Universalism’s Convenientia

by Paul J. Griffiths

Among the criteria that theologians use to determine what to say next and how to say it – to know how to go on in theology, that is – is appeal to convenientia.1 Fittingness, that is, or suitability, or appropriateness, or even affinity. If a conversation is begun, a question asked, a statement made, a doubt expressed, then the response should be suitable (convenient) – it should fit, and by fitting should permit the conversation to continue rather than to shut down. What fits, of course, depends not only on what’s just been said, but on the context within which and the purposes for which it’s been said. And, almost always, more responses than one will be convenient enough, just as, almost always, some won’t be fitting at all. Those latter are conversation-stoppers.

Suppose the context to be the broad territory of Christian theology and the question to be: Who among us is saved? Leaving aside difficulties about the question’s terms (Who are we? What is salvation? Is the tense of ‘is’ the ahistorical present? &c &c), there are only three families of answer: all; some; none. These may be modalized (possibly some; necessarily all; &c &c), transposed into the attitudinal order (I hope all; I’m sure some; maybe all; &c &c), and, I suppose, set to music or tapdanced into the ground. But the triad, all-some-none, provides the terroir, the shape and depth and texture of the theological soil that gives flavor to theological conversations about these matters. (That flavor tends to be rough on the tongue, more frappato than merlot; it’s often leavened with retsina-like anathemas and bitter, vinegary curses. Sadly.)

The question, Who among us is saved? (let’s call it WS hereinafter), has not, among Christians, yielded deep and broad agreement about which answers are most appropriate to Christian theology. There are fervent (perfervid, even) propounders of only a few, I’m sure, as there also are of necessarily all, I congratulate myself on knowing, and well, I hope most, and (of course) anyone who thinks ‘all’ is a heretic – &c &c. David Hart, I take it, in his splendid, if gloomily polemical book from 2019, That All Shall Be Saved, is a proponent of all, modalized necessitarianly (necessarily all) and coupled with certitude in the order of knowing (I’m quite, quite, sure that necessarily all) and something approaching contempt in the polemical order (if you don’t think what I think about this then you’re a gangrened wound on Christ’s beautiful body).

I share some of all this with him, and am grateful for his book; but I should like in these few remarks to try something a little more temperate, a little more responsive to the thought that when there’s long-lived, deep-going, and widespread disagreement among Christians about which among the possible answers to WS are most fitting – most radiant of convenientia – there are likely to be reasons for, or at least causes of, that state of affairs nested deep in the tradition’s bedstraw. And that in turn means that while one’s opponents may be wrong, they’re unlikely all fools, and almost certainly not all wicked. David some­times writes as though he thinks his opponents both. There are advantages to that. Not least among them is the clarification of differences, which old-fashioned Marxists used to commend as a benison to thought (though not usually under just that description). But still, I’d like to try something different, something more modest, something more tolerant of skeptical not-knowing.

Under four heads.

First. All Christians should agree, and, Deo gratias, they do, that answers to WS that deploy none positively exhibit no convenientia at all. It’s not possible that none are saved, and we – we Christians, that is; that’ll be the only ‘we’ in play now – should all say so under the sign not of hope but of certitude. There’s Mary. There are the saints. QED.

Second. All Christians should incorporate the following into their lives of prayer and into the fabric of their thinking (should they do any; thinking isn’t required of Christians; it’s a leisure activity for the wealthy) about the faith they claim and profess: If any are not saved, I among all human creatures am the most likely not to be. We’ve all already incorporated into our prayer and our thought that among sinners we are the first, the principal, the most thoroughgoing, the greatest (if you haven’t, then go to it); the extension I’m advocating of this attitude into the terroir of WS has something approaching maximal convenientia.

Third. All Christians ought agree, and it’s to say the least unfortunate that they don’t, that the possibly all answer to WS has a high degree of convenientia with the terroir. It grows naturally out of the soil and flourishes there. We can, therefore, indeed we should, assert it with a high degree of confidence; and attitudinally we should hope, pantingly, that all isn’t just possible, but actual. The truth about possibly all is that it’s vastly more fitting than any of the answers to WS that rule it out. The two principal marks of this fittingness, and they’re strong, oh yes, are: that prayer for the salvation of all is inscribed deeply into the text of the liturgy; and that we have no litany of the damned to parallel that of the saved. We know none of their names, and those who think we do (Dante, I’m looking at you) move, just by so thinking, very far, very far indeed, outside orthodoxy’s grammar. That we pray for some­thing, and that the tradition has shied, with respect to the putative damned, from naming any of them in such a way as to make our prayer impossible, speaks strongly for confidence in possibly all. Christians who don’t share this thought and this attitude typically don’t because they think there’s one thing or another, or some large basket of things, in the tradition’s authoritative sources that requires possibly all‘s most frequent competitor, which is its contradictory, not possibly all, as an answer to WS. They’re wrong about this, though I won’t argue it here.2 Possibly all just does better, much better, with the tradition’s complex­ity than its contradictory. 

Fourth. What I wrote in the preceding paragraph is already enough to make possibly all more fitting to Christianity than its contradictory. But there’s more. Possibly all has another advantage over its principal competitor, which is both decisive and under-canvassed. It is that possibly all is logically equivalent to possibly not all (not, of course, to not possibly all) as an answer to WS. Possibly all requires of us hope that all might turn out to be the case. Possibly not all requires of us fear and lament that not all might turn out to be the case (or already is the case). This is an instance of the flourishing I mentioned in the preceding paragraph: this tree grows very well in Christian soil. Just one proposi­tion, because of its Janus-face, provides encouragement and ground for the two principal threads in properly Christian attitudes toward the future, short and long: I mean hope and lament. That is a gift of simple logic, selon les lumières naturelles, and that there are such gifts is itself something to rejoice and delight us. All and necessarily all (David, maybe that’s you?) don’t get close: unalloyed hope only. Only some and necessarily only some also don’t get close: unalloyed lament only. Possibly all and possibly not all positively glow with convenientia by contrast.

Those four heads, so far as I can see, encapsulate Christian grammar in re WS. First, we rule out, energetically and decisively, all variants of the none answers. Second, we inculcate in ourselves a strong sense that if anyone is damned, it’s us. That gives a strong personal sense of the seriousness of the question, acts as a check to presumption, and is, anyway, true. Third, we affirm possibly all with confidence, and hope for all. And fourth we affirm possi­bly not all with equal confidence (the confidence must be equal because the proposition’s the same), and tremble, lamentingly, at not all. There you have it. 

But I don’t want to end there. Grammar’s all very well, but the clear air of abstraction is a little chilly sometimes. Let me put some skin back on the skull by giving a very slightly fuller sketch of what damnation, if it occurs, must be like; and, following that, of how universal salvation, if it obtains, would come about. I affirm both, fully, as Landschaftskizzen,3 though not as anything more. 

First damnation. If possibly not all, how could anyone avoid salvation and what would it be like to succeed at that? Evil is privation, absence, lack; sin, at heart and in essence, is always the grasp after lack, sometimes so understood by the sinner and sometimes not. The effect of sin upon the sinner is always damage, which means diminution, initiation of a return to the nihil from which the sinner that each of us is has come. Success at sin’s project, then, is perfect re-embrace of that absence, which is non-existence: not to be here, not to be any­where. If damnation is final and indefectible separation from the LORD’s love, this is its heart. Self-inflicted non-existence also has vastly more convenientia to Christianity than the misconstrued pictures of endless lakes of fire and bodily tortures with which the tradition is littered. Hell will retrospectively be seen to have been purgatory by those who leave it for the LORD’s embrace; and by those who leave it for the cold kiss of the void they seek it will not be seen at all because they will then be nothing and nowhere. That, and only that, is a fitting picture of damnation; I see it and tremble. I am more likely than anyone else to end in that way. The LORD who brought us into being without our consent does not bring us to salva­tion without our consent. We can withold it (that’s the only thing we’re able to do by our­selves) and in that way frustrate the LORD’s purposes, as we know because we are sinners and sin is already a frustration of the LORD’s purposes. And there are only bad Aristotelean-metaphysical reasons for denying that the LORD might let us damage ourselves enough that we become not (you can read the bad reasons in Thomas Aquinas, among many others). Again, I see this, and I lament the vision. I hope that it is not so, but I see that it is possible.

And now salvation for all.4

The LORD created Eve & Adam without flaw
Beautiful, righteous, healthy, strong,
Capable of love, eager for beatitude,
But also of the causeless, baseless, opaquely empty rejection of love —
Balanced there, in paradise, they fell.

And everything was damaged.
The world, their offspring,
Lessened
Wounded
Diminished
Devastated.
They became subject to death
Beset by pain
Violently concupiscent
Desperate for nothing.

The LORD grieved.
And from that grief came a remedy
Abraham’s call
Jesus’s flesh
Israel and Church
For healing & blessing
& recreation.

But still we suffer & die & kill & maim
Still we are devastated & devastate
Still we turn from what is toward what is not.
While the LORD cajoles
Persuades
Threatens
Teaches
Regrets
Weeps
And works gracefully
On us and on everything
Without end.

And by the end, at the end
All, even those close to their end,
To their extinction
Even the fallen angels
Turn to the tassels of Abraham’s shawl
And to the fingers of the outstretched hand of the risen Jesus
And say yes, yes, oh yes,
And are raised up from purgatory’s pit
To what always was and always is
The LORD’s welcoming kiss, eager for ours
And our return of it.

I see that, too, and I hope for it. Our task, it seems to me, is to keep both in view, both the horrors of self-extinction and the delights of universal salvation. Our task is not, here below, to resolve the tension. Possibly all. Which is also possibly not all. Which is hope and lament combined. Which is the Christian life.

Paul J. Griffiths
Silvermine, North Carolina
Eve of the Immaculate Conception

 

Footnotes

[1] These remarks exist for two reasons: Al Kimel asked me for them, and I’m happy to oblige; I’ve for a while wanted to make public my gratitude to David Hart for That All Shall Be Saved.

[2] For Catholics worried about the magisterium on WS I commend attention to the work of Hans Urs von Balthasar (though I do wish the man hadn’t a name that provokes the class hatred of a working-class Englishman), Trent Pomplun, Gavin D’Costa, Justin Coyle, and Ty Monroe. Google will find the sources for you in less time than it’d take me to keyboard them; and the living among them (the last four, so far as I know, at this time of writing) might be kind enough to respond to personal requests for instruction in how to interpret the magisterium. And as to the first: whether he’s enjoying the beatific vision or being purgatorially purified, you might try asking him in prayer, too. Who knows what he’d say now?

[3] Wittgenstein, Philosophische Untersuchungen, preface. This is what LW calls the remarks of PI: all illuminating; all partial; none complete; all tentative; to be taken together.

[4] What follows is a free gloss on Pascal’s lyrical Écrits sur la grâce §11 (ed. Le Guern, pp. 287-288). Pascal appears in David’s book as a villain, and I agree that he is fundamentally mistaken about some aspects of WS. But there are resources in him for theologizing WS that we ought not sneeze at, as the sketch to follow may show.

* * *

Paul Griffiths is an American Catholic theologian who held professorial positions at US universities from 1983-2018, including the University of Notre Dame, the University of Chicago, and Duke University. He is now retired and lives in the mountains of western North Carolina, where he reads and writes in the mornings and does as little as possible the rest of the time.

This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Eschatology, Paul Griffiths and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

90 Responses to Universalism’s Convenientia

  1. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    I am delighted that the eminent Catholic theologian, Paul Griffiths, accepted my invitation to write an article on universal salvation for Eclectic Orthodoxy. Dr Griffiths has written numerous books and journal articles, including Christian Flesh and Decreation, and most recently Regret: A Theology.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Glad that he’s put things in categories here.

      Let me make some more categories.

      I would put Hart and Millbank, and perhaps Bulgakov in the ontologically necessary camp. It’s difficult to say if Nyssen or Isaac would be here. They never got that in depth with it.

      Universal salvation could also be necessarily true while the person claims agnosticism regarding whether she can KNOW if it’s necessary true while still holding that universal salvation IS true. I myself am sympathetic to this view, and at the moment, universalism seems to the most plausible view but I’m too hesitant to take a step up to where Hart and Millbank are. I wonder if this is where Nyssen and Maximus were as well. This position would mean that the infernalists, while probably wrong, should not be condemned as heretics.

      Universalism could be contingently true as well. Perhaps UR doesn’t flow necessarily from God’s nature, but he still made the world so that it’s true.

      It could be probably true. Possibly not true but far more probably true than not true. I tend to think Ware is here, but I don’t have conclusive proof. Alvin Plantinga is also here.

      Then, at this rung, we find Balthasar and Griffiths, it seems. Agnosticism with a fervent prayer for universal salvation.

      Below this point, we simply have the views we’re all familiar with. I.E. Most or some will most definitely be in hell forever.

      Does anybody else think someone should make a “Universalist Purity Test” standing at the top of which would be Hart and Millbank? Sort of like this one, but for universalism. http://www.bcaplan.com/cgi-bin/purity.cgi

      Liked by 1 person

      • TJF says:

        If someone says that He has put up with them here (on earth) [those who delight in evil deeds] in order that His patience be known — with the idea that He would punish them there mercilessly, such a person thinks in an unspeakably blasphemous way about God, due to his infantile way of thinking… St. Isaac the 2nd Part (XXXIX.2).

        I’d say he was in the necessary camp. It’s really not that hard. People make this far more complex than it needs to be. Is God God? Is He love? If the answer to both is yes, then all will be saved. Not because we are brazenly and defiantly placing our hope in human wisdom, but this knowledge is secure because it is from God — revealed in Christ Jesus. All our hope is in Him, not ourselves.

        Liked by 3 people

  2. Owen Kelly says:

    “The LORD who brought us into being without our consent does not bring us to salvation without our consent. We can withhold it (that’s the only thing we’re able to do by ourselves) and in that way frustrate the LORD’s purposes, as we know because we are sinners and sin is already a frustration of the LORD’s purposes. And there are only bad Aristotelean-metaphysical reasons for denying that the LORD might let us damage ourselves enough that we become not…”

    A sobering statement of Christian truth.

    Like

    • TJF says:

      How do you know we can withold our consent? This super high view of anthropology doesn’t seem to be grounded in scripture. Look at the prophet Amos, he was unwilling and only relented after God forced him. Same thing with St. Paul, he had to be blinded into seeing the light. Of course God saves you without your consent, just like he brought you into being without your consent.

      This makes nonsense of the earlier idea that we must equally hold to possibly all and not all. If God brought us into being without our consent, logic tells us he can save us without it as well. Or put another way, you will eventually thank Him for it, even if you don’t see the reason why He is doing it at a time. Just like my parents always told me and God bless them, they were right.

      Like

      • Grant says:

        Indeed St Paul is the most obvious example that denies this whole point, that is that God allows sin and death to obscure our vision and warp our faculties enough that we can withhold consent. To the fact itself it simply means the person or persons in question is not free since they cannot truly see God, themselves and others clearly in true clarity and so understands that the desires they are moving towards which are the cause of such deliberations that give ground to any choice or action in the first place, is founded in God, the Ground and transcendental horizon of all we are. And it is this very grounding and the horizon in which we live, move and have our being, that delivers true freedom of action in the first place.

        Placing choice first before desire that prompts it and such deliberation makes a nonsense of it being any real choice in the first place (it becoming slavery to random unthinking tyranny, and no actual choice functions likes this). But also it ends up essentially joining with the distorted and incoherent reasoning of our age, that which denies our givenness as creatures, as creations given our being by God. It joins with the thinking that random choice defines everything, choice and will before reason, before consciousness, desire and apprehension, the same distortion that is de-constructing everything so that it all becomes a function of choice without reason, and without and apart from our human nature, or nature as a given at all, simple will that acts is all important. Though acting without accepting of it’s arising from reason and nature just becomes a tyranny as said to a random act (thankfully not truly possible), but is the very world increasingly arising where the breaking down of our givenness, and of placing choice defining nature is breaking down the barriers between persons and property, de-constructing the person (defined by their human nature and reason understanding and apprehending that nature and it’s desires to act, and is only so to the extent it does so) into a cypher for things that can be marketed to and from them, where ‘choice’ idolized becomes the Trojan horse under which darker obscuring of human nature and personhood itself, with choices, identities, transformations defined by such and be the illusion of self-making into the denial of their humanity, of creation, to being subject to everything of their nature becoming something marketable, trade-able, something to transcend and therefore something they no longer possess but rather the endless machine of capitalism (and where it exists still it’s mirror in communism) to to process freed from all ‘bondage’ to the world as is to deliver salvation, from nature, for selves and humanity to be realised (just as our societies already function under this reality, now the last areas, the borders of the person must be broken down). The human person, just like the society, the world is a technology to be fixed, changed as appropriate, and the generators of ever (perpetually beyond constraints as they envisage of the creation) more wealth.

        This is generally something that Christians giving this view are against, yet by privileging, even I would say idolizing choice in this way, is to essentially agree with this power to will view that defines all libertarian views (and of the whole technocratic view of reality, or rather it’s denial and despoilment that characterizes all the views that hold to it, neoliberalism etc). You cannot elevate choice here in the most fundamental place, detached for reason and nature, and therefore detached as free, and free choice and action reason’s ability to comprehend the desire that prompts it in the context of it’s nature and it’s understanding of the context and goal of the desire, to see truly what it wishes, to see and understand the transcendent horizon and see God as the fulfilment and completion of all desires, and it’s nature and personhood, in Him in unity with all humanity and creation. Where that is lacking under sin and death’s deformation, any obscuring of reason’s understanding and thought makes that choice by definition unfree, and doomed to be unable to act on want their wish and desire, to be able to move freely towards God, only moving brokenly towards the Good, the True and the Beautiful, and towards Love to which all actions in every sphere of our lives is a move towards. And the reason is freed and illuminated it is able to choose freely, it will choose the Good by the simple reason that it realizes that is what he or she wants, to do otherwise would be insanity (and therefore again an irrational action and not a free one). A person who wishes to quench their thirst and drinks sand instead in response to that desire because they think sand will fulfil their thirst is acting in insanity, once cleared of that confusion they will pick the water since that is what they want and they now understand it is the water that will hydrate them.

        And to return to St Paul, right there we see God doesn’t really care that much about the then Saul’s vaunted freedom of choice in the manner you seem to think Owen. He didn’t leave the Apostle in ignorance, but manifested to Him in such a manner that all his clouded reason and person, all that been obscured by lies, deceit from outside and within, all deformation by death and sin, of hatred and false understanding and incomplete understanding was removed standing before and in the Glory of He who is the Truth. He understood both who Christ really is, who he really was and his true situation and as Acts relates had the scales fall from his eyes, and saw how he had been mistakenly and disastrously been attempting to achieve his desires and aims, and been working against it in reality. St Paul in that sense is not given any ‘choice’ since he clearly understands how to achieve what he wants, if he did otherwise to achieve would be ignorant of that (which the Lord does not leave that opportunity) or he would be insane and be unable to make any real choice at all. But of course, the Lord’s Light heals all such insanity just as the eyes fell, so the person sees clearly and understands. There is only one ‘choice’ but it is the Way to what he is always reaching for, and in that sense is true of all things.

        Freedom is active, it is a lack of chains or confusions or impediments to our natures and understanding to achieve what we aim for. A person who has mobility over one who does not is freer in that sense then the former, someone not suffering from severe schizophrenia with hallucinations that distort all understanding of reality is clearly freer than someone who is. The former is when in the control of their illness and distortion to their understanding, perception and thought process is not free, and is able to function freely, and will act against what they actually want or desire, being trapped and enslaved from doing so. To have their mind and vision healed if possibly would free them, to leave them as such would not give them freedom of action and choice, even though they would be ‘denied’ the ‘freedom’ to be insane or act towards such hallucinations, paranoia and distorted thoughts and so on. But no one would consider them unfree to be delivered from that state and be ‘denied’ those choices, and that as all things of death and illness is only a larger and greater example of the distortion of sin and death upon all of our thoughts and natures. We all dwell enslaved to darkness, in Egypt as He comes too free us in ransom and jubilee. You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free, that there defines what freedom is, and we are only free, and only able to choice to the extent we know and live in the Truth. But then as with St Paul, that truth will ‘deny’ you wrong choices, choices that you know will fail to give you what you are aiming for and what is your good and fulfilment.

        St Paul wasn’t given a ‘choice’ in that sense, he was instead freed from bondage to achieve what he was always wanting and reaching for, the source of all his desires, and God is no respector of persons, so He does and will not give preferential treatment to St Paul and be unfair as to leave others continuing forever into the destruction from the hold of death. With St Paul we see Christ act ahead of time to an extent for St Paul’s calling, but we see the clarity all of us are bring brought into, eventually if necessary to save us and give us freedom to choose and act, to be drawn into the full clarity of He is the Truth. As a physician He tries to heal us more gently within our ‘fever’ in small steps but will take stronger action as necessary if we as St Paul was, become so bound and enslaved to a path of destruction and are unable to turn form it, will both hold us from it destroying us completely (as He has done, death is defeated and can hold nor claim no one, Hades has been harrowed and plundered) and His healing light will restore and remove that confusion of ourselves with the false shadow illusions we can confusedly identify ourselves with. Those vanishing as with St Paul in that light. With St Paul we see this simply ahead of time, in this Age.

        I respect and am glad for Paul Griffiths comments and for contribution here particularly for us lay people to have such distinguished people willing to share their time and expertise with us is something to be thankful for. And I’m definitely glad to hear that he is at least a hopeful universalist , but this is why Owen I cannot agree with that position. And of course if God so arranges reality that some are left under the power of death, twisted into being unable to change and left in that condition then it would show that God brought them into being to be destroyed, sacrificed for the ends He wished from creation. And that would both be put the lie that He desires all to be saved, and would deny who He is revealed to be in Christ, that God is Love, and the Good as such, and that Christ has defeated and will destroy death and God will be all in all. It also, as Hart has said, make such damned the ones upon whom salvation and creation turns, the lambs sacrificed before the world, those suffering in the place of the saved, their saviours, their Christ and so denies the Cross and Resurrection as that by which we are all saved.

        Like

      • Owen Kelly says:

        Thanks TJF. I hesitated to reply; I don’t take this lightly. I know that we can withhold consent because I myself may eventually withhold it. I’ve done it today, and I may keep doing it. I do not believe that God will/can ever force me to love Him.

        Like

        • Robert Fortuin says:

          But I think you are really missing something here – God does not use force because He doesn’t have to. Call it the persuasive power of persistent love, or creation’s fulfillment in its proper and only end, or God as is its only true, rational, and free choice. Your resistance today was a departure from freedom, a slip into the irrational, a bondage to madness, a departure from your purpose. Darkness cannot eternally persist, it is finite, limited, and futile in the presence of the love that is God.

          Liked by 3 people

          • Owen Kelly says:

            Thanks Robert. I remain unconvinced that Scripture or lived experience are this philosophically tidy. The anthropological principle of self-determination (αυτοδιάθεση), so important to the fathers and endemic to the image of God, doesn’t seem to be accounted for in this system.

            Liked by 1 person

          • TJF says:

            Providence and the love of God seem to be unaccounted for in yours. Creatures still have self-determination in Hart’s “system.”

            Liked by 1 person

          • Robert Fortuin says:

            Yikes,Owen, what then is the Gospel, where is the good in the Good News, the triumph in the Paschal victory? Such a mockery then that empty and futile joy of Easter morning! That a few clever and extraordinarily determined folk may strain to obtain, perchance, their bliss in the hereafter through the power of their own will? That these happy few strong souls may, somehow, escape this madness and receive their rewards in glory? That all others, that great mass of weakness, is after all, without hope and abandoned to their self-determination. And how precisely would the happy few attain their lot, through the power of will, their inner resourcefulness? Through inborn purity already possessed? Strength of character by chance, or their self-determination maybe? No, this is not how the four evangelists in my Bible tell the story. I recall reading about the good news for the sick and blind, those mame and weak, the hopeless, the downtrodden, for the needy. And the clever, the strong, the resourceful – where are they in that picture? It is precisely the hell of self-determination that Christ shattered through the Paschal triumph. He ended the self without its terminus – the Orient from on high re-orients us to Himself. No longer are we stuck in our selves – this is the good news! “Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess” – A sadistic threat, accomplished in the end through a show of hellish power? I read it rather as the fulfillment of creation when all shall find their way and all will be well – naturally, freely, completely, in Christ, through Christ, for Christ.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Grant says:

            This is particularly the case as just prior in the same letter St Paul tells us that no one can call Christ Lord but by the Holy Spirit and that to salvation, that that being the rubric he has already established this promise is nothing less than that everyone will freely come to see, understand and acknowledge Christ is Lord to their salvation.

            This is where those reading eternal loss in read into the text what isn’t there, that somehow God changes post the Lord’s appearing, people no longer freely liberated to embrace the Lord, but as you say force sadistically by Christ turned tyrant to cry His Lordship in terror and despair. Which is against everything Christ has revealed Himself to be, and so the Father to be, and of course as said, goes against what St Paul himself says about what and how Christ’s Lordship is acclaimed imposing upon Romans what it doesn’t say and ignoring what it does (or mentally limiting and separating that section from this prophetic promise so it it says something it actually doesn’t).

            In reality this promise is Good News, without remainder or loss, all will freely acknowledge Christ as Lord, all will embrace the Kingdom, all will be saved and everything that was lost will be restored. There is a message to live by and declare, there is the hope that will not fail, there is love without restraint, limitation or any qualification, there is the drive to love all without fear or any hesitation, to love and bless all, friends, loved ones, enemies (who will be our dear loved ones and friends), there is the promise that all will be well, every tears will be wiped away, there shall be no more death, no sorrow, no crying, no suffering, death will be destroyed and God will be all in all, and Life will reign forever, and of His Kingdom there will be no end.

            That is the Gospel, that is the Good News, not somewhat good news, for some, maybe, if we’re lucky, but sucks to the rest who don’t make it.

            Why do so many Christians need to make their faith an eternal game of Russian roulette?

            Liked by 1 person

          • Owen Kelly says:

            Thanks again Robert. I believe your apologia for the weak-willed is admirable. Whatever the Gospel is, one must repent and believe it. And only those who know they are weak do this. One must both know they are sick and be *willing* to receive the medicine. Notice the place of the will: it acts in self-abasing acceptance of the cure. The weak exercise their will to receive Christ out of great need; the strong have a program of self-healing. Both exhibit αυτοδιάθεση. The truly needy just know they’re needy and choose to submit their will to God’s in Christ. If they resist the latter, it shows they are actually “strong.”

            Like

          • Robert Fortuin says:

            Owen,

            “The weak exercise their will” – this seems quite incoherent to me. The weakness is the weakness of the will! How then, according to your system, they may “exercise their will” is left entirely unexplained.

            Another incoherency: you identify the image of God with self-determination, the divine image of God in the human person which you claim can persist without end in its resistance to God. And you call that freedom. Two possibilities as I see it. Either you are right and this image in man is the true image of God and thus resistance to God is an imperfection of the character of God (He can say forever “no” to himself). Or, alternatively, the image of God in the human person is no longer a true image of God as it is broken to the point of self-destruction, forever into infinity devoid of bearing the true image of God. Neither seem to be plausible. What is this image of God if it is this auto determination which has as its terminus either God, or eternal hell? A strange type of freedom, a freedom indeterminate of a proper end. Man truly lost. Your freedom sound very much like hell.

            Liked by 1 person

          • jsobertsylvest says:

            @Robert an account of the “exercise of one’s will” is the crux of the matter, isn’t it.

            Whether one employs an Aristotelian “reduction of potency” or Neo-Platonic “participation,” the question that begs asks “reduction from what?” or “participation in what?”.

            And that “what” is nothing less than being & goodness.

            So, while our acts determine potencies, actualizing them, they are also limited by them. In this case, our choices are limited to being & goodness. Non-being is off the table and evil is no-thing but a subcontrary parasitic existence that’s ephemerally constituted of those habits of ours inclined to choose lesser over higher goods.

            This account of the will & intellect and evil as privation, then, shifts the crux of the matter to whether God intended from all eternity to everlastingly sustain such a parasitic existence.

            Thanks to DBH’s game theoretic analysis of the antecedent-consequent will distinction, I was able to see more clearly what I could only vaguely intuit before. Would God, as revealed in Jesus, everlastingly sustain such a parasitic existence? Hell no!

            Liked by 1 person

          • Robert Fortuin says:

            “Would God, as revealed in Jesus, everlastingly sustain such a parasitic existence? Hell no!”

            Precisely – otherwise it makes the Christ Event a sham, at best a qualified and conditional accomplishment, but at worse the revelation of Christ becomes the foundation for the unending existence of hell (for even the cross and resurrection is unable to secure victory!), sustained not by the eternally persisting creaturely ‘freedom’ of resistance to God (a ‘freedom’ of the Image Dei which turns out to be an imperfection of the human will, bent as it is on a destructive self determination) but, as it turns, by the divine will itself through malice (part of the eternal designs of creation and the creative act) or by a divine imperfection.

            Take your pick. The whole thing’s a mess, from the image of God in man to the character of God.

            Merry Christmas!

            Liked by 1 person

      • Forgive my analytic language here, but suppose there are “possible worlds” where Martha chooses to be in hell forever. Even Hart seems to think it’s at least possible for someone to injure herself forever, though he indicates that through God’s providence, God only actualizes the world in which Martha is saved, and only actualizes the world in which all of us are eventually saved.

        For Hart, Nyssen, and I believe Maximus, God only actualizes the world that allows every creature to cease from its instability and ever whirling about, so that all creatures experience the true end of their desires, even if this process means some creatures endure ages of unstable motion and dead end searches for their stability and rest in hell.

        It’s conceivable that in some possible worlds, there are barriers that prevent some creatures from ever finding that rest, but it’s also conceivable there are possible worlds where God ensures that none of those barriers exist, and that God would never choose to actualize any non-universalist world. If God had the “choice” to create you in a world where you “choose” hell forever, or a world where you end up choosing him, if he actualized the one in which you choose Him forever, is he doing an injustice in creating that world and not the eternal hell one? Surely you wouldn’t think that’s an imposition on your freedom. Unless you’re open theist.

        Like

        • Owen Kelly says:

          Thanks Mark. I forgive your use of analytic language. 🙂 In this line of thinking, it seems also that God could have actualized a world in which some creatures don’t have to “endure ages of unstable motion and dead end searches for their stability and rest in hell.” But, under your reading, several universalist saints conceded He in fact did. But why? Surely God doesn’t desire anyone to depart from Him ever, even in a small way. Couldn’t He have actualized a world perfectly in line with this desire? Perhaps he couldn’t actualize that world at all, because He’s made us in His image, with the freedom of self-determination. Indeed, authentic loving union seems to require the possibility that the other person, even ultimately, may depart. Honestly, I’m not keen on the semantics of possible worlds. If God had a sinless world—a hell-less world, an eternally hell-less world—as a possibility, perhaps He would have “actualized” it. But, Lord have mercy, we live in this one.

          Liked by 1 person

          • jsobertsylvest says:

            Owen, I’ve long held a view that’s situated somewhat between that of, let’s say, DBH & Robert and yours & Dr Griffith’s.

            With DBH & others, I reject how facilely notions like compatibilist & libertarian are so often used. But, I resonate w/Scotus & Maximus & (mis?)appropriate them as moderately libertarian.

            I distinguish between “who we are” existentially & essentially per our primary nature as wholly determined by God, ie as imagoes Dei. With Maritain, I reject ECT because I believe in an indicatively universal apokatastenai, which restores our primary nature, necessarily, such that we’ll no longer be choosing “between” higher & lesser goods, post-mortem.

            That’s distinct, then, from “who we can become” formally & finally per our secondary natures as self-determined by us, ie as similitudinae Dei. I thus believe a subjunctively universal apokatastasis is defensible as a theologoumenon and that it involves the theotic realization of our secondary natures, probabilistically, as we choose “among” eternal goods, post-mortem.

            So, what’s at stake, self-determinately, can never entail “being who we are” as imagoes Dei, as if we could ever self-annihilate that which remains everlastingly & intrinsically good, is rather “becoming who we could” as likenesses of God.

            What’s at stake, then, are degrees of intimacy & objective beatitude.

            I depart from that defensible theological opinion (subjunctive universal apokatastasis), though, because it seems that the same mercy & graces that Maritain invoked to defend an indicative universal apokatastenai, in my view, would also implicate an indicative universal apokatastasis, wherein we will forever self-determinately choose “among” eternal goods, passing from glory to glory, just not “between” higher & lesser goods.

            At bottom, we are – not absolutely, but – only ever relatively free. As finite creatures, we can’t justly be dealt infinite punishments, whether ECT or annihilation. As a person in solidarity with humankind, but, especially as a parent, I can’t countenance either as they’re both, to me, aesthetically repugnant, relationally abhorrent & morally unintelligible. They don’t comport with the nature of God revealed in the Incarnation.

            As for my model, I don’t know how theosis would work post-mortem without the epistemic & axiological distancing that’s integral to our experience of freedom, temporally. Perhaps we’ll only be choosing among eternal goods & not between being & well being.

            I appreciate these exchanges and all contributors. I resonate with insights & intuitions of most everyone, it seems.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Owen kelly says:

            I truly appreciate the response. If I’m reading you correctly (if not, forgive me), it seems your distinction between the indicative and the subjunctive universal apokatastasis correlates with the distinction between nature and person. If so, I hold a similar understanding. Briefly: the Theanthropos fully divinized human nature through the hypostatic union, making Him “the Savior of all men.” What remains is for each man to hypostatically actualize a union with the divinized human nature in Christ, receiving personally in faith what Christ accomplished naturally for all. In biblical terms, Christ is “the Savior of all men [at the level of human nature], especially of those who believe [at the level of human hypostasis].” Thus the universal salvation of human nature—the victory of Pascha—is made manifest for particular men only by hypostatic assimilation. Eschatologically, all will be raised because Christ trampled down death through His divinized human nature. Yet on the personal level, “those who have done good [will be raised] to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil [will be raised] to the resurrection of judgment.” Apokatastasis? Well, yes and no…

            Like

          • TJF says:

            Both “all” have the same reference class. As Vladimir Lossky notes, the Word does things on the Universal Level and the Spirit instantiates that hypostatically. Unless you think the Spirit will fail in His task? No matter what the infernalist does, they end up offending orthodox teaching.

            Liked by 2 people

          • Robert Fortuin says:

            Right TJF. At the root is a defective concept of freedom, i.e. a freedom indeterminate, an intentionality without rationale. Such is not at all a Christian concept of freedom, rather such a “freedom” is bondage, an enslavement to whim, chaos, the arbitrary. To add insult to injury, it is this enslavement which is claimed not only to be the divine image of God, but also that which is able to, and indeed does, eternally persists in its mad departure from God.

            Liked by 2 people

          • jsobertsylvest says:

            By indicative, I mean one can be certain that all shall be saved.

            By subjunctive, I mean one can only hope that all shall be saved.

            In my view, I believe both should be considered valid theological opinions & that neither should be considered heretical or unacceptable.

            HOWEVER, I would & do vehemently reject any subjunctive universalisms which conceive hell in terms of either an eternal conscious torment or an annihilation, whether active or passive (self-determined).

            As a follow to what I wrote in my previous posts, I think it’s not unreasonable to imagine that on our earthly journeys we are self-determining the degree of subjective beatitude we will each experience in eternity (at least initially if not everlastingly, should we be able to grow it post-mortem). This is how I imagine that takes place for us all & even for Jesus:

            https://sylvestjohn.org/2020/11/17/god-ordains-epistemic-distancing-toward-the-end-of-our-co-creative-self-determination-but-that-doesnt-make-sin-necessary/

            I believe that all enjoy restoration of our primary nature, that any vicious secondary nature is ephemeral (due to purgation) & any virtuous secondary nature is eternalized. So, I believe in an indicative apokatastenai, whereby all have their primary natures restored, wholly God-determined.

            I further believe that every eternalized virtuous nature represents a degree of theotic realization, on a continuum from a partial to a full apokatastasis.

            So, we’re all a mix of vice & virtue in our habits, the vice to be burned away, the virtue to be everlasting. I’m agnostic as to whether or not theosis continues post-mortem, quite open to the notion that some will populate the firmament like a votive candle, others like a blazing helios, no fires extinguished.

            In any case, one’s degree of subjective beatitude will overflow their self-determined capacity & of objective beatitude will give God great and greater glories, all self-determined.

            I resonate with your concerns re self-determination, otherwise differing, it seems, regarding the degree & nature of our freedom.

            Thanks for your response. I appreciate it.

            Like

          • jsobertsylvest says:

            My above-response was intended for @Owen re indicative vs subjunctive clarification.

            Like

          • Owen Kelly says:

            TJF, Lossky was indeed correct. But he was no monergist. The Spirit never fails; men simply resist Him.

            Like

          • TJF says:

            Round and round we go. DBH also says men can resist Him, but only for a time and only without perfect rational freedom. You can only resist God for a season since He isn’t an object among other objects, eventually everyone repents of their own free will because that’s what God wills (and His will isn’t in competition with our wills. Even Lossky in Mystical Theology says none of the baptized can lose their salvation no matter how much they fall away and it’s possible everyone else can too. He didn’t go far enough because there is no logical reason why God would save some and not others that isn’t arbitrary, random, and ridiculous aka not befitting God.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Owen Kelly says:

            TJF, thanks for the comment. After I read it, amazingly, I opened my copy of Mystical Theology (St. Vlad’s, 2002) and lightened upon the passage where he quotes St. Seraphim of Sarov concerning baptismal grace (pp. 170-71). This grace “makes our body a tabernacle of grace for all eternity.”

            He goes on to say, this grace “is not withdrawn from a heretic until the hour of his death, until that day which Providence assigned to man to prove him during his life upon earth. For God proves men by assigning to them the time within which they must accomplish their work in turning to good account the power of the grace which has been given to them.”

            Did you have in mind a different passage where Lossky says none of the baptized can lose their salvation no matter how much they fall away? Lossky is a favorite of mine, so I’d be interested to read him on that topic. Thanks.

            Like

          • TJF says:

            I will quote it to you once I get home. I have it highlighted in my copy. Thanks, Owen.

            Like

          • TJF says:

            Sorry it took me so long to get back to you Owen. I found the relevant passages. Immediately after the quote from St. Seraphim you gave on pg. 171 it says that “baptismal grace, the presence of the Holy Spirit within us-inalienable and personal to each one of us–is the foundation of all Christian life.” A little bit later at the very bottom of pg. 179 and continuing onto pg. 180 it says “This presence of the Holy Spirit in us, which is the condition of our deification, cannot be lost…” So we see that he says baptism is the presence of the Holy Spirit within us and can never be lost. I guess you could say that you could be in Hell even with God and His grace being present in you, but that doesn’t sound coherent to me. Even later on at the bottom of pg. 235 he says “In the parousia, and the eschatological fulfillment of history, the whole created universe will enter into perfect union with God” and “the limits of the Church beyond death and the possibilities of salvation for those who have not known the light in this life, remain a mystery of the divine mercy for us, on which we dare not count, but to which we cannot place any human bound.”

            He definitely seems to be leaning towards a hopeful universalist position and I would criticize him in this very regard since he says we shouldn’t count on the divine mercy. If I can’t count on God then in whom should I place my hope? Jordan Wood’s excellent article comparing Hans Urs von Balthasar and George MacDonald makes perfect sense to me. https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2020/04/26/george-macdonald-against-hans-urs-von-balthasar-on-universal-salvation/

            Thank you for your patience Owen. I look forward to your response.

            Liked by 2 people

          • Owen Kelly says:

            This is interesting, TJF, thank you. Comparing the quotes that you and I shared, Lossky initially seems to be saying two different things. According to St. Seraphim’s statement, heretics lose the grace of baptism at death. But in some other sense, the Spirit’s presence cannot be lost; grace perdures for the baptized. The best way I can reconcile these statements is by assuming Lossky is speaking about baptized Christians in the Church who are pursuing godliness, even amid their sinful stumblings.

            Thus, whereas heretics actively and arrogantly reject Christ and the Church (and thereby lose grace), faithful Christians live in a state of near perpetual penitence over their sins (and thereby retain grace).

            I think the latter may be in Lossky’s purview. At the bottom of p. 180, he notes, “All members of the Church who aspire to union with God are more or less in grace; all are more or less deprived of grace. As Ephrem the Syrian says: ‘the whole Church is the Church of the penitent; the whole Church is the Church of those who are perishing.'” This seems to define those who cannot lose grace, i.e., those aspiring to union with God, even with their great failings. A hopeful picture for a weak-willed sinner like myself.

            Like

          • TJF says:

            Whether or not Lossky was a universalist is not something I care a lot about. I do think we can try to reconcile the statements as you do or we can see that he may have contradicted himself. I’m not sure, either way I think that all of us, even the most evil among us are searching for God and are just mistaken when we take evil for the good. As Christ said, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” Anyways, I think that’s the most I can add to this conversation. May God have mercy on us all Owen and thank you for your insightful arguments.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Owen Kelly says:

            Thank you also, TJF. I appreciate the charitable dialogue.

            Liked by 2 people

          • Robert Fortuin says:

            Owen/TJF

            A curious conundrum arises – a perfect and rational freedom of the will is presumed to be the basis for perpetual defiance against God and this is, we are told, the very reason for the existence of a hell without end. In perfect freedom (hence the culpability) the soul through an unending series of free and rational choices perpetually continues to resist God and is thus deserving of eternal punishment. But from whence this perfection of the will, this ability to make a rational choice in perfect freedom to make not God, but hell is end? How can this be construed as freedom? How is a choice to abandon God (who is true, right, beauty) for the darkness not absolute madness, the absolute opposite of freedom, a self destructive enslavement to deception and delusion? But yet we are are told such is freedom, and the soul is left to its own devices….. and this is, hoorah, the Paschal triumph, a victory lap for those that have the fortitude and clarity of mind and will to choose what is right (who were heavenward anyways). To hell with everyone else, apparently.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Owen Kelly says:

            Thanks, Robert. I actually see things differently than you’ve described, i.e., that “the soul through an unending series of free and rational choices perpetually continues to resist God and is thus deserving of eternal punishment.” Instead, St. Seraphim’s view, quoted above, is my view too.

            The day of our death is “that day which Providence assigned to man to prove him during his life upon earth. For God proves men by assigning to them the time within which they must accomplish their work in turning to good account the power of the grace which has been given to them.”

            Those in hell may indeed defy God in perpetuity; but that’s not the reason for their eternal damnation. The deeds done in the body, during this earthly life, make one deserving of eternal punishment. I see our works done now as the basis of God’s future final judgment.

            Like

          • Robert Fortuin says:

            Even worse! A finite act awaiting an infinite punishment. An infinitely unmeasurable disproportion and injustice. Indeed that monstrous, sadistic god deserves to be resisted, eternally!

            Liked by 1 person

        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          “Even Hart seems to think it’s at least possible for someone to injure herself forever, though he indicates that through God’s providence, God only actualizes the world in which Martha is saved, and only actualizes the world in which all of us are eventually saved.”

          Mark, the above sentence confused me. As far as I know, DBH has never expressed himself in this way, and I doubt he ever would. It sounds too much like Molinism, which Hart emphatically rejects. God does not choose between possible worlds, and there is no possible world–cannot be a possible world–in which Martha eternally rejects God. This possibility is excluded (1) by God’s nature as infinite Love and (2) by humanity’s primordial orientation toward the Good. See pp. 178-179 in TASBS.

          Liked by 4 people

          • Then would God’s providence only be to make things happen sooner rather than later? You’re probably right, but maybe I just personally don’t like the idea that humanity’s primordial orientation toward the good is SO inevitable that God doesn’t even need to organize the world so that universal salvation is the final outcome. Rather, his organization would only ensure that universal salvation occurs at time t2 rather than time t3. Or is that not what Hart believes either?

            What is the purpose of Hart making this argument then?:
            “Knowing not only all the events that constitute each individual life, but also all of an agent’s inner motives and predispositions and desires – all thoughts, impulses, hopes, preferences, yearnings, and aversions- and so knowing what choice any given soul will make when confronted with certain options and situated among certain circumambient forces, God can (if nothing else) so arrange the shape of reality that all beings, one way or another, come at the last upon the right path by way of their own freedom, in this life or the next.”

            Please excuse the “possible world” language, I know Hart doesn’t talk that way. But I don’t know how else to talk, and if God knows “what choice any given soul will make when confronted with certain options,” is it wrong to speak of the options or choices not taken as other possible worlds that are not actualized?

            Why would God need to “arrange the shape of reality” so that all will be saved if it were not metaphysically possible for some to be lost? Here, it sounds like God simply prevents that from ever happening by ensuring through his providence that all will be saved. This says nothing of God’s nature. It could still be part of God’s intrinsic nature for him to only create a universalist world, but this could only happen through his providence.

            If this is true, then this would seem to mean that humanity’s primordial orientation towards the good isn’t sufficient enough for universal salvation to be ensured. God still must create a world in which there are no eternal barriers that prevent each individual from finding his/her telos in God.

            Like

          • Robert Fortuin says:

            Mark, the problem arises when one thinks of God, and God acting in the world, as a discrete object among objects, competing for space and time. God’s actions do not add or subtract anything to the world. A god that is an agent among agents indeed would need time t1, t2, t3, etc. a series of possible worlds, of actions and reactions to actions – take this, add that, eliminate this, etc.. to effect its will over time (as indeed we would too). But the God of classical Christianity is not an agent among agents, He does not need to respond as discrete agents and objects do. He makes us choose Him freely, without adding to or reducing secondary agency – there’s no competition of powers or wills as there would be among agents. God is the transcendental horizon towards which we move, and in Him as such our freedom lies; but this is not a choice “for God” as an object among objects.

            Liked by 1 person

          • There’s not a box to respond to Robert, so I’m not sure where this comment will end up. But my intention is for it to go below Robert.

            “But the God of classical Christianity is not an agent among agents, He does not need to respond as discrete agents and objects do. He makes us choose Him freely, without adding to or reducing secondary agency – there’s no competition of powers or wills as there would be among agents. God is the transcendental horizon towards which we move, and in Him as such our freedom lies; but this is not a choice “for God” as an object among objects.”

            So then what does the bit of TABS that I quoted mean to you? And what is Gregory of Nyssa doing in On the Early Deaths of Infants when he goes on about God letting certain infants die rather than live because He knew that HAD THEY LIVED, they would have been a Ted Bundy, etc.? It seems like these are possibilities that God chooses not actualize. What’s wrong about that interpretation?

            Like

          • Robert Fortuin says:

            Mark – possibilities are possibilities for us, but not for God, for whom there’s only the actual. Note that in the TASBS quote you cite David writes “knowing” as active present participle – this is not in the past or future tense. It is not that God will in the future come to discover and know which of your possibilities you have actualized. There’s only one actualization of a choice from among many possible choices, and knowing that one actualization God can arrange things according as He wills. As transcendental end of all rational desire God does not need ‘possible worlds’ (an absurdity of an anthropomorphism if there ever was one) to bring about change.

            You ask, “Why would God need to “arrange the shape of reality” so that all will be saved if it were not metaphysically possible for some to be lost?” – because created rational agents (still) need to freely come to their transcendental end. God does not save us against our will, but saves us through our willing; He does not impinge upon, nor take away secondary causation. For the creature this is a process, an epektasis, a movement of the will towards freedom, a fulfillment of rational desire which can only come to rest in God.

            I hope that helps. Read TASBS meditation 4 on freedom again, and again.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Does God having a choice automatically commit us to demoting God to some sort of Zeus-like status? Certainly speaking of Him having a “choice” is anthropomorphic and falls short of who God is, but how else are we as mere humans supposed to speak?

            If God’s creating is not constrained by necessity, wouldn’t this indicate some sort of quasi “choice” on God’s part to create the world? Now this is becoming a discussion of absolute divine simplicity, but this seems to be what both you and Fr Aidan are objecting to.

            My disagreement with David Bradshaw here isn’t necessarily his criticisms of absolute divine simplicity, though at times, it seems like his formulation of essence and energies sounds like two separate entities. It’s his drawing of lines from Augustine to Aquinas and their formulation of divine simplicity that lead to Kant and Hume, and then ultimately to the downfall of western civilization!! that seems pretty far fetched to me. It seems like I can get behind a lot of where Jared Goff is on all this. And Marcus Plested. Goff doesn’t object to possible world speak in his conversation with Bradshaw.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Robert Fortuin says:

            I do think God makes choices, and we can and should speak about God making choices (and we must speak about God making choices). However, and this is a big however (“it’s huge” LOL), it is not a choice among choices as we make choices for there’s no movement, no acquisition, no change, no imperfection in God. So there are strict boundaries as to how we can use and apply such language about God, and this has immediate implications to our theological endeavors.
            How about this: God eternally chooses as the infinite source of all rational freedom, intentionality and desire, and as such God transcends all possible choices among choices.

            Liked by 1 person

          • “You ask, “Why would God need to “arrange the shape of reality” so that all will be saved if it were not metaphysically possible for some to be lost?” – because created rational agents (still) need to freely come to their transcendental end.”

            But that’s what I’ve been saying. Through God’s providence, he needs to create a world in which all rational agents are not impeded from reaching their transcendent end. Which to me, means that it’s hypothetically possible for something to prevent a rational agent from reaching that transcendent end for all eternity. But! Perhaps it’s NOT hypothetically possible for God to ever create that world. Perhaps he is bound through necessity to create a universalist world.

            Do we disagree here?

            Also, I don’t disagree with your B theory of time. It certainly seems to be the majority patristic view (though obviously the term is anachronistic). God “sees” all things at once.

            I also don’t disagree (at least I don’t THINK I do) with what you say about God’s choice.

            Where we still disagree (and I have no doubt Hart is on your side here) is with this language of possibility or possible worlds. I just don’t see what’s so bad about it. Obviously, God does not sit down at his computer and run a bunch of scenarios till he finds one he likes and pushes a button and out pops our world. But why can’t we speak of possible worlds as long as we say that this a very vulgar and inaccurate way of speaking about God that nevertheless helps to make certain points?

            I’ve always liked analytic philosophy, and I doubt that’s ever going to change no matter how long I hang out here with you guys. 🙂

            I just sometimes wonder if there is greater agreement on some things than the anti-Divine personalists would care to admit.

            Liked by 1 person

          • jsobertsylvest says:

            @Mark & @Robert, thanks for having this conversation.

            @Mark, I find possible worlds God-talk indispensable, although, by definition, comparative & superlative distinctions couldn’t apply. So, I do conceive of God choosing from among an infinite array of aesthetically equipoised optimalities, even in response to our co-creative wills.

            I also think that weaker notions of divine simplicity implicate far fewer threats to divine intrinsic perfections than many would care to admit or seem to imagine.

            Our conceptual needles must be delicately threaded when invoking such distinctions as the divine nature & will, immanent & economic trinity, ur-kenosis & kenosis, etc For example, Norris Clarke’s personalist approach makes sense to me in this regard.

            But “best” possible world determinations don’t make sense from an Anselmian perspective regarding One Whose pure acts are eternally “greater than which cannot be conceived” naturally or volitionally.

            Liked by 2 people

          • Robert Fortuin says:

            Mark – “Perhaps he is bound through necessity to create a universalist world. Do we disagree here?”

            Me – God is no more “bound through necessity” to love, or to be, or to do, then He is to create a universalist world. Can God contradict himself? It is just all silly talk (I’m not being dismissive here, please don’t misunderstand me).

            Mark – “But why can’t we speak of possible worlds as long as we say that this a very vulgar and inaccurate way of speaking about God that nevertheless helps to make certain points?”

            Me – Because, in my opinion, it is not an accurate theological account. It presumes a series of choices and reactions from which God has to choose in reaction to our actions. It has repercussions on how it is understood God knows and does, and how He interacts with creation.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            Mark, you write:

            Then would God’s providence only be to make things happen sooner rather than later? You’re probably right, but maybe I just personally don’t like the idea that humanity’s primordial orientation toward the good is SO inevitable that God doesn’t even need to organize the world so that universal salvation is the final outcome. Rather, his organization would only ensure that universal salvation occurs at time t2 rather than time t3. Or is that not what Hart believes either?

            But God has in fact organized the cosmos so that all rational beings will eventually embrace him. That is the whole point about Gehenna as purgatorial transformation. It is precisely then, for all who have adamantly rejected him in this life, that humanity’s primordial desire for God will come into its own. Imagine being in a condition of outer darkness, where one is deprived of all creaturely sources of possible happiness, where one is deprived of all creaturely goods to which we have attached ourselves as substitutes for the Good, when self-delusion can no longer be sustained. To what other good can one then turn but to the living Good himself? No one has explored this dimension of Gehenna than George MacDonald in his sermon “The Consuming Fire.” The outer darkness, as imagined by MacDonald, is a mode of God’s inescapable transformative presence. One way or another, God will have his way with us.

            Regarding Hart’s view, I probably cannot improve on what I wrote in “The Necessary Choosing of the Good.”

            As to why God give us the ability to turn away from him, perhaps this is entailed by his decision to create historical beings. I’ve asked David to write a piece for EO exploring all of this, since it’s a question that many people are asking. I hope he’ll find the time to write it for us.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Fr Aidan,

            I don’t think there’s much I disagree with you or Robert about here.

            My only concern is that if the primordial orientation of the will (POW) argument is made in a very strong sense, it would seem to imply that REGARDLESS of how God organizes the world, all will be saved. That seems problematic to me. If it’s understood in a weaker sense, it seems far less problematic. In a weaker sense, by themselves, providence and the POW are necessary but not sufficient to ensure universal salvation. However, when combined, they ARE sufficient to ensure universal salvation.

            Imagine your average sinner ends up in hell, and meets the only person in the universe that can convince him to stay in hell forever. Their POW is never brought to its telos. My point is that God, through his providence, would simply ensure that these two individuals never meet so that UR ensues.

            Do you still find that disagreeable?

            Like

          • Hi Mark. I copied a comment Hart wrote somewhere on EO a few months ago and I thought it relevant to your comments:

            « Creation is not the magical conjuration into existence of something that possesses all the attributes of the past without actually possessing a past. Surely that must be true, right? If it were, then there would be no such thing as free rational creatures, but only fictional characters summoned into existence in a preordained state of character.
            So, the issue of evil isn’t a utilitarian calculus, it’s a matter of the process whereby nothingness and every possibility of evil inherent in the conditions of finite freedom is conquered while actually bringing free spiritual natures into existence. But spirit can exist only under the conditions of those rational conditions that logically define it. To ask why God did not create spiritual beings already wholly divinized without any prior history in the ambiguities of sin—or of sin’s possibility—is to pose a question no more interesting or solvent than one of those village atheist’s dilemmas: can God create a square circle, or a rock he is unable to lift? A finite created spirit must have the structure of, precisely, the finite, the created, and spirit. It must have an actual absolute past in nonbeing and an absolute future in the divine infinity, and the continuous successive ordering of its existence out of the former and into the latter is what it is to be a spiritual creature. Every spiritual creature as spirit is a pure act of rational and free intentionality away from the utter poverty of nonbeing and toward infinite union with God. This “temporal” or “diastematic” structure is no less intrinsic to it than is its dynamic synthesis of essence and existence, or of stability and change. And that means that even the first stirring of a created spiritual nature’s existence must be a kind of free assent to existence on the part of the creature.
            Come to think of this, I have a book coming out that covers much of this. It’s called “You Are Gods.” Next year some time. »

            https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2020/09/23/thomas-aquinas-on-evil-and-human-freedom-with-critique-of-universal-salvation/#comment-33277

            Liked by 2 people

    • JBG says:

      And why were we brought into existence? I suppose the answer hinges on that question.

      We were made to add something to God; something that it couldn’t have had otherwise? Are we essentially a plaything for God?

      Or were we made for ourselves?

      If God exists, it doesn’t need validation, or praise, or worship, or even love. It did not make us because it wanted or needed love from “free-willed” creatures. That is the most pervasive and inane religious canard.

      So the story goes: God was so desperate to have love showered upon him that he was compelled to create “free-willed” creatures, at the cost of eternal agony for a portion of them. This was deemed perfectly acceptable. Wow, this is one seriously desperate and pathetic God.

      But it gets worse. For the hell-mongerer, we exist as playthings for God and were made, at least in part, for a diabolical game. The prize or penalty at the end of the game is rather incidental–we were really made for the game itself. We are game pieces—nothing more, nothing less. Our personal experience does not and cannot matter within this scheme, for this is not why we were created. We were made to give something to God, not for God to give something to us. Our experience does not matter. Our experience would only matter if we were brought into existence for our own sakes, rather than the sake of the game and to bring pleasure to God.

      Those that win the game are given the privilege heaping praise and love on God for eternity. Even here, the “reward” is not really for the creatures because, remember, we were created to stroke God’s ego. It’s not about us. It’s all about God. It is all about entertaining and pleasing an eternally love-starved, sadistic, malignantly narcissistic God.

      You can have this God. Any reasonably intelligent, compassionate person would want nothing to do with it. As such, hell will be populated with only the best among us.

      Like

      • Grant says:

        It is worth noting Griffiths is an annihilationist not an infernalist (as well as “hopeful” universalist – I say “hopeful” in quotation marks since this isn’t Christian idea of hope, which is the sure and certain hope of things not seen, what is and to come founded on the defeat of death in Christ’s Incarnation – in a Hans Urs Von Balthasar or Kalistos Ware mode at least by this piece). So he isn’t advocating the same morally bankrupt and sadistic view that is infernalism, and that needs to emphasised. He also seems to back Justin Coyle view (who wrote an article here defending firm universalism as permissible within the Catholic, and specifically Roman Catholic situation), so that defence of such a view from someone like Paul Griffiths and of his standing is important.

        That said, I do feel as I’ve said that this piece essentially dodges all Hart’s arguments and doesn’t really tackle him and his book and it’s argument (and sub-arguments), apart from and I qoute:

        “And there are only bad Aristotelean-metaphysical reasons for denying that the LORD might let us damage ourselves enough that we become not (you can read the bad reasons in Thomas Aquinas, among many others).”

        Yet this is here just an empty assertion, there is no argument to back it up, nor evidence where Hart’s reading of rational freedom is a “bad Aristotelean-metaphysical’ one, nor how a person is free in warped and damaged by death and sin. With all do respect to him, and I do have allot of respect for him, there isn’t anything here to answer Hart’s charges or arguments, nothing to show to don’t hold true. The creatio ex nihilo argument is untouched and unmentioned, even though it is certain to holding true to certain key Christian Dogmas without incoherence and in truth, not in a form of irrational and self-deceptive fiedlism, essentially abandoning truth for the sake of what is perceived to be Christian demands.

        I don’t believe this is what he thinks he is doing, but I can’t see this piece in any other way, as boiling down to an assertion that this is what Christianity demands so we must do it even if it is incoherent and self-contradictory and abandon truth for obedience against what is true. And to me that is against Christ who is the Truth (in this area at least). God is greater than our reason but He isn’t against what it, that isn’t faith. After all, once you go down that path, you both must accept anything form your source of authority no matter what or how it appears terrible or irrational or self-contradictory, and you have nothing to say to someone who feels and accepts a different authority (no way to say yours is right other than it just is, to you). Personal truth etc., not what truth really is, which is abandons.

        I do find it also telling that he has essentially ceded the field to Hart here in each and all of his arguments, attempting to insist instead that Church simply demands that we must hold both views as possibly at one and the same time (even though that makes on sense, as TJF said, could just as easily say well maybe Jesus is the Son of God and was raised and defeated and destroyed death, or maybe He was just a confused Jewish preacher and rebel who died terribly and is dust and bones now and we in our sins and under death still, St Paul I think had something to say about that, or maybe people will be destroyed or perhaps God will save them, who can say against His inscrutable and capricious divine sovereign will if He will so ensure that they will find salvation or not, and so Calvinism essentially, with the best respect I have to say it’s nonsense).

        However I also think he is wrong on convenientia and that this position is one which does still greatly damage Christian thought, life and witness and deforms Christian thought outside of just this area. It creates contradictions, confusions, distortions in practice and life, creates terrible mental fear, drains joy and life for countless people (and both myself and number of people I know have been destroyed by this). It has been the thing which as justified terrible torture, violence, oppression and killing throughout Christian history, from Roman/Eastern Roman Emperor persecuting those they viewed heretics (even ones later becoming saints) to the same in the West, to acts of violence of military from between Latin and Greeks over the past 1500 years, to the deaths and tortures between Catholics and Protestants, conversion at the sword. If you believe that God can indeed allow someone, perhaps many to be lost forever, that Christ’s prayer and efforts or only mildly effective and that He would leave some in self-destructive delusion then you are driven to fight against God essentially to save as many as you can, and any means becomes potentially justifiable. The stakes are of course eternal and absolute, you are then a surgeon saving or trying to save them from destruction and death (and for infernalists eternal torture and an everlasting concentration camp). After-all, the reason heretics were often burnt was to give them a taste of the hellfire to come and so give a last chance for them to repent and be saved, there is terrible logic here, and eternal loss, particularly infernalism and not annihilationism I grant which is immensely morally superior and has some but in my view not full Scriptural support unlike infernalism, but even annihilationism can lead to this. You are still doing something to save someone from death which caps their tortured and broken life in this fallen realm, even with these stakes this can and does drive to extremes.

        If it isn’t so bad now it because God has done much in His grace to remove secular power from a Church that failed to follow the Gospel in these areas, and served Caesar instead of Christ here (since that isn’t what His authority looks like, just read any of the Gospels to see that). And as long as this drives in the background, and is indeed the heart of the faith for many in influence, as even we see here, reason, truth must bow to the doctrine of eternal loss and real possibility God might bring about, and we just have to hope God is better than we fear He is (and ignore any incoherence and contradictions that essentially deny and refute key Christian claims).

        Anyway, as said, this piece basically avoids Harts arguments while trying to insist they are wrong or inadmissible in Christian life. That said, he has defended the right it seems for us to advance a stronger view which I am grateful for, and if his view was the default one of the Church (Catholic, Eastern or Oriental Orthodox etc) I would be happy enough as it allowed for adherence of different positions on that spectrum as within Orthodox and Catholic belief.

        However one point looking over it I must respond to is:

        “David Hart, I take it, in his splendid, if gloomily polemical book from 2019, That All Shall Be Saved, is a proponent of all, modalized necessitarianly (necessarily all) and coupled with certitude in the order of knowing (I’m quite, quite, sure that necessarily all) and something approaching contempt in the polemical order (if you don’t think what I think about this then you’re a gangrened wound on Christ’s beautiful body).”

        Again we see this identification of a view that someone holds with their own person, in that Hart’s strong attacks against infernalism particularly is somehow being seen as an attack on those holding it. This is I think an unfortunate and confused and unjust accusation, as Hart attacks no one, he actually praises people who do hold it as being far better then their affirmed belief (suggesting that they belief only in the belief of infernalism rather than infernalism itself, their life and actions belying their intellectual assertion). You can disagree with that, but it remains the fact that Hart attacks ideas, not people, he never says “if you don’t think what I think about this then you’re a gangrened wound on Christ’s beautiful body”, nor implies it, it is only the view of eternal loss, particularly infernalism which he views this way. Unless people are their positions even when those are mistaken and bad, and their worth to made equal to that, which is I’m sure not something Griffiths believes this is just another example of this confused and unjust attack on Hart, of being unable for some reason by many critics to separate an attack on the idea and concept from attacks on the person. It is strange coming from so many in some cases high level and experienced academics who definitely should no better, but it remains consistent. While Hart’s polemical style against infernalism in particularly is bracing, it is against, and I underline, INFERNALISM, not the people adhering to it, he carefully distinguishes the two.

        I can only think that as in politics and culture wars in much of the Western world, people are increasingly equating certain positions emotionally with themselves and their own worth for some reason, and so attacks on a concept, view or position become attacks on themselves. It’s destructive and is something deeply broken in our societies preventing reasoned discussion and honest search and discernment of the truth, and it’s worrying to see it so prevalent amongst Christians (though sadly no surprising to any of us who have been around the block a bit).

        And sorry JBC, back to your own point, if God did created out of a need for love in any way, then such would not God, but only lesser being, who has unrealised needs, and yet more areas potentially where eternal loss essentially denies more fundamental Christian claims.

        Like

  3. The assertion of sin’s power to de-create man is persuasive. Still, I think the annihilation of men entails doctrinal repercussions for the Creator as Savior that are too grave to be actualized in the eschaton. But my question for Professor Griffiths is a dogmatic one. Does he believe that Catholics without pain of heresy may hold to the thesis of D.B. Hart’s book?

    Like

    • You and others seem to think I’m asking why God didn’t just create us saved. I’m not asking that. I agree with the quote to the extent that I understand it. It’s not possible for God to create a world in which beings such as ourselves immediately exist in a perfected state. That can only come after God’s economic arrangement of the world has led all of us home and we have learned in this life or the next, to renounce all our passions and embrace what our wills were always searching for. This has to happen through a process, and God hopes that most of us learn in this life rather than the next, where the rug is pulled out from under us, so to speak, and we have to feel every last consequence of our sin. To me, Maximus makes this very clear in his Amb. 7. To argue that God could simply create us in an already perfected state is to argue in favor of the type of “Origenism” that Maximus was arguing against. It would also mean that we can’t be assured there will be no second fall. So I agree here.

      The only thing I’m saying is that in order for the will of each creature to reach its transcendent end, God would have to create a particular world where that happens and NOT create a world where some wills are prevented from reaching their transcendent end. Not just any world will do. But this seems to offend a lot of people and I’m not sure why. To say that regardless of how God organizes the world, we would eventually get the same result seems to give providence short shrift. Unless you’re ok with saying that the only role that providence serves is to ensure that UR happens earlier and involves less suffering than some alternative possibility in which it takes longer and involves more suffering for each soul to reach its transcendent end. I’m not ready to bite that bullet though. I’d rather say that providence ensures universal salvation, and without it, universal salvation would not be possible. You need more than just the transcendental orientation of the will. You need both. Is that really so controversial?

      Like

      • Does Hart believe that his argument for the primordial orientation of the will is sufficient to establish that universal salvation will occur? Without any additional arguments?

        Like

        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          Mark, it’s important to remember that Hart begins his book with the claim that eternal damnation cannot be reconciled with the confession that the God of Love has freely created the universe out of nothing. This claim frames his reflections on rational freedom and humanity’s primordial desire for God. To refresh your memory, take a look at my series “Apprehending Apokatastasis, as well as Hart’s essay “God, Creation, and Evil.” In other words, even if Hart’s argument on the determination of human being toward the Good should fail, his moral argument against eternal damnation, shared by all advocates of the greater hope, still stands.

          Like

          • Fr Aidan,

            I don’t think his POW argument “fails.” Has he ever implied he thinks that argument alone establishes universal salvation? To me, it implies that, if given sufficient grace, the will WILL NATURALLY finds its transcendent end in God. That seems right to me. This implies that if this didn’t happen, that God would be to blame since that would mean he created a world that somehow prevented a will from reaching its natural end.

            I think the creatio ex nihilo argument and the argument for the connectedness of persons establish that universal salvation is the only outcome that really makes sense if God is God. The POW just seems to partially explain how this comes about.

            I just don’t see why analytic language is so absolutely anathema like most people on this blog do. As long as we acknowledge that it’s anthropomorphic and vulgar, I don’t see an issue.

            Liked by 1 person

          • jsobertsylvest says:

            @Mark, in my view, there’s nothing inherently wrong with an analytic approach. Too often, it gets overapplied, though, because our God-talk doesn’t lend itself to formal syllogisms. At best, some modicum of semantical univocity allows us to make successful references to divine reality using a semi-formal heuristic (e.g. Abelard’s divine vs creaturely modes of identity).

            As you know, this is because, in principle, we have no successful definitions of divine being. Our divine conceptions require so much apophasis & analogy, ontologically, as we properly distinguish nondeterminate & determinate being, that they can result in the establishment of theological creedal contours but nothing like syllogistic proofs. For example, some otherwise very bright individuals traffic in analytical trinitology, using interchangeable concepts as if divine & determinate realities were constituted by a univocity of being.

            As you put it, they use analytic language way too anthropomorphically. The language, as you put it, is rather “vulgar,” or we could say more “common” sensical or semi-formal.

            Like you, I like a rather robust notion of divine intentionality & even possible worlds talk, as long as it doesn’t involve comparative & superlative qualifiers. This necessarily applies to counterfactual analyses, though. By definition, God wouldn’t deliberate between comparatively good but only equally good scenarios? So, I do embrace a thin passibility & weakened simplicity.

            So, I don’t see an issue, given your caveats.

            Liked by 1 person

        • I see what you mean. I’d be interested to read Hart’s response to your question. Here are my initial thoughts.

          Because I hold that creation and redemption are inseparable, God’s decision to create is one with his choice to perfect creation. I agree with your statement that “providence ensures universal salvation, and without it, universal salvation would not be possible.” But I would make a crucial qualification that God’s providence is identical with his continued act of creatio ex nihilo; therefore creatio ex nihilo ensures universal salvation. There is no additional act needed (see Hart’s essay “Impassibility As Transcendence: On the Infinite Innocence of God”). And, consequently, without God’s providential act of apokatastasis nothing would exist at all. In short, the restoration of all things is the creation of all things.

          To be created out of nothing is to be drawn to the good (in any possible world). To hold that a creature could in saecula saeculorum resist God entails that being and goodness are not transcendentally one and that God’s salvific will could be separate from his act of creation.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Nick,

            I would guess he would say something very similar to what you just said. It would be interesting to get Thomas Talbot and other analytic universalists in here to see what differences might arise in their articulations of universalism.

            Like

      • Grant says:

        To butt in a bit, I would say it is somewhat nonsensical (in terms of Hart’s understanding and the implications as I understand and agree with from classical theism broadly) rather than controversial. God is not a object to be chosen amongst other objects, He is the Good as such, Being as such, Love as such and so on, any and all choice and movements is a choice is a choice, movement and growth from non-being towards Him (who is Being as such). Basically every action or choice is motivated by the prior desire and towards that overall end, every desire and action is for and towards the Good and the Beautiful, however distorted, all the myriad of actions and choices in all their complexity are part of, founded on, partipate in and directed towards the infinity wellspring and source that is God, their are the diverse aspects of a complex whole. However distorted now, however confused all action and movement is still part of that call and rise from non-being towards as Hart puts it, divine infinity. The levels when distortion, damage, ingorance removed will result by definition in the correction to embrace what is the person’s choice and desire all along.

        I would also say that this prior transcendental ‘determinism’ is the only thing that makes all choice legitimately rational and free decisions and actions, without that prior horizon (besides being I think incoherent understanding of freedom) would not bring into existence free rational beings, but things framed and dominated by acts and choices of completly arbitrariness, random irrational actions without rational content, source, desire or orientation, a true and absolute determinism to random chaotic chance (effectively decisions produced by a random number generator in which someone’s actions and salvation or damnation, eternal or temporary would be something they literally could not be responsible for).

        As to why differents of time for some or others, that is part of the same rising from non-being towards that infinity horizon which is a true free arising with free responses (both collectively and personally), with, the consequent risk and reality of Fall, and within that personal actions and results (both for themselves and from others and resulting environment, since we exist in communion and in unity, impaired and broken as it is, and perhaps with the unfair results for the time in one way that comes from that, but with the promise of the full flourishing that can only come with the full realization of the freed unity into the dance of the Trinity). Because that arising is geninuely free, because of that transcendent infinity horizon and ground, of Him in which we live, move and have our being, the resulting movement, fall and it’s providential ordering as part of God’s Act of creation is likewise delivering the results of that free response and nature.

        It isn’t providential ordering or the created being’s orientation (inherent to them being a creature called from nothing into participation in, with and towards the infinity of the act of Existence that is God. God’s providential ordering is simply part of this Act of creation, the second and shadowly incomplete and shadowy creation enfolded in the full creation in Christ. Possibly worlds etc doesn’t really make sense when talking about God who isn’t and object amonst objects, and being amongst beings, isn’t one choice a created being can make over other choices, He is the infinity source from which all being and all choice arises and all desire is towards. He isn’t a god, He is God. The only real question is God would leave created finite beings in darkness and inrationality and distortion preventing them from healing from and achieving the movement towards the divine infinity towards which we all reach personally and collectively. For Christians that answer is absolutely not, from whom God, Reality and beyond Reality Himself is revealed to be in Christ, the Logos, and therefore that action as part of God’s creative action in bringing all creation into being (including all aspects of created reality, time, space, movment from non-being into His infinity), in which the Logos is that in which we subside and are raised by, from non-being, distortion, and all affects of the wavering actions of that faultering arising, centred and united in HIs Incarnation, the heart and source of creation (the very thing we celebrate this time of year), liberates and heals the distortions and confusions of our own free nature that traps itself so it is free to move towards their desires and growth, redemption and salvation part of creation.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Robert Fortuin says:

        Mark – “To say that regardless of how God organizes the world, we would eventually get the same result seems to give providence short shrift. ”

        Me – but who here is saying that? On the contrary Fr Aidan yesterday noted that, “….God has in fact organized the cosmos so that all rational beings will eventually embrace him. ”

        Mark – “I’d rather say that providence ensures universal salvation, and without it, universal salvation would not be possible. You need more than just the transcendental orientation of the will. You need both. Is that really so controversial?”

        Me – Controversial, no. Objectionable, yes – for the orientation of the will and God’s providence do not two movements make.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Tom says:

    Thanks so much for this Paul.

    Just thinking out loud here.
    (Cf. the Square of Opposition: https://iep.utm.edu/sqr-opp/):

    (A) All X —– (E) No X
    (I) Some X —- (O) Some Not X

    These props can be laid out in modal terms as well:
    (A) Necessary all —- (E) Necessarily none
    (I) Possibly some — (O) Possibly some not (= Possibly not all)

    Props A and E are contraries (which may be either one true and the other false or both false).
    Props I and O are subcontraries (which may be either one true and the other false or both true).
    Props A and O constitute a contradiction, as do Props I and E.
    Also, if Prop A is true, its subaltern Prop I must be true.
    Equally, if Prop E is true, its subaltern Prop O must be true.

    ——————-

    Paul, your claim (under head 4) that “possibly all is logically equivalent to possibly not all” seems clearly false. “Possibly all X” does not logically imply “Possibly not all X.” Let’s say “Necessarily all X” is true. Two things follow logically: (1) “Possibly all X” is also true (since if “Necessarily all X” is true, it’s also possible that all X, and thus, through subalternation, “Possibly all X” is true). But in this case (2) “Possibly not all X” is false.

    My point is that David can agree with you that “Possibly all X” is true without granting that “Possibly not all X” is also true, because he holds “Necessarily all X” to be true.

    True, it’s possible to take “Possibly all” and “Possibly not all” as both true (as you do), but not because they are by form or definition “logically equivalent.” They’re not. (Logically speaking they’re ‘subcontraries’.) Rather, only because one first assumes or demonstrates that both “Necessarily all” and “Necessarily none” are together false, as you do on the basis of both being ‘unfitting’. But ‘fittingness’ (suitability, appropriateness) is not a logical category by which the truth of propositions can be determined. So that’s what’s tripping me up here.

    I’m not sure how ‘fittingness’ ought to constrain our ‘logical’ options, especially since what Christians have considered to be ‘fitting’ options haven’t always been the same.

    How would this debate play out under the category of, say, adiaphora? Would this be as legitimate a measure as convenientia?

    Blessings,
    Tom

    Liked by 1 person

    • Grant says:

      You are right, this is also something striking in this reply, in that it doesn’t address the agruments Hart gives directly, but rather suggesting that as you say ‘fittingness’ must constrain our reason (and our hearts). But this means essentially denying our reason to a particular piety (which as you note, what Christians consider fitting has changed, and not all Christians, even within one confession agree), and not follow what seems to be true.

      Hart’s contention is nothing less that Christianity is incoherent, fundementally so at it’s core, it’s key claims contradictory and denied if there remains a geninue possiblity of eternal destruction. This doesn’t really answer that, and if accept for argument’s sake that Christianity demands this, then as it hasn’t addressed Hart’s arguments this would therefore simply mean that Christianity would therefore be false (since it would therefore be contradictory, incoherent and therefore false).

      So if someone were to accept convenientia demanded as much, then they would therefore have to conclude Christianity is therefore false (since Hart’s argument remains standing). It essentially would demand we go against reason, but that would not be faith but a kind of deliberate fideism which which embrace that which is incoherent and false and go against our reason because some authority demands it. And that would not be following the truth, which is to say to abandon faith in Christ who is the Truth.

      Basically with Hart’s arguments standing untouched, if Griffiths position would be accepted as well, to me it leads to this nihilistic situation where you continue with a dead and meaningless faith, or accept Christianity must therefore be false and in faith reject it.

      While I definitely support hopefully universalism over declaring that some will definitely be lost, and am glad to hear Griffiths leans this way, I would say that without addressing Hart’s actual arguments this would be the place this must lead (since the conclusion of Hart’s argument would also seemed to be true), leading to only rejection of Christianity as the one and only honest and faithful response.

      Thankfully I don’t think Griffiths is quite right in how he views the issue of ‘fittingness’ here, so I think we aren’t stuck in such a dire problem. But I think for those who do advocate even the possiblity of geninue eternal loss this is a real issue (and again without addressing the actual arguments, it can’t be avoided just by appeal to convenientia in my opinion).

      Like

  5. Alex says:

    Dr. Griffiths,

    You write, “All and necessarily all (David, maybe that’s you?) don’t get close: unalloyed hope only. Only some and necessarily only some also don’t get close: unalloyed lament only. Possibly all and possibly not all positively glow with convenientia by contrast.”

    It’s unclear that this is the case, at least for the “all and necessarily all” camp. Given that Hart certainly does not argue that no one will go to hell, it seems like there would be plenty of room for lament here. We can assume that many of us, perhaps even most (and especially me, as you helpfully remind us) will have to be saved “as if by fire,” and it is indeed lamentable that this is the case. That it is not a final annihilation or damnation does not mean that there is nothing regrettable about it, just that it is not finally or irreversibly so; that all will eventually be saved does not mean that we cannot lament the purifying process that this will entail. Ultimate damnation does not seem the only cause for Christian lament, at least so it seems to me. It is a hope, and it is “unalloyed” in the sense that there is no doubt that God’s will for all will come to pass, but it is certainly not a pollyannaish assertion that everything will be wonderful in the meantime.

    I would of course welcome correction on this point.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Grant says:

      Here I would agree, I don’t see the damaging to the Christian grammar that he fears, as it did not with unilateralists of the past, or with more recent ones such as Gregory MacDonald which hardly gives any complacency it not motivating Christians to want to bring Christ’s light and love into people’s lives and seem them delivered from darkness (for example his story of Lilith, or his sermon of until the last farthing, that Love will not relent until we are completely delivered, if you need such motivation it’s there). For more on that you can read this article which I think many are already familiar with: https://churchlifejournal.nd.edu/articles/the-severity-of-universal-salvation/.

      I mean in much of the Gospel, our actions to the poor and needy is because they are in hell, we are motivated by Christ, to love of another to help them in their pain and affliction. We help the homeless, the suffering, any in pain or need, those lonely, those in whom Christ is, out of love and deliver them from suffering, dehumanization, pain, damage and destruction, even though they are ‘temporary’ sufferings. We respond (well often we don’t really and not completely to our shame) because to see Christ more clearly is to seem Him in all and most of all in those suffering and so see them, to be moved by the love He sheds in Our hearts, that which is saving us to save and help others. To attempt as much as we can to save them from the hell they are in, even though that hell is temporary (in the sense it won’t be eternal, this age will pass away, these evils will vanish and injustice will end), and we would help them even if they were saintly and were given knowledge of their sure salvation at Christ’s coming (assuming a non certain unilateralist view). We wouldn’t (if we are Christian in truth) ignore them, their suffering and just shrug joyful as we say to ourselves, well they will have it great in the end, who cares about the suffering now.

      That doesn’t really make any sense I’m afraid, just we as knowing such evils will come to an end doesn’t prevent or stop any motivation to help those in need now (as the Gospel enjoins us to do) neither would it to do the same for all other suffering and peril (such as the destructive behaviours and the deformation and harm the death gives and the hell it traps and warps people in, they are hurting and we must respond, Christ is there, we must go, into shadow and slavery we must be there to be the presence of light and deliverance that He can work through, in ways we cannot see). The threat of total loss (and what that actually does to Christian belief and the picture of God it brings) just isn’t necessary and it harms rather then helps (as here we raise against time to save people for God essentially and His willingness to let death destroy people forever). Sometimes I must admit, people who are more secular or similar can see this concept clearer then Christians can at least at this level (to be fair we usually don’t connect the two actions, our helping others with ultimate salvation issues), someone is hurting, they need help. That’s it, quite simple really.

      We are there to witness to His saving of people for all hell and all the hells they find themselves in, of all the darkness they could walk, and to be conduits for this, and that which lifts up these need to Him to be the kings and priests we called to be, to be His Body in the world. And of course, both Catholic and Orthodox(es) pray for those still journeying and being sanctified/in purgatory, and while they may not know who they are, they know people are so journeying and pray for their further healing, deliverance, illumination.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alex says:

        Thanks for linking that Ross article—I hadn’t read it before but found it absolutely incredible:

        “If, though, one remains unconvinced that apokatastasis is not simply some hippyish reprieve for reprobates otherwise deserving of divine retribution, perhaps the best course of action is an examen-like inventory of one’s own sins. All of them: those of commission and omission; those committed against yourself and those against others; those you have done and those you will do; those you cannot help from doing and those in which you consciously persist; those personal vices to which you are obviously party and those systemic injustices with which you are unwittingly complicit; those of compromise and those done by committee . . .

        Bring all of these to mind. Envision drinking the LORD’s “cup of fury” and vomiting them up, as Origen puts it. Then imagine enduring the scorching flame those sins have ignited, and doing so until you are ready to repent of them—ready to repent not for the pain of being made to recall them, as though the fire was merely a punitive measure meant to goad a vague sense of remorse, but ready to take responsibility for the counterfeit corpse these specific sins have molded, and thus prepared to consign every last one of their ghastly sinews to the outer darkness before replacing them each in turn with ligaments worthy of shining raiment. It is simply presumptuous to assume shedding the shadow-self one has spent a lifetime shrouding around one’s soul is any less painful or punishing than serving an eternal sentence in an inferno not of one’s own making.”

        Hope without lament, indeed…

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Bob Sacamano says:

    Dr. Griffiths,

    I am curious how you would respond to DBH’s argument that protology and eschatology are essentially one, and therefore what God wills and what God permits (from an “eternal” perspective) is ultimately the same thing. If true, then the possibility that some may not be saved is to say that God possibly wills a part of his creation to be annihilated, which seems to be a conclusion we would want to avoid. Can God permit our annihilation without positively willing it Himself?

    Like

    • mercifullayman says:

      The very self extinction, or as suggested, the de-creation of ourselves by sin is still a creative act. Freedom, is the very creative allowance that drives any world building at all. And I’d agree with DBH, that to be truly free, is to be truly creative and to will what builds the world alongside the divine in the positive way. Yet, in each moment of the turn to non-being, we actually build a phantasmic world out of the pieces of ourselves. In a sense, the bricks of our false world are taken from the pieces of our souls/intellects/persons. That world, when judged, is burned away. To steal from a Böhmian trope, the fire is the will of God embedded in the very fount of creation itself….nothingness, and so when that fire does appear, as we pass through it and the world we constructed for ourselves is burnt away, what is left, is really an actualized nothing. Yet, that same nothing, is a something. It is the well from which flows all of creation itself. We still return, as it were, to the Godhead. To the ungrounded depths from which all flows, as it were, and freely we have done so as being allowed to create in the first place…so yes, one could make that return and “annhilate” but in a sense, they never really are gone….you just make it back to the beginning. So in a sense, your protology is your eschatology in the same way, but with a caveat.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mercifullayman says:

        And I say all of that, because I think that Berdyaev actually anticipates some of DBH’s arguments in “The Destiny of Man.” He actually puts the Origenist view in his sights and talks about how overly rational the view is in terms of where DBH draws some of his views from(Origen, Nyssen, etc and he’s an incredible fan of those guys as well.) He ends in the same place as DBH, just in a different way, granted, he is working with a much broader definition of freedom…..while also fighting against a libertarian view.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Bob Sacamano says:

          Very interesting. I had never considered “annihilation” as a return to the origin before. Certainly gives the concept a more benign feel. Thank you for the reply!

          Like

  7. Calvin Engime says:

    The assertion that “the tradition” names none of the damned comes across as an attempt to avoid dealing with traditional sources that do name some of the damned by peremptorily dismissing them as not representing tradition with the definite article; but surely this is not an adequate response to the numerous witnesses to the Church’s conviction that Judas is damned, which we surely all know? Some of the Fathers and Doctors also mention Cain, whose damnation seems to be declared quite as clearly as Adam’s salvation in the tenth chapter of the Wisdom of Solomon, and King Solomon is also regarded as lost by Augustine, Gregory the Great, and other Fathers, with St Bede observing in his Thirty Questions on the Books of Kings that if Solomon had ever fully repented, the places of idolatrous worship that he built would not have remained standing to be destroyed by Josiah. Then there are cases of Fathers asserting contemporary individuals went to hell, as when St Leo the Great wrote in a letter that he had been saddened by the “death and eternal damnation” of Dioscorus of Alexandria, or St Gregory’s report in his Dialogues that a saintly hermit learned in a vision that King Theodoric had been cast into hell.

    Like

    • TJF says:

      Lots of people go to hell, none of them stay there forever since that is impossible. I don’t think Judas is damned. Bulgakov has a convincing argument for this. But you can just go to scripture. Mt 27:3, Judas repented before he died. If repentance isn’t enough then we are all screwed. All of those people were wrong on this issue. There arguments suck. I don’t care how smart you are in other areas, how authoritative, what matters is the arguments. Their arguments are flimsy and weak and are as straw.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. TJF says:

    Maybe God became man in Christ Jesus and he went through his passion, death, resurrection, and ascension in order to free us from the chains of slavery or maybe he didn’t and was just a regular zealot apocalyptic preacher and we aren’t saved at all and are completely doomed to misery. I’ll just hold both ideas in tension because the faith is about lament and hope.

    I’m struck by the absurdity of such nonsense every time that I hear it. The most ridiculous assumption that seems present when people say things like this, is that theirs is somehow a higher faith since it avoids the pitfall of arrogance by placing trust in human wisdom. I say it is a higher faith which can see no darkness in Him at all and rejoices in His supreme light that will save and bring us all to knowledge of the truth.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree. I don’t think God asks fear of us at all. I think He asks us to trust Him. Lament is the effect of living in a fallen world, and it is right for us to look forward to a day where there will be no more lament. Sin, we lament. That the sins of men have crucified the Son of God, we lament. That, even now, against our will and heartfelt desire to honer Him whom we love, we sin often and to our own misery as well as the dishonor of our beloved and King, that we lament. But I do not think lament is a good eschatological attitude. Hope is the Christian’s eschatological attitude – yes, and no less towards the purifying fire of the God who is Love and a consuming fire.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Hmm. I don’t think of anyone, myself or anyone else as “least likely to be saved.” It might not be so to others, but it seems to me that, for me, personally, it would be a sort of strange intellectual dishonesty to even raise the question of “Who is least likely to be saved?”

    As for answering with “possibly all,” that makes sense to me. I can understand that someone might be certain of all, but not that someone would insist that others share that certainty. But how under the sun does one pray for that which one knows God does not will to, or cannot, do? This, along with several verses, among which one of the more prominent in one in Colosians about all things being reconciled to God through the blood of Christ, is what first lead me in rejecting “not possibly all,” for I had long been praying for the salvation of all and I could not do otherwise or even seriously consider it.

    Like

  10. Brad says:

    Professor Griffith’s

    You write: “Self-inflicted non-existence also has vastly more convenientia to Christianity than the misconstrued pictures of endless lakes of fire and bodily tortures with which the tradition is littered.”

    Perhaps self-inflicted annihilation has “vastly more convenientia,” but perhaps not. Hart argues, on pages 86-87 and 194-195 of TASBS, that salvation for some at the cost of annihilation for others—which given the logical consequences of creation ex nihilo would be a cost that God has chosen to pay—is a mere relative good that could not be willed by a God who is goodness itself. And in that regard, it is no more fitting that eternal conscious torment.

    In weighing the merits of your remarks, it would be helpful to know your response to this part of Hart’s argument.

    (Also, would you mind identifying the “bad Aristotelean-metaphysical reasons for denying that the LORD might let us damage ourselves enough that we become not.”)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Brad says:

    “Griffiths,” “than eternal conscious torment.” I wish WordPress had an edit feature for comments.

    Like

  12. Already tons of comments on this so I will make this very brief. I think we should elaborate what kinds of possibilities may exist from a Catholic perspective for eschatology. I agree with Paul Griffiths that in some sense, universal salvation is ontologically possible. (To deny this would, I think, necessarily make God responsible for evil in a way that cannot be conceded.) However, I would distinguish ontological/metaphysical possibilities from historical possibilities. For example, Paul Griffiths believes it is possible that not all will be saved. Let’s say that there is one person in history whose fate as already been locked in Heaven or Hell. (Paul says Hell is annihilation, so I’ll include his understanding here in my use of the term “Hell.”) The devil is the most likely candidate in my opinion, so let’s say it’s him. Assuming his fate is locked at this point, universalism is not historically possible as a condition for it — the devil’s salvation — has already failed to obtain. That’s true even if the devil’s salvation was ontologically possible, which I would say, of course it was. This is why, despite my enthusiastic agreement with much of what Paul wrote here, I disagree with him regarding the possibility of universal salvation. While there are no litanies of the damned — I would regard that as a good thing, myself — it does seem that the direction of the Christian tradition as an overall whole never endorsed universal salvation. I think that even in the absence of statements from the Extraordinary Magisterium (who also tended to be rather unhelpful during the Arian heresy), the sense of the laity is an important factor here. And while that sense is clearly shifting towards universalism since the 19th Century, that is rather late for it to do so.

    Like

  13. jsobertsylvest says:

    Thanks, Dr Griffths.

    Convenientia speaks directly to the nature of God, Who would not eternally torment anyone, it seems we agree.

    It also seems that we might agree, implicitly, that it would be incoherent for evil, a subcontrary, to transist eternally as a God-sustained parasitic existence.

    I disagree, however, that an imago Dei would ever be annihilated or decreated by any method or agent.

    So, an alternative is needed. I think Maritain had a reasonable idea in affirming apokatastenai, a restoration of one’s primary essential nature. And, once such an axiological & epistemic distancing has been closed, a certain perseverance in that restored state would necessarily obtain. If so, that would raise some interesting questions of post-mortem anthropology regarding whether & how a theotic apokatastasis might proceed beyond that (since, on earth, it’s precisely epistemic distancing that bootstraps our growth in freedom).

    I’m not averse to imagining that, absent all ECT, what might be at stake, is less so a matter of subjective beatitude (each will be God-filled to capacity) and more so one’s degree of objective beatitude in terms of Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam. This would mirror how God’s intrinsic perfection & aesthetic intensity wouldn’t change even as His aesthetic scope might very well grow.

    Finally, I agree with Pastor Belt’s assessment of logical non/equivalents, modally, and of convenientia, attitudinally. Because we only enjoy a relative amount of freedom, we couldn’t proportionately be dealt an absolute degree of punishment.

    Like

    • jsobertsylvest says:

      To be clear, I’ve always only ever imagined that what’s at stake, eschatologically, as an end-product of our earthly sojourn might be the difference between a merely abundant & clearly superabundant heavenly existence. That would take the form of, minimally, a restored primary nature, and, optimally, a theotically realized authenticity per the growth of a virtuous secondary nature.

      During our earthly sojourn, we all display a mix of virtuous & vicious aspects of our secondary natures, but the former are eternalized, the latter not (as they’re purged). So, there is a passive annihilation of our vicious selves, as we self-determine what’s lost.

      So, again, I conceive different degrees of objective beatitude. How or when an active purgation occurs, who knows. Tradition would have us approach it with no small amount of trepidation. Heck, I suffer pretty badly already. And regret what I’ve caused others.

      I do believe that had Maritain been self-consistent, he’d’ve acknowledged that the same freely gifted grace & mercy of apokatastenai would most fittingly continue to flow apokatastatically.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. FrankF says:

    “Self-inflicted non-existence also has vastly more convenientia to Christianity than the misconstrued pictures of endless lakes of fire and bodily tortures with which the tradition is littered.”

    This statement rings true, but perhaps it only tells one side of the story?

    I am reminded of St. Athanasius’s descriptions of the human condition in On The Incarnation: When man turns from the vision of God for which he was created toward the sensible things of the body, he turns toward non-existence (i.e. corruption and death).

    This is the very dilemma that prompts Athanasius to reason that it was “unfitting” for God to allow His creature, whom He had created for communion with Himself, to slip away into idolatry and to “disappear.” It is also the first reason the saint gives for the “fittingness” of the incarnation (the other side of the story).

    Like

  15. Pingback: Universalism – a qualified defense of both indicative & subjunctive apokatastasis – PARTICIPATING in the DIVINE DANCE

    • jsobertsylvest says:

      I’m not sure how or why this posted here as I’m not WordPress tech-savvy, but I apologize.

      Like

      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        Nothing to apologize for. WordPress picks up when someone has linked to a blog article and issues a pingback. It’s all normal and right. The blog owner must approve the publication of the pingback, which I did.

        Like

  16. John Harris says:

    Dr. Griffiths:

    I cannot accept the theologoumenon that you propose in this essay. God would not create a ratioinal nature knowing that in the end that being would be decreated by its thoroughly irrational choices. Neither ECT or Eternal annihilation are by any means necessary parts of the Christian convenientia. Consider the following meditation by a 9th Century Irish metaphysician upon Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 15 that God shall be “all in all”:

    Let us ask ourselves what is meant about the “all things” which God shall become in all. My own opinion is that this phrase “God is said to be all things in all things” means that even in individuals He is in all things. In individuals He will be all things in such a way that whatsoever the rational mind, purged from all filthiness of sin and utterly cleansed from the fog of evil, can either feel or understand or think will be God, nor will that mind behold any more anything else but Him, nor cleave to any but Him, and God will be the mode and measure of every one of its motions. Thus God will be all things. For there will be no more any distinction between good and evil because evil will be no more: and in him who no longer has contact with evil, God is all things: and he who resides forevermore in the Good and for whom God is all things no longer shall desire to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Therefore if the end shall be brought back to the beginning, and if the outcome of all things shall be related to their origin, He shall restore that condition which the rational nature possessed at the time when it had no need to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, so that all sense of evil being removed and converted into purity, God alone, who is One, will become for it all things, not in few or in many instances but in all, for death will be no more, the sting of death will be no more, evil will be no more at all. Then indeed will God be all in all.

    John Scottus Eriugena, Periphyseon, Book V, 929, a-c.

    Speaking for myself, the above represents the only articulation of Christian eschatology that does justice to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I was an atheistic materialist/nihilist for a good portion of my life but that vision of reality led only to despair and substance abuse. The only vision of the Last Things which gives me enough light to avoid the darkness of despair and alcoholism is universalism.

    I do thank you for expressing your view and wish you and all the readers of this blog a Happy and joyous Holiday!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you for such a wonderful quote from Eriugena here. I can see Maximian ideas and phrases everywhere, which really reinforces in my mind that Eriugena interpreted Maximus to be a universalist. I really need to pick me up some Eriugena.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    Mark, regarding Molinism and possible worlds language: I commend to you David Burrell’s Freedom and Creation in Three Traditions. Personally I have no problems using this language, as long as we keep in mind that it’s intrinsically misleading when talking about the divine act of creation. If we take it serioiusly, we will quickly find ourselves trapped in the modal collapse objection advanced by analytic philosophers. For a preview of Burrell’s analysis, see my article “Universalism, Molinism, and the Metaphysics of Actuality.”

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.