the misunderstandings caused by the argument above, I would like to read up on DBH’s Metaphysics so that I can decide for myself whether universalism is likely true or not, based on the assumptions that he makes rather than those made by myself. I thought I would explain myself, as I have above so that people can understand where I am coming from, and give more suggestions.
    For this reason, I would appreciate any literary suggestions. Thank You!

    Like

    • DBH says:

      You are mistaken about the arguments in TASBS. That is what you must read first. Feel free also to read The Experience of God, The Hidden and the Manifest, and the forthcoming You Are Gods. Also the column published at Public Orthodoxy on freedom–the first of four. I will give you a clue, though: the choice thesis has nothing to do with rational freedom as such, and freedom has nothing to do with choice as such. If this were not so, every choice would actually have to be intrinsically irrational in order to be free, but every irrational choice would by definition be unfree.

      Incidentally, my argument is not dependent on the issue of personal culpability, one way or the other. Why do you think personal responsibility is the issue? This misunderstanding keeps cropping up, again and again, as if God’s dealing with us consisted in a simple calculus of whether we’re guilty for our acts and whether then it’s all right for God to torment some of us forever and ever and ever. That, needless to say, makes a nonsense of Christian doctrine. In fact, the issue of culpability is raised ion the book only with regard to the proportionality of “justice” and whether the claim of the eternity of hell inaugurates a contagion of equivocity.

      And the issue is not merely metaphysical. There is a moral logic as well. To say “A person is morally responsible for a certain event only if he could have prevented it” is to enunciate only a minimal condition, not a sufficient one. A person might be able to prevent something and yet not do so while still, as a result of extenuating circumstances, not being responsible for it. If say, “they know not what they do,” the actions of the “they,” while preventable, may also be qualified as to responsibility, and forgivable precisely for that reason.

      By the way, Grigory, the point you are making is perfectly clear, and more clear when written in prose. I vowed at the age of 23–and have violated the vow only twice–never to use logical notation. Invariably, it adds nothing to an exposition of your point. In fact, 99 times out of 100, it follows the same pattern: One says something perfectly clear, one translates it into a propositional notation that does nothing but transcribe what has already been said into an apparently more rigorous form, then one has to explain what the notation means so as to confirm that one means to say what it seems to say. This is analytic philosophy’s “mathematics envy,” and it should be eschewed.

      It does have one virtue, though: its seeming clarity can often hide a depth of conceptual confusion. That is certainly the case with the proof you offer here. To think that choice and determinism are two antithetical possibilities operating on the same logical plain is already to have rendered all talk of freedom vacuous.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Thank you very much for your response. I am quite new to this discussion and do not have the requisite theological or, as you explain above, philosophical knowledge to make any strong judgements of the topic. Therefore, thanks again for the recommendation.

        Liked by 1 person

        • DBH says:

          Please read the book in it’s entirety. It is not a collection of separate arguments, but one continuous argument that forms a totality.

          I think also you should ask whether the power to choose is an adequate definition of freedom. What is choice? How is it made? What prompts one choice rather than another?

          Anyway, see what you think of the argument itself.

          Liked by 1 person

      • DBH I tried to catch you in another thread but you moved on. Just a quick question I have after reading the hidden and the manifest: According to your reading of Gregory Nyssa, does apokatastasis precede epektasis or does epektasis precede apokatastasis?

        I ask because if the epektasis is infinite, and (as I understand it) necessarily is in dialogue with pain, evil, death and suffering (a sort of “christian samsara”), then the apokatastasis is an infinite distance away and practically speaking, universalism will never really be actualised, which would be sad. You once said somewhere “A lesson that takes an eternity to impart is a lesson that will never be learned”. Hence, this question is crucial for me.

        (On the other hand, if the apokatastasis is imminent and then followed by an epektasis free from suffering and evil, that’s good news which I can believe in)

        Like

        • brian says:

          Iron Knuckle, you did not ask me, but I’ll chime in. Epektasis is more like the end of C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle — a neverending story where each chapter is better than the one before. It’s the answer to the modern anxiety that somehow eternity will be boring, a kind of static surfeit lacking wonder or further journeying (because arrived) into the infinite plenitude of divinity. Such beatitude is the kind of eternal “rest” Christos Yannaras rails against, and rightly so. Epektasis is really all about the inexhaustible nature of the Good. Remember, evil is privative. All that dross, wood, hay, stubble burns away, but the ever new discovery of the Good perdures.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Maybe it’s a lack of imagination on my part, but I struggle to conceive of “narrative” apart from the “Orientation, Complication, Resolution” structure that was drilled into me from a young age in school. As such, I find it hard to understand the idea of “epektasis” without reference to some sort of evil or suffering that must be overcome. Perhaps this is just where imagination fails, and I have to take it on faith that salvation will be a non-violent struggle, all bliss and no pain.

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      • jubsta says:

        I desperately would like to know more about your positions on ‘free will/choice’ and all that. I did read the book, enjoyed it, and it affirmed what I suspected–that universalism makes more sense than an eternal hell.

        I gathered from the book and comments you made elsewhere that you find the modern free will debate very confused, conceptually mistaken and unhelpful, that you reject the categories it establishes like in/compatibilism, libertarianism, and so on.

        To ask as specific of a question as possible: is there a place in existence for the kind of freedom that consists in ‘an ability to do otherwise’?. Are there choices possible where my decision is not dictated by my orientation toward my telos/the good, or simply a byproduct of being in-time/my gnomic will? A choice where I really could or could’ve done one or the other? Or is this nonsense in your view?

        In my current view (a mishmash of lefty Catholicism/Thomism, MacIntyre, universalism) it feels as though there’s room for those decisions. Insofar as God ‘created out of nothing’ and ‘did not have to do so’, it seems like our choices could be our participation in God’s image of ‘creating a choice out of nothing’. It seems to me possible that we could have choices between different goods–maybe of equal goodness, choices about how we form ourselves, not between good and evil (as a privation of the good), as those choices are clearly ones where, if we knew better/knew our true telos, we could only really choose the good.

        But I also feel as though that if we want to be culpable at all for our actions, for our choices to do bad, to choose the lesser good, that we also must choose freely, be able to do otherwise. But, taking seriously the idea that evil is the privation of good, that it is nothingness, that we cannot really (with full knowledge of the good) choose the lesser good/evil, it is hard for me to see those choices as ones that could ever have alternate outcomes. I have a hard time imagining a being with perfect knowledge of the true good/their own telos ever choosing the lesser good.

        I suppose a compromise is that when we choose a lesser good/bad things, it is free/we could have done otherwise, but also a product of our gnomic will/being in time/imperfect knowledge. But we are culpable (only in a temporal sense, not eternally) in that sense that we know that we are *meant* to be oriented towards the greater good/our true telos–even if we don’t have perfect knowledge of it. Our knowledge that there IS knowledge that would change our decision makes us culpable. That feels coherent, that it could be correct, but it also feels murky/vague.

        It could be I’m completely off about these concepts though, I’m not sure, that’s why I’m asking. I haven’t given much critical thought–as you’re suggesting–to what choice is, or if some of these ideas don’t really make sense. Open to changing my mind.

        Like

    • jsobertsylvest says:

      Grigory, this isn’t a literary resource, just my notes, which will point you toward same. Just search for this pdf online: Retreblement – a Systematic Apocatastasis & Pneumatological Missiology per a Neo-Chalcedonian Cosmotheandrism

      Taken alone, the most coherent accounts of human agency don’t traffic in terms of all or nothing & either-or vis a vis categories like in/determined, intellectualist, voluntarist, so labels like libertarian & compatabilist don’t successfully refer, anthropologically.

      Taken together, divine & human agential interactivity’s not competitive. If it was, then we’d have to rethink our Chalcedonian Christology?

      Finally, I have a heavily reductionist & positivist bent and my long ago grad studies focused on neuroendocrine precursors of behavior. In the end, as I’ve surveyed competing philosophies of mind & theological anthropologies over the years, I’ve realized that, as imagoes Dei with unfathomable depth dimensions, the most robust algorithms we can apply are – not sylly syllogisms, but – semiformal heuristics, i.e. our common sense & shared sensibilities.

      Like

  14. brian says:

    Don’t suppose A.N. Whitehead precisely had the Analytic crowd in mind, but whenever I encounter them, I think of his late comment that “the exactness is a fake.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • brian says:

      Iron Knuckle, I do think it’s necessary to conceive of narrative as ultimately rooted in Trinitarian life. John Milbank among others has emphasized the “peaceful” difference that divine perichoresis enacts as opposed to our default position rooted in cosmic violence. The latter is a result of fallen existence and should not be taken as intrinsic to creaturely being. Balthasar has some apt intuitions about the dynamic, event quality of divine plenitude. This is counter to our finite conceptions, but I think suggestive of how one might begin to think story as driven by the mysterious good rather than reactive to evil.

      Liked by 1 person

      • thank you for this lead. I’ve begun to read Balthasar again. I tried to read Mysterium Paschale a few years ago and was unable to get more than a quarter through it. His “narrative driven” theology is fascinating upon returning to it in 2020

        Like

  15. Cristina H. says:

    I would like to say, as a student who sometimes pretends to understand theology, that DBH’s book (and this blog!) helped me to carry through a profound crisis of faith inspired by the monstrous God I read about in traditionalist Catholic literature (I am thinking in particular of St. Alphonsus of Liguori’s depictions of young girls being dragged to hell by the ankles for omitting a single mortal sin from their confession). I never took those pamphlets seriously -doing so would have meant carrying a psychological burden so crippling I would have soon abandoned Christianity altogether-, but so much did they erode my trust in the goodness of God and creation and even the goodness of Christ himself that I was led to sympathize even with hardcore Satanists. I simply could not see how insisting on the doctrine of eternal conscious torment could lead any thinking person to a greater and purer love of God; as a matter of fact, the more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that one could not seriously entertain such an idea without ultimately despairing of God’s love or rejecting Him altogether. It is telling in that regard that I have yet to meet an atheist or agnostic who does not count the notion of hell -and the ways in which it is used to coerce believers into submission- as one of their chief motives for abandoning the faith. I imagine some would try to dismiss this fact by drawing attention to the sinfulness, stupidity, or cowardice of the apostate, but my personal experience is that they (the apostates I have met) are rarely more inclined to any of those things than your average Christian: they simply find the notion repulsive and monstrous, and that they should find it so is not a byproduct of their coddled, degenerate, 21st-century lifestyles, but a basic -and dare I say Christian- moral instinct(*). I cannot begin to explain how much freer I have felt to trust and love God and revel in His beauty ever since I began to reject the notion, among others, that he is some sort of abusive, drunken father whose arbitrary displays of vindictiveness can only be placated by the Blessed Mother’s cries of supplication. That God is not the God I have encountered during prayer or in Scripture or before the Blessed Sacrament, and it comforts me to know that many saints and scholars have questioned the extent to which Scripture supports that notion of God that I have encountered in most hyper-traditionalist Catholic literature. I find that, psychologically, it is much less taxing to bear the difficulties and complexities of the Christian life when you no longer feel forced to think about God that way.

    (*) It is well-known that the first Christian missionaries to Japan encountered a similar problem in their attempts to evangelize the Japanese, most of whom refused to accept the (hideous) idea that their parents and grandparents, whom they prayed to daily, were, in fact, burning in a lake of fire for ever and ever through no fault of their own.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. FESER’S AD HOC EXCUSES
    In his post, “No Hell, No Heaven,” Fezer starts with an ad hoc hypothesis, namely that only beings with physical bodies can repent, so after one is separated from one’s body at death, one remains stuck in either good or evil mode. Of course that simply begs the question of why the damned can’t repent after regaining bodies at their resurrection. So Feser adds a further ad hoc hypothesis, that new resurrection bodies are restricted concerning changes they can undergo. But then one merely has to ask, why are the resurrected given bodies that prevent them from expressing free will, and that lock them out of any possibility of repenting or seeing the light? So his explanations are totally ad hoc.

    Like

  17. Louis says:

    Is there more fleshed out reading I can do on the topic? Admittedly, I have been struggling heavily with faith currently, and life circumstances have left me broken materially and spiritually. Others have pointed out in the comments of DBH’s work saving them from the precipice of taking their own life. I feel as if I am in that place currently.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Bilbo Baggins says:

    A bout of insomnia allows me to be the first to announce that Ed Feser has replied to DBH’s response:

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2020/07/hart-hell-and-heresy.html

    Liked by 1 person

    • my comment on his blog:

      “I’m Catholic and I’m a universalist who agrees whole-heartedly with Hart, his argument, his analysis of church history, and his rhetoric.

      But if you’re gonna call me a heretic jokes on you: Jesus was crucified for a being a heretic. I’ll wear it as a badge of honour and just go about my business as usual.

      With respect to Ed’s argument about culpability. I suspect Hart would cut the Gordian knot here by simply claiming that the Christian God is not the sort of God who even cares about questions of culpability at all. Our God is a God of mercy, love, and scandalous grace. The God of retributive justice is in actual fact Satan. Quibbling about “who is culpable” and “how much they are culpable” and therefore “how badly should they be punished in Hell” is the favourite past time of the principalities and powers, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ wants nothing to do with such morally appalling “theology”. cf St Isaac of Ninevah.

      Whether or not Ed is correct about the culpability of acts and the possibility of being culpable for a sin that would merit everlasting damnation, this is completely irrelevant because God does not give us what we are culpable for; he is the God of infinite love and grace and mercy who restores dead sinners to eternal life; he is not a god of retribution who feels compelled to punish us in painstaking retributive proportion to our crimes.

      If the Catholic tradition says otherwise, the Catholic tradition is wrong. Thankfully it doesn’t though.”

      I speculate on what Hart would say on the basis of his essays in the Hidden and the Manifest. The cross and resurrection revealed that the old order of immolative sacrifice and retributive Justice has absolutely whatsoever nothing to do with the one true God. God does not deal in retribution; that’s the job of the principalities and powers, and we should all know by now what the resurrection means for them

      Liked by 1 person

    • Wayne Fair says:

      Oh my – round 2 (?) begins… bracing myself for the apocalyptic – and, admittedly, hoping for “The Revelation of DBH” 🙂

      Like

    • rephinia says:

      Thing is that once DBH has made such a devastating response, no counter will be of any real interest. It’s very hard to take Feser seriously at all, he looks like he’s trying to gasp for breath after having his credibility ripped from him.

      Like

    • Andy says:

      “Well, yikes, as the kids say. Hell hath no fury like David Bentley Hart with his pride hurt.”

      Did Feser actually read Hart’s response? I didn’t get the impression Hart thought Feser’s review to be anything of consequence (neither did I with all the copy-pasted talking points it rattled off), which is sort of something that needs to happen for it to reach pride-hurting levels…

      Like

    • jsobertsylvest says:

      re Feser’s Rejoinder to DBH’s Rejoinder

      Speaking for myself so as not to pretend to have properly interpreted others:

      Feser focuses on WHEN the Fathers reported universalism but ignores WHAT they reported, i.e. that it was widespread in the first centuries.

      Feser’s makes an inapposite rejoinder, suggesting universalists implicitly conflate 2 kinds of irrationality. Instead, our approach turns on – not qualitative, but – quantitative anthropological distinctions.

      One shouldn’t approach anthropology with a wholly dualistic mindset that traffics only in “all or nothing” & “either/or” terms regarding human realities that otherwise present mostly in terms of degrees.

      In one’s anthropology, generally, one should not facilely characterize human behavior as absolutely in/determined, un/free, ir/rational, ex/culpable, voluntarist, intellectualist, etc

      Ergo, Feser’s inventory of the qualitative ways one can be ir/rational & ex/culpable continues to miss the central quantitative argument, which, instead, pleads for proportionality. No universalist believes one cannot be culpable, this way or another, only that one can never be THAT culpable in terms of degrees.

      In any given metaphysic, then, one should often prescind from necessity to probability and always retreat from near apodictic certainty to fallibilism. Otherwise, e.g. one’s scholasticism will devolve from the neo- to the decadent.

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  19. Michael Nelson says:

    To be fair to Ed, 300-400 years afterwards can easily be interpreted as “centuries.” So I think that is a reasonable question, even though I disagree with Ed since I think universalism is likely to be true.

    In the spirit of building bridges, though, may I ask, DBH, what is the other book by Feser you recommend, other than Five Proofs (which I also thought was excellent)? I know he admires your book “Atheist Delusions,” and has said it makes some powerful arguments.

    -Michael

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  20. Bilbo Baggins says:

    DB Hart has replied in the comment section at Feser’s blog. Assuming that is the real David Bentley Hart, I wonder if there are copyright infringements. Isn’t he required to reply on this blog?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Bilbo, I have tried to get David under contract, but he refuses to sign on the dotted line. Something about movie rights. 😎

      Like

    • DBH says:

      It wasn’t really a reply. I got bored and someone sent me a link. There’s nothing much to reply to. Ed keeps bluffing away. Now he claims he meant that universalism didn’t appear until the fourth century, which of course still proves he did not read the book. He also thinks that, when discussing the issue of the word “aionios,” I claim that–in regard to Christ’s eschatological language in Matthew–it means a period of limited duration. Which once again proves he did not read the book. He tries to make sense of his “pantheism” critique, again proving that he has not…

      Well, you get the point.

      Like

      • DBH says:

        I won’t go back to the site, though. Ed’s lost any trace of dignity just at the moment, and it would be better if he just confessed the fraud and moved on.

        Like

  21. Tom says:

    David (DBH, just in case there’s another David here I didn’t see)…

    You mentioned an upcoming book entitled ‘You Are Gods’. Would that be your book on consciousness or a separate work? Just interested.

    Tom

    Like

    • DBH says:

      Very different books.

      Like

    • TIK says:

      DBH, i was explaining to my partner earlier how it is an established fact that you have read literally everything anyone has ever written ever (and in every language) and she immediately rebuffed me with “i bet he hasn’t read twilight” and all of a sudden I’m not as confident. Please confirm?

      (And On a more serious note, I’ve never seen you engage with mormonism and so am curious to know if you’ve ever studied the BoM or JST/IV?)

      Like

      • DBH says:

        I’ve never read Twilight. I never will.

        I have read the Mormon scriptures, however. A conversation for some other time.

        Like

        • rephinia says:

          Since the topic came up…I’ve been immensely enriched by your piece ‘From a Vanished Library’, any chance of a follow-up of any sorts?

          Like

  22. Matthew Hryniewicz says:

    منطق پشت کلماتت را بالا ببر نه صدایت. باران است که گل ها را پرورش می دهد نه صاعقه

    Liked by 1 person

    • DBH says:

      لغتك العربية غامضة للغاية بالنسبة لي.

      Like

    • DBH says:

      No fair quoting classical Farsi–Rumi, to be precise. I nearly went mad trying to figure it out and finally had to use Google.

      कृप्या दयालु बनें।

      Like

  23. Dr. Hart,

    I know you’re enjoying a fight here (don’t deny that; you relish conflict too much), but I have had questions, and you’re active on this thread. So I’m going to ask them.

    1). I assume God is atemporal, not just timeless or eternal. He has neither past, present, nor future, or only “present” if we may transcript a word. This would incline me to think that if God created any being and created a world with suffering, then even temporal suffering is eternal within the Godhead. I suspect that you would consider them didactic, but the monstrosity and enormity of some of it makes that seem rather weak to me, and I find the idea that God couldn’t avoid the suffering less appealing. So I’m curious how you settle that part with your argument about creatio ex nihilo.

    2). Related: Where did evil come from originally (I don’t mean history, but how could it originate)? If we are oriented toward the good by nature, how could we deviate so in order to regard evil as good or to adopt a mixed bag of good and evil? I’ve politely argued about this with my priest for the last few years, and I’ve no answer.

    These are questions I’ve had since before “That All Shall be Saved” that just happen to pertain to it. I like a good fight as much as the next guy, but I was already in a speculative universalist camp, so I don’t have many propositions on this subject that you would object to that I wouldn’t have to lay out books’ worth of premises to justify. I’m more interested in your answers. I’ve never been able to answer them satisfactorily, and they do vex me.

    If you answer, thanks for the answer. If you don’t, well, may your mead turn sour 🙂

    Like

    • barefootrover –

      You asked: Where did evil come from originally (I don’t mean history, but how could it originate)?
      __________________________

      Rumors have it that there’s been an arrest, indictment & arraignment in this case, which awaits final adjudication. And, it’s God, Who’s in the docket?

      To wit: Thus every evil that time comprises, natural or moral—a worthless distinction, really, since human nature is a natural phenomenon—is an arraignment of God’s goodness: every death of a child, every chance calamity, every act of malice; everything diseased, thwarted, pitiless, purposeless, or cruel; and, until the end of all things, no answer has been given. ~ DBH

      God, Creation, and Evil: The Moral Meaning of creatio ex nihilho David Bentley Hart Radical Orthodoxy: Theology, Philosophy, Politics, Vol. 3, Number 1 (September 2015): 1-17.

      __________________________

      You also asked:

      If we are oriented toward the good by nature, how could we deviate so in order to regard evil as good or to adopt a mixed bag of good and evil?

      __________________________

      It seems to me that “oriented to the good” (as well as all else we’re intended to be by nature, i.e. our telos) refers to – not how we begin our journey, but – how we will end it. To be sure, we all begin as divine images, but we’re intended to “become” divine likenesses, to be divinized by the same divine logoi that humanized Christ, the divine Logos.

      Once divinized, your calculus seems right in that, thus oriented, we indeed wouldn’t deviate from our orientation to the good.

      Paradoxically, I’m tempted to say we “couldn’t” deviate precisely because we will have realized our authentic “freedom.”

      Your questions may not go away, though. They may, like my own, only change, next asking: “Why such an epistemic & axiological distancing in the first place? Why the journeying & becoming?”

      Once again, I most resonate with a positive mysterian take: We don’t know.

      To wit: The origination of sin is properly a mystery, properly inexplicable in a scheme of thought where God is the ultimate principle of explanation. ~ Kathryn Tanner

      Chapter 4. Human Freedom, Human Sin, and God the Creator by Kathryn E. Tanner, _The God Who Acts Philosophical and Theological Explorations_ Edited by Thomas F. Tracy

      However:

      “Sin has no power to break God’s faithfulness to God’s own original intentions for us; we are still in God’s eyes at least the creatures God created us to be. ~ Kathryn Tanner

      Christ the Key (Current Issues in Theology) by Kathryn Tanner, Cambridge University Press (2009)

      __________________________

      Still, I don’t resist all speculation to your second question, as long as same is restricted to logical defenses re the problem of evil & not evidential theodicies (which can prove too much & risk trivializing the enormity of human suffering & immensity of human pain).

      Certainly, you’re aware of defenses re free will (like Plantinga) & may have come across others, e.g. soul-making (Irenaeus), relationship-enabling (E. Stump), postmortem healing of divine intimacy (M.M. Adams), etc

      Generally, the thrust seems to be that such “virtues are more meaningful than if they were simply graced to humans by God” (Hick). Freedom, itself, as well as the intimacy it grows, may be more deeply meaningful if they’re realized through a cooperation with grace (synergy) rather than simply gifted?

      The account with which I most resonate is that of Pastor Thomas Belt. It is entitled “At Liberty to Become Free” and is hosted here at EO.

      Pastor Tom explores our existence as conatus essendi  (the inherent struggle of personal becoming) in terms of a means by which nature realizes its telos, its truest freedom.

      Like

      • jsobertsylvest says:

        re awaiting adjudication, to be clear, from the briefs I’ve seen, it’ll be dismissed

        Like

      • Thank you.

        May your mead be ever sweet or dry but not sour,

        I’ll have a look at the different sources.

        Your quote for my first question from “God, Creation, and Evil: The Moral Meaning of Creatio ex Nihilo” pretty much is where I’m at. Every explanation of evil necessarily seems to come to rest on God, or else the “God” in question is some being less than God.

        For the second:

        I haven’t read those works, so I’ll have a look at them. You are correct, though, that my question would not go away with the first answer, because “Why such an epistemic & axiological distancing…[and] journeying & becoming” is more my thrust to start off with.

        At the moment, I’m very much in the “It’s a mystery.” It’s irrational, for instance, to assert that God intends evil ultimately, and I have found all the explanations fundamentally bad (especially Plantinga’s free-will defense). I hadn’t read Stump or Adams.

        I’ll get Belt’s essay and listen to it with some yard work I need to do.

        So, sounds like you’re in the spot I’m in “I haven’t a clue. Now I’m going to smoke some meat.” I’ll have a look at some of the sources, and thanks for the response

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  24. Mike Solberg says:

    DBH, I have read your work for a long time, beginning with BotI, first encouraged by Hauerwas. Seeing that you are reading this thread, I just want to say thank you for your work. You have longed helped me have a better grasp of what Christianity is all about, how to live faithfully, and how to serve faithfully in the parish. Your work is intellectually brilliant and theologically creative (in the sense of improved takes on, or fecund retellings of, the tradition, not as if you are somehow making up new stuff). Thank you.

    Like

  25. Father Alban says:

    The quality of this article (response) by DBH and the many interesting and varied responses make for compulsive reading (for me anyway).

    This debate has caused me to reflect deeply on the nature of God and His relationship with human persons. One thing I have decided: I have a vested interest in universal salvation being a real possibility. You might even go as far as to say I need it to be true, just as much, I imagine, as our infernalist brethren need the possibility of everlasting torment to be true, but for very different reasons.

    To put it simply: for me, the idea, or experience, of a loving God, a God who reveals that love is intrinsic to His very nature, and that love is the key to our sharing in His life (1 John 4:16), is absolutely and totally incompatible with the notion that this same God could allow or will one of His children to suffer eternally. I feel something of a physical revulsion when asked to worship or preach a God who supposedly can inflict eternal suffering on any of His children, whether by His intentional will or by His permissive will. That said, I am not God, and I don’t get to tell God what He can and cannot do. Forgive me, but if that is Who God really is, then I choose to have nothing to do with Him. He has nothing to offer me, or the people that I serve in my joint vocations as a priest and a psychotherapist.

    I am an Orthodox Christian priest, but earn my living as a psychotherapist, specialising in working with folks who have experienced all sorts of relational, developmental, and/or physical trauma due to childhood sexual/physical/emotional abuse, emotional neglect, domestic violence, bullying, violent crime, combat, etc, etc. Every day people walk in to my office, people who’s inner realty is characterised by unmanageable emotional distress or emotional numbness, paranoia, self-hatred, guilt, and shame; and who’s outer reality, as a consequence of this, becomes a soul destroying inability to connect with other human beings to access the solace and comfort they need to heal what is going on in their minds and bodies.

    The vast majority of my patients will never set foot inside a church; many will become perpetrators of abuse or violence themselves, driven by unmet or corrupted needs for safety and nurturance; others will use drugs, alcohol, sex, or worse to help regulate or numb out emotions that they just can’t deal with; others will take up with partner after partner in futile attempts to find that sense of intimacy and connection, the absence of which has haunted them all their lives; and maybe a lucky few will find some sense of acceptance and support by becoming a buddhist, pagan, or part of some fringe political group.

    What use do these people (or any of us) have for, or affinity with, a God who can will or permit an afterlife of eternal punishment, when all they have known in this life is pain, alienation, and rejection? What possible function could He serve in their lives? Someone else who is just waiting to get His hands on them to inflict further pain, because somehow their suffering is demanded by His sense of justice?

    The God of love, transformed into the stuff of nightmares.

    And as for the myth that all human beings are ultimately and equally free to choose or reject God, free to follow or reject His commandments. Let’s acknowledge with saint Augustine that God made us for Himself and that our hearts will not rest until they rest in Him. We are created in God’s image and likeness to enter into eternal communion with God. We have no choice in this. He is not only our creator, He is our ultimate end. Every human being is driven by a genetic, biological, physical, psychological, spiritual, and relational imperative to seek out God and enter into communion with Him. We can’t switch this longing for God off, but often, very often, it is damaged by life’s experiences, and like a dodgy compass sets us off in the opposite direction from what we are truly looking for. This drive for us to connect and commune with God motivates everything that we do, and runs through everything that we do – but, sadly, a lot of time this hunger and thirst for God, for various reasons, become skewed and debased, and we end up seeking God in places where He can’t be found, in ways that obliterate His presence, finally trading the God of our longing for the objects of our fallen desires.

    The myth of freedom holds that we are all free to make choices for the good. However, freedom to do this depends entirely on how free we are from any forms of constraint or coercion, internal (mentally) as well as external (relationally or socially), which would limit this freedom. Try telling an addict that he or she is free not to steal money to buy his/her next fix; or telling a trauma-bonded wife that she is free to leave her abusive husband; or try telling the severely depressed man or woman that he/she is free to ignore the suicidal thoughts which promise escape from unbearable mental torment or emotional distress.

    Freedom, choice, heaven, hell.

    Notions of justice and freedom and autonomy can seem very attractive and sensible in the moral theology books, but sometimes in the context of human suffering, and to the suffering human, they sound and feel almost smug and obscene, a theology of demons, words which taunt and induce a sense of despair. These notions are about as much use to my patients and my parishioners as insurance policies are to butterflies.

    Why do I need to believe in universal salvation? Because I need to believe that God is love, and that no sin is greater than His infinite mercy; I need to believe that suffering, as well as faith, has meaning and purpose; but most of all I need to believe that there is hope for the worst and most entrenched sinner -me! And that’s not just a throw away comment. As a priest, at the Kairon, entering the Holy Place, I feel my sinfulness more than at any other time, and I welcome the prayer that is said by the priest then: “How shall I, the unworthy, dare to enter the brilliance of your Holy Place? If I venture to enter into Your Bridal Chamber, my garment will denounce me, for it is not a wedding garment, and I shall be cast out by the Angels. Cleanse, O Lord, the defilement of my soul and save me, FOR YOU ARE THE LOVER OF MANKIND.” How much solace I have been given in speaking and hearing those words in the context of the Divine Liturgy: For You are the lover of mankind….not just the lover of the nice and respectable folks, and not just the lover of Orthodox Christian mankind. The Lover of all mankind…..but most especially, the Lover of sinners – because, as St. Paul said, God showed His love for us in that He died for us while we were yet sinners (Rom. 5:8)

    Anyway, I am very grateful to DBH and Father Aidan for continuing to wave the flag of (hoped for) universalism.

    Liked by 10 people

    • TIK says:

      It’s insightful that you note the popular understanding of moral theology to be a “theology of demons”. From what I’ve read of DBH, he would probably agree with that on even more of a literal level then you were intending when you wrote it

      Like

    • Cody Hatch says:

      Beautifully said. Thank you.

      Like

    • Cameron Davis says:

      I’ve noticed that Christian mental health professionals across the board tend to have a hard time with ECT because of their professional experience. I would love to talk with you more, if you are interested. I ended up leaving the Orthodox Church and returning to the Episcopal Church because it was all too much for my anxiety.

      Like

    • David says:

      Beautiful post. As someone who has studied both theology and psychology (albeit without much distinction in either!), but alas also burdened by a number of spiritual and moral problems related to some of the issues you describe – some foist upon me, others very much of my own making – I often feel like I need to talk to someone like you, should you ever be interested.

      Your post has also reminded me that I’d like to add my gratitude to Fr Aidan, DBH and others whose defence of the greater hope has strengthened my life immeasurably. As another poster alluded to above, this is saving lives – God bless.

      Liked by 2 people

  26. Michael Nelson says:

    Two further questions for the group:

    1. What do people think of the pro-universalist arguments made by Eric Reitan and John Kronen in “God’s Final Victory” or Thomas Talbot in “The Inescapable Love of God?” They seem more philosophical in nature and look interesting.

    2. Does it sadden anyone else that Ed and David cannot seem to get along as brothers in Christ? We are told to love our enemies, and yet, despite the great contributions both men have made to Christianity (certainly, both writers have strengthened my faith) they continue to hate on each other year after year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Michael, I have reviewed The Inescapable Love of God and have quoted God’s Final Victoryin several of my articles. Both are must read books!

      Like

    • DBH says:

      How are their arguments more philosophical as such? We all share many of the same lines of argument, with variations. Have you read TASBS or just Feser’s misrepresentation?

      Hey, I have tried to make peace with Ed three times. But the last review was at once so vicious and so dishonest that I felt he was telling me that the armistice was boring him.

      Like

      • DBH,

        What is the OTHER book of Feser’s that you like? His one on Aristotle and Science looks interesting.

        Like

        • Michael Nelson says:

          Someone above guessed that the other book might be Feser’s “Philosophy of Mind.” I’ve never read that, but I own both “Five Proofs” and “Aristotle’s Revenge” and think they are both excellent.

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        • DBH says:

          I thought the one on Aristotle and science was OK, but too superficial in places and too simplistic regarding the state of the sciences today. And it would help if he had more scientific training himself. The two places where these arguments are most interesting are in quantum physics and molecular biology, but the arguments appropriate to each have to be carefully distinguished.

          I meant Five Proofs and the basic intro to Philosophy of Mind, which is an excellent text for undergraduates.

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      • Michael Nelson says:

        I didn’t mean more philosophical than TASBS, which I’ve only just started, I just meant that its contents are primarily philosophical arguments like P1, P2, P3 (via P1 and P2), therefore C1. They spend far less time interpreting scripture–they admit that isn’t their specialty–and the subtitle of the book is “a comparative philosophical case for universalism.”

        And I understand it is frustrating to receive a scathing review, but I just wish us classical theists could unite against common enemies more, and fight over doctrine less.

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        • DBH says:

          Well, actually, there’s just as much scriptural interpretation in Talbott’s book, and only a chapter on scripture in mine, part of which is philological. Hence my confusion.

          Oh, you mean they use analytic notation. I take great pride in avoiding that whenever possible. Though I might write a “geometric” version of the argument in TASBS (Id quod demonstrandum est –> Quod erat demonstrandum) just to help out certain readers. While I still don’t believe Ed read the book, I am more than willing to believe that reading it would not help him nearly as much as getting it in propositional form.

          Liked by 1 person

    • John Gallant says:

      I’m not sure how you get much more intensely philosophical than Hart’s book. Have you read it yet?

      Like

    • Lamb says:

      Does it sadden anyone else that Ed and David cannot seem to get along as brothers in Christ?
      Sort of but not really. They’re only playing out the internal aggression that’s built into the Christian dogmatic system which lays great demands on its adherents. It’s not surprising that there should be conflict as the Christian conscience struggles for its rights. It would only be really regrettable if the two couldn’t be friendly to each other in person and outside of a literary context.

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      • Michael Nelson says:

        I know that the doctrinal debates are important, but these days I really feel that we need the top Christian scholars (Feser, DBH, WLC, etc.) to fight for Christianity against people like Dawkins, Harris, Ehrman etc. And when we do fight in-house, I wish this could be done charitably, and in the spirit of Christian fellowship (without the insults).

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        • DBH says:

          Michael,

          Your premise is wrong. Feser and I are not on the same side. We are not in the same house. In a three-way debate involving him, Dawkins, and me, I would agree with Feser on certain principles of classical theistic metaphysics and nothing else. But I would prefer Dawkins’s atheism to Feser’s religion. I am not an apologist for “Christianity” in general. Most “Christianity” is something I would just as lief ceased to exist. The God of Feser’s faith is omnipotent, omniscient, and enjoys full providential discretion over the fates of all creation, and yet allows it to be so (even infallibly permissively decrees it to be so) that countless rational creatures will suffer eternal torments. Feser’s God not only permits but enjoins the practice of capital punishment. And so on. To me, atheism of almost any kind–even one as philosophically inept as Dawkins’s–is nearer to the true God than is the theism of that sort of religion. Better a world propelled meaninglessly by selfish genes than a world created and governed by an evil God. TASBS’s rejection of certain kinds of Christianity is far more passionate than The Experience of God’s rejection of naturalism.

          Ad for “top scholars”–well, I would prefer not to be classed alongside Feser and (most especially) William Lane Craig.

          DBH

          Liked by 1 person

          • Fr. Alexis Baldwin says:

            Dear DBH,

            I’m glad you put this perspective of yours out there. To me it reads like a kind of “I’d rather have the fallen and lapsed occasional attending person than the self-righteous pharisee actual on the books church member in church” argument. You wouldn’t, of course, be alone in that kind of thinking. Perhaps this kind of line of thought can be justified by the Publican and Pharisee or leaving the flock to find the stray. I’m not convinced that that is actually what going on here though. This kind of thinking is less in line with those parables. My experience has taught me that this kind of dichotomy is more false than true. The view certainly seems to be lacking in my experience. Most folks are publicans, very few are actually pharisees. But, we certainly like to make folks the Pharisee. No surprise that the folks we like and agree with seem to be immune from being the Pharisee.

            Like

          • Michael Nelson says:

            Obviously, there are many ways to construct camps. Personally, I think “people who believe in God, believe the words of Jesus etc.” and “people who don’t” are more fundamentally in opposition than eastern christians vs. western christians. Dawkins and co think that God is made up, that Jesus is a charlatan, that the new testament is nonsense, and that theology is a waste of time (after all, why bother interpreting or translating the NT when it’s full of nonsense and has no relevance to people today?)

            Yes, atheists doesn’t promote the doctrine of hell, but neither do they promote universalism: they claim both positions are silly. Ehrman, by the way, has just released a book claiming that Jesus words suggest annihilationism–again, not hell nor universalism. And while they correctly point out the flaws of fundamentalism, they attribute this to all of Christian thought (an obvious strawman). I was happy to read your review last year of Dawkins “outgrowing God,” where you ably expose this.

            We might just have to agree to disagree as to whether atheists are worse than christians of other traditions. I maintain that they are. WLC might disagree with your views on the NT, but at least he believes that the NT is important and worth studying (as opposed to Dawkins who thinks that reading the Bible to your kids constitutes a form of child abuse). Whether people are reading DBH, Feser, WLC, Koons, Swinburne, Pruss, Zizioulas, Talbott, Bychkov etc. at least they might be moved to further reading, prayer, and contemplation. Whereas if they buy into the foolishness that Dawkins is peddling, these prospects are dim.

            Like

          • DBH says:

            I have no problem with atheists in the abstract, and feel no allegiance to Christians or theists in the abstract. A murderous religion is not closer to God than is a humane laicism. A “Christian” who preaches capital punishment is farther from Christ and the Kingdom than is a secularist who abominates the practice. So I am not interested in the lines of alliance you presume. Sorry but I’m not an apologist for “faith” or for “the faith.”

            Like

          • DBH, quick question about your NT translation: What would you say if I were to translate “kosmos” as “samsara”? I think it adds an interesting flavour to certain NT verses for example when Jesus says “I have overcome the kosmos”. I suspect this could aid with presenting the gospel to Hindus and buddhists. ‘cosmos’ is not a category that Dharmic religions tend to think about, but ‘samsara’ is their bread and butter and seems like a strangely fitting way to describe exactly what it is that Christ has rescued us from.

            Like

          • Also on that note, it would be the most hilarious answered prayer of mine if you would deign to translate the NT into sanskrit :p

            Like

      • Bilbo Baggins says:

        Darn, you’re making me feel guilty for enjoying a good donnie brook. I was just disappointed that it didn’t go more rounds.

        Like

  27. jeremyklein228 says:

    Sincerely, I think that what Father Alban has said is completely on the nose. But, I will give my own perspective, too. Perhaps because my ego is too large (Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me), or perhaps just to say what I’ve been thinking for so long, now that these questions are raising to the mainstream.

    When I was a Thomist and a Catholic, I used to find debate between DBH and Feser very interesting. I was on the side of Feser at that time, though the more I looked into Thomism and Feser’s arguments for it, the more I have come to believe he is a sort of charlatan, a man who projects one metaphysics as right by its own very nature. It is the most juvenile form of dogmatism, assenting that your own understanding is right because it’s just true. Whenever faced with any problem with Thomism, Feser will come up with some argument that seems accurate at first glance, and appeases everyone except those who look further.

    A good example of this would be his argument rejecting modal collapse. Rather than conceding the point- which I think is the right thing to do, and see no escape from for the logically consistent Thomist- he proposed an argument that, well, God’s creation of the world cannot be necessary, because the creation of the world is extrinsic rather than intrinsic to God. This appears to be a good argument, until you realize that the basis for the problems with modal collapse are found in the fact that God’s will, volition, and desire to do as He does are intrinsic to Him. This is what people objecting to divine simplicity have actually said, and Feser does not address it at all. According to
    his own metaphysics, this fundamentally and inherently means that all of God’s volition towards the one perfectly simple act of creation, being intrinsic, is necessary, for it is identical to his essence, which is existence (see Thomistic divine simplicity). Multiple people pointed this out in the comments of his “refutation” of modal collapse, yet there was never again a reply from Feser that addressed that seemingly immovable problem. It was this sort of behavior that convinced me that Thomism, and much of traditional Catholicism as a whole, was based on a sort of vapid circularism. We are right because we are right, and no one else can be right because everything we say is necessary! But the Thomistic understanding of divine simplicity is not the only possible one! The great Fr. Stalinoe, for example, had a perfectly sound (in my opinion) model of divine simplicity that differs from the Thomistic one- we do not need to stick with a faulty understanding just because it’s comfortable!

    Now, as I am preparing to join the Orthodox faith, I’ve come to appreciate DBH much more. I am not certain that I agree with everything he says- my priest has cautioned me about his certainty on universalism- but my priest and I still find great value in what he does. This is much more than I could honestly say about Feser. Yet, the problem Feser exemplifies remains in Orthodoxy, too! It is shockingly and unfortunately common to say that “tradition says X, therefore X is true,” all while ignoring the arguments that genuinely question what the tradition has said. For example, yesterday I was told that I should run away from OCA because one of its Archbishops called Origen a saint (not a canonized saint, just a saint), which was heresy. Many people in our tradition certainly agree that the Church anathematized Origen- yet, this does not make it true! There are genuine historical debates about this issue, that make it seem much, much more complex than it actually is. And, believe it or not, there is a very legitimate case to be made that Origen was never condemned at all. By no means does it make you a heretic to believe it. As DBH says, when we look at tradition, we need to not just look at the majority opinion, or assume that what we believe is what the Church has always taught. Instead, we need to take the best parts of the tradition, using reason, faith, and human decency, and use that to deliver our beautiful faith to the world around us.

    Christ is risen!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tim says:

      I’m not a Thomist, but your first paragraph is bizarre. It isn’t clear why Feser is wrong in his counter-argument. You just appear to not find the response compelling, but it isn’t clear why your own intuitions should be accepted.

      Divine SImplicity is an Orthodox belief as well, even if it is worked out slightly differently. It is a belief of all classical theists.

      Like

      • jeremyklein228 says:

        I won’t go further in depth about divine simplicity because it would be too off topic from the main post, which my comment already was.

        Divine simplicity is a doctrine of all classical theists, but the Orthodox have multiple different possible models for divine simplicity, whereas Catholicism is fixed in one. Fr. Stalinoae’s divine simplicity, as I mentioned above briefly, is quite different from Aquinas’. I tend to take a much more neo-Palamite bent to it. Dr. Hart tends to disagree, which is fine- we can have flexibility, whereas Catholicism cannot, else they reveal that they’ve been wrong for 800 years, undermining their papal infallibility. Feser’s behavior is emblematic of this prefixed state of pride a lot of traditional Catholics must hold to sleep well at night.

        As for my argument against Feser’s divine simplicity, I did not exactly outline the arguments others made in a scholarly fashion. However, Feser missed the mark there too- that much is hard to deny if you read his discussion with Mullins.

        Like

        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          Jeremy, I minor correction. You write: “Divine simplicity is a doctrine of all classical theists, but the Orthodox have multiple different possible models for divine simplicity, whereas Catholicism is fixed in one.” There is no dogmatically fixed construal of divine simplicity in Catholicism. All one need do is compare the Thomist construal and the Scotist construal. Thomists appear to believe that their understanding of divine simplicity excludes the Scotist formal distinction in divinity. The Scotists reply, if that is so, then you have misunderstood divine simplicity. 😎 And the Magisterium has always interpreted the dogmatic definition on divine simplicity as permitting both the Dominican and Franciscan interpretations.

          Also see Catholic philosopher Mark Spencer’s essay “The Flexibility of Divine Simplicity.”

          Liked by 1 person

          • jsobertsylvest says:

            Yes, and Thomism, itself, isn’t monolothic. I appropriate the Personalist Thomism of N. Clarke & Process Thomism of J. Bracken in a way that recognizes only a “thin passibility.” For me – not an absolute, but – a strong conception of DDS seems indispensable. So, similarly, I insist on appropriating Scotist & Palamite idioms in a manner that would allow a passibility no “thicker” than that of Father Clarke’s.

            As for Scotus’ formal distinction, I think Feser interprets it as roughly equivalent to what some Thomists refer to as “metaphysically real.”

            Like

          • jeremyklein228 says:

            Alas, I come from a very traditional Catholic background, as I have mentioned before, and they believe Thomas to be dogmatic. Moreover, they support this with the myriad of support towards Aquinas from the Church; the placement of the Summa on the altar at the Council of Trent, the longtime denial of the essence/energies distinction, Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical praising Aquinas, and so on. It seems that there is much less flexibility for them, from their perspective, if they are traditionalist (I am talking specifically SSPX or sedevacantist, which I was a part of). For, if they believe the Church- or, the Pope- had been leading them astray on something as objective as metaphysics for so long, then again, their whole system fails.

            Most of these people also referred to the New Theology of Vatican II as completely and utterly heretical and anathema. Scotus, on the other hand, is… tolerated? But it seems to me that the Roman Church has always promoted Aquinas (with the exception of the Immaculate Conception), and that this would put a wrench in the Pope’s claim of universal infallibility. We can test the coherency of philosophy, but it is harder with theology.

            Like

        • DBH says:

          The problem with the neo-Palamite approach is that the neo-Palamites themselves deny divine simplicity in many instances. But you are right: there is more than one way to skin a non-composite infinite cat.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            I suspect that the Neo-Palamites simply have not grasped the necessity of divine simplicity for our apprehension of divine transcendence and divine unity. It seems to have no theological function–just a divine attribute mentioned in the inherited list of divine attributes.

            Like

        • Tim says:

          I have not read the discussion with Mullins, though have seen these kinds of discussions before and was not impressed by the objections. The Analytical philosophers of religion who raise them don’t seem to understand Thomism or classical theism in general. Here they neglect the difference between passive and active potency. God has none of the former, but they assume he requires it to create.

          Like

          • jeremyklein228 says:

            If I may, Fr. Kimel, please let me outline the argument syllogistically for the sake of this discussion. It is off-topic, but since I’ve been implicitly asked (perhaps at least), it would help for me to make the case.

            1) According to Thomistic divine simplicity, all of those intrinsic features of God are ontologically one reality with God, God’s essence, and God’s existence. (Definition of divine simplicity)
            2) God is a necessary being by His very essence. (No Thomist will deny this)
            3) God’s volition and the aspect of His will which involves His one decision to create having been made from eternity, as well as His active choice of all features of creation, is intrinsic to God. (This is logically necessary and is supported by every piece of evidence out there, unless you want to take deeply intuitive stances.)
            4) Therefore, God’s volition and all of His choices in the one absolutely simple divine act are necessary.

            But the Church has never taught this to be the case. In fact, every theologian in our history has taught precisely the opposite. Nor does it seem there would be a reason for God to necessarily have to choose this world over another- it would just be a brute fact. The neo-Palamite method, as far as I can tell, is the only thing that overcomes these problems.

            Like

          • jsobertsylvest says:

            Jeremy, re #3, have you come across the distinction between the divine esse “naturale” vs “intentionale”? God wills creation per the latter, which is extrinsic.

            Like

          • Tim says:

            It’s a lot more complicated than that, though. It involves issues of Cambridge properties and what are in fact intrinsic, what is a property of God and a contingent effect separate from God, and so on. I think it is Mullins who doesn’t really grapple with this kind of issue.

            Like

  28. Peter says:

    Grant: I couldn’t not reply on the other thread, so I shall do so here. I am not advocating a sort of epistemological skepticism whereby nothing of the human mind can be believed – that of course would be self-defeating. I am merely saying that, according to standard Orthodox theology, the human mind is darkened by the passions and therefore is not well suited to philosophizing in an abstract fashion about the attributes of the deity on its own, without living experience. If you had no knowledge of the Ecumenical Councils, you could easily fall into Arianism, Apollinarianism, Monophysitism, Iconoclasm etc. Thus the point is that faith and submission to an authority outside of yourself – in this case, the Church’s living Tradition – is essential, and humbly having faith in this authority is not the same thing as making speculations about the nature of God of your own fallen human mind. I am certainly not saying that the mind can know nothing and cannot be led by God to the truth (Orthodoxy). Moreover, you did nothing to answer my point: if people’s consciences differ to one another, how can you use that as a sound epistemological foundation? It is purely subjective and does not involve the humility of crucifying ones reason in favour of the Church’s authority. I don’t know if you are Orthodox, but for those who are, read St Sophronius’s synodical letter, which condemns holding the belief of universalism, and which was ratified by the 6th Ecumenical Council. Again – if those who are Christ’s friends (the saints), who actually participate in His divine attributes and are united with Him, do not see internalism as belief that is incompatible with His Goodness (and they know His character far better than myself), then why on earth should I?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lamb says:

      Peter, you’re simply begging the question of what exactly is the “living tradition”? Universalists take account of the living tradition, they just think that infernalism is a dead branch (however large) that’s been grafted on to that tradition.

      Liked by 2 people

    • brian says:

      Peter,

      Since you called out tigers explicitly, I feel obliged to make at least a token response. This notion of darkened intellect and reason equated with radical subjectivism equates to a thoroughgoing fideism. Christian wisdom is grace completing nature, not annulling it because utterly depraved. I suppose Calvin and fundamentalism in any ecclesial community may indulge that kind of metaphysical dualism, but it’s not the truth of Creation. Reason, btw, ought to be understood as simply the fullness of human capacities to question and know reality. Conscience, as Catholic moral theology used to relentlessly teach, must be properly formed. So yes, one could be raised amongst the mongol hordes or intellectuals (Bernanos assumes that class is functionally imbecilic until proven otherwise,) and as a result, one’s natural will to perfection in the Good will be occluded by the fog of idols. This does not mean, however, that one should abnegate the cry of conscience or repudiate reason. The need for deft interpretation is not something you can simply pawn off on authorities, saintly, ecclesial or otherwise. When one does subscribe to that kind of authoritarianism, it is not tantamount to choosing spiritual vision over “human arrogance.” You have still decided to cede discernment and search as the result of some implicit metaphysics, narrative, sequence of reasoning disguised as its refusal. In short, you can’t evade reason. You either reason badly or well.

      Like

      • Peter says:

        I actually meant to say others, but alas my autocorrect made it “tigers”! Also, I think you are misunderstanding my point. I am not proposing a defeater against the reliability of all forms of reason. I am, however, reiterating the patristic view about theologising specifically about God’s attributes and interpreting the scriptures.

        According to the (Ecumenical) synod of Trullo, “And if any controversy in regard to Scripture shall have been raised, let them not interpret it otherwise than as the lights and doctors of the church in their writings have expounded it, and in those let them glory rather than in composing things out of their own heads, lest through their lack of skill they may have departed from what was fitting.”

        The human intellect is not the main source of the theological method in the fathers; it is, rather, only a receptacle: for St Sophrony, at the root of the dogmas there is a revelation, prior to their intellectual assimilation. They are a verbal expression, or rather description, of evidence of the divine reality. For Fr Sophrony, the fact of the distortion of human nature in the fall serves as an obstacle to the human ability to theologize:

        “We need ascetic purification of our mind in order that our dogmatic teaching of the church about God, based on the revelation about the mode of divine being, should not be distorted by the elements of imagination coming from below. No human guess or postulate has a place in the dogma about the Holy Trinity.”

        “Though man is created in the image of God, he overturns the hierarchy of existence as soon as he begins to apply to God his own gifts of knowledge, and thus to “create” God in his own image and likeness.”

        I’d recommend reading Nicholas Sakharov’s book on him for a more in depth view of patristic epistemology.

        For St Barsanuphius of Gaza, there is a clear link between sanctity and correct scriptural exegesis.

        St Justin Popovic makes similar claims, with regards to the mind’s organs of understanding being darkened by the passions.

        And again, read St Gregory the Theologian’s oration 20 for his criticism of conjectural, intellectual theology.

        On St Symeon the New Theologian, read Jim McInness’s peer reviewed paper which covers his epistemology.

        The Ecumenical synods themselves uphold an epistemology which strongly values the writings of the fathers – see
        http://orthochristian.com/106134.html

        It seems that universalists hold a very different epistemology to the historic Church.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jeremyklein228 says:

          But the Fathers never made doctrines without reasoning for them. Everything the Fathers say is coherent. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t care about them. Yes, we have a limitation in terms of theologizing, and we can’t just make our own theology. But the arguments are that the doctrine of Hell as believed by the majority of the Orthodox is incoherent and untenable. If they are true, then we cannot believe it, even if we have good reason to believe in other Christian teachings or beliefs of the Orthodox Church.

          Your fideism itself is baseless. And no presuppositional argument goes “reason exists so Orthodoxy must be true” unless you’re already an Orthodox Christian. Even Dr. Farrell is Jewish nowadays. Unless you can explain a precise proof that your interpretation of Orthodoxy Christianity specifically must be true, then all you’re saying is just circular nonsense.

          And I tend to think that a YouTuber in the 2010s wouldn’t be the one to come to the precise proof of the Orthodox Church, when the Fathers never made such an argument themselves- at least, as far as I have seen. I could be wrong. (One very “kind” “Orthodox” “layman” who has never been to a Church told me once that I was committing the black swan fallacy by saying the Fathers had never made one of his arguments before, so I’m leaving the possibility open even though I see absolutely no evidence against my point.)

          Like

        • brian says:

          Well, can’t say I’m not disappointed to discover tigers once again not really invited to theological conversation. I think I get where you are coming from Peter. Feel free to point out where I am misunderstanding you. In one respect, it reminds me of a book on spirituality and depression from an Orthodox perspective that I have in my library. Short version of its therapeutics: first, be holy. Always felt that was not too helpful, though it’s true that if we can participate in the divine mode, all our powers will be perfected. I suspect your advertence to “patristic epistemology” boils down to tradition understood as majority consensus. I believe that is an insufficient criteria. Among other things, there is a certain forgetfulness that our sense of tradition is always a snapshot of a historical moment attached to a specific geography and ethos. The dominant sensibility, theological foci, insights, blindspots, confusions. etc. are interpreted as unassailable because equated with “holy intellect.” One still has to address diversity amongst patristic views. Unless one treats truth as determined by a kind of ecclesial plebiscite, how is one going to adjudicate between saints who disagree? Perhaps saints, like other human beings, have distinct gifts, particular insights, some manifesting more acuity and wisdom than others. But then one is thrust back into the need to exhibit personal discernment. This is not “Protestant,” but that is how it is nearly always understood by many traditionalists whose sense of authority comes down to the dominant perspective of one’s zeitgeist, even if that is dressed up as a form of inspiration akin to fundamentalist views of scripture. Myself, I think Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Isaac of Nineveh are exemplars attuned to the deeper truths of the gospel, so I follow those who have insight and don’t really care whether they are deemed of the majority party or not. Finally, your demurrals against defeaters of reason appear limited to what matches your construal of patristic epistemology. I don’t think logic or the meaningful use of words like good, for instance, are radically transformed to the point that one could dismiss the integrity and cohesiveness of Hart’s argument as somehow dependent on an epistemology or reason tainted by the Fall.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          Peter, I have an Orthodox joke, but it takes a deified nous to enjoy it.  😜

          Like

  29. Lee Gilbert says:

    So, many here think that it would be loving of God to admit everyone to Heaven, including, presumably, murderers, rapists, sadists, liars, etc., etc. Yet, how would this be just, since Heaven is promised as a place of eternal happiness? Would you be happy and overjoyed to find such malevolent people there? Not I! I would be happier to see them in hell, if that is what they want. They clearly do not want to do God’s will, but Heaven is where God’s will is done.

    No, they want to be somewhere where God’s writ does not run, which is the very definition of hell.

    But, you might say, a loving God, who after all is all powerful, would remake them to be innocent and holy, would take away all their vice, and make them to be peaceful, joyful and holy.. Such is your idea of God, but if it is correct, it takes away the dignity of man. Evidently, God has a higher respect for man and his choices than do you. Man is not a puppet, nor God a puppeteer! No, God is so loving that He made us in His image and likeness, with intelligence and a free will. He will honor our choices, and honor them eternally.

    Like

    • seeking99 says:

      Lee, this sounds like a false dichotomy: “If Universalism is true, then either evil people will prowl heaven or God will force people to be good in heaven.” What of the idea that everyone, when they come face to face with God and with full knowledge of the Good that He is, will recognize Him as the one and only thing that can truly fulfill their desire for happiness? There will no longer be any doubt of confusion about who God is – and with that veil lifted, no sane person would ever reject God. Why can this vision not be true?

      Like

    • jeremyklein228 says:

      Your argument:
      1) misunderstands universalism.
      2) doesn’t consider the restraints on our free will that we all face through ignorance, delusion, and all sorts of environmental/genetic conditions
      3) shows that you have not read anything of DBH’s either

      People need to actually engage with the arguments that are being made for universalism.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Tim says:

      Apart from everything else that has been said, why would such a God not allow these people to change after death? How does setting men’s wills in stone at the moment of death either show respect for free will or that God is loving and merciful? It isn’t as if all are given the same opportunities to know God and the truth of the message of Christianity (assuming it is true) in this life: Christ spoke to Saul, the sinner and persecutor, and showed him in the most powerful way that Christianity is trues, so surely a just and loving God would give the same opportunities to all men, at least, before damning them. This is not an argument for complete universalism perhaps, but it is an argument that the standard soteriological economy of traditional Christianity is problematic.

      Also it seems at least open to question whether eternally damning people is morally better than not respecting free will, even if those are the only two choices.

      Like

    • David says:

      I guess God won’t be letting Paul the murderer, David the rapist, or Abraham the liar into heaven then Lee. If only He were mighty enough to deliver a stunning revelation that, in communicating the beautiful and irresistibly attractive nature of the Good that is God, would naturally soften their hearts while still maintaining their perfect free will – just as a mother confronted by the beauty of her newborn can do nothing but look upon it with love, and yet this love is still given freely and without external compulsion. You’re right though, God is definitely less powerful and less beautiful than the baby, and we are still in our sins.

      Like

  30. Muslim neighbor says:

    Hi DBH,

    I am a Muslim and I am writing to you to share an article that I think you will find interesting.

    Among Muslims, the vast majority believe that hell is eternal.

    However, a tiny minority that is growing does not believe that and they base their reasoning on the Qur’an itself [the author of the article has this view of the tiny minority]. 

    Of course, the majority also use the Qur’an as part of their reasoning.

    Please check it out:

    http://www.quransmessage.com/articles/is%20the%20punishment%20of%20hell%20eternal%20FM3.htm

    Peace

    Liked by 3 people

    • DBH says:

      Salam and thanks.

      There is a long universalist tradition in Islam, albeit a minority tradition, as in Christianity. Sufi universalist thinkers and Ismaili universalists are, of course, denounced often as heretics, but so it goes.

      I look forward to this link.

      السلام عليكم.

      Like

      • Mustafa says:

        Actually the opinion of the likes of Ibn Taymiyaah are more nuanced. He believes that whilst hell maybe eternal (as hell is a creation of God deserving of its own rights) it’s inhabitants will eventually be saved.

        It is also an established belief among Sunni Muslims that God’s intercession will reach every being that had an iota of belief. As for those without even an iota of belief.. I don’t know what will happen to them 😞

        Like

  31. Pingback: The Latest Feser/Hart Bout – Unconstricted Philosophy

  32. Dee of St Hermans says:

    For various reasons I’ve read this blog on rare occasions, but never participated in it. In the past, these conversations have been way over my head philosophically and theologically. Now that I’ve been Orthodox, and reading regularly (as much as I can) Orthodox theology over the past several years, I’m now (still in youth faith-wise) beginning to understand the conversations.

    Dear Dr. David Hart, your writing style is a wonderful and edifying art and you use it to good effect in your arguments. On the side, I’m concerned about your health and hope you take care of it! I want to keep reading your articles and books.

    I’ve been trained to work as a scientist. The arguments against David Hart’s thesis on the basis of “subjectivity” seems a bit odd for various reasons. Forgive me for not elaborating I’m short on time.

    My husband is not Orthodox and he doesn’t consider himself a Christian. Yet Christ’s words and Christ actions are easily seen in him. He (my husband) inspires me to hold on to my faith in Christ’s love, while I struggle to adhere to Christ’s teachings, myself. My faith might be described “subjective” hopefulness. Nevertheless, not only David Hart, but saints indicate their hopefulness in God saving all of His creation. (And they too comprise the Orthodox voice of the Holy Spirit on this matter) At the moment I’m thinking of St Silouan, but there are others as well. (The earlier article on St Maximus comes to mind).

    It’s enough that I mind my own heart and behavior and leave the rest to God. Nevertheless, since there are those among the Orthodox who want to preach ‘fire and brimstone’ for the ‘unsaved’, I appreciate the study and written work that is done to offset such an interpretation.

    Dr Hart thank you for your work.

    Like

  33. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    In skimming through the comments, it’s clear that some of the commentators have not read That All Shall Be Saved. I strongly urge you to do so. It’s not always an easy read. You may need to reread a specific chapter two or three times in order to grasp the arguments David is advancing, but you will find the effort well worth it.

    I also encourage you to become acquainted with the theological literature on universal salvation. Check out “Readings in Universalism.”

    Like

  34. rephinia says:

    DBH, if you’re still answering questions, I wanted to ask if you remember the moment you came up with your argument in meditation 1. Was it like a joyous eureka moment? And was it during your career (post-BotI) or before?

    Like

    • DBH says:

      Dear Rephinia,

      Interesting question.

      Well, the issue of divine will and permission or antecedent and consequent divine decrees had always struck me as a rather silly way of attempting to get around the issue of divine responsibility for the ultimate state of creation if that state includes the dereliction of rational creatures. To me, a distinction between will and permission, as comprised within divine providence and tending only toward total reconciliation, was always the only possible way of maintaining a belief in divine goodness that did not rely on specious reasoning.

      All I recall of the argument’s origin is that in 2007 or 2008, while I was in Providence, I realized that the damned–according to the dominant teaching, and irrespective of whether they in some sense damn themselves or are predestined to damnation–would be the eternal price paid for the felicity of the saved, and that there could never be a moral severance of one from the other in the calculus of either grace or nature. From there, the game-theory argument arose naturally. It was in 2015, when writing what is now sometimes called “The Notre Dame Lecture” that the fully formed game-language came out more or less on its own.

      What still strikes me today is how few readers really get the point in that chapter, and yet to me it has such a radiant clarity that I cannot even any longer take the infernalist position seriously. In fact, the failure of the book’s critics to get it, or even to be able to rehearse its logic, is one of the chief reasons I continue to believe that, on the matter of hell, most Christians have taught themselves instinctively not see certain very obvious things. I feel the same way about the argument in Meditation Three.

      So I guess it was indeed an “ah ha” moment, but I’m not sure exactly when the “ha” finally appeared to complement the “ah.”

      Liked by 3 people

      • The strength of the argument you put forward in the ND lecture put the matter of universalism beyond question for me. I come out of the conservative Presbyterian world (mea culpa). In those circles, the issue of Classical Theism vs some of the more fashionable ideas from analytic theologians has been a matter of heated debate. I was always more sympathetic to Reformed Scholasticism’s Classical Theism and had the growing suspicion that universal salvation was the inexorable outcome of thinking logically through Divine Simplicity and Impassibility. The manner in which you address these issues within the purview of creation ex nihilo removed any lingering objections in my mind that infernalism is at all compatible with a coherent doctrine of God or creation.

        Liked by 3 people

        • jeremyklein228 says:

          Once again, I find someone here who I agree with completely.

          I can’t accept a religion that truly, sincerely believes that decisions made in a state of nearly complete ignorance, delusion, and all sorts of other factors, warrant eternal punishment- especially retributive punishment, as some of the more conservative Orthodox armchair theologians point out with “sadness” that is obviously disguised glee. Fully rejecting God with complete free will is incoherent, fundamentally and demonstrably. The saints who believed in Hell from the past millennia lack all of the hubris that makes such a thing so intolerable and annoying in the modern polemicists. St. Silouan? He speaks only of the compassion we must have for the souls in Hell. And does anyone honestly think St. Porphyiros, St. Xenia, St. Maximos, St. Symeon, St. Sava, St. Seraphim, or any of the other holy men and women in the past were so prideful about the fact that they were in the “special club” that won’t be tortured forever? Absolutely not, and I’d argue that it’s blasphemous to think otherwise. They believed in, and are unified with today, THE God of love. These “trads” believe in themselves alone.

          Only people who already believe it could possibly disagree with that- see Edward Feser, who deserves all of the criticism he gets and more and is a profound psuedo-intellectual, and Craig Truglia, who played his card and revealed his true colors far too early with his abysmal review of TASBS and on this website to be taken seriously as a “theologian.” The reason I am becoming Orthodox is *because* the image of the loving Christ who will save all is so powerful. It is *not* because we can demonstrably prove that Christ rose from the dead. There is no convincing way to prove it so over other religions. I believe it is very reasonable to believe in Christ, that He fulfills everything we could ever hope for, and that it makes perfect sense from a metaphysical perspective. But that is not a rigorous proof in the slightest, especially when we get to the question of Hell- which makes no sense from a philosophical perspective in itself.

          Stupid, vapid circularism from apologists who pretend to be perfect manly men (but are deeply insecure and sensitive- they all are) bringing light to the heathens does nothing. Citing your own interpretation of tradition as infallible is worse than useless. It is the deepest sophistry of all. I am tired of taking it seriously, of letting it stress me out, and of pretending that we can be nice to these people. If we are just the nice guys, they will tread all over us and pretend they’ve won. They also do.

          If God doesn’t save everyone- daresay, if He barely even saves a fraction of humanity- but subjects the reprobate to eternal torment, then there is nothing Christianity has for me. There is nothing it has for the world.

          Liked by 1 person

          • TJF says:

            “Pretending we can be nice to these people… they’ll just tread all over us and pretend they’ve won.” It’s statements like this that thoroughly shock and disenchant me about some over here in the universalist camp (of which I consider myself a member).

            I seem to recall a Galilean peasant who was tread on, beaten, humiliated, scorned, mocked, spat upon, and died a thoroughly ignoble death and yet one of his last words were “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Countless saints did this after, while being murdered by their attackers, they prayed for their salvation and only felt a burning love for them in their hearts. There are desert fathers, who upon being robbed and threatened with death, offered to give up belongings that the robbers had not been able to find. St. Seraphim of Sarov threatened to leave his monastery if the people who had robbed, beaten and left him for dead would be prosecuted. These are our examples. I know this is difficult, but reading all these stories and more importantly seeing their beauty and the burning they cause in my heart it’s hard for me not to look with revulsion at all the rationalizations in the echochamber of why we are righteous in being unkind to our enemies. No we are called to love even them. Let us not forget that.

            We should be careful to make sure our beliefs in the ultimate mercy of God be reflected in our actions. “Winning” an argument is not the ultimate goal is. Being so full of the love of God that you cannot even conceive of hurting your enemies is.

            Liked by 1 person

      • rephinia says:

        Thank you for replying DBH.

        And I definitely agree with your judgement (as always) that the argument puts the idea of eternal hell to rest. Although it might not seem like just at the moment due to the loud backlash from certain corners (similar to what George MacDonald diagnoses about our sins, “When we turn against them and refuse to obey them, they rise in fierce insistence, but the same moment begin to die.”), I think the argument has caused a permanent shift in thinking about this issue and will be a staple theological insight for future generations.

        But in fairness to those who have failed to grasp it, the argument is so comprehensive (starting with the eternal trinitarian life and moving to the final eschaton via the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo) and the fact that it puts you face-to-face with the absolute fundamentals of traditional metaphysics in light of the doctrine of eternal hell means it may require many people to reorient their way of thinking about creation and salvation.

        The argument asks us to look at creation from God’s perspective and maybe many people used to believing in eternal hell may not grasp it right away but as the grammar of the argument has planted itself in their minds it will become more embedded and they’ll slowly come around too after the hysteria dies down. It’s a new way of seeing things – as the best theology is – one that requires time to grow into for people not naturally inclined that way.

        Like

      • TJF says:

        This argument made perfect intuitive sense to me. I’d always been fairly skeptical of the ECT doctrine. I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts on what I have to relate from personal experience. I am no philosopher, but this is the way I’ve thought of it; please let me know if it makes sense or not. I was in the Marines and it was part of the culture that the leaders were ALWAYS responsible for the actions of those in their charge, no matter how little control they had over them. If a team leader or squad leader’s marines got a DUI on the weekend, even if the squad leader was on leave and 1000 miles away, it was his fault. Needless to say, there was lots of mass punishment in the military, if one person screwed up we all paid the price and ultimately the leader was at fault. Even if there was no possible way of stopping the action, the argument was that obviously he hadn’t inculcated virtue in his underlings, which is part of a leader’s job. Coming from that perspective it always seemed weird to me that people let God “off the hook” as it were. He was the one who created everything, but it seemed like all the theology I’d read was saying that God was blameless and we bear all the blame. I’m still not sure entirely how to think about this. Popular piety has inculcated in me the idea that it is indeed blasphemous to say that God is responsible for what He created and even if we are to a certain extent, that is infinitely more true of, well, the Infinite One. Reason and experience does tell me that this is indeed the case — God is ultimately responsible since He is the One “in charge” and that ultimately he will fix this mess and even though we play a part it must be trivial compared to His role. Am I offbase here? Thanks

        Like

        • danaames says:

          TJF,

          It seems to me that your line of thought is pretty much the stance St Athanasius takes in De Incarnatione. I think of the many times he writes, after setting forth an argument about the situation in which humans find themselves, “What, then, was God to do?” The language used does in fact seem to put the responsibility on God for making things right, carried over in the work to all the times Athanasius notes “It was fitting” – given God’s character as Creator and the assumption that God’s the only one who can ultimately take care of these problems.

          Dana
          (daughter of a marine, mother-in-law to another)

          Like

  35. skholiast says:

    I am unapologetically on DBH’s side here as per doctrine, and I genuinely count myself a fan of both his style (de gustibus non est disputandum) and his arguments, but when he follows up just how shocked, shocked (and yet also bored (yawn…) he is to be accused of invective with, well, invective, I begin to wonder whether I should trust his protestations. Perhaps I, like Feser, have just been “confused” by his prose. For the sake of Us Dummies, I have distilled here a few bullet points — from the first few paragraphs of this very, very long response (though of course no longer than it required) :

    Feser
    * makes an attack that is “loutish” even(!) by Feser’s subterranean standards
    * dishonestly claims to have read what he obviously barely skimmed
    * “clearly” thirsts for vengeance for a well-deserved bad review DBH wrote
    * wins the Dunce Cap for “inane attack[s]” on DBH’s book
    * perhaps kicks puppies

    I mean, maybe DBH plans to go say something more moderate in private and exchange the kiss of peace, perhaps when he is on his way to the altar to offer his gift, and remembers his brother Edward may have something against him. Or maybe I am just too dim, or too fragile, to appreciate a good knockdown literary bout. But I really, really don’t think that’s it — and if it is, I would still beg DBH not to scandalize his impressionable (dim, fragile) readers.

    I’m utterly serious. There is a genuine dissonance between “Invective? what invective?” and “only a vengeful puppy-kicking dunce could write such a dishonest and loutish hatchet-job” which stops feeling fun or funny after a few thousand words. And while it should be distinguishable from the argument against the eternity of Hell, the argument is couched in this rhetoric and ultimately poorly served by it.

    Having got that off my chest — I’m still on DBH’s side about Hell.

    Like

    • John Gallant says:

      I found it all very funny. Hart and Feser seem to enjoy trading outrageous insults. There seems to be some kind of game involved. I think you’re hearing it as a lot more earnest than you need to.

      Like

      • skholiast says:

        Possibly you are right, & this is all shadow-boxing or some elaborate ritual combat that is opaque to me. I would like to emphasize that I like a good bit if high-rhetoric gloves-off debate, and I do not think everyone needs to Play Nice all the time. One of the things one loves about Hart (& Feser too) is just this willingness to weave humor with an edge into their intelligent high-wire diatibes. I am perfectly willing to grant that there might be cultural mores operating here that I don’t live in. DBH says up in the comments above pretty much that it’s an east-coast thing. Fine. Let’s stipulate that it’s all in good fun. Let’s even stipulate that Feser more or less entirely missed the real strengths of DBH’s book and assaulted a different book he imagined he was reading, and thus that DBH is fully within his rights to be frustrated with EF. (I did read Feser’s review and I really did think he got a good deal wrong.)

        I still find it a bit jarring when all this justified good fun comes on the heels of “Invective, moi?” — and I may be mistaken but I truly took this bit of protest from DBH at face value. I also think, if I may say so, that his indifference to how it lands for people (he dismisses it, in the same comment above, as tiresome “pearl-clutching”) is a little bit unbecoming. Because it’s not just Feser who is the issue here.

        Full disclosure: I am certainly projecting, because I see this insouciance as a besetting temtation of my own. I earnestly try to anticipate how my arguments might strike those who are least sympathetic to them, because after all I am not just wanting to proclaim my prose the livelong day to an admiring blog, but aiming to persuade. At the same time, I give much less weight to the shibboleths of “intention” vs “impact” than most in the woke blue-bubble west coast citadel where I live, because I too find the scrutiny of how an argument is phrased, to the exclusion of what it argues, to be wearisome; and because after all, I want to enjoy writing, so yes, I’m going to have fun with it, and I’m going to occasionally vent. Thus when I see DBH is his full Parnassian mode, caring “not a toss” for how his Menckeneque jeremiads are perceived, I envy it (a anyone must who reads him and delights in the pleasure of words), even as I see my own sins — committed, of course, with less flair — reflected back to me. And these sins are not indifferent, because they get in the way of the conversation one would like to be having, about the questions at hand, as opposed to how the questions or answers are put. (As witness two medium-length comments on a blog post that are not really about the subtance of Hart’s argument at all, at all.)

        Like

        • DBH says:

          I’m quite capable of invective. I believe it’s an art. That does not justify Feser misquoting me to make it seem I attacked people I didn’t.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Tim says:

      I don’t know if DBH is still here, but I was wondering what he thinks of NDEs as evidence, if not against infernalism per se, at least against traditional understandings of the widespread danger of hell? I don’t really mean to bring up whether NDEs are true in the sense that they are not explainable in physiological terms. My rather extensive reading on the issue has certainly convinced me they are unlikey to have such an explanation, and all the simple, single-factor physiological and psychological explanations seem to fail, as even more informed sceptics seem to realise now. So assuming they aren’t aren’t physiological explicable, it does seem to me hard not to draw the conclusion that at the very least, fire brimstone, damn widely taditional infernalism is incorrect. That’s because NDEs are overwhelmingly positive, at rates of 80-95+%, with feelings of transcendent joy, contentment, and Oneness being common features. What’s more, NDEs tend to have life-changing, mostly positive aftereffects, effects that to me seem to go beyond even the increased confidence in post-mortem survival. Having a positive NDE is very common amongst those who die and are revived. Somewhere between 10 and 30% of those who have a cardiac arrest and are revived experience one. And having a positive NDE seems to not very closely linked, or linked much at all, to one’s faith (though it is more complicated to show the relationship to one’s moral state, I don’t think there’s a lot of evidence to show that those who experience positive NDEs are all or overwhelmingly within a traditional Christian lifestyle – I don’t think cohabiting, for example, makes much difference in one’s chances to have such an experience or more likely to have a negative NDE). How could God create or allow such experiences on such a scale if the essence wasn’t true. It seems like deception. One response from traditionalist Catholics in particular is to blame it on demons: NDEs are generally the work of demons. Apart from being as hoc and not the kind of thing that would occur to anyone without prior commitments – I’m aware of no NDE researcher who has come to this conclusion – this seems theologically suspect to me. Can demons give the kind of experiences felt in NDEs, and on such a scale? Can a demon make you feel transcendent love, joy, and Oneness?

      Finally, I think that even if NDEs are physiologically explainable, they still might be problematic for the damn the many crowd. They are a natural kind, unlike random hallucinations or delusions, and they seem to explicitly testify to what would, according to traditionalist infernalists, be a falsehood. Would a good God allow that?

      Obviously these ruminations are no where near as important as the arguments in DBH’s book, even if I’m right, but they strike me as intriguing.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Wayne Fair says:

        While I doubt he will respond – I too would love to hear DBH’s thoughts on this. So many are dismissive of this phenomenon – as though it were akin to some kind of faddish fascination with UFO’s, etc. But I think of it as in some way reports by first hand witnesses – and not to be disregarded as unimportant to any truly theological discussion of what really lies beyond death. Would he who can “appear as an angel of light” really “deceive” us into believing that God IS Love? Of notable interest too is the “life review” which sounds like experiences of a redemptive “judgment”, wherein the NDE experiencers feel in themselves all the pain they have caused others, etc.
        It was of especial interest to me to come across this assessment – even by a pretty traditional evangelical scholar, Gary Habermas:

        Like

        • Tim says:

          Even Peter Kreeft cites NDEs not only as an argument for the survival of the soul, but also as showing that salvation is not as restricted as some traditionalists think, or something to that effect. He does the same for apparitions and hauntings, including bereavement apparitions.

          I do think there is little good reason to dismiss NDEs. It’s possible they have a physiological explanation (although for reasons cited above I’m not sure that solves the matter for Christians), but it isn’t simple one. Even most informed sceptics today recognise that the simple, single-factor physiological and psychological explanations, like anoxia or expectations, have failed. If they are to be explained naturalistically, even ignoring the confirmed cases of veridical perception, it will have be through a combination of such factors, and it’s hard to see how these will all work together to produce such experiences. These experiences have a strong shared pattern, despite their differences. They occur under a host of circumstances, including to those seemingly actually dead or at least very near death and those in no real danger of death. They seem to be accompanied by lucid or hyper-lucid consciousness at times where standard neuroscientific models tell us there should be no consciousness or at the most fragmentary and confused consciousness with little memory.

          Liked by 2 people

      • DBH says:

        I think many NDE’s are very real experiences, but you can’t win any arguments with them. Still, yes, I think people often pass the threshold of post mortem existence and then are pulled back again.

        Liked by 2 people

    • TJF says:

      I am totally with you. I’ve repeated this elsewhere, I think it hurts the cause, belies our rhetoric, and promotes an ideological echo chamber.

      Like

    • DBH says:

      Sorry, but I wouldn’t change a word, old man (or old woman). I said nothing about Ed that isn’t true, and nothing I would care to qualify. Of course, it’s true that my judgment may be skewed, inasmuch as his capital punishment book convinced me that he is basically an evil influence, trying to poison the wells of faith with ideas that are the absolute negation of the gospel, and so I can’t see him as just a debating partner. I found that text literally diabolical.

      That said, I certainly don’t see how it is polemical of me to point out that his review clearly shows he didn’t read the book; even some readers on his side of this issue have noticed that fact. And, even in denying it, he keeps demonstrating that it is true. Why is it “invective” to point that out, given that it seems a rather important feature of all of this?

      I can’t help it if your sense of humor and mine–or your ear for tone of voice and mine–differ so radically. But I am also unrepentant. And I actually think it is the scandalized who are in error here. That’s just how it is.

      Liked by 1 person

  36. I would be interested in how DBH would respond to the testimony of exorcists. For instance, Father Chad Ripperger in this conference (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WMjnJmgpn4 around the 20:18 mark) talks about how demons will tell him that even though they are miserable, and they know they’re miserable because they chose not to obey God, and they know that it was unwise and stupid to disobey God, that given the chance they would do it all over again. This testimony seems to be pretty strongly in favor of the idea that the angels and disembodied souls cannot repent or convert, since even knowledge of the irrationality and the accompanying misery of their choice leaves them wholly unpersuaded to change it.

    Like

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Tim, you may find Sergius Bulgakov’s essay on apokatastastasis of interest. The thing about demons, (1) we cannot believe anything they say, and (2) they do not comprehend the power of God’s love.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Tim says:

        Tim Finnegan,

        As well as what Father Kimel says, as someone with an amateur expertise in parapsychology, if I can say so, I would be very cautious of just taking the evidence of exorcists as face value. In at least one case of demonic possession I read about, it seemed to be a case of multiple personality; it was a woman who had an abusive childhood and who was seemingly possessed by her dead father, his lover, and demons that included big named demons (one is reminded of hypnotic regression to past lives where the person is always Caesar or Cleopatra or some well known person). It’s very hard to rule out things like multiple personality/disassociation combined perhaps with psi effects – in this woman’s case the symptoms matched multiple personality in many ways. You’d also have to ask how far the assumptions of those involved, including the exorcist, are behind both the interpretation of and even the shaping of the phenomena. Whilst there is rather good evidence for certain kinds of apparitions (especially so called Crisis Apparitions) and for poltergeists, and quite good evidence for hauntings, the evidence for demons in the Christian sense is much more sparse. What evidence there is often seems to be equivocal and match some of these other categories and/or psycho-pathological states, like multiple personality.

        Of course, the Christian tendency to reduce all psychical and spiritual beings to demons or angels is annoying, but that’s another matter.

        Liked by 1 person

        • The particular exorcist in the talk has a PhD in psychology and is fully aware of the need to and methods in discerning between mental illness and possession.

          Like

          • TJF says:

            He also thinks that smoking is not bad for you, that listening to rock and roll music is the devil and reading Harry Potter books opens a gateway to hell.

            Like

          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            We are now getting way off-topic. No more stuff about exorcisms and exorcists.

            I once participated in a dramatic exorcism back as a young priest. After that I swore I would never do it again. I lacked then and lack now the spiritual maturity.

            The demon (maybe) spoke to us. I do not believe one can bind it to truth, if it even knows what truth is. Demons lie. Everything they say is meant to deceive, even if they tell the truth. Hence we commanded it to be silent but it would not remain silent. The cursing was impressive.

            And that is all we need to say about demons and exorcisms. Let’s get back to That All Shall Be Saved. I insist.

            Liked by 1 person

          • DBH says:

            Ripperger has a doctorate in philosophy (read: Thomist catechetics) from the Pontifical Institute (I will say nothing about what that means). He has written about something called “Thomist Psychology” (than which no discipline more hilarious can be thought). He is not a psychologist, however. He is also a Catholic traditionalist lunatic who thinks demons lurk in Harry Potter books and that just about everything is a satanic conspiracy eating into the sinews of Mother Church. The fortune-teller at a traveling carnival has more credibility for me.

            Liked by 1 person

          • I stand corrected on his degree.

            Like

          • DBH says:

            Sorry, Al. You didn’t pull the trigger quick enough.

            Like

      • Father, I am no expert on demonology, but as far as I know there are ways that exorcists can bind demons to tell the truth. Of course not everything they say can be trusted, but from what I’ve heard from Father Ripperger, there are things they say that can be because they are compelled by Christ to tell the truth.

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        • DBH says:

          I regard all such testimony as less than worthless. I would put it on much the same level as astrology. In schizoid states, one assumes all sorts of personas. And, whether the one speaking is the “possessed” person, or really a fallen spirit, or a kind of psychic collaboration between the two, nothing he, she, or it says (or they say) is to be regarded as anything but a delusional logorrhea or fugal psychotic bricolage. Damaged spirits–in this world or the next–are just that.

          As for the “exorcist’s” belief that he can bind demons to tell the truth, it is an empty assertion by a person whom I would not trust under any circumstances. I’m no materialist or casual skeptic, but the record of exorcism and exorcists, when honestly confronted, makes the whole phenomenon very, very, very dubious. (and I say this as someone who has witnessed some very startling phenomena where these matters are concerned.)

          Liked by 1 person

        • Grant says:

          Lets assume an exorcist has a demon talk and can compel it to tell the truth, and that a demon is a sentient conscious spiritual being, such a being just like any human consumed by madness and fallen to a particularly corrupt path (say you were talking to Dr Mengele during the height of his vile ‘experiments’ in the concentration camps) you would only get the truth upon matters relating to others and things besides themselves or themselves for that matter for the distorted manner in which they comprehend either the world or themselves and their own desires and aims, or of God.

          Simply they would be wretched creatures twisted, warped, diminished and decayed under the slavery of sin and death, and being enslaved to sin as Christ tells us is not to know the truth, either of God, creation nor yourself, and the more damaged and enslaved by sin the less free you are, the less you know or comprehend the truth and more enslaved to darkness. As Matthew 6:22-23 says (DBH’s translation, seems appropriate 😉 ) ‘The lamp of the body is the eye. Thus if your eye be pure your entire body will be radiant; But if your eye be baleful your entire body will be dark. So if the light within you is darkness, how very great the darkness.’. Therefore such a being understanding would be warped and twisted, just like any person subject to severe psychosis or someone whose mind, soul and moral understanding has been warped and twisted by evil actions both they engage in and have been done to them. Their ignorance is deepened and all their understanding becomes pitiful, limited and filled with darkness, their vision dim so they can increasingly not understand nor truly perceive the world, nor others, nor God nor even themselves or the true desires truly and so are frustrated.

          If you have read the Lord of the Rings, think of Gollum hating and loving himself, eaten by both the Ring and has desire for it, his mind and understanding enslaved, dominated and warped, his understanding of everything, including his own self and past is twisted, deceiving himself and presenting a distorted picture even when speaking truly. Or say, the Barrow-wights, in their dark song reveal a consciousness whose understanding of things has been truly distorted and vision cloaked by darkness, desiring yet hating the world and all life, baffled by beauty they yet somehow continue in their nature to long for yet not understanding this desire, or Saruman falling to a place we he can only see gears and wheels and not perceive the living world around him, becoming smaller and more petty and fearful and jealous of a world he increasingly finds difficult to understand (including the inability to understand his own drives and discomforts with himself as what he desires he cannot gain as he increasingly misunderstands what that is as darkness warps his vision and deceives him).

          All this is to say, by definition of being a demon, and so warped by darkness even if it were to speak ‘truthfully’ it could never give much truth at all, as it would be itself such a warped and pitiful being, deceived by the distorted vision it suffers under and the false illusion and shadow of it’s true self it sees, all you would get is it’s own deceptions and false vision and understanding that it would be labouring under.

          That of course is all assuming you are and could speak to a demon (and it would be a conscious being) and not just dealing with either some mental health issue or even if there were demonic influence it could in any meaningful sense be separated from the person and their own disturbed and damaged mind (by the possession if nothing else).

          To be fair, I’m usually pretty skeptical of most possession stories, and the issue of what demons might be (in terms of such depicted in the Gospels) is unclear nor how fully understand or interpret it, though I accept something more that ‘just’ mental health issues might be at play in both those events and others at times. I guess in this I adopt CS Lewis maxim, I accept the demonic is a real thing, particularly if we move beyond possession, but I tend to be very skeptical of any particular reports, particularly possessions (and usually see little benefit obsessing over it, and often think it leads to missing other reasons and can do harm to others and ourselves). Besides, such powers and authorities are defeated, and ultimately they too shall be delivered from their bondage and mind whole (should demons indeed be conscious spirits).

          Like

          • Tim says:

            Just to add one last comment. Adam Crabtree’s Multiple Man is a great place to start for understanding the complexity of these kinds of cases, the overlap between so called possession (which isn’t necessarily demonic) and Multiple Personality Disorder. Crabtree is accepting of the possibility, indeed in some cases the likelihood of extra-normal phenomena, but he looks deeply at the issues involved.

            Like

  37. Brayer Asprin says:

    It is a little problematic how coy Christ himself is about universal reconciliation in the gospels. My best guess is that there was something of a “no spoilers” imperative with regard to the implications of the Resurrection to come. The post-resurrection narratives being, like the infancies, theological rather than historical, Jesus seems never to have had a proper occasion to address the issue, nor the evangelists to have had either historical or theological material adequate to working it out the way St. Paul did. But, St. Paul did.

    Another thought: it’s telling that in the foremost artistic representation of the Last Judgment, Michelangelo’s, the mutual gaze of Christ and the Theotokos has to be momentarilly broken in order for Christ to dispense condign eternal punishments. Such a terrifying gesture, brilliantly captured in its impossibility! It should be printed cross-pages from one of those icons where the eternally intersecting glances of Jesus and Mary are so well depicted, precisely as immutable.

    Like

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Your reference to the Sistine Chapel reminded me of this passage from N. T. Wright:

      “The word hell has had a checkered career in the history of the church. And it wasnt hugely important in the early days. It was important, but not nearly as important as it became in the middle ages. And then in the middle ages, you get this polarization of heaven over here and hell over there, and you have to go to one place or the other eventually. So you have the Sistine Chapel, with that great thing behind the altar. This enormous great judgment seat, with the souls going off into these different directions. Very interestingly, I was sitting in the Sistine chapel just a few weeks ago. I was sitting for a service, and I was sitting next to a Greek Orthodox archimandrite who said to me, looking at the pictures of Jesus on one wall. He said, ‘These I can understand. The pictures of Moses on the other wall, he said, those I can understand. Then he pointed at the end wall of judgment, and said, that I cannot understand.'”

      Like

  38. It would seem that DBH has left the building, but in case he’s still answering questions on this thread, I was wondering if he would care to respond with a bit more detail to Feser’s accusations of pantheism. The whole objection is a total non-sequitor, but nevertheless, I was wondering what your thoughts are on the topic anyway? The way I imagine the apokatastasis is as a sort of pantheism (or at least, a panentheism), in that it is a history which is “fully actualised” (so think, more or less the same as this history that we occupy, but stripped of all holocausts, genocides, abortions etc). I imagine the apokatastasis to basically be the entire creation fully permeated by the divine essence just as the Son receives absolutely everything from the father. A kind of “perfect cosmic theosis”. But of course, this is rapidly tending towards pantheistic language. Personally i don’t mind because it is a ravishingly beautiful notion to ponder, but many people with sympathies similar to those of Ed Feser apparently get triggered by it.

    Like

    • Tim says:

      Tim Finnegan,

      As well as what Father Kimel says, as someone with an amateur expertise in parapsychology, if I can say so, I would be very cautious of just taking the evidence of exorcists as face value. In at least one case of demonic possession I read about, it seemed to be a case of multiple personality; it was a woman who had an abusive childhood and who was seemingly possessed by her dead father, his lover, and demons that included big named demons (one is reminded of hypnotic regression to past lives where the person is always Caesar or Cleopatra or some well known person). It’s very hard to rule out things like multiple personality/disassociation combined perhaps with psi effects – in this woman’s case the symptoms matched multiple personality in many ways. You’d also have to ask how far the assumptions of those involved, including the exorcist, are behind both the interpretation of and even the shaping of the phenomena. Whilst there is rather good evidence for certain kinds of apparitions (especially so called Crisis Apparitions) and for poltergeists, and quite good evidence for hauntings, the evidence for demons in the Christian sense is much more sparse. What evidence there is often seems to be equivocal and match some of these other categories and/or psycho-pathological states, like multiple personality.

      Of course, the Christian tendency to reduce all psychical and spiritual beings to demons or angels is annoying, but that’s another matter.

      Like

    • DBH says:

      Dear Iron Knuckle,

      The accusation of pantheism troubles me not in the least. For one thing, it’s a vague word used of far too many different things. But there are many ways in which I would proudly wear the title.

      In the case of the Feser review, the problem is that it was a ridiculous non sequitur and just another proof that he had not really read the part of the book he was talking about. But I am quite happy to be accused of pantheism–or of paganism, monism, syncretism, Hinduism, panpsychism, and so on, since I regard none of those labels as opprobrious. I would take great exception to being accused of Thomism, of course, but what sane person wouldn’t?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Edward Feser says:

        just another proof that he had not really read the part of the book he was talking about.

        David, this childish “He didn’t read the book” ploy is really getting old. In my reply to this post of yours at my own blog I have explained in more detail the basis of the pantheism charge. You can either reply to it or not, and either think it cogent or not, but please stop pretending that I did not base the charge on what you wrote in your book.

        I might add that, unjust and intemperate as your remarks about me are, the only one that really pisses me off is your false and groundless charge that I am a liar. If you think I would have to be stupid to understand what you say in your book the way that i do, so be it. But I read every word of it, and would never have made the sort of charges that I do without first reading what you actually said.

        If your readers want to know the actual basis of my opinions (which I was given only 1200 words to develop in the review), again, I commend to them my follow-up post:

        http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2020/07/hart-hell-and-heresy.html

        I hope your health problems are resolved speedily, and you are in my prayers.

        Like

      • Edward Feser says:

        the problem is that it was a ridiculous non sequitur and just another proof that he had not really read the part of the book he was talking about.

        David, this “He didn’t read the book” ploy is really getting tiresome. In the post at my own blog replying to this post of yours, I have explained in greater detail the basis of the pantheism charge. Reply to it or don’t, think it cogent or don’t, but please stop pretending that I don’t have a basis for the charge. (I would add that your remark here that “there are many ways in which I would proudly wear the title” is not exactly a denial.)

        As you know, Catholic Herald gave me only 1200 words for the review. So I could not possibly develop my responses to all the things you say in your book at any greater length than I did. Though your various remarks about me are unjust and intemperate, the only one that really pisses me off is the false and groundless accusation that I am a liar. If you want to insist that I would have to be stupid to understand your book the way that I did, so be it. But I read every word of it, and would not have made the charges about it that I did without first reading it.

        Anyway, those among your readers who are interested in how I would develop the points I made (about pantheism, free will, scriptural issues, etc.) at greater length are directed to the aforementioned follow-up post:

        http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2020/07/hart-hell-and-heresy.html

        I hope your health problems are resolved speedily, and you are in my prayers.

        Like

        • Ed, just wanna say thanks for stopping by. Even though in some of my comments on this thread and at your blog I might come across as antagonistic, my antagonism only extends to your views on Hell (because when it comes to a fight over that between you and DBH, there’s no question of who’s side I’m going to take). Beyond that, you’re one of my theological heroes and I think you’re doing a wonderful job fighting against the new Atheists. I actually gave my atheist grandfather “The last superstition” and “Five proofs” for Christmas last year, as I figured they are the best books I could think of to introduce an intelligent modern secular person to classical theism. Thanks for all your work.

          Like

          • DBH says:

            Thanks, Ed. I don’t believe you read the book before writing your Catholic Herald review, at least not with any care. I don’t see how you could have done. The nonsense about my trying to explain away the absence of universalism in the early centuries suggests you didn’t even read the first sentence. All your remarks seem to show is that you have skimmed the text but not made any time to follow it. And your subsequent remarks convince me of much the same. Your explanation of your pantheism remark too. It’s just gibberish. And, Lord, how badly you have oversimplified the New Testament material. And this bizarre “he denies human culpability” line is so contrary to anything in the text that I have to assume you picked it up from some other source.

            So, all right, I am willing to believe you let every word of the book pass before your eyes. But, if so, then you were already so sure of what you decided I must be saying and what you wanted to say that you paid attention to nearly nothing.

            I hope you’re well too.

            Like

          • DBH says:

            The Five Proofs book is indeed good. I can think of a book on classical theism that I like better, but that’s neither here nor there.

            Like

        • Fr. Alexis Baldwin says:

          It certainly is telling to see the silence from the fanclub here. Dr. Feser reviews the book, Dr. Hart claims again and again Dr. Feser didn’t read the book. Mindless back and forth ensues by the fanclub and Dr. Hart. Invective matched with invective. Finally, Peak drama; Dr. Feser comes to Dr. Hart’s fanclub blog (Thank God) to say straight to the face of the fanclub “I read your book”. Cat’s out of the bag.

          You know, I am thankful to the fanclub and Dr. Hart for actually posting in public. I’m thankful that Fr. Aidan is so willing to transparently post all these things here. It really catalogs the heterodox views in one place.

          I only pray that this all remains for years to come (as the internet seems to exist). It’ll be a decent rabbit trail for some catechumens to study in order to learn to identify one of the more seductive theological pitfalls of our times.

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        • DBH says:

          Thanks, Ed. I don’t believe you read the book before writing your Catholic Herald review, at least not with any care. I don’t see how you could have done. The nonsense about my trying to explain away the absence of universalism in the early centuries suggests you didn’t even read the first sentence. All your remarks seem to show is that you have skimmed the text but not made any time to follow it. And your subsequent remarks convince me of much the same. Your explanation of your pantheism remark too. It’s just gibberish. And, Lord, how badly you have oversimplified the New Testament material. And this bizarre “he denies human culpability” line is so contrary to anything in the text that I have to assume you picked it up from some other source.

          So, all right, I am willing to believe you let every word of the book pass before your eyes. But, if so, then you were already so sure of what you decided I must be saying and what you wanted to say that you paid attention to nearly nothing.

          I hope you’re well too.

          Like

  39. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    I am exercising my totalitarian blog power and declaring that complaints about DBH’s alleged invective are now off-limits. Enough has been said. Let’s not waste David’s precious time. It’s a real gift to this blog that he is answering our questions, so let’s keep them substantive! Any more complaints will be deleted.

    Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • DBH says:

      Not a gift. A way of killing time while I go through nebulization therapy. I’ll stop as soon as the inflammation fully subsides.

      Like

  40. skholiast says:

    A question for DBH, or any of his close readers:

    In an effort to bring my previous comments around to what I consider to be really at stake in the doctrinal and eschatological question —

    Would I be glossing Hart reasonably (albeit maybe lopsidedly) if I ventured that various infernalist-sounding descriptions could simply be a kind of scripturalist or patristic “invective” (so to speak) against sin, and thus that those who take them literally are simply showing that they are poor hermeneuts? N.b., I don’t just mean that they misunderstand such-&-such texts, or misunderstand that the the accounts are meant “figuratively”; I mean that — whether they “believe” in Hell, or whether they flounce off in indignation because they “don’t”, they are failing to grasp the function of such “attacks” in ways that are (maybe weakly?) analogous to how a conflict-adverse shrinking violet might be “scandalised” by reading a vociferous and indignant reponse to a poor review.

    (This is not an attempt to sneakily subvert Fr. Aidan’s reasonable, and fully accepted (for my part) closing of the conversation re any other sense of “invective.”)

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  41. Pingback: “Exorcists” – The Wake

  42. Bilbo Baggins says:

    There was blood. There was guts. There was the crunching of bones. Close enough for me.

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  43. Pingback: HISTORY, CULPABILITY, AND PANTHEISM – Symmetria

  44. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    A really good, thoughtful response to Feser’s response to Hart’s response to Feser’s review: “History, Culpability, and Pantheism.”

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  45. Stardusty Psyche says:

    Poor David Bentley Hart, stuck with a belief in a mythological being as described in a book of debauchery, desperately flailing about with tortured apologetics in a vain attempt to repaint a most evil being as somehow loving after all.

    What do we say about a god that creates the universe according to his own liking, and declares that it is good, knowing since before its creation that “those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14)”, and thus most of his creation will suffer in eternal agony.

    Yet, god, having free will, having perfect knowledge, having infinite power could have created a universe where “All Shall Be Saved”.

    DBH seems to be a man with such a good heart, who so firmly believes that god truly is all loving, that he has devised an apologetic that supports the only possible universe of a truly all loving god, that “All Shall Be Saved”.

    Dr. Feser, however, insists that Hart is merely engaging in unjustified wishful thinking. Scripture clearly states that Jesus came to tear families apart if they did not all come to him, that most would not find salvation, and therefore most will be damned, and of course, Feser is correct.

    And yes, of course, on a god with free will, omniscience, and omnipotence that makes such a god the most evil, sadistic, cruel, and vicious being who has ever lived, by far, making the death camps of Hitler and the cultural revolution of Mao and the gulags of Stalin and the slave ships to America all tiny specs of debauchery compared the vast masses of eternal suffering under the father, the son, and the holy spirit in his hell.

    There is your “loving” god, torturing most of humanity for all eternity by design and intent, most viciously and cruelly since he could have created otherwise and instead chose to torture most of us forever, and well pleased with his own work of eternal suffering damnation.

    Poor David Bentley Hart indeed. It is very hard work to re-brand a viciously evil tyrant into a loving being.

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    • Grant says:

      Well you would have indeed have a point were DBH the only one in Christianity to come up with such a view (in that he would alone be trying to rebrand the evil view) however the universalism he puts forth has been around since beginning, with St Paul on wards via St Origen, probably St Athanasius, St Gregory of Nyssa, St Issac of NInevah, probably St Maximus the Confessor, St Hilary of Pontiers right into modern time with Sergei Bulgarkov and so on, with St Basil, St Jerome and St Augustine witnesses to it’s strong presence in the early centuries of Christianity, even it’s likely being the majority view.

      Christianity has always been more diverse than just infernalism.

      However I would definitely concede you would be largely correct would infernalism be proven to be so, and then we should reject it.

      If you are curious (as apposed to just posting for apologetic and rhetorical effect, I can certainly appreciate the appeal and the temporary satisfaction of sticking to those ‘deluded religious nuts’ but I would probably suggest such an attitude ultimately fruitless and not really any more open-minded or rational the ones you dislike) read DBH’s own translation, or read other articles here. Not trying to convince you, but if you are indeed intellectually curious and not just into grandstanding, you will gain more knowledge and understanding, at the very least you do better but knowing more fully what it is you wish to critique. You can also read Illaria Ramelli’s A Greater Hope? the popular version which is fairly cheap gives you an access to one of the foremost scholars of the church of late antique on this subject,

      Anyway, you can do that or not, but as I said I would agree with you had universalism not been a tradition in Christianity form the outset.

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