If God is going to deify everyone anyway, why not deify everyone immediately?

by David Bentley Hart

Frankly, Al, I find the question very strange. In part, because its premise is an absolute banality: that life is a kind of contest, played within the arbitrary constraints of the clock, at the end of which one either gets the trophy of salvation or suffers damnation.

​But, more to the point, the entire question is rather on the order of asking why God bothered to give a square four sides or wind the capacity to blow. Nothing is what it is except as realizing those inseparable rational relations—“aitiai” or “causae,” to use the classical and mediaeval terms—that make it what it is. Temporal extension, entailing emergence from nothingness and growth into a last end, is simply what it is to be a creature. And the emergence of a free, intentional, rational nature—beginning in nonexistence and ending in an endless journey into deification—is what it is to be a spiritual creature. That passage from nothingness into the infinite, which is always a free movement toward a final cause, is the very structure of such creatures. They could not exist otherwise. Not even God could create a free spiritual being without that real history. God’s act of creation is not the magical conjuration into existence of something that possesses all the attributes of the past without actually possessing a past. Any temporal origin in media res, as it were, would rest upon an established and extrinsically imposed fundamentum inconcussum, a substratum of the unfree, immutably “posited” prior to any free intention. Any “human being” created under such conditions would be a fiction, a dramatis persona, a fictional character summoned into existence in a preordained state of character, and not a living soul.

​These are not arbitrary rules that God could change without abolishing the spiritual nature of his creatures. They do not, however, imply that a passage through evil is somehow a necessary phase in the growth of spiritual natures. It merely means that, as spirit must move toward its divine end freely, out of and away from the utter moral and ontological poverty of nonbeing, the possibility of temporary but often tragic divergences from the true path are intrinsic to its nature until such time as that nature has grown into what Gregory of Nyssa calls stability in the Good.

​So, again, 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.

​​I should end there, but why not up the stakes, just for the sake of mischief? Just to make this whole issue more abstruse than it needs to be, I would recommend here that everyone consider the logic of Bulgakov’s re-Christianization of Fichte. (At least, as I interpret him.)

​Finite spirit is, as spirit, always also a self-positing “I,” for both better and worse. And it is only as such an “I” that any free spiritual being could be created by God. That is, God cannot create a free rational creature unless that creature is already free in being created—which is to say, unless that creature has freely consented to its own creation, and unless that consent is truly constitutive of the act of its creation. And so, then, it must also be true that no creature can exist as spirit except by its free acceptance of the invitation to arise from nothingness, and by intending itself in intending its final cause. Spirit exists as an act of assent to the Father and, in that assent, an act of complete acceptance of the gift of being. Though whatever is created must be created in its last end, still spiritual existence is possible only under the conditions of those rational relations (those aitiai) that logically define it. That assent, of course, cannot come “before” a creature exists; but it is necessarily the eternal truth of that creature’s existence, one that—from the perspective of time—is an eschatological reality, but sub specie aeternitatis is the very beginning of days.

​I should explain that, I suppose.

​When Paul describes (Roman 14:11, Philippians 2:11) creation’s final acclamation of God’s majesty in the Age to Come by borrowing the Septuagint’s version of Isaiah 45:23, where the Hebrew תִּשָּׁבַ֖ע (tiššāḇa‘) is rendered as “ἐξομολογήσεται,” he is also describing the moment in which all of creation is called into being. That act of “grateful praise” or “joyous confession” (ἐξομολόγησις) at the end of days is nothing less than the creature’s original response to the call that, in the beginning of days, draws all things into being out of nothingness. It is the creature’s participation in God’s eternal return to himself within the divine life itself and within his exitus and reditus in creatures. All things are created in their last end, and spiritual creatures possessed of reason and freedom exist only to the degree that they fully assent to and delight in the end that summons them from the night of nothingness. Here, the disproportion and qualitative difference between the eternal and the temporal must be observed with absolute exactitude. The eternal reality of all things is, from the perspective of time, an end to be attained; but, were that end not eternally always so, no finite creature would exist. This is especially so for spiritual creatures, whose very existence as spirit can be nothing other than an insatiable intentionality toward the whole of divine being. The final cause of all things that come into being is the whole reality of the created, in its accomplished and so original plenitude. The spiritual life is nothing more than a constant labor to remember our last end by looking forward our first beginning. The final ἐξομολόγησις of creation is nothing less than its eternal assent to be, its original answer to God’s call, its joyous acceptance of the gift of being, and therefore its full moral and spiritual commitment to existence as a wholly contingent manifestation of the divine life in its absoluteness.

But then, if the free assent of the spiritual creature to and in its own creation is nothing other than that final act of joyous confession and praise that is at once both the culmination of the creature’s temporal nisus and the eternal origin of the creature’s existence, then universalism is not merely entailed, but is in fact a necessary premise for any coherent account of spiritual creation. For, of course, only a “saved” and deified will can, with full rational autonomy, make that confession. No spiritual creature could possibly exist except as “saved,” as a god in God. Moreover, this free confession is, in its eschatological realization, also the corporate free assent to existence on the party of the “Adam” of the first creation, who from the perspective of time exists only at the end, but who sub specie aeternitatis is the eternal creaturely dimension of the divine humanity. And, of course, creation’s ultimate confession can be total only by way of a total unity, since a fully moral affirmation of God’s goodness—and so a full surrender to God—requires that this rational consent not be inhibited by any “regret” over unredeemed spiritual natures. Finite spirits are not monads, but are constituted in and by their communion in the eschatological fullness of the Adam of the first creation, which is a unity of coinherent love.

Anyway, I deal with much of this at greater length in my forthcoming book You Are Gods.

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132 Responses to If God is going to deify everyone anyway, why not deify everyone immediately?

  1. Tom says:

    Talk about striking the bull’s eye. Yep.

    I wouldn’t be able to explain why this resembles what I like about James Loder, but let me ask, David, are you at all familiar with Loder?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If our creation introduces no change into God/Being, then in some sense we were eternally in Being. If this is true, how can we be said to begin in non-being?


    • 18ellenbla says:

      Creation does not add to the infinite, but that does not entail that we existed eternally alongside/’in’ God “as us”. Meaning, creation is entirely dependent upon God for it’s being, and, whether considered as eternal or beginning in time, must have an absolute ‘beginning’ from nothing. God must be more fundamental and ‘prior’ to any creation.
      (Careful not to confuse ‘nothing’ with ‘not-God’. Creation ‘from nothing’ or ’emanation from the Divine’ I think is interchangeable).


      • Thanks, mate. That is helpful.

        Liked by 1 person

      • JBG says:

        “Creation ‘from nothing’ or ’emanation from the Divine’ I think is interchangeable.”

        So how is emerging out of the Divine the equivalent of emerging out of non-being? God is the plenitude of Being and non-being?

        Liked by 1 person

        • 18ellenbla says:

          Thanks, JBG, for engaging this!
          Some quick thoughts:

          1. Let’s assume that all language here is analogous.

          2. In both situations (emanation terminology v.s. that of ex nihilo), it remains the case that it is God who imparts limited existence to substances. Certainly I don’t want to advocate for “spiritual matter” in using emanation terminology, but I do (personally) prefer emanation language as opposed to that from “non-being”. When I try to conceive of non-being…. I can’t. The term itself is simply a negation of what is.

          3. Here is a helpful passage from Dr. Hart’s essay “The Devil’s March” in Theological Territories: “Between the ontology of the creatio ex nihilo and that of emanation, after all, there really is no metaphysical difference…In either case, all that exists comes from one divine source…” (pg. 82)

          4. Another short line from his essay “Remarks Made to Jean-Luc Marion regarding Revelation and Givenness”: “God is not modally qualified by any relation to nonbeing, because he is himself the ‘is’ both of ‘it is’ and of ‘it is not’. He is the creator ex nihilo, because for him the difference between beings and nonbeing is literally nothing at all.” (Pg. 33)

          Now, that last quote keeps me up at night…. but I think it may give a resounding “yes” to your last query.

          How does that fare on your end?
          Thank you, again, for your response.


          • JBG says:

            I suppose it may be both.

            Might our “spiritual essence” be derived from Being but our existence as an individuation of that spiritual essence be derived from non-existence? In other words, our spiritual essence that is instilled within us is uncreated without beginning but we, as individual subjects, had an absolute beginning and therefore, were non-existent. Anything that was at one time non-existent must, in a sense, emerge “out of” non-existence.

            David writes that we are gods in God.

            Are we God in the process of individuating itself?


          • 18ellenbla says:

            “Our” spiritual essence, so to speak, or the perfections we enjoy as limited participations surely add nothing to God and in that respect “exist in” the Divine nature… but I am uncomfortable suggesting that those perfections are “me” as they exist without limit in the Divine. I, as an individual subject, exist only because of my limited essence on existence. So I would agree that we necessarily have an absolute beginning. (From nothing, if you’d like). 🙂

            Us being gods in God is more profound than I am capable of intuiting at the moment, but I think Dr. Hart is arguing that divinization is our natural end, and I believe he is getting at the wonderful agony of trying to understand how we are distinct but not separate from God.


  3. mary says:

    Forgive me, DBH, but so many words for such a simple question!
    God is love in His very Being. To be deified is to share in the divine life. Thus, to share in the divine life is to love. Love is only love if it is chosen – require it, force it, or automatically endow it, and it is no longer love. Immediate “deification” would this eliminate love – and therefore not be true deification.
    And, despite your brilliant arguments, we don’t really know how it all works – are all automatically deified in the end? I am not an infernalist by any means, but I do not presume to know the mind of God. I do not doubt that what happens in the end (assuming there is an end) will be very good, since God is goodness itself, but I am hardly in a position to instruct God with regard to what this ought to look like.


    • I was just reading a couple days ago in Walter Sisto’s book on Bulgakov’s theology of the mother of God, and he kept saying Bukgakov believed in some sort of preexistent consent to our existence which Sisto kept distinguishing from the preexistence of souls. I like the book, but I don’t think Sisto did a great job explaining this. I went to see if I could find a relevant passage in Bugakov and it started to make sense. What you say here clarifies it a lot more for me. To me, this is how the Cappadocians and Maximus can so easily speak about the beginning and the end in one breath. The end is our true beginning. And perhaps Behr and Ramelli and Tzamalikos are right that this is what Origen was speaking about as well, and not the preexistence of souls.

      What you say above is essentially how Fr John ends his intro to On First Principles. Good stuff


    • myshkin says:

      have mercy on me Mary, it’s for fools like me; I needed every word. I’m not being facetious or silly; I needed every word. I’m still shaking at the wonder of it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mary says:

        I am rather simple-minded. Thinking too hard on matters of theology sometimes hinders my faith rather than helps it. Though I really did like “That all shall be saved”. 🙂


  4. voteforgreg says:

    DBH, the grateful praise or joyous confession at the end of days that is one and the same as that which calls us from the night of nothingness— is this the broken Hallelujah Leonard Cohen wrote of?

    Liked by 1 person

    • rephinia says:

      God bless you for bringing Cohen into this topic

      Liked by 3 people

    • DBH says:

      Cold and broken at first, but then Hineni, hineni.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Christopher McGarvey says:

      Or if you’re a Tolkien fan of the persuasion deep enough to tackle the Silmarillion, I would daresay it is the great music played aright, from the Ainulindale:

      “Never since have the Ainur made any music like to this music, though it has been said that a greater still shall be made before Iluvatar by the choirs of the Ainur and the Children of Iluvatar after the end of days. Then the themes of Iluvatar shall by played aright, and take Being in the moment of their utterance, for all shall then understand fully his intent in their part, and each shall know the comprehension of each, and Iluvatar shall give to their thoughts the secret fire, being well pleased.”

      Amen and amen.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. davidarmstrong says:

    DBH, if you’re reading and have the time for a question:

    You’ve written great stuff on what Paul Griffiths would call the novissima or ultimate eschatological resolution of creation. I’m curious what your less-than-fully-ultimate eschatology is. Do you tend toward the NT/early patristic apocalyptic tradition pre-Origen–a historical Parousia, a future resurrection, etc.–or more in the direction of Origen, who seems, in De Principiis 2.11, to equate immediately postmortem life with the life of the resurrection? I can’t quite decide, and am open to any pointers you might have on this, whether the Cappadocians and Maximus are purely Origenian on this question or not; on the one hand, the Creed seems to canonize the apocalyptic Parousia, and yet on the other hand, it seems unclear to me what a historical Parousia would accomplish for a soteriology like, say, Gregory’s or Maximus’.

    I suppose this is tangential to the post, but more broadly, I’m interested in how you understand the divine mechanism for bringing about the universal deification of all in terms of history, time, and space. Should contemporary Christians hold on to the early Jewish apocalypticism of the first-century Jesus Movement and its second century gentile heirs? Should we reinterpret that apocalypticism in the form of a fully realized eschatology like that (seemingly) of John? Some mixture of the two? How does our contemporary knowledge of the cosmos and the continued delay of the Parousia affect our understanding of such things?

    Anyway, thanks!


    Liked by 1 person

  6. davidarmstrong says:

    I attempted to leave this question but I’m not sure if it went through, so possible Take 2 (forgive me, Al):

    DBH, you’ve written a great deal about the Origenian-Nyssenian-Maximian “ultimate” eschatology (what Griffiths would call novissima), but I’m interested in what your less-than-fully ultimate eschatology looks like. Do you veer toward an apocalyptic, “historical” Parousia, a la much of the NT and the early Fathers up to Irenaeus, or more of a realized eschatology, in the vein of the Johannine corpus and Origen? Connected, do you believe in a temporally future resurrection, or Origen’s seeming conflation between resurrection and departure from this life in De Principiis 2.11? Some combination or mixture? How should the delay of the parousia and contemporary science change our understanding of eschatology?

    Lots of questions, but it’s partially your work that has generated them for me, so you seemed like the right guy to ask.

    All best,

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Marc says:

    DBH do you agree or disagree with Paul Griffith’s that in this state of deification, “afterlife” there will be no novelty “novissium”, no new state but a constant”reptitive stasis”

    or would their still be endless novelty, journey, advance in this state?


  8. David,

    In some sense, this is precisely what you have implied in your writings on creatio ex nihilo and in That All Shall Be Saved. The eschatological elements in your writings left me with the sense that in some way preexistence will be realized in the end, and cannot be known from the beginning.

    That leads to my question on the problem of evil: I do take the classic view on evil, and attribute no metaphysical necessity to it, however, wasn’t it always at least a kind of phenomenological inevitability for creatures called out of non-being into being? I lack the intellectual chops to tease this out in any more than an intuitive fashion, but it seems to me that the possibility of evil was both secured and atoned for by the Lamb slain before the foundation of the cosmos. In this eternal and pre-creative act (if such a concept is useful at all), the free historical unfolding of being is secured with a guarantee that no being will find ultimate destruction in its journey toward its eschatological end. I don’t know if that’s exactly right, but that’s where I think this leads.

    Will you be touching upon these kinds of issues in You Are Gods?


    • Just to throw some speculations out there, When God created creation, he created all possible worlds simultaneously. So there is a possible world where the fall never happened, and there is also a possible world out there which approaches something of a massa damnata where everyone is the worst possible sinner they can be. However, when God created all of these possible worlds, he also sent his son into all of them to redeem all of them. So Jesus doesn’t just descend to our plane of creation to redeem it, he also descends into the deepest depths of the most Hellish realms of creation, to redeem those as well.

      Now, in creating, God is in complete control, and therefore whatever evil he allows in any of the possible worlds he only allows to the extent that he is able to defeat it and redeem it. God does not require evil, but he permits it as nothing more than a possibility of created willing, and he makes sure only to permit it to the extent that it is redeemable. To put it succintly, there is no such thing as an irredeemable evil.

      But really, the ultimate answer to your question, which is also an ultimate cop-out (but still true nevertheless) is that there will be no final answer to the problem of evil until we arrive in the eschaton. In the meantime, it will always seem mysterious.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Far be it from me to critique the Rick and Morty approach to eternal redemption! I do think that given certain developments in cosmology, this has to be seen as at least a live option. However, there are alternatives to many/branch worlds cosmologies that are also quite compelling, such as Two-time physics where quantum events are collapsed from the vantage of a future observer (the move Tenet somewhat approximates this view as well). I do take a strong view of the Principle of Plenitude that draws no meaningful distinction between the possible and the actual, but the trick on our end is understanding the true nature of possibility – and to some degree, this is outside of our grasp.

        I am still fairly indebted to some of my Calvinist roots, and I have far less of a problem with certain models of determinism than others would, even with my universalist sympathies (and perhaps more so because of them). I don’t think that God creates evil, or that anything at all metaphysically necessitates it – but in terms of the historical unfolding and revelation of being in time, I don’t know how else to look at it other than an inevitability at a phenomenological level, even if there is absolutely no metaphysical necessity behind it.


  9. Stuart Broomfield says:

    Ask a strange question get a breathtaking answer!
    I’m no expert but based on my amateur explorations this seems to cover what a lot of process people want to get at but they end up having to posit a greater metaphysic that includes both god and creation and thus miss the Alpha and Omega.


  10. A lot of this kind of makes sense, but I cannot say I understand all of it! For one, I’ve long (if not always) had some notions about Time and Eternity that are very hard to suggest, and I’m not sure how much of what you’re saying is the same as what I’m thinking. I do know that I find certain arguments made by atheists to be utterly preposterous: so many of them are, in effect, demanding that God create something without creating the thing; create the final state without creating all that which is that final state, the result or consequence of a choice without the choice ever being made, or, perhaps, that He should create our choices without ever giving us the material of them. Something like that, or, as I think you said, a creature with no past. Yet, I don’t see that it would necessarily be impossible for any creature to be created with no possibility of going wrong; I posit that there are various types of Freedom in the Good, various kinds of Creatures and participation in Deification, and that to each there may be different kinds of freedom and choices given, in accord with their different natures and fulfillment in God.

    What you write about the Beginning and the End in Eternity or the Eschaton and the place of Time in all this – it makes sense, but it also sounds like the kind of thing that can’t be said fully or rightly with the words we have.

    By the way You Are Gods sounds like a wonderful title!


  11. David says:

    Enlightening to read. Thank you for this Dr Hart.

    Could you please comment further on the question of how the possibility of evil in creation is converted into actuality?

    I am talking of course about the origin of ‘the fall’ – i.e. the fact that all creatures possess an unnatural propensity towards sin.

    I understand that you rightly reject the tale of Adam and Eve as causing ‘the fall’ as mythology – and would presumably regard blaming it on angelic wills or pre-existent souls as equally mythological.

    On this view I do not see how there can be a moment in history at which any finite will (individually or collectively) causes the fall. Of course we all choose to commit our own individual sins, but we do not appear to choose our fallen nature – at least not at any specific moment in time.

    If that’s right, and if creatures only exist in time, could you please comment on in what sense creatures can be held responsible for ‘the fall’, as opposed to just individual sins? And how to avoid the collapse of the possibility of the fall into the necessity of the fall, given that falleness is universal throughout time and space, and there appears to be no temporal moment at which the creation goes from non-fallen to fallen?

    For context, my own provisional ponderings are this. The actuality of falleness is not a necessary feature of human nature per se – we only have to look at Jesus of Nazareth. Yet it still seems to me that the fall is in some sense inevitable – not as something positively willed by God, but as an unavoidable and parasitic intrusion into the good creation. On this view God does not will evil in order to bring about a good, but rather brings about a good knowing that evil will inevitably intrude. Where this intrusion comes from I cannot say, other than perhaps locating its entry point into creation at humanity’s initial epistemic distance from God (good), which provides a space to let in a kind of irrational existential angst (evil), that perhaps none but the Incarnate One are strong enough to stand without falling. So if we consider human nature in and of itself, the fall is indeed non-necessary, but once we take into account the irrational non-reality of evil, which irresistibly converts this possibility into an actuality in every (non-incarnate) finite nature, it becomes an inevitability. Adam on his own might not sin, but once the serpent is on the scene, he’s a goner.

    If that is hopelessly confused (likely) where am I going wrong?


    • voteforgreg says:

      The fall is not an event in the history of creation, it is a clause in the definition of it. To be a creature is to be called out of nothingness into actuality. That ascension to actuality is by definition the journey of the fallen.


    • David says:

      Yes, I agree the fall is not an event in the (spatiotemporal) history of creation. But if we say ‘it is a clause in the definition of it’ that appears to risk making evil a metaphysically necessity and an essential aspect of creation and human nature – rather than merely possible, as I think Dr Hart holds.

      I am interested in the question of whether, if evil is indeed a kind of inevitable background to all human history, we can still coherently maintain the claim that evil is metaphysically non-necessary to human nature at the beginning of its journey – and, if the fall is a genuine contingent that really could have been different, what exactly is the nature and locus of the contingent cause that gives rise to this falleness?


      • Robert Fortuin says:

        Possibility and inevitability are not to be conflated. Secondary causality is the possibility and cause of evil.

        Liked by 1 person

      • David, wrestle with this one, it might help: “The possibility of evil is logical necessity, but the necessity of evil is not a logical possibility.”


        • also, there is a possible world where the fall never happened. Unfortunately we’re not born in that one and have to really struggle to get back to it. But then again, perhaps we should take the bodhissattva vow and join christ in descending even deeper into hell, so as to rescue others who remain stuck there.


      • David says:

        Yes Robert, but what is the nature of the secondary cause that gives rise to the fall, and in what sense is falleness not part of human nature?

        I think all would agree that falleness is obviously not necessary to ‘true creation’ or ‘true human nature’, in the sense that eschatologically perfected humanity is not defined by an ability to sin, and in some sense we are not fully created until the new creation arrives.

        But there are some who use that language but nevertheless hold that ‘falleness’ is in fact an inevitable prelude to this new creation: that while original sin does not define true human nature per se, in order to actually create true human nature, falleness must temporally (though not logically) precede it. The new creation necessarily and retroactively causes the old creation, and the old creation – creation in progress – is necessarily fallen.

        Others – and I take you to be in this camp – would hold that no, this still risks eliding the possibility of sin with the inevitability of sin, and that creation really did face a genuine choice between either growing into the new creation in constant union with the good, or instead choosing to stumble along the way.

        But what is the locus of this choice? Where is the secondary cause that converts the possibility of the fall into the actuality of the fall?

        Well, it presumably can’t be in the eschatological future – not because I have a linear view of time (I don’t) or because retroactive causality is impossible (it’s not) but because we are truly human then and not in the business of choosing sin of any kind.

        It also can’t be literally atemporal, both because only God is atemporal and because secondary causes are by definition finite temporally-bound things.

        Perhaps then it’s in the historical past? Certainly that is the normal location of secondary causes. But creation is riddled with sin from beginning to end, so this explanation does not seem to accord with the facts of the case.

        In which case, where is it? Perhaps humanity chose the fall in ‘a different kind of time’? Well, maybe, but if the nature of that time does not involve succession and change, then it is really just another word for atemporality, which is another word for God, and you have the same problem as before – it is not a real creaturely secondary cause.

        But if this ‘different kind of time’ does involve movement and change, then what you have is a literal pre-existence of souls who exist in one kind of time, make a choice, and thereby bring it about that they then exist in another kind of time. In which case, fine, but isn’t that just temporal succession? In which case I am curious as to what benefits this really has over a literal Adam and Eve account, and it also gives rise to questions about the exact nature of this choice (e.g. whether each soul has chosen the path of the fall for itself – in which case have some avoided it, and if not doesn’t that imply the choice was inevitable after all?)

        But I suspect that is not exactly your view either. But I am struggling to see what the other options are.


        • Robert Fortuin says:

          David- the locus is the created will which has the possibility to sin, and if it does, it does so against its nature. It is possible not to sin and some have never.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Grant says:

            I’ve already given my thoughts on this to David before though looking at what he says above I don’t think he got what I was attempting to say, probably my fault, however it was exhasting conversion and I don’t really feel like going over it again, those who are interested can go and find conversation. However what you say Robert is right but I don’t think it’s answering his question. Where and how the Fall happens, it can’t happen in time as time is already and always fallen (even as it is prior to the original creation). All actions and sins in time are the result of fallen beings and a fallen creation, and formed by such, they cannot make any action other than to fall ‘short of the glory of God’ and become misdirected. So it cannot be for actions or choices in time from fallen beings that give place to a current state of a fallen creation as a shadow allowance for that, as it is that very allowance and divergence that gives rise to the inevitable fallen choices (broken creation and beings make broken and incomplete and mistaken choices). So it can’t really be said either that God allowed fallen creation to be because of choices humans would make in it, given they make those choices in a fallen creation as part of it, shaped be it in mind, body and soul, and are fallen already. As a quick side-note a literal take on Adam and Eve creation story doesn’t save from this either (just in case some young earth creationist wants to say this is why should reject current scientific understanding of the universe and it’s history, since there God as actually created a tree of the knowledge of good and evil and a snake who is fallen, being if taken literally God would create a fallen creation, you don’t escape the dilemma and bring all sorts of other problems with it).

            So this I think is where the heart of his question is, where do you locate the fall, I think for the reasons you said, and from revelation of Scripture the Fall is a geninue movement that could be otherwise, a clear emergence into divinity from nothing without mistake or hinderance (and also this would make evil necessary and an therefore an intended if temporary effect with all the damage that does to claims of God as the Good and Love etc).

            So I think that is David’s question to David (Hart in this case) on his or your thoughts (or anyone’s) on the matter. I can see the issue he raises, as it is one that I have wrestled with as well (which gave rise to the speculative ideas I shared with him before). Personally I think the Fall and how it is and happened is something that requires much more attention then it seems to get, in light of universe we see and how we understand it in that light.

            So it is where the created will sinned and brought into being the universe we see and experience, one that has been fallen from it’s begiinning in our ‘fallen’ time in anycase. There has never been a point since it’s earliest developments that death and destruction have not reigned, so where is the Fall to be sighted. The choice of the created will must be from a place unaffected by the Fall, otherwise it is the result of it (or becomes something inevitable to the call from nothing, which I don’t think is acceptable because it calls the very goodness of God into question).

            As I said, I know where I think it should be located, and the only way it makes somewhat sense, a concept which seems to at least some precident, but I do think David’s question has strong moral purchase.


          • Robert Fortuin says:

            Hi Grant,

            I am having trouble accepting that time is sinful, fallen, evil, etc. Time is created yes, but it is ‘neutral’ in that it is the setting in/during which sin is a possibility. Time doesn’t have an intention, a will to do this or that. It is the created will which makes the unnecessary but possible lapse an actual lapse in time. Prior to time the lapse was not possible. Looking for a cause prior or outside of time for the actual lapse is a fool’s errand. The fall as a possibility, this must be located prior to time, but again to stress, merely a possibility. But this is not the same as saying it is the cause of sin, evil, the fall. It is origin of the possibility only, a possibility which is a God given.

            Liked by 1 person

          • David says:

            Thanks Robert, this is certainly a satisfactory explanation for how individuals commits specific sins. But I do not see how it explains the reality that we all contract a tendency towards sin – a ‘sin nature’ – that is prior to every decision we make, which we all born into and need to be saved from *even if* we somehow avoided committing any specific sin.

            Yes, if I commit a specific sin today – perhaps I steal your cheese sandwich (sorry!) – then we can indeed locate the secondary cause that brings this about. This is my created will, exercising deliberative liberty (albeit under the ignorance of original sin) and deciding that it would prefer the commodious good of your cheese sandwich over the moral good of my own bad cooking. But this does not constitute a secondary cause that brings about the fall itself – i.e. the fact that I (and everyone else) are born under the dominion of sin, like it or not – and because this specific sin is made not simply temporally but *logically* after the fall.

            That is, on my understanding the traditional doctrine of the fall held that the fall is a reality that shapes all our choices, not the other way around. Whether conceived as temporal or non-temporal, the fall remains logically prior to our individual acts of sin – else what separates us from Pelagius?


          • Robert Fortuin says:

            David – the “tendency towards sin” is in my view the unfinished state we are in, a trajectory which spans from the beginning of time until its end when the complete man is only then created, when humanity every soul together and individually, will find its completion in God; only then is creation completed and become incapable of falling and when temptation, the tendency towards sin is rendered ineffectual, inactionable, inconceivable. We must read “tendency” and “unfinished” not as inevitability or necessity, but as possibility – a sin nature (essence, substance) does not exist.

            Liked by 1 person

          • David says:

            And thank you Grant, I think you capture the problem I am getting at well – and many apologies for exhausting you previously 🙂 Always love your reflections!


          • Grant says:

            That doesn’t answer the problem though, if you locate the Fall in time, how and where? The universe is fallen throughout it’s existence, nowhere will you find death no reigning, no moment in it’s history from it’s earliest obserable points billions of years ago, destruction and deteriation are everywhere, stars die, things fall to disorder. And throughout life death has always reigned, for the first single cell organisms onwards, with scarity, destruction, prediation, parastic life, disease, cancer, pain, suffering, mass extictions, numerous throughout our planet’s history, long before humans. A protosaurs found locked in battle with a velocoraptor protecting her eggs, and both killed by a sudden flood, dying in pain and darkness found later in the Gobi desert.

            And humans, what we are, is has been and is shaped by this history of death, homid evolution is defined much by it, what are bodies and mental capacties are are shared by those forces over millions of years (and billions for the whole history of life), our instincts, the very ones that can lead to sinful actions are formed and encouraged by them. Are are as humans already malformed by death before any decision was taken or could be taken. And thus pre-determined by it to fall, as we were already fallen.

            So, this doesn’t answer the terrible situation of our universe, of immense suffering, if it isn’t inevitable of rising to non-being in it’s transcient state where is situationed the created intention that causes it to be, that cause death and suffering as interwined in our reality, that causes these massive holocausts and death-haunted universe we live in? And if it is a necessary aspect of becoming of forging or being forged into the divine, then God goodness is utterly called into being by it.

            Now I agree it’s a not necessary, by you won’t find that choice in history of temporal existence in this universe as it has been under the power of death for it’s obserable origins.

            That is the problem, and if it isn’t before in some manner, then Christianity has a big problem.


          • Robert Fortuin says:

            David – No doubt the universe has been on the edge of the abyss of non-being from the beginning of time, lacking unconditional life in itself, as such incomplete, unfinished. But one has to make a distinction between that state and that of the actualization of sin by willing individuals in time, that is not to say they are entirely unrelated (for one, humanity as priest and microcosm is the cause and locus of creation’s redemption from non-being). To be blunt David, surely you are not suggesting that there is sin beyond that of individuals committing specific sins?

            Liked by 1 person

          • Robert Fortuin says:

            sorry that was for Grant


          • Grant says:

            I am surely suggesting just that I’m afraid Robert, a tsuimani that takes life is an evil, a meteor doing the same is an evil, the wages of sin is death, death is the presence of a creation that is fallen, is under the power of sin, the vision of lion lying down with lamb, the child playing with serpents is that predation is evil. Death is presented as God’s enemy, all aspects of death, death comes from sin, so death present throughout the universe is the presence of sin. To say that’s the result of it haning over the abyss of non-being is simiply to yes to the very objection David brings, that death and suffering is a necessary aspect of coming from non-being into being. Death is evil, that would make God intentionally the author of suffering and evil for billions of years, of death a intentional be it temporary aspect of creation. And all natural suffering right up till now an intentional aspect of creation’s state, all disease, all cancer, all death in fact (since it has been a reality since the beginning).

            And since capitivity to death forms and defines our nature it also make human sin inevitable, simply confirming the state they found and were formed in, and thus ensuring all human natural evils (since there is no real distinction between them). Human are fallen and so fall, and so all evil from that (no need to recite the usual list) also arrives at that door.

            Again, Christianity has a huge problem, and urgent attention to the problems of the Fall is needed.


          • Robert Fortuin says:

            Grant – I urge you to re-read DBH’s original comments in this post, especially in regards to, “the final cause of all things that come into being is the whole reality of the created, in its accomplished and so original plenitude.”

            The problem you suppose arises from conflating predative death with death resulting from intentional falling away.

            Liked by 1 person

          • David says:

            Interesting Robert. Just to clarify, are you saying then that what I am calling a ‘tendency towards sin’ is in fact just another way of expressing the truth that unfinished human nature has the possibility of sinning – and that this tendency is just a natural condition of temporality and not identical with or caused by original sin?

            If that’s the case, then fine, but what when is original sin? If our individual sins ’cause’ original sin, then what is the thing that’s being caused? Or is original sin in some way just identical with our individual sins – but then what use is the concept? I thought normally original sin was considered to be a state that our natures are subjected to, rather than an act we individually bring about? e.g. the CCC states ‘original sin is called “sin” only in an analogical sense: it is a sin “contracted” and not “committed” – a state and not an act.’

            Also, if all we humans could theoretically avoid sin, isn’t it a bit of a coincidence that all – other than Jesus and, on some views, Mary – do in fact sin? Or do you hold there are other humans who have successfully avoided sin? (and if so, would you say they in some sense have not contracted original sin?)


          • Grant says:

            I read it Robert, but that doesn’t change the evil that is, the suffering that happens, the vast catelogue of death even healed will have been, and therefore an intended and necessary process to get to the original creation, therefore death is not enemy, it is an intended process. Sufferring is an intended process, the twisted reality we are in is intended process, and prediative death, death by disease, death by the chaotic and destructive environment, death by deteriation, and all the pain, suffering, hurt, isolation, loliness, mental and phyiscal torment to all living things, death as totality is intended then. Necessary, yet it is evil, Hart was right in Doors to Sea, it is evil.

            It is death, creation under death and fallen, there isn’t really a distiction between the hurts and evils from death, Christ is shown to heal all afflictions because all are contray to the will of God in the Gospel presentation, all are part of the kingdom of Satan.

            Also as said, being formed and twisted by death, not just predative death, makes our intentional fall inevitable, sin is already ‘baked’ in, therefore human fall is inevitable in the universe we find ourselves in.

            But no, the death in the universe is evil, is God exists and is what Christianity says He is, it is His enemy, if not, God is not who Chirstianity say He is, and it an illusion, and sadly false one at that.

            Again, that is if suffering and death a necessary parts of calling from nothing, then yes all suffering becomes something God is directly responsible for, and the suffering and crying and death of all, including all those children of homids to get to us, becomes of a mountain of death, only to be followed and a further torrent of death and suffering only adding to what we suffering anyway for a broken creation. Even if temporary, even if

            ‘the final cause of all things that come into being is the whole reality of the created, in its accomplished and so original plenitude.’

            Just like Christ’s wounds, it remains a part of it, it happened, and on this account was always going to happen, in fact before any intention arised. It is an intended, unaviodable, tragic evil, apparently, that isn’t acceptable, and to me cannot be reconciled with what presented and claimed over God (and if anything is to be drawn from the images and protraits in Genesis and throughout the Scirpture canon is that universe is damaged and cursed due to the Fall not seperate from it, all creation cries out waiting for sons of God to revealed, every image show creation distorted, and under dark powers, the power of death, if not those images are useless and worse, a lie).

            So again, Christianity has a big problem (I lean personally to what I outlined previous to David, but if something isn’t tenable, then I think it’s a truly serious problem). The Fall is something that needs urgent attention.


          • Robert Fortuin says:


            Not so fast – surely in regards to the question of the cause and locus of the fall of spiritual, rational natures you must differentiate between intentional acts of evil and unintentional calamity? And surely, in regards to the rational creature, you must differentiate between a fall from perfection and a fall towards dissolution, do you not? We need not, indeed cannot, suppose a state of aboriginal perfection, if the Incarnate Christ himself is creation’s perfection. Creation’s true beginning is in its end, when God is all in all. Is the original and abiding sin not the notion that nature is pure and complete in itself, that we are our own? The fall is not from the heights of perfection but from incompletion towards dissolution. Redemption is the completion of creation.

            Liked by 1 person

          • christs wounds are definitely something that fascinate me. I tend to think that those scars of evil will be abolished some time in the future, and in the eschaton jesus will no longer have holes in his hands. In the meantime the story isn’t yet over and evil still has some hands to play, so i guess Christs wounds are a contingent thing which will ultimately be abolished. Not sure tho and would appreciate anyone elses input. I too struggle with the idea that evil would become “eternalised”, even if just in the minimal and piety producing form of christs wounds. surely even those holes in his hands will disappear once all is said and done?


          • Grant says:

            There is a difference between perfection and being broken, damaged and warped. A child or baby is not their perfect and developed self, but if they are healthy will grow into such naturally. Pointing to Christ as the perfection does not remove, excuae or take away the rampent evil, suffering and death that is this reality. It is not perfection but outright twisted horror (one which the Gospel and varioua biblical images paint God as opposed too), nor on this account is it an unintended calamity but fully intended and inevitable, inescapble aa0nd horrific waste, suffering and death as intrinsic to that call, one which continues to take ans hurt vast numbers of peopel to most abject suffering, humiliations and loss, not to mention the billions of years of animals, species, who classes, ecosystems wiped out, abd all xying in decay and death.

            And as St Paul drives at, we are inclined ro sin because of being trapped into morality and under death ‘for as sin came by man unto death, by man also came the resurrection from the dead. For in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be .made alive’. In that letter he also ties crearions and cosmic suffering. And the general view there is subject to death and corruptibility places us under the power of and weakeness to sin, death and suffering the pressence and effect of the warping, destruction and enslavement of sin. And this makes sense of our evolution both homid in specifics and general development of a life bound under death, suffering, scarity, loss and division, as well as unaccounted events pf immense and random cruelity is a broken humanity already with the inclination to sin baked in. Our fall is also predetermined by this, and so all human evil is inevitable as well and both are on this account an intended action, and all that flows from the same overall condition.

            Again there a disction between beginning and imperfection at the beginning of it’s develoment and something broken, warped and twisted away from that, tending to destruction. There is a clear sign anywhere something very bad has gone wrong.

            Unless of course it is all as intended, because what you are saying means God is the direct author of death and suffering, of all evil, He is not what Christianity says He is, He is not Love in relation to what we mean by love or good. If this the intended process to forge crsation from nothing towards God, into thw perfextion of Christ, then all evil is laid at His door. Can I say such Fod would save everyone, or what that salvation would look like? No I could not, I would counsel people to be very afraid though it would do no good, would such a God order a genocide to serve the ‘process”, given what has already been set in train such a God could well do just that. Such a God would be cold and is not God as Christianity proclaims Him to br.

            If this were to be so, Christian claims of God are a nonsense, so again Christianity has a big problem and urgent attention to the problems of the Fall are necessary, with more radical thought (such as I ineptly attempted with David) is required. If proves impossible it will have shown Christianity to be false it what it proclaims of God and we are in a much darker and more terrifying reality with an uncertain future.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Grant says:

            Wrote the abovr on my tablet so apologies for how it rendered so words or odd spellings, hopefully you can still parse it’s meaning.


          • Well said, Grant, you articulate my concerns exactly (though it’s clearly rough to type all that out on a tablet!) I’m curious to hear your own hypothetical solution to the conundrum. Can you point me to whatever blog post it was where you and David had this discussion before, as you allude to further above in your comments?


          • Grant says:

            To Christopher – just tracked down the post where the discussion took place, under Jordan Daniel Wood’s piece on St Maximus the Confessor on the Cosmic Fall, the essay itself is definitely worth reading, and in the comments you can see the discussion between David and myself and my speculations relation to the Fall.



          • David says:

            Robert, I’m really not clear on what your position is. Are you saying that the suffering of animals caused by natural processes, particularly those pre-dating humanity, are actually not evil – that rather they are just ‘incomplete’, the necessary beginnings of creation growing into perfection, rather than a deliberate act of sabotage, and therefore not evil?

            Or would you say that all this suffering is indeed evil, but is contingent and somehow directly caused by individual creatures contingently sinning? e.g. I nick your cheese sandwich therefore eons of cosmic evolution and pain are written into history? And if we’d all successfully resisted daily temptation and left the sandwiches on a plate, all that suffering wouldn’t have happened? (!)

            You may have missed my question before, but understanding what you think original sin actually is – in light of the fact you claim the ‘tendency towards sin’ we all have is in fact just the possibility we all have of sinning every day, and you therefore must think original sin is something else – would likely be enlightening.


    • Christopher McGarvey says:

      David and Grant, thank you for posing and wrestling with what I consider to be the most tortuous question as yet inadequately addressed by Christian theology, and for not relenting until someone takes it seriously. Someone needs to arm-wrestle DBH into expressly addressing the question of the etiology of fallenness and evil in a cosmos that seems to be fallen well BEFORE human agents arrive on the scene. And while I appreciate the conversation that unfolded here, I’m going to do my best to restate the dilemma as concisely as possible, as there is a lot of digression, muddled syntax, and perhaps English as a second language issues (Grant?) murking up the discussion. Before I do that, I’ll also make one request: David/Grant, can you point me to the post on this site where you two engaged at length in this topic before? I’m very curious to listen in on the conversation.

      Alright, so here’s my restatement of the question I’d like to hear DBH address: how or where do we locate the cause and origin of creation’s fallenness, since scripture and theology are at pains to avoid making God the author of death and corruption, attributing this state to the misuse of free will of creatures, yet everything we know from science suggests that the cosmos has existed in a state of fallen physics from the instant of the big bang, and our entire genetic constitution as human beings derives from a long history of violent competition, predation, and death as a creative force? To boil it down more succinctly, scripture and theology posit that free creatures are the source of death and corruption in the universe, but science suggests that all creatures evolved and became what they are by virtue of the selective pressure of death and corruption.

      Any serious Christian should choke at the notion that God desired, required, or was compelled to arrive at his intended creative goal only by the inescapable means of death, pain, suffering, torment, and self-preserving competition. Classical Christianity suggests that these realities are a result of rebellion and departure from the will of God, not His intended or inevitable sole means of bringing creation about.

      So how, then, can evolutionary biology and modern physics and cosmology be reconciled with Christian theology’s insistence on death as unnatural and an enemy of God, and corruption as a state of nature bound up with human sin, in a world that groans in travail for the liberty of the sons of God? I do not believe it is possible to call God good in a universe of pain and death unless the pain and death can be clearly and unconditionally denounced as a departure from the will of God that originated from the free rebellion of creatures. This seems to be a scriptural first principle. God is not the author of death; death and corruption are his enemy. Here are a few crucial passages:

      “God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. For he created all things that they might exist, and the generative forces of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them; and the dominion of Hades is not on earth. For righteousness is immortal. But ungodly men by their words and deeds summoned death, considering him a friend, they pined away, and they made a covenant with him, because they are fit to belong to his party.” Wisdom 1:13-16, RSV

      “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope, because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the sons of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Romans 8:19-23 RSV

      “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” 1 Corinthians 15:24-27 RSV

      These verses all make plain how unnatural death is in the creative purposes of God. Death and corruption are antithetical to the nature of God, and are not of his own devising, according to scripture. Yet according to science, they are the constitutive forces of the universe, and the laws that have produced the human race.

      Therein lies the conundrum. It baffles me why so few people seem to comprehend how wrenching a crisis this is for theology. Science suggests that death is the creative, selective force that has brought about human life as we know it, while theology suggests that death is wholly antithetical and alien to the purposes of God, and literally the ultimate enemy.

      I have no idea what the answer is to this dilemma. But I’d really like to hear DBH’s take. And I would posit some essential ground rules, for anyone who feels equally constrained to attend to the non-negotiables of theology (read: God’s unequivocal goodness and omnipotence) as well as the honest conclusions of reason in the scientific enterprise (the big bang, entropy from the start of observable time, speciation through death and competition, the human genome as a genetically pre-determined inheritance of millions of years of competition and strife with a host of non-voluntary weaknesses, blind spots, and pre-dispositions):

      1) God opposes and rejects death, corruption, pain, and suffering as radical departures from his creative purpose, anti-human forces from which he must rescue his creatures, rather than creative forces that bring his purposes about.

      2) Death, corruption, and evil (both natural and human) originate in the misdirected exercise of creaturely free will, not in the creative plans of God, nor in some sort of ontological necessity because of creatio ex nihilo, that would ascribe to death and the void a sort of co-creative force that circumscribes the divine life-giving freedom of the creator

      3) as a result, any notion of “theistic evolution” is ruled out. It is inconceivable that a wholly good, free, all-powerful God would elect to create his free, rational creatures by patient, gradual means of a violent process governed by selective competition for limited resources resulting in blood, fear, and death as the normative state of the cosmos.

      4) any metaphysics that posits a progression through death and suffering as a necessary stage in the creation of free, rational beings destined for union with God (because of the progression from non-being to being) either wholly calls into question the goodness of a free and omnipotent God, or posits a dualistic, chaotic, secondary and necessary co-creative principle of non-being, death, and evil that is equally as powerful as God, a sort of eternal Tiamat of destruction with whom God must collaborate to achieve his good ends.

      So. David Bentley Hart. Please tell us how it is possible to believe in a God who is entirely good, (which is my desperate desire), and yet acknowledge a contingent realm of chaotic evil, that is somehow our fault, and not his, when according to science, we arrive on the scene in medias res, already constituted by evil and bound to death.

      If this isn’t a crisis in your faith, you are not thinking hard enough, in my opinion. Thank you David and Grant for taking this seriously, and forcing the question.

      In short, is evil a necessary step in the progression towards the good? This seems the height of heresy to me, and all of Christian theology must denounce this with the strongest possible force. It cannot be that evil is necessary; it must be a contingent result of creaturely disobedience.

      In the shortest form possible: are death and corruption the fruit of creaturely disobedience, or somehow the necessary condition of God’s creative act? And, if the latter, why should I worship God at all, rather than rebel against him as the source of all suffering?


      • .I can promise and guarantee you that every question you raise and dilemma you pose here is adequetely addressed in Bulgakov’s “The bride of the lamb”. I wont attempt to summarise an answer tho, because the full answer really does require a 600 page book haha.

        One thing I will say tho: “theistic evolution” is not a violent process, and only becomes a violent process post-fall. prior to the fall evolution was a completely benign thing which did not include death as a necessary component.

        Also, “the fall” is an ontological thing and a metahistorical thing, not a emprically historical thing, which means if we peer back into the past looking for “an exact moment” where things went awry, we’re not gonna be able to locate it. Creation is fundamentally fallen at all levels of reality, including its total history, so if you try to look back and find the garden of eden somewhere on our historical record, it’s never going to turn up. A fallen creation is fallen in such a way that it is fundamentally fallen in all of its aspects, including its beginning, middle and end. The fall was something which happened “outside” of our current history, in another aeon. Incidentally, this means that all of us are personally responsible for the original sin, because all of us personally committed it, in that metahistorical aeon. Genesis 3 is not just a story about adam as an individual, it’s a story about every single human that has ever lived (excepting mary and jesus, who succeeded where the rest of us failed).

        Anyway, just read the book. it’s a tough one and a dense tome, but it basically gives detailed, robust and sophisticated responses to every single objection and question you raise here. furthermore, Bulgakov has been a massive influence on DBH and DBH’s own theology, so i suspect that DBH himself would also recommend this book to you.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Iron Knuckle, thank you for this lovely response. As it happens, I actually have a copy of The Bride of the Lamb on the way to me in the mail right now. I have encountered a few articles and talks based on his work that suggested he had pondered the problem at length and might have a good lead to follow. Your conclusions are close to my own instincts.

          What’s interesting is… how awfully similar this seems to the Origenist notion of the pre-existence of souls. Or at least some reworking of some of the same concepts. (that’s another book that’s on the way: Behr’s recent translation and introduction to On First Principles). We’re going to have a really fun uphill slog if we’re now saying that the Church was wrong not only to reject Origen’s universalism, but also wrong to totally throw out the pre-existence idea, having perhaps misunderstood both…

          Here are a few of my own speculations on the subject that I jotted down about half a year ago:

          “God has permitted our freedom to play a part not only in our own destiny, but in our own creation, and not only our creation, but the creation of the rest of nature from which we emerge.

          Put another way, so close is the connection between man and the cosmos, and so crucial our priestly role as mediator of the cosmos, that our freedom to draw near to God determines not only our future, but also our past—and the past of the whole creation.

          Our sin has planted a thorn at the heart of creation. Our rebellion plants death and entropy as the ordering principles for all the universe. So grave is the disruption that death becomes our generative force, the central fact of our existence, the fabric from which our being is cut.”

          As to when/where/how the original sin took place, and “who” was involved, I have not exactly settled on a satisfying solution. Is it a kind of divine foreknowledge of our hearts, without any human actors actually involved, a kind of eternal situation of our disobedience that would only play out in history “later,” in an already fallen context, already conditioned by that posterior disobedience? Is it live human actors in some sort of other Edenic dimension, whose disobedience relaunches existence in a new mode, starting over with death as the principle we’ve planted at the heart of everything (this would be close to Origenism in its mainstream reception, I think)? It might even be possible to read Genesis almost completely literally, and understand the act of disobedience to have some kind of quantum-type retroactive causality that re-shapes our history and changes not only who we are, but who we were.

          I have a few scant articles and lectures that have attempted to address this issue. Perhaps I’ll dig them up and link them here if I can find them again. I’ve found the beginnings of a few promising threads, but never what I thought was a fully developed articulation.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Christopher McGarvey says:

        To distill the whole argument down to the bare essentials, I see only three coherent metaphysical options regarding evil/death/corruption:

        1) evil/death/corruption/evolution is the elected creative process of God, but is only a transient, ephemeral, and phantasmagoric moment in the progression towards eschaton, which shows forth the truly real intention of God (but definitely subjects creation to the ticket-returning critique of Ivan in Brothers Karamazov, as the “good” end of salvation is founded on the necessity of torment and suffering). You might call these moments a passing shadow on the way to glory; I call them a stain on the character of God.

        2) evil/death/corruption/evolution is not the will of God per se, but is a natural and inevitable consequence of creation ex nihilo, the progression from nothingness to being. The gravitational pull of nothingness somehow necessitates an upwards struggle from violence and conflict to a final peace and harmony. In this case, it seems to me that God’s goodness and omnipotence is limited by the chaotic force of the void, which in fact becomes a dualistic, quasi-Manichean, co-creative force. And in this case, God is not really God, but demiurge, constrained by higher laws than His own goodness and love: a kind of mythic struggle with the primal force of chaos and non-being

        3) evil/death/corruption/evolution is the enemy of God and a result of the disobedient exercise of creaturely free will, which infects all of creation based on the priestly/mediator role of rational creatures. God can out-maneuver and jiu-jitsu this move in a more beautiful and grander motion of salvation, but ultimately cannot be held responsible for its existence other than as a possible condition to be tolerated temporarily as the secondary level sub-creation of free creatures who are not compelled to choose the good. This seems to me to be the faithful assertion of any classical/orthodox Christian, however uncomfortably it may sit in tension with modern cosmology/biology and leave us stuck in a position of separate spheres of knowledge.

        I am utterly committed to option 3, but hoping for a way to harmonize and reconcile it to the insights that reason compels me to acknowledge from science.

        It seems like few Christians are willing to stand in the tension and confront the question head on. Cheers to my companions here who are asking the question, and a double-dog-dare-you to answer, David Bentley Hart, because I’m sure you’ve thought of something better than I have.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Iain Lovejoy says:

        DBH’s take on it above is that existence as a rational creature logically requires a developmental process from nothingness to theosis. It seems to me that this operates collectively as well as on an individual level and for creation itself to be perfected it needs to go through an analogous process, with theistic evolution being the whole creation’s counterpart of individuals’ spiritual journey. (To my mind Genesis 1 hints at this if you read it as meaning we are still in day 6 of its overall scheme and apokatastasis is day 7.)
        Genesis 2 onwards deals with the fall of mankind specifically, and is only the first of a repeated pattern of mankind / Israel being set up in a garden / kingdom and being ejected through sin. It is to be noted that Genesis 1 assumes mankind is the last, not first of God’s creation, and created to be God’s image within it, and in Genesis 2 on his creation he is placed in a walled garden separate from it, which I think therefore presumes its pre-existence.
        The Bible, I think, sets up concentric circles of salvation / fall: creation is to be saved by mankind as God’s image within it, mankind saved by Israel as God’s chosen people from among them, and Jesus from among them saves all of the cosmos as the divine Son of Man and God incarnate.
        The point being is that we can work backwards / outwards from the fall of mankind specifically as set out (essentially figuratively) in Genesis 2 onwards to infer a general earlier and wider “proto-fall” of the cosmos as a whole of which we have perhaps only hints in terms of (maybe) angelic falls and Satan etc at the beginning of time.
        The punishment of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 is to be barred from the tree of life and live by the sweat of their brow and die, and to labour forth the next generation to do the same. All this, however, is, in the Bible narrative, with the aim of ultimately gaining the tree if life in Jesus. It seems to me that the evolutionary process, understood thematically, is exactly what is described here. Theistic evolution, operating through struggle, and death, and new birth is God’s recovery of the ancient cosmic fall and getting the cosmos back on track the hard way, the same process as mankind’s own fall and suffering as described in the Bible, and mankind’s fall is a subset of the general one.
        (It is a measure of Christ’s transformation of who we understand as our neighbour that we now worry about the suffering even of ancient prehistoric creatures, and are disturbed by the authors of the Bible’s taking an interest only in the suffering of mankind.)


        • Christopher McGarvey says:

          Iain, thank you for a very thoughtful response. I am curious to hear more about your notion of the “ancient cosmic fall.” You posit here that theistic evolution is “God’s recovery of the ancient cosmic fall and getting the cosmos back on track the hard way.” I do not have a problem reading evolution in this manner, as the method of creation that results when our own creative process is itself already tainted by the “ancient cosmic fall,” whatever that may be, and however mystical/retroactive or outside of time as we know it that may be situated.

          My concern is to place responsibility for this situation squarely on the creaturely side, and to avoid any notion that the act of creation itself IS the fall. When we assert that “existence as a rational creature logically requires a developmental process from nothingness to theosis,” (which I don’t dispute, except to say that we must regard evil as an unnecessary but possible detour in that development), and then say that creation must progress through an analogous development, we are edging dangerously close to admitting that death is a creative, constitutive force that is logically necessary for the emergence of deified humanity and transfigured cosmos, completed creation. And I fail to see how then we can call death, pain, and suffering evil. They would seem to be the necessary growing pains, the larval stage of creaturely existence. And in this case, death is not a tragic departure from God’s will, but a logical necessity of his creative act. Thus the violence of nature we are at pains to show as utterly bereft of purpose or meaning in The Doors of the Sea becomes in fact the positive creative force that propels creation through its adolescence and towards the eschaton. God seems directly responsible as the cause of natural evil, and the evil but apparently necessary means by which he drags creation out of the violence of non-being.

          How is this anything other than the same equivocity of calling evil good that we find denounced with righteous furor in That All Shall Be Saved?

          I again assert that death, pain, and suffering must be ascribed wholly to creaturely causality somehow, as a departure from the life-giving divine will, as a hollow space in creation emptied out by some primal refusal of the good, rather than as the necessary intervals remaining in an incomplete creation called out of nothing. In this latter case, God is the source of all evil simply by acting to create. Or God is constrained to create a world of death and suffering by some structural, logical necessity that seems to posit a power outside himself greater than his love and his abundance of life.

          It seems to me that the classical Christian conviction is that the hindrance to order, life, and goodness in the cosmos is creaturely defiance of the will of God, not logically or structurally necessary aspects of the creative act.

          Would you agree with this?


          • Iain Lovejoy says:

            Sticking with the Genesis 2 onwards parallels, there is an old strand of Christian thought that holds that the sin of Adam and Eve was not the eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of itself, but doing so prematurely when not yet ready: it was always God’s intention that they should do so, but not until they were sufficiently mature. Adam and Eve could and should have remained within the security of the garden growing and maturing under God’s tutelage until ready to fulfil their role within creation, without any need for death or suffering, but their sin meant they must be expelled. Taking a parallel would mean that the cosmos could and should have developed and in some sense “evolved” to its ultimate destiny over time in accordance with God’s plan without needing death and suffering to do so (although I have no idea what that would look like) but some ancient (self-generated and unintended by God) disaster meant that the cosmos veered off course into the death- and suffering-based form of evolutionary development that we see.


          • Agreed, Iain. I do not object to your understanding of evolution. However, I do not think this represents the majority views of proper theistic evolutionists. As I understand it, TE generally seems to assume that the process of evolution as described by biology, death, competition, and all, simply IS the method that God chose/necessarily uses to bring creation out of nothing. Under this view, the notion of fallenness is simply incorrect, and there is no original sin. All of creation is in process of development from nothingness to completion, and death is a natural part of that progression. Theology must be revised in light of scientific understanding about the mechanisms of how life unfolds. I find this view blasphemous, in that it fundamentally makes God the author of death, and calls evil good.

            I think what David, Grant, and I are laboring to express is that Christian theology currently seems to lack any intelligible account of what “some ancient (self-generated and unintended by God) disaster” might be or mean, or how it might have happened. Modern scientific discoveries about the age of the universe and the chronology and mechanisms of human evolution within it mean It is no longer possible to maintain that the original sin was committed in the temporal history of the earth by a pair of aboriginal ancestors. So then, how can we give a satisfactory explanation for fallenness that preserves creaturely responsibility for introducing sin, yet occurs outside of time, and still insulates God from any moral responsibility for death and evil?

            Liked by 1 person

      • Grant says:

        You put the issue allot better than me, and sadly English isn’t a second language I’m just dyslexic and with posting like this where don’t really edit re-read it over (and over) it comes out like it does I’m afraid. Hopefully people can get gist of what I mean. I’ll try and find thr conversation I had with David, on the tablet at the moment but when I get to my PC I’ll to search for it and link it in.


      • In case anyone has been following this labyrinthine rabbit trail discussion about evolution and the causality of the fall, here are a few links to properly written articles and lectures that attempt to tackle the subject, which have been most helpful to me so far, if not completely adequate:

        Right here from this very blog, tackled over three years ago– “Sergius Bulgakov on Evolution and the Fall: A Sophiological Solution.”

        “Fitting Evolution into Christian Belief: An Eastern Orthodox Approach

        Click to access Alexander.Khramov.pdf

        A very nice lecture from the 2019 International Orthodox Theological Association 2019 Inaugural Conference. (There are a ton of other very scholarly but very interesting lectures from this conference if you go digging around on Ancient Faith Radio).
        “All Things Old and New: Paths and Bridges in Evolutionary Theodicy”

        I believe all three of these draw on Bulgakov. It’s been a while since I’ve studied them, but I plan to go through all three again.

        One other source that may possibly be of interest: Vladimir Solovyov has an essay called “Beauty in Nature” found in the book Ultimate Questions: An Anthology of Modern Russian Religious Thought, which somehow deals with beauty, evolution, and the sacramentality of nature, but I haven’t read it in 15 years and only had a vague memory of once reading something odd and striking from a Russian thinker talking about evolution, but couldn’t remember what it was… until I found someone a reddit post today mentioning it, and went aha, that’s the source!

        If anyone else has any other good suggestions for papers, blog entries, or lectures addressing the subject, please add your links onto this thread! Sustained reflection on the issue seems to be relatively rare and hard to come by, especially in EO circles… or perhaps I haven’t looked hard enough.

        Liked by 1 person

        • There is also this one, which Grant mentioned way up above, again from this very blog, on Maximus and the Cosmic Fall. I confess that I found this one almost completely baffling and mystifying, and couldn’t make heads or tails of it, but this one seems closer to the view of cosmic fall as structural necessity of creation rather than particular human agency, if I’m following even half correctly (which is dubious, so read for yourself and draw your own conclusions)

          Liked by 1 person

          • Grant says:

            There is also this article which Father Kimel had a link to in his Twitter feed, which has a bearing on this discussion and why I think the notion of preexistience of souls and the understanding of the Fall coming either from St Origen or St Pamphilus needs to be seen re-engaged (and rightly seen as distinct from reincarnation or transmigration of souls it was mixed up with in the 6th century AD).

            This venerable but ignored tradition points to the direction that I think is the answer (and always was, since even a literalist reading of Genesis creates the same problems, and brings others, as current scientific understanding in that evil is already present in the Cosmos prior to the Fall which is asserted as the action producing it).

            Anyway here it is:


            Liked by 1 person

          • jsobertsylvest says:

            Grant, David & Christopher, especially, but others, too, I am deeply sympathetic with your earnest affective dispositions toward and grateful for your thoughtful probity of the problem of evil. That said, I do most strongly resonate with the stances shared by Robert, DBH & Jordan DW.

            What eventually got God out of the dock for me, to use a criminal law metaphor, wasn’t mostly based in case theory (logical defenses, soul-making, evil as privation, free will) or circumstantial evidence (theodicies). Juries are instructed that they can rely on character witnesses, alone, for not guilty verdicts. Ergo, revelation satisfied me, existentially, i.e. Jesus revealing God as Daddy, Romans 8, etc

            I can’t explain why God’s not guilty given the circumstantial evidence but do tenaciously hold THAT He simply can’t be morally culpable.

            I still vacillate regarding – not only whether evidential theodicies could succeed, but – whether they’re even morally defensible, as they can risk trivializing the enormity of human suffering & immensity of human pain. So, I mostly take refuge in a skeptical theism.

            BUT – I have speculated, nonetheless, looking for something – not just sufficiently compelling for me, but – more widely compelling to other earnest seekers.

            This is not a suitable forum to go into the details but, generally, I adhere to versions of divine simplicity, although weakened, & impassibility, except with a thin passibility.

            If creation is Incarnation, then, per an eternal simultaneity, God will have self-determinedly & kenotically opened Himself to a divine omnipathy. God will have known, then, how every creature will have felt, retro|pro-spectively vis a vis Romans 8, i.e. eternally aware that every scintilla of any Karamazovian nyets will have been replaced by Marian fiats, once affectively energized by the realities of universal restoration. No tickets will have been returned by Ivan, by any lion or lamb, by any quake or quark.

            Beyond that, I have speculated re creatio ex nihilo & ex Deo, that they needn’t necessarily be conceived as incompatible with a co-eternal prevenient  chaos or tehomic  profundis. Why must a co-eternal void (or abyss or  tohu va bohu or chaos or  tehom), whatever else its ineluctable logic might necessarily entail, be conceived in absolutely dualistic terms, i.e. as if any quasi-Manichean residue would have to remain eschatologically? The
            exnihilating dynamics of creatio ex nihilo & Deo may also be operating ex chaos & profundis across a multiversal plenitude of incipiently telic realities?

            It seems coherent to me to conceive of a dualistic, even pluralistic reality, without conceiving it in robustly Manichean terms. The bigger caveat would be the need to avoid a wimpy, nominalistic process God. I believe that folks like Joe Bracken & Norris Clarke navigate such conceptual shoals. And they can precisely accommodate the brilliance of those who anticipated them, e.g. especially Maximus, Bulgakov, Bonaventure, Erieugena, etc

            Thanks for the urls above. Pursuant to that url request, I address such matters in my notes:


            To be clear, I rely on neither my putative accounts of divine omnipathy (which doesn’t impair intrinsic perfections) or of creatio ex chaos (non-Manichean dualism) to resolve the problem of evil, nor in logical defenses or evidential theodicies.

            But I’m not wholly dismissive of such attempts & haven’t desisted from same, myself. Rather, I essentially take refuge in revelation and a nuanced mysterianism.

            It is my fervent prayer that all may attain the consolations I have come to enjoy and avoid the desolations that can afflict us all, when beset by doubt, deep suffering or the existential angst that can set many on such a theodical quest.


  12. Marcus says:

    Theosis is extremely interesting and I am looking foward to DBH’s next book
    Dr. Hart, if you are able to say is You Are Gods going to be a multiple essays format like (Hidden and the Manifest and Theological Territories)with various topics, or is it centered mainly on Theosis


  13. myshkin says:

    i am just now starting Origen’s commentary on the Song of Songs; at the very beginning when Origen comments on the Song of Songs he says about the phrase “let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth”
    . . and aflame with longing for her Spouse, vexed by the inward wound of love pouring out her prayer to God, as we have said, and saying concerning her Spouse: Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth.

    in the article above it says: This is especially so for spiritual creatures, whose very existence as spirit can be nothing other than an insatiable intentionality toward the whole of divine being.

    what a perfect description to help me understand the Sacred Text and Origin. Insatiable Intentionality. Indeed may He kiss me with the Kisses of His mouth forever.


  14. DBH, I’ve been spending covid reading theology, and have been reading and re-reading your entire literary corpus (alas, I haven’t yet found time to read your fiction! but i’m eagerly looking forward to it 🙂 ).

    I’ve read TASBS about 4 times now, and every time i come back to it, it makes even more sense and warms my heart. It really is, as you say, an argument impossible to refute, but I think one must give it the benefit of multiple readings for this conviction of its fundamental infallibility to really take root. The arguments become clearer and make more sense with every reading. (Tell me if I’m correct: The crucial point is not whether or not it’s possible to freely damn yourself forever; rather the question is what the implications would be for our doctrine of God if that were indeed actually the case. Sure we can quibble about freedom and it’s possibilities, but the point is that it has a direct impact on the essential goodness of God, and everlasting torment tends to render classical theistic convictions about God and creation incoherent)

    In any case, I grow more astonished with every article, book and essay written by you that I read. I don’t know whether to feel distressed and despairing or hopeful. Somehow you have managed to find time to read and learn everything worth reading and learning. I simply don’t know how you managed to pull this off, given the limitations we experience in a fallen creation. I want to read everything you’ve read, and understand everything you’ve understood (both in terms of episteme and gnosis), but I’m constantly taunted by the fact that no one is materially supporting me to do this. I’m always being pressured to give up the dream and go “make money” in IT (a field for which I am extremely highly qualified, but have neither talent, nor passion, nor interest). It’s pretty torturous, because I just want to finish my masters in theology, do a PhD, and then basically do what you’re doing: reading and learning absolutely everything and then giving back to the world with intelligent commentary and synthesis.

    Anyway, just want to say thanks for everything you’ve written and continue to write and a few (hopefully) concise questions:

    1. I would like to do a PhD which builds on your work (specifically your “the beauty of the infinite”, but also all the other stuff you’ve written, particularly TASBS) and brings it into dialogue with non-christian traditions (particularly different understandings of Tawhid and Sunyatta, and I’m also curious to compare and perhaps attempt a respectable synthesis of Gaudiya Vaishnavism with your – and Bulgakovs – understanding of Trinitarian Theology, Ontology and Soteriology). So, would you by any chance be open to supervising a PhD which builds on your work? I apologise for asking in a comment box, but it’s nigh-impossible to get hold of you anywhere else.

    2. How did you manage to read and learn as much as you have? Were you ever distracted by financial limitations which tempted you to “quit theology” and go work in some other lucrative but irrelevant field? My time is my most valuable resource, and I want to spend every second reading and learning the sorta things that you have learned and read, but I’m constantly attacked with doubts and temptations to waste my time making money in a “career” just to put bread on the table. I guess I’m just looking for a word of encouragement and hope. Theology and comparative religion+culture is the dream, but it often feels like a dream that is dangled in front of me by the devil just so that he can snatch it away from me and laugh. (Things are also complicated by the fact that I feel called to family life, rather than monastic life. But I’m encouraged by the fact that you somehow manage to do what you do while also supporting a family)


    • oops sorry, there was a third question:

      3. Am i right in understanding that you’ve got three books in the works? One “You are Gods” about christian anthropology and its relationship to universalism, one about the proper understanding of tradition (btw, your essay on that in Theological territories was absolutely kickass and blew my mind, probably will change my life too but it’s too early to say), and finally one about your understanding of philosophy of mind? Absolutely pumped to read all of these. Can’t wait.


  15. Question for DBH/Fr Kimel/Any bulgakov experts in the audience tonight:

    I’m wrestling with Bulgakovs sophiology. Want to see if I’ve got it right:
    1. God is Pure actuality.
    2. Sophia is Infinite Potentiality
    3. the Divine Sophia is simply the Sophia (ie, Infinite Potential) in the “mode” of having been completely, totally and timelessly actualized.
    4. The Creaturely Sophia is simply the Sophia (ie, Infinite Potentiality) in the “mode” of temporal becoming.

    As such, the Creaturely sophia is a moving image, moment by moment, of the divine sophia, just as them ancient greek fellas used to say “chronos is the moving image of the aeon.” The creaturely sophia is a kenosis of being into becoming, of infinite time and exhaustive actuality into a finite/infinitismal sequance of moment after moment. The “eternal and infinite now” of the divine sophia kenotically descends into a “infinitismal, constantly changing present moment” as the creaturely sophia.

    So the kenosis between God’s “all encompassing eternal now” and our creaturely experience of ” many different finite present moments one after the other” is the kenosis of the divine sophia as the created sophia.

    Someone more familiar with such things please let me know if I’m off track. I’ve been listening to Aindra Dasa singing ecstatic mahamantras while I read “The Bride of the Lamb” and the blatant synchronistic idolatry might be sending me into spirals of divine madness XD


  16. Myshkin says:

    And just a further point regarding insatiable intentionality. Imagine Exodus32:32, Noah and Abraham bargaining with God before the flood / sodom-gomorrah as manifestations of that insatiable intentionality blooming into more than just my deiification. After God’s own heart I become insatiable for the world. Further, the Incarnation as God’s own manifestation of insatiable intentionality as well as His glorious response to our insatiable intentionality.


  17. Laurel says:

    To bring in a slightly different (but undoubtedly familiar) idiom, it seems that these reflections echo George Macdonald’s sermon “The Creation in Christ”. Does Macdonald go too far in distinguishing the part of the Son from the Father in creation? Or does Macdonald get the heart of the issue you mention when he compares the choice before the creature to the Son’s action, “Because we are come out of the divine nature, which chooses to be divine, we must choose to be divine, to be of God, to be one with God, loving and living as he loves and loves, and so be partakers of the divine nature, or we perish. Man cannot originate this life; it must be shown him, and he must choose it”?


  18. Forgive me if this is a bit of a blasé response but, well, if we’ve been baptised and received the Eucharist and the sacraments actually do what we say they do, then, well, we’ve really truly actually been clothed in Christ and died with him and been raised with him and united to him and made co-heirs with him and been anointed with the Holy Spirit and adopted by the Father. So, like, in terms of theosis/divinisation/deification, well … what else is there to be accomplished? It is not yet fully manifest but aren’t we—in a mysterious but still very much real sense—already there?


    • JBG says:

      “So, like, in terms of theosis/divinisation/deification, well … what else is there to be accomplished?”

      The experiential actualization of deification is left to be accomplished. The last I checked, suffering is very much of a present reality. The eradication of suffering would be a good start.

      If this is it and there is nothing left to accomplish—well, I for one can say that deification wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. In fact, it is no different than misery.


    • DBH says:

      There is no such thing as a purely forensic or extrinsic atonement. Sanctification is theosis, and sanctification is a process of natural spiritual growth.

      Liked by 2 people

      • coemgen (they/them) says:

        Thank you for your reply, Dr. Hart.

        Now I’m a bear of very little brain so I hope you’ll forgive me if this question is beneath you or badly asked, or if I simply misunderstand what you’re saying – and if that is the case I pray you’ll correct me – but what then do the sacraments actually do?

        I was under the impression, given what we say in, for instance, the baptismal service, that I “have united myself to Christ,” am “worthy of the incorruptible Kingdom,” “a child of light and heir of eternal blessings,” and am “rooted in, and a partaker in the death and resurrection of Christ our God,” that it was “a washing of rebirth for forgiveness of sins and a garment of incorruption,” and that moreover when the priest said to me at the end of the service, “You have been justified, you have been enlightened, you have been sanctified, you have been washed in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God, you have been baptized, you have been enlightened, you have been anointed with chrism, you have been sanctified, you have been washed clean,” that he actually meant what he said and it actually happened. And you’ll pardon me if I hear that and it sounds to me like something actually happened to me from the “outside,” so to speak (which I *think* is what you mean by “forensic”) – given that I was a screaming infant at that time I certainly had nothing to do with it, it all happened *to* me.

        But you seem to be saying that isn’t the case? If so, then what’s the purpose of the sacraments anyway? Or am I just an ignoramus that can’t really understand what the church is telling me in the liturgy, or has been deceived by malicious and/or incompetent translators?


        • Not a direct answer, but DBH’s essay on tradition in “Theological Territories” is kickass and relevant to what you’re asking. Bulgakov also has good commentary on the history of Christian tradition in the first half of his “The Bride of the Lamb.” Bulgakov points out how the idea that “there are seven sacraments and there have always been seven sacraments” is actually a Roman Catholic myth enshrined as dogma at Trent. Bulgakov also discusses how the evangelicals are correct to note that in New Testament times the church heirarchy had not crystallised into a stable form yet, and as such pretty much anyone could baptise anyone, anyone could “say mass” etc

          Basically, the sacraments really are efficacious and legit, but we have to have some perspective here. In actuality the church is the only sacrament and the other sacraments are traditional manifestations of that single sacrament. (i would butcher it if i tried to explain this further, but will instead just recommend DBH and Bulgakov to you ❤ )


        • DBH says:

          “Forensic” simply means secundum legem rather than a real transformation. The word refers to one’s status before the bar of justice rather than one’s ontological or spiritual condition. Forensic atonement is the theory that justification is complete in and of itself as an extrinsic imputation of Christ’s merit to the sinner. Sanctification is then an added extra, as it were. As your quotation of the baptismal service shows, the Orthodox make no such distinction, and they regard baptism as conferring a real sanctifying charism.

          Liked by 1 person

  19. Marc says:

    What is he missing?


  20. Eric Jobe says:

    Freud has this notion of nachträglichkeit that we might translate as retroactivity, which Lacan takes up to describe the retroactivity of the signifier in constituting the subject. The constitution of the subject only happens retroactively, after language is inscribed within it by the Other. We might see this eschatological “confession” or “praise” as precisely this, where God as Other, as the source of all signification inscribes those signifiers within us thus constituting our deified subjectivity, no longer the lacking, barred subject of the Lacanian unconscious with its neuroses and psychoses, but the subject that fully takes its position in the Other, i.e. in God, and retroactively reorients all other signifiers of its history towards it, a new master signifier.

    Of course more broadly, your point, David, is what Hegel refers to when he says Das Wahre is das Ganze, “The true is the whole”, or even in that great phrase from the Preface, “Spirit rises to its truth only when it finds itself utterly torn asunder”. The truth of the spiritual creature is only realized in the whole, not merely the end taken by itself. The dialectic sees all of its moments, as it were, laid out before it, and this is absolute being, which is a truth that is only ascertained in its relentless negation and sublation.

    I thank you for this post, and now I very much want to go read Fichte.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. JBG says:

    The question: “Why didn’t God deify humankind immediately? ” is simply a different way of asking: “Why didn’t God prevent suffering?”

    For the purposes of this discussion, the more revealing question is: “Why didn’t God limit suffering to the absolute minimum?”

    Take the oft cited analogy of a parent teaching their child to ride a bike. Let’s grant that that the process of learning to ride a bicycle inevitably includes the possibility of the child falling off and getting hurt.

    One must also remember that a loving parent would always ensure that in the event that the child did fall down, they would rush over and do everything in their power to take their pain away. They would do everything within their power to limit their pain to the absolute minimum that is possible. They wouldn’t just stand there and watch. Remember, suffering is not constructive. Suffering is not instrumental or causal, regardless of whether some may be inevitable.

    Human beings (and all sentient beings) have crashed the bike. We are in immense pain and we find ourselves alone, cold, confused, deeply afraid, and in a state of sorrow and desperation. The depth and breadth of our agony is truly unfathomable.

    Maintaining that the possibility of creation going awry was inevitable should not be conflated with the sheer extent of suffering with which we have been saddled.

    I find it absolutely impossible to believe that the miseries of existence represent the absolute bare minimum that humanity could have faced.

    Liked by 1 person

    • David says:


      If I had a crystal ball and knew that the child would *definitely* fall over, rather than just 99% likely fall off – I mean, seriously, who learns to ride a bike without a crash or two? – would the act of teaching them to ride the bike suddenly become eil, on the basis that we now knew this would *necessarily* cause the child to fall, rather than just possibly cause this?

      I would submit not. I’d also submit that there are at least some situations where there is no significant moral difference between creating a good, that will *necessarily* lead to some evil, vs. creating a good that will just *possibly* but *very likely* lead to an evil. So again, teaching a child to cycle will very likely lead to pain, but perhaps not necessarily/definitely. Whereas the act of giving birth to a child will 100% definitely bring about pain – no human life is without at least some suffering. But it is not the case that the former is good and the latter is evil – rather, both are good.

      Another related example: if I drive my car at 200 mph – in order to experience the good of the pleasure of driving – knowing that it will necessarily kill a child, this is obviously wrong. If I knew it would just 99% likely kill the child, is it really any better? There is a technical distinction of modality – necessity vs. v. strong possibility – but no significant moral distinction.

      To clarify, I am not conflating ‘necessity’ with ‘possibility’ – they are emphatically not the same thing – but merely pointing out that, in our ordinary moral reasoning, we encounter countless situations in which a moral option of bringing about a situation where there is a strong possibility of evil ocurring vs. bringing about the certainty of evil – is not necessarily.

      Relatedly, how do you understand the locus of the fall – the possibility of evil exists, but what actually causes original sin (as distinct from specific sins)?


  22. JBG says:

    David: “would the act of teaching them to ride the bike suddenly become evil, on the basis that we now knew this would *necessarily* cause the child to fall, rather than just possibly cause this?”

    This is not what I am addressing. There are two issues here.

    (1) The unavoidable possibility of the event(s) that generate suffering and (2) the mitigation of suffering generated by such events.

    As per the analogy, while the parent cannot absolutely prevent the possibility of the child’s fall (since he cannot ride the bike for the child), he can and would limit their pain should such an event occur.

    The fall from the bike is not necessary but the possibility is inevitable. On the contrary, the amount of pain incurred is neither necessary nor inevitable.

    Once again, the notion that God cannot prevent an event that generates suffering is an entirely different matter from God being unable to limit such suffering once the event has transpired. That is what love does.

    If suffering is not instrumental but an unnecessary byproduct of our becoming, then such particulars as the extent and duration of suffering are entirely inconsequential in terms of a plan of salvation. So why not limit our suffering to the barest minimum possible?


  23. TJF says:

    I can see the reason in this, but I can see why people also don’t find it convincing. We are on an endless march towards the good, but it still seems like life in this age is ridiculously random. Why are some illuminated by the fire of a thousands suns for virtue? Why are some more lukewarm? Why do some die as teenagers? Hell, why do some die as miscarrages with only a few weeks of life that scarcely warrant the name? Death still seems like some arbitrary deadline that’s there for no reason, so why is it such a big deal? Why not just have us all die more quickly so we can get on with purgatory and then move on to the good stuff. Seems like random waste. I know, I know the demons and evil spiritual forces within this temporary, provisional world are screwing it all up, but still seems like a ridiculously wasteful and system.


    • JBG says:

      At some point, you have to admit that it simply doesn’t add up. For some, that takes more courage than they can muster.


    • JBG says:

      TJF: “Why not just have us all die more quickly so we can get on with purgatory and then move on to the good stuff. Seems like random waste.”

      If the duration of one human life is random and seemingly arbitrary, who is to say that this trend is unlikely continue, should one survive death. What we term the “near death experience” is, for many eastern teachings, simply the honeymoon phase prior to another birth.

      Who can say how long it takes for humanity to reach “stability in the Good”? Modern humans have existed for approximately 200,000 years and it looks like we have only just begun.

      Maybe we each have many more lives of suffering to endure. Maybe we have countless more lives to endure. Can one truly say, “God will allow for one lifetime of agony, but this is his limit.” Really? It seems that any duration of suffering short of everlasting may be perfectly acceptable to God.


      • TJF says:

        Your headlong plunge into nihilism is almost admirable in a way JBG, but I would pray that you’d draw back a little from hovering over the abyss to have a cup of tea every so often as Elder Sophrony wisely advised. I am with McDonald and Dostoevsky on this one. I’d rather be a fool for Christ’s sake than give in to despair. I think the truth is ultimately beautiful. The gospel always was seen as folly, but one I gladly accept.

        Liked by 1 person

        • JBG says:

          TGF: “I think the truth is ultimately beautiful.”

          Tell me TGF, do you think that it is within God’s power to mitigate the severity of gratuitous suffering—even if he cannot absolutely prevent its occurrence—considering that it is intrinsically repugnant and has no instrumental role in our becoming?

          Are you confident that the collective suffering of all sentient beings throughout the ages has been minimized to the greatest extent possible, considering that the degree of suffering is not necessary, inevitable, or inviolable?


          • DBH says:

            To note the sheer vastness and moral scandal of cosmic suffering is the beginning of wisdom. To continue to repeat the observation ad infinitum, rejecting every attempt at a qualifying perspective because it might detract from the self-adoring theatricality of constantly repeating that observation in an unremittingly indignant tone, and failing at every juncture to understand the arguments made against the view you profess, is the end–in the sense of “ruin”–of wisdom. These simply are not interesting or solvent objections, JBG. Yes, there’s a lot of suffering out there. So what? There is no measure of how much or how little suffering a spiritual and cosmic calamity might produce; there is only the clear truth that we’re all in this together and so, if Romans chapter 8 is correct, then it must be that we will all in the end affirm the suffering we bore not only for ourselves, but for one another, even if from our perspective in via that final (and original) act of assent is a very remote future indeed. As for you repeated claim that it just doesn’t add up, that’s simply a childish bit of self-pitying (and, again, self-adoring) melancholy. It’s not a respectable position, intellectually or morally; it’s certainly not a feat of intellectual bravery (quite the opposite, in fact); it’s just a mood. And, from an impartial vantage, it’s rather like listening to a piano recital consisting entirely in endless repetitions of “Chopsticks.”

            Liked by 2 people

  24. Tom says:

    Brenden, can you elaborate? I’m interested in the question. How do you understand the question?


  25. Pingback: UNCREATED CREATURE – Symmetria

  26. DBH says:

    No, Brendan. You did not understand the answer.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. JBG says:

    DBH: “Yes, there’s a lot of suffering out there. So what?”

    I can picture God uttering the same.

    So, is there any volume of suffering short of the boundless and everlasting that is simply too much to allow? I guess we won’t know until we experience it.


    • Jack says:

      It is interesting that many of those who ultimately embrace nihilism are generally those who live relatively comfortable lives. More often than not it is the truly desperate and helpless who have that radical hope that goodness will prevail in the end, even if they cannot articulate it. You seem to suggest the former is bravery and the latter is not. Yet, keeping hope alive in the most dire situations that involves the worst suffering possible is far more courageous than embracing nihilism.


      • JBG says:

        Jack: “You seem to suggest the former is bravery and the latter is not.”

        To be fair, my comment was in the context of the christian assumption that one lives a single human life of an arbitrary duration before moving onto the goodies. To me, that simply doesn’t add up.

        Conceding that the journey to reach “stability in the Good”, much less “deification”, may be an unimaginably long and torturous process—not just collectively but individually—would seemingly take more courage than embracing a “one and done” theory of life.

        P.S.—My life isn’t remotely confortable.


        • Jack says:

          I do not believe that is the Christian assumption. We do not know the shape of the finished product that is ripe for resurrection, let alone what an “intermediate state” might entail. There is nothing to suggest that we just “move on to the goodies”. We trust God and have faith that all will be well in the end. Folks here have given informed speculation and hints, but you continue to demand an answer.

          I did not mean to suggest that you in particular have a comfortable life, but I find your suggestion that it takes greater courage to succumb to nihilism in the face of such conundrums rather patronizing.


          • JBG says:

            Jack: “but I find your suggestion that it takes greater courage to succumb to nihilism in the face of such conundrums rather patronizing.”

            You find the prospect of an extraordinarily protracted and painful journey nihilistic?


  28. Robert Fortuin says:

    Alas, time and energy constraints are pressing, so I have to be succinct. Invariably one runs into the problematic with the insistence on marking the uncreated eternal with the restrictions and peculiarities of the created temporal. As Behr successfully demonstrates for God there is no before and after creation – the incarnation is not just a chapter in the life of the Son: Christ is always the crucified one. If this is so (and I cannot see it to be otherwise for God to remain God) then the infelicitous lapsarian event is always already the possible actualized from the perspective of eternity, without making it inevitable and necessary from the perspective of the temporal. This being so, as consequence of the rational soul intentionally straying from the Good, creation from its beginning was submitted to the tragic machinations of decay, strife, and death. But to create is to redeem – what departs is returned, the unfinished completed, non-being recapitulated in being. The end is it’s beginning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Grant says:

      Yet again, in your scheme the soul strayed due to the conditions of machinations of decay, strife, and death made those decisions inevitable and built in, therefore creation is condemned for choices souls born within were bound (twisted by a fallen creation) and people condemn to suffer for choices made under dominion of death that shaped they minds and beings (as it had effected and formed the billions of ancestors behind them and the matrix of watped creation they were in. Again God is directly responsible for all evil and suffering here, He is it’s author, and death His co-creator, His forge. Therefore again God would not be who Christianity clains Him to be, and would be false. To safeguard on part would destroy the Gospel revelation of who God is and render useless claims of His opposition to death (particularly if it’s always part the crucified Christ to which we are subjected (and with such a God who can say we will have happy ending, there is no love here analogous to our own).

      So at the risk of being inanely repetitive, Christianity has a big problem and urgent attention to the problems of the Fall are required lest it destroy it’s grammar altogether and be shiwn to be a nonsense (and if so then it is best we realise that now rather thsn latter). I still believe thst it can be, but profoundly disagree with you because of that.


      • Robert Fortuin says:

        Read carefully Grant – you are precisely committing the error which I draw attention to. You are assuming the relation between the eternal divine and created temporal to be temporal, linear.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Grant says:

          To me that is just uses a waving at eternity believing it avoids the problem but it doesn’t. While I don’t think the view I lean to falls into your issue, your scheme does what exactly that, a creation is condemned to death and suffering for actions made within and arising from a creation of death and suffering, mortality being as St Paul views it where the turn to sin comes from, the law of sin and death is in place, and under the curse people fromed by a broken system, by that billions of years of it, sin. And because this would true, creation is made fallen, ensuring it would be true. It’s not a paradox, it make God the source of sin, death and evil. And if Christ is crucified inherently as who He is, now how that self-giving is revealed in a fallen and distorted creation in it’s redemption, then suffering and death is part of the revelation of God, of who God is, not His enemy, not something to be destroyed.

          Again, in your desire to try and protect that leads to the denial of who Christainity proclaims God to be, He is not love in anyway that we understand, death is not His enemy, it is His tool, part of His purpose. We are created subject ot sin, because fallen people would make fallen choices.

          What you are telling we is Christianity is false in it’s essential procliamations, and not just myself sees this. So again, I profoundly disagree with you.

          So again, Christianity has a big problem and urgent attention to the problems of the Fall or very urgently required.


    • Robert, bravo on a truly elegant post. I think you have stated your position as beautifully and succinctly as possible, and there is a certain poetry to it. Thank you for those thoughts. From the perspective of the divine and timeless eternity, this is surely correct.

      From the divine vantage, creation, incarnation, and salvation are simultaneous, one act. But they are not, according to Orthodox theology, the sole province of one actor. Creatures must participate in their own salvation. And so also they must be held as the co-creators of the condition from which they require saving. It seems clear that you also agree that the tragic state of fallen creation is not the result of a divine act, but rather “a consequence of the rational soul intentionally straying from the Good.” Therefore, the divine simultaneous act of creation, incarnation, redemption, is, even from the eternal vantage, always already a response in foreknowledge to creaturely freedom. So far, so good.

      The problem, however, is that every human story of salvation also unfolds from the created vantage in chronos, bounded by time, where cause and effect play out in a linear extension. While God’s act of salvation is, from the divine vantage, already accomplished from the beginning of human history by the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, this does not mean that we cannot locate this salvific act chronologically in human history from the creature’s viewpoint. In our time, from our perspective, we still see the chronological unfolding of salvation history in the calling of Abraham, the covenants with Israel, the prophets, the preparation of a holy people, the human cooperation to make an offering of a pure soul to serve as temple and womb of the Incarnate One, the life, ministry, teaching, transfiguration, crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus, the sending of the Holy Spirit, the founding of the Church, the mission to the world, the future coming of the Lord, and the restoration of the cosmos. All of these salvific acts unfold not only eternally from the divine perspective, but also chronologically in creaturely time, with a clear narrative progression.

      And so, given that creaturely existence always unfolds in chronos with a beginning and an end, as this is the very nature of what it means to be a creature, to move from a point of origin to a final end (telos), I think Grant and I are right to ask where we may find, from the creaturely vantage, the point where everything went awry. It does not make sense that the divine act of salvation should play out visibly in creaturely chronos, but that the creaturely disobedience which necessitates that salvation should not be located anywhere other than God’s eternity. We seem to have here a story with no beginning, only a middle and an end. It is difficult to see, from a creaturely vantage, how evil and sin could not be anything other than a direct result of a divine act, if we cannot locate a creaturely actor who initiates and activates them.

      And so I think the question is not how can we tell the story of salvation from the eternal simultaneous timelessness of God, where creation is already redemption, but how can we tell the story of salvation from the chronological perspective of the creature? For surely if creatures, and not God, are responsible for the sorry state of creation, we must be able to locate a causal “event” within their sphere of created existence that gives issue to evil and suffering. For the only plane in which creatures exist, move, and have causal efficacy is one in which their actions unfold from A to B, cause and affect, in a linear progression. There is simply no other mode available to creatures, and this same progression is what Nyssa describes unfolding eternally even after salvation, in the process of a dynamic epektasis. This is the reason why we do not hold salvation to be a static condition.

      And so it seems difficult to comprehend that creatures suffer chronological effect B (cosmic fallenness) if we can nowhere locate chronological cause A (the rational soul intentionally straying from the Good). How can we maintain that creatures, and not God, are the efficacious cause of the fall, and yet nowhere locate the creaturely acts that caused it? Creatures do not have the capacity to make timeless eternal acts. All creaturely acts and causes unfold within their limited sphere of existence, which is necessarily temporal and progressive in some sense, even if not identical to the fallen mode of chronological time within which we now find ourselves enclosed.

      It seems a bit lobsided that God would condescend to unfold his plan of salvation according to the bounded laws of time and cause and effect, emptying himself to walk among us and live out a life and death among us, unfolding his whole eternal plan of salvation simultaneously from an eternal perspective AND from a creaturely chronological perspective, but that the cause of death and corruption and sin from which we must be saved should be wholly restricted to the eternal side of the coin, as an “always already” condition of fallenness within the creaturely chronos. Why should not the divine accomplishment of salvation just as much serve as an “always already” condition of salvation and perfection with creaturely chronos, so that we experience the temporal results of his divine victory from the beginning of time, rather than the temporal results of our disobedience? It seems unsymmetrical and incommensurate. God must unfold his eternal act of salvation within our time; must not we also create the conditions from which we require saving in our time, for them to be the actual story of the creature, who must logically have a beginning and an end?

      This is why I lean towards the speculation that some creaturely will, at some point, though it be in some other dimension or some condition of unfallen “timeless” chronos prior to the unfolding of our tainted world from the big bang, must have made the first move of disobedience, and launched the fallen creation as we know it, with its particular modality of physics driven by corruption, death, and decay. This act, perhaps, reshaped the entire logic and fabric of the cosmos to one that unfolds by the laws of evolution that we now observe, and thus we cannot locate within our fallen time the point from which our fallenness originates, as it does not originate from within fallen time, but from a point prior to or outside that mode of existence, and yet not an eternal timelessness, but an unfallen order of creaturely existence. Tolkien’s two phases of creation in the AInulindale would be a decent analog: the “fall” takes place as a creaturely act prior to the existence of the world in a space and time outside of the cosmos, whose results then play out from the beginning of time as the world comes into being, already bounded by the effects of wilfull disobedience.

      I believe that something of that nature is roughly the conclusion that the below article reaches, following the thought of Bulgakov, but I could be mistaken. This is the closest I’ve found to any satisfactory answer, myself.


      Perhaps I will be accused of overly mythological thinking, or of rehashing the heresies of Origenism with its pre-existence of souls. I am not claiming I have solved the problem. But I would rather be stuck with mythological thinking or the pre-existence of souls, than with a God whose goodness is grossly called into question, because there is no discernible causal separation between the divine will and the fallen order, as there is no creaturely free act upon which death and evil can be blamed.

      Like Grant, I believe that far more direct theological confrontation with the problematics of the Fall, evolution, and the goodness of God is needed, and I am eager to hear the voices of our best theologians addressing the topic on behalf of the many confused among us, for whom the solution is not obvious. I hope some will answer the call.

      Liked by 1 person

      • David says:

        Thanks for expressing this more coherently than my own attempt Christopher.

        I’m not as convinced as you that a pre-existent world is absolutely necessary to resolve these difficulties – mainly because I’m not sure that it really would be all that bad for God to create a world in which he knew the fall would definitely occur, if this really were a necessary side-effect of bringing about eschatological perfection. At least, I’m not convinced that merely bringing about the possibility of the fall for such purposes is that much better from a moral perspective. For example, imagine I bury some landmines under an abandoned playground as the necessary price of achieving some good… well, let’s say in scenario A I know there’s a 90% likelihood, a mere possibility, of someone accidentally wandering in one day and getting blown up, and in scenario B I know that somebody is just about to stop by and so definitely and necessarily will get blown up. These two acts are practically morally equivalent – certainly both are bad, and the fact that the evil in one was a mere possible does not get me off the hook. Conversely, I could teach my child to ride a bike, knowing they *may* (in fact, very very likely will) fall off, that is a matter of possibility; or, if I had a crystal ball, I might know that they definitely would fall off. But I hold that I wouldn’t be a bad father to allow my child to experience a few cuts and scrapes as the cost of learning to ride a bike, whether I knew they would definitely occur or just would possibly occur. Either way it would be a good act. My point is that, while necessity and possibility are not the same thing, being one or the other does not always make much or any difference to the morality of the thing.

        Of course that may be mistaken, and is certainly a simplification. I’m not convinced by it. But I’m not convinced that it would *definitely* be wrong for God to create if he knew that some evil would appear as a parasitic side effect. Who knows though.


      • David says:

        Oh and you’ll be pleased to learn that – for my money at least – DBH is in closer agreement with your position than that of Robert’s (or of my own!), as DBH holds that:

        “the entirety of cosmic time as we know it is fallen, and that the fall is not an event that can be located within that history. As such, its nature eludes our understanding.”

        He states this in this thread https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2020/04/24/%E2%80%AAwhat-is-a-truly-free-will-by-david-bentley-hart/ – actually in response to one of my questions (I am ashamed to say my memory is so poor that I had forgotten until now that I had already put practically the same question to him in this other post, so no wonder he hasn’t engaged on this one here! My bad)

        In his essay The Devil’s March, DBH also states:

        “The fall of rational creation and the conquest of the cosmos by death is something that appears to us nowhere within the course of nature or history; it comes from before and beyond both. We cannot search it out within the closed totality of the damaged world because it belongs to another frame of time, another kind of time, one more real than the time of death—perhaps the divine or angelic aeon beyond the corruptible subsidereal world of chronos, or perhaps the Dreamtime or the supercelestial realm of the pure forms or the Origenist heaven of the primordial intelligences, or what have you.”

        So no simple claim that God’s foreknowledge resolves the problem, or that the falleness of creation is paradoxically caused by sinful acts themselves made within the fallen creation, but instead the hypothesis of ‘another kind of time’ in which an actual event, distinct from ordinary history, occurs and consequently gives rise to this material universe.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Thank you so much, David, for digging these old quotes up, so that we can have some idea what DBH’s position is. I’m very grateful. I was always hoping he would chime in, or better yet, write us a separate article on the subject someday. It sounds like he is rather clearly aware that the “pre-lapsarian” origins of evil and the fall lie in a realm inaccessible to the limits of human observation, and perhaps prudently demonstrates a reticence to speculate on this topic. Whatever “Eden” was, the gates are shut, and all of our theology is done in exile, from the foot of the cross.

          Nevertheless, I suppose I’m pleased to find myself in good company. Though I’m still not entirely sure Hart or Bulgakov would understand this supra-temporal fall as an “actual event” of a free rational subject (or the totality of them?), just in another time/dimension/mode of existence, (and is this distinct from the eschatological Adam, the fully realized humanity revealed only at the end of the process, whose plenitude reveals the poverty of the as yet uncompleted and atomized lot of egoist self-wills run amok?) I’m still struggling to understand what Bulgakov (as interpreted by Andrew Gottschall) might mean by Adam understood as a multi-unity, instigating a metaphysical rather than historical fall, an ontological rather than historical sin, in a supra-temporal moment… is this indeed an action of human agency, collectively, or are we rather talking about states and impersonal forces and things beyond comprehension… is this just more mythology that boils down to death and corruption as structurally necessary forces in the progression of humanity from childhood to maturity? Is Bulgakov/Hart saying there really is a “moment” ontologically/supra-temporally prior to the existence of this cosmos when humanity collectively and freely elects to turn from the good?

          The longer one thinks about this topic, the more it hurts.

          Liked by 1 person

    • David says:

      Robert, it is of course quite right that there is no ‘before and after’ for God in terms of the mode by which he knows creation. However he still knows creation as genuinely having a before and after – he knows that some things come first and others later, that x is caused by y and not the other way around, that some events were necessitated by other conditions, while others were merely made possible. God knows everything in his one (eternal and atemporal) act of being himself, yes, but God still only knows the things that actually occur – not non-existent things, and certainly not intrinsically impossible things.

      I contend that one cannot coherently claim that creatures genuinely faced a contingent choice as to whether or not something called ‘the fall’ would occur, but then be unable to point to any point in history – in the realm of secondary causality – where this choice is actually made. It would also be incoherent to claim that ‘the fall’ is caused by the fact that present-day creatures contingently choose to sin, while also holding that those very creatures who sin are always already fallen. An act of a creature who is already X cannot be the reason they are X.

      Pointing this out is not naively imposing a diastemic, creaturely, limited mode of knowing on God – rather, it is just recognising that the world of secondary causality is intrinsically limited, and this is the world that God actually knows. It is recognising the limits of the world, not limiting God.

      For example, we not ‘limiting God’ when we recognise that it is not possible – given the reality of the world – for God to know I ate a cheese sandwich yesterday, when I actually had tomato soup. I am not imposing anything on God by recognising that God cannot know any five-sided triangles. And I would not be limiting God by saying it is not possible for him to believe that the reason I am listening to Mozart is *because* of a decision I made while in the middle of listening to Mozart. God cannot know that I chose to get married *because*, while married, I chose to get married. That’s not because of a limit in God, it’s because that’s an impossible choice – it is not a category of thing within the world of secondary causality.

      In the same way, it is not coherent to claim that the world is fallen because creatures – while themselves already fallen and part of the fallen world – choose to make themselves and the world fallen. A creature cannot be said to have caused the fact they live in a fallen world if, while deliberating over the question of whether or not to peform an act that would cause the fall, the world is already fallen, To believe that would be to believe in circular causation, self-causation – which is intrinsically impossible.

      Yes God knows everything atemporally, yes God knows everything not by being a passive observer of events or through interaction with the world, but by simply knowing himself as the cause of the world. But the world is not God, and the world has limits – God knows the world as limited, not unlimited. The world is not God.

      In short, on my part there is no ‘insistence on marking the uncreated eternal with the restrictions and peculiarities of the created temporal’ – rather, it seems to me that it is your position which fails to recognise the restrictions and peculiarities of the created temporal, and fails to take seriously the fact that, in order to coherently claim that God knows an event as contingent, one must be able to give a coherent explanation of how that event actually *is* contingent. To prove X, it is not enough to merely assert that God knows everything – you also need to show that X is actually part of the ‘everything’ which God knows – and, at the very least, not an intrinsically impossible or incoherent thing.


      But again, it would be helpful to know what you think the fall actually is. When you say ‘to create is to redeem’, it sounds very much like an assertion that, from God’s perspective, creating necessarily involves redemption, and redemption of course necessarily involves sin. But you appear to deny this.

      Btw, the great Fr John Behr does indeed recognise two “perspectives” as you say, but he also appears to simply bite the bullet on the question of the origin and necessity of evil when he asserts that, with respect to “the perfection of creation… the groaning of creation, which must necessarily pass away, as it produces the fruit of immortality, is an *intrinsic* part of this process.” On this view, the groaning of creation is not a mere possibility that, on the path to immortality, could have been avoided; rather, this view holds that it is an *intrinsic* element of bringing about the perfection of creation.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well said, David. I believe we must either be able to locate an act of creaturely disobedience somewhere on the created stage that sets in motion the consequences of the fall, or we must entirely abandon the concept of the human causality in the origins of evil.

        Can you provide the citation for the quotes from Behr? I was a student of his in seminary, and I was always strongly suspicious that he held the view you describe, but he never seemed to want to come and say it outright. I cannot stomach such a position, as it seems to regard evil as either 1) essentially a part of the universe God freely created, (perhaps an incompetent design flaw?), in which case He is the first cause of all evil, or 2) a structurally or logically necessary point in the progression of creatures towards their perfection, in which case evil cannot truly be called evil, but is rather only an illusion of evil, when in fact it is the actual creative process that brings about deification.

        In neither case can we really absolve the creator of responsibility for evil. In case 1, he is the direct author of it; in case 2, he is limited by it as a tragic structural necessity of the laws of the universe, a limit to his good designs that must simply be endured while his creatures “grow up”, a brutal toll which nevertheless he has calculated as justifiable for the greater good of divinized rational creatures at the end. In either scenario, Ivan must return his ticket, despite any happy ending, for indeed the world IS built on the suffering of even one innocent child… in fact, all the innocent suffering throughout all time is necessary to the evolution of perfected humanity. In case 2, God is not directly responsible for this, but seems constrained by cosmic forces greater than his goodness. It does not seem self-evident to me that there is no logical or possible way for a free creature to progress in the good other than by a lapse into evil… and frankly, the host of unfallen angels prove that a fall into evil and a growth through suffering is not logically necessary for a rational creature to become stable in the good.

        For me, it is difficult to comprehend why the only imaginable universe that an all-loving and perfect God can produce is one characterized by an inevitably violent, chaotic riot that produces free perfected creatures only by means of the fits and false starts of evil and sin.

        If we cannot pin causality for evil and death on creaturely freedom somehow, we will inevitably do violence to the doctrine of God,

        Perhaps I am misrepresenting Fr. John Behr’s views, but I have never heard him speak in a way that would clearly establish causality for death on the human willing side of the equation.

        Liked by 1 person

        • David says:

          Thanks Christopher.

          The Behr quote is actually just from the abstract of his paper “Nature, Wounded and Healed in Early Patristic Thought”. I did read the paper in full some time ago, although alas it seems I no longer have the relevant institutional access to any of the journals that carry it now.

          Personally i would not read too much into ‘unfallen angels’ or what their condition might say about the human condition. We know very little about them – indeed it’s not even clear to me that demons and angels should be considered the same ‘species’ anyway. Angels could be more like ‘divine dogs’ for all we know – blissful servants of god without the same capacity for choice as humans. I mean, maybe not 🙂 But I would not be so sure that humans will operate in the same as that of the angels.

          As for Ivan, I feel he would return his ticket even on your scheme of things. The mere possibility of a suffering child is problem enough for him, whether directly brought about by God or not. Either way, God still created the possibility and, more than that, actively sustains and enables suffering once it has begun to occur – at any rate, he does not intervene, as we might expect any other moral agent too. Whether a metaphysically necessary cost or just likely, God is still ‘responsible’.

          After all, if God created the world, with the mere risk of someone going to eternal hell – even if nobody then happened to choose it – well, this God would still be pretty much as evil as a God who created knowing that some would definitely go to hell. If God even so much as risks hell, he ain’t good. Similarly, if God is still good despite risking the billion year Auschwitz that is fallen history, it doesn’t seem to me obvious that he would be evil simply for knowing this would definitely, rather than possibly (and very likely?) occur.

          That said, I do see force in the argument – that grounding creation in the possibility of evil is somehow less disturbing than grounding it in the necessity of evil. But taken to its logical conclusion, I think this view implies that God would be good if he created the world with, say, the 99% possibility of billions of years of horrendous evil occurring (basically this world) so long as it all worked out well in the end, whereas God would be evil if he created with the 100% certainty that just one small evil (say, the pain of me falling over and grazing my knee) would occur, even with everything else would be literally perfect. Personally, I would prefer that the world was grounded on the metaphysical necessity of the evil of my knee being grazed, rather than on the possibility of Stalin and Pol Pot.


      • Robert Fortuin says:

        David – in my estimation it is only possible to establish the efficient cause of sin, with it’s locus in the creaturely will (either angelic or human). By reason of evil as ever only a privation and a shadow (a distance and a parasitic ‘departure from’), we look in vain for its first and final cause. I therefore favor creation (the material at any rate) as already having been submitted to death’s bondage prior to the efficient causation. I realize a fall before the fall appears non-sensical, but so does an offering for an offense not yet committed (i.e. the lamb). Be it as it may I don’t see this as problematic to Christianity as does Grant.

        I see the affair in Eden pointing to incompletion, immaturity, imperfection couched in ignorance and delusion, rather than a simple moral failure as if an explicit and intentional act of rebellion.

        Liked by 1 person

        • David says:

          “I realize a fall before the fall appears non-sensical, but so does an offering for an offense not yet committed (i.e. the lamb)”

          But there is a difference between retro-causality – weird, but plausibly possible – and circular causation and self-causation, which are not. God can give us graces in view of the fact that he knows that Jesus is on his way (fall or no fall) to embody God’s love to us all.

          “I therefore favor creation (the material at any rate) as already having been submitted to death’s bondage prior to the efficient causation.”

          Right. Like you, I don’t think we need to have a literally pre-existent world in which a fall ‘takes place’ in order to safeguard a link between humanity’s sinfulness and the fallenness of the rest of creation. I’m content to say that the material world is retroactively fallen, as a result of God’s knowledge that humans will inevitably be ‘fallen’ (i.e. that all humans would have a kind of tendency towards sin that they would still need to be saved from even if. like newborns, they somehow avoided personal sins). God makes the world to fit our falleness.

          But where does human fallenness come from? I would say that no individual human being has ever faced the ‘possibility’ of causing original sin or not, and so we cannot exactly ‘place the blame’ on any individual or individuals. At any rate I would not, without qualification, blame humanity’s falleness on humanity – that would be circular self-causation.

          Instead I would say that humanity’s nature is warped and twisted by some other entity – or rather, by some other non-entity, by non-being itself, like a blackhole distorting everything around it. So humanity is not fallen in and of itself, but its nature is such that the possibility of falleness will be actualised should we be exposed to the wiles of the serpent – and unfortunately the serpent is always lurking in the garden – irrational, surd, unexplainable.

          So God doesn’t create the serpent of non-being, and neither do we. It is not some Manichean pre-existing something – rather, it is literally nothing, pure nothingness. In a way, ‘it’ is not actually evil until creation comes onto the scene – at which point humanity, in perceiving the good of being, somehow also perceives this nothingness of non-being, and this very perception somehow weakens our nature and converts the theoretical infinity of non-being that lies outside creation into the actual finite non-being that lies within. So nothingness is not an object of God’s creative will – it is not created, and it is also not a ‘thing’ that pre-exists God – and yet as soon as the good of creation is on the scene, we in fact find ourselves staring into the theoretical abyss that lies ‘outside’ creation, and end up creating an abyss in ourselves and our world.

          Sorry if that sounds a bit mystical and rationalising at the same time – the point is that nothingness, which converts the possibility of evil in creation into its actuality, is not an object of God’s creative will and therefore not a part of creation’s intrinsic logic. It is somehow ‘just there’ as the unchosen background of all finite things – creatio ex nihilo is good, the serpent arises not out of the creatio, but the nihilo.


          • Robert Fortuin says:

            And thus I aver, death can be seen similarly as retro-causality, akin and related to that of lamb slain from the foundation of the world.


          • David says:

            Thanks Robert. I don’t disagree. I suppose in my head it is just important that the logical/causal order of events (if not temporal) should be roughly as follows:

            1. God’s positive will to create
            2. Non-being is parasitically present on the ‘outside’ of creation (perhaps in some abstract sense in juxtaposition to being)
            3. Humanity perceives this non-being
            4. Therefore humanity falls (non-being invades the human human heart)
            5. Therefore the rest of physical creation falls (actual non-being throughout nature)

            So to the extent that evil and the fall has an origin, I prefer to speak of the abyss of non-being itself, the boundaries of creation that God says only ‘no’ to, as serving as a kind of deficient cause for humanity’s fall. So while, to be sure, humans cause specific acts of non-being, their tendency to do so is to be located not in themselves – humans are God’s good creation – but in the non-reality that lies outside creation.

            This has the advantage, I feel, of guaranteeing the goodness of God’s ‘original’ creation. Creation is warped, yes, but it has not warped itself – creation’s ‘nature’ is only good, and how could something that is purely good do evil? – but instead has been warped by non-being. I would argue that even possessing the ‘possibility’ of sinning probably marks humans as in some way deficient, less than they should be – the fact we might even consider sinning already implies a kind of emancipation from the good, a willingness to stray. Therefore I think Adam’s openness to sin is not part of his created nature and that instead the origin of this tendency lies in non-created non-being.


    • To give a nod in the direction that Robert seems to suggest, and synthesize it with something of my own…

      could we imagine that the timeless theater of creaturely action in which I have imagined the pre-cosmic fall might occur somehow takes place not in creaturely space, but in God’s divine foreknowledge of all possible worlds? In this case, there would be a sort of time outside fallen chronos, an eternal knowing possessed by the Father, of all possible human actions… and in that sense, “we” would be the actors who bring about the fall, in God’s awareness that we will disobey in whatever given scenario… and when he calls creation into being, this fallen modality is already introduced through our free *potential* fallen acts that occurred in how ever many given possible worlds foreseen by him, and launch a world that will bring us into being governed by these rules even though we have not yet chronologically emerged on the scene, but when we do, we will reinforce our fallenness with the choices that we do make.

      There is a circularity to this that I don’t love, and I don’t really understand why the creaturely act of departure from the good wouldn’t be permitted to play out in created space external to God’s foreknowledge… but it is at least partly intelligible to me. Gregory of Nyssa seems to suggest human beings are created in a mode of existence fitted to God’s foreknowledge of their fall, and their need for a biological struggle for existence in a manner like the beasts… perhaps it is somehow intelligible to extend this idea to the whole of the cosmos.

      Again, don’t love it, and it sure seems speculative to me, but how much less speculative than positing an unprovable, pre-fallen era of a different sort of time in which already created creatures fell from grace?

      And to give a nod to David, how much do ANY of these positions I’ve set forth protect against the sneaking suspicion that the deck seems to be somehow rigged against us, the likelihood of the fall all too high, and human freedom somehow messed up and predisposed to turn away from the good? I’ve often wondered what is wrong with human freedom that it seems to be utterly predisposed to misuse, so that Jesus himself seems to suggest that most people will not find the narrow way. This upsets me. Why should this be so?

      At least we know the good God already outmaneuvered and overcame any of our dead ends by filling them with his lifegiving grace.

      I tentatively point again to the good angels as evidence that a fall isn’t logically or structurally necessary for a rational nature to advance in perfection… but the story of humanity does leave one wondering.

      Lord have mercy. I sure hope the end is glorious and wholly convincing to us Ivans of the world, who are so sensitive to the pain of the middle chapters.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Grant says:

        Well I agree with you and not tentively about the angels displaying conclusively suffering is not required from the call from nothing into the divine, to say less would be a repudiation of goodness of God, that God is Love and that Good and Love (in relation to anything we mean by them, which if not is simply to deny He is Love really).

        The quote that David gave from David (Hart) is my conviction to (as in my long discussion with David – not Hart 🙂 ), and think the more real aeon or time, St Origen’s concept was always the correct instinct shut down brcause it was confused with reincarnation.

        Sadly as so much with St Origen the Church has been amputated and bleeding ever since.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I agree, Grant, I think you and I are very much on the same wavelength. My most recent speculation to Robert is more of a thought experiment than my preferred hypothesis, which takes the form of something like Bulgakov’s supra-temporal, pre-cosmic error of pan-humanity in a different aeon/dimension, and which launches the sorry history of a fallen cosmos wrapped around the hollow point of a blood thirsty thorn from its birth.

          And this position, as you point out, seems awfully similar to notions Origen first expressed. Where I think Origenism is rightly condemned, is in understanding this to be a fall from a disembodied to an embodied state, and to spirits landing in three different Linnaeus-like phyllum of angel/human/demon depending on the severity of the disobedience… though at least even with regard to falling into embodiment, one might be able to make the case he is talking about lapsing from a spiritual (but still substantial) body into a fallen, gross, heavier body bound to corruption, as we now know it.

          Either way, it does seem like the Church now desperately needs the advantage of categories of thought first developed by Origen on a pre-cosmic fall as well as on the universal cosmic apokatastasis, and hell as a finite and restorative rather than eternal retributive state. Without these, we seem doomed to a grossly disturbing and damnable portrait of the character of God… at least for anyone who bothers to think through all the implications.

          Alas. Alas. It does seem this will remain largely out of reach for mainstream theology, given the gravity and fallout of the fifth council.

          My main comfort here is in noting how wildly off-base and completely wrong about the heart of the Father the most fervent defenders of Jewish orthodoxy, the pharisees, proved to be when Jesus walked among them. Is there any reason to think that the Church should not fall into the same pattern? I don’t understand why, but God seems content to allow his followers to amble about in misinformation, error, and outright opposition to his heart, only to show up later, smack them around a bit, appeal to their better instincts, and surprise everyone with a shocking and scandalous goodness.

          My next read will be John Behr’s translation of On First Principles, which just arrived in the mail today 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

      • David says:

        Christopher, I’m not sure it’s coherent to hold that the fall occurs *solely* in God’s foreknowledge, but then have nowhere to point as to where the choice to fall actually occurs. Or perhaps it is, but then I think that would be a form of Molinism – God infallibly knows that we ‘would’ fall, and so he creates a world in which we are fallen from the beginning – but doesn’t that fall into the same necessitarian thinking that you are worried about? Our choice to fall is just a metaphysical given, just “there”, before we even make it in time.

        I find Bulgakov interesting, but I don’t know what to make of a fall that occurs outside time. I don’t think it’s possible for a creaturely will to be literally timeless – God alone is this, and it is incoherent to suppose that a timeless thing could ‘become’ temporal, as this implies a before and after. So I think all talk of a ‘supratemporal’ fall must either reduce to two things: either 1) a form of literal pre-existence, in which souls exist over time – in a different kind of ‘universe’, perhaps, but change and the passage of time is essential to the nature of creatures and for the exercise of a creaturely will; or 2) it is just a kind of metaphor for saying that God knows that parasite of evil will always infect God’s good creation from the beginning, i.e. that the fall is ‘timeless’.

        Or is there another possibility? Maybe, but it’s beyond my comprehension for the moment I’m afraid!


        Btw, If we want to go down the route of creaturely wills causing the fall in a genuinely contingent way, I personally think that the idea of fallen angels being directly responsible is a better way to go. e.g. we could imagine that angels were given the responsibility of protecting or co-creating the (human) world, and some chose not to bother, leading to the world becoming fallen and all humans inheriting that fallenness. The serpent is already in the garden. Maybe every angel is its own ‘species’ as Aquinas held, or otherwise they are in some way more solitary or less affected by the actions of their peers – explaining why Satan falling doesn’t lead to the good angels falling. Whereas human beings are much more co-dependent both on one another and on their environment, hence we are fallen.

        i’m not convinced by this myself but just a few ponderings.


        • Grant says:

          Without wanting to retread the prior discussion we had David I still think you are confusing a different aeon or the more real time prior, above and encompassing this fallen chronos time as DBH puts it in your qoute (or the metronmic time as Paul Griffiths puts it), and that is at least the concept St Origen was working with. It is not a timeless eternity, as in Tolkien tge Timeless Halls are larger more real time prior and encompassing the chronos time of our world. And with the implications of quantum physics implying and current tine/space is a fluctuation in the quantum expanse or of consciousness effecting the shape of the fluctuation we find ourselves in shouldn’t real surprise us, nor that of a larger and more real time of which chronos time is but the shadow off.

          In relation to your other point, to me there is a complete gulf between bring called from non-being into divinity where a distortion and fall is possible, a fall and distortion God takes responsibility for and goes to all lengths to make sure all are delivered and redeemed and all is healed, restored and completed. Compared with one in which the fall is inevitably part of coming from nothing, the very forge to bring the desired creation, death as God’s handmaiden and helper, or worse part of His very revelation. It is the child knowingly tortured to produce the utopia, not a tragic horror or fall, even one that might be possible but was avoidable and into which God dives deepest to rescue us, but an intended and necessary (and therefore not tragic or evil, but simply the necessary engine and process to forge creation into divinity). Even as the child enters the city eventually it will forever but founded on their suffering as much, if not more so than Christ’s.

          The first can raise a challenge to God’s goodness in the face of the reality of evil, the second confirms He is is indeed it’s author and His goodness is indeed denied. And if that would be so, on what basis would we trust God would save all, or any, or what that salvation would look like (could that salvation be another word infernalist’s hell, I don’t see how we could trust it wouldn’t be, but good reasons to fear it would be).

          As final point I don’t conceptually see why coming from nothing would involve suffering and death as an inevitably rather than possibility, even in our damaged world a baby can griw heathly to an adult without having in real problems for example.

          (All written on my tablet so apologies for more than usual grammar issues 😉 ).


        • David says:

          To be honest, I’m never that sure what Griffith’s notion of metronomic time actually is, but I’m not certain it’s coherent… time without dynamism and change is just static nothingness, as far as I’m concerned. Not that everyone thinks that is a problem – for example, I think C.S. Lewis thought that heaven was a literally atemporal, timeless state, but I don’t fancy that much myself!

          Anyway, I grant that pre-existence isn’t a logical impossibility, I just don’t think that a ‘more real time’ is a helpful way to describe it. All creaturely existence involves temporality, change, before and after. I grant that pre-existent souls could exist in a ‘more real time’ if that simply means that they experienced life in a radically different way than we do, e.g. their consciousness was pretty funky compared to ours, they had an unrestricted knowledge of God. But I hold that they must have had a ‘before and after’ in order to have existed in any real sense at all. And if that’s the case then I think the term ‘supratemporal’ is just misleading.

          “It is the child knowingly tortured to produce the utopia, not a tragic horror or fall, even one that might be possible but was avoidable and into which God dives deepest to rescue us, but an intended and necessary”

          One question I’d put is: if that would be so bad, why doesn’t God call it quits once the first finite being sinned?

          Consider that, whatever the case ‘before’ the fall, we live in a fallen world right now. So If a person has a child, they knowingly bring something into the world that *will* suffer – quite possibly from a horrible, drawn out, nasty death – as a necessary condition of their existence. Certainly it will suffer and die, one way or another. So we have children knowing that they are doomed to suffering and death, as a necessary side effect of bringing about the good of their existence – we are wrestling with no mere possible here, but absolute, cast iron, death and taxes certainty. Yet we keep on doing it. And, not only that, but God allows – in fact, actively encourages and desires – us to keep on doing it. So in the ‘logical moment’ at which God knows the world is 100% definitely fallen – rather than just possibly fallen – God is still content to keep churning out more souls, and tells us to keep on procreating. Satan falls, but God creates Adam all the same, knowing the serpent is in the garden waiting for him. God creates new souls, knowing that suffering will *necessarily* and *definitely* occur as the result of this decision – this means that, for such a soul, their eschatological perfection is necessarily founded on their suffering. Basically, if it’s acceptable for God to create new finite wills even *after* (logically speaking) he knows the world they will be born into is fallen, why would it be unacceptable for him to do this for the first finite wills?

          I also think it’s important to distinguish between creating an evil *in order* to bring about some other separate good, as opposed to creating a good that an evil would inevitably parasitically invade. For example, if we lived in some grim society where, in order to be allowed to have a child, you first had to kill a man, then it would obviously be wrong to do that. But under normal circumstances, it is not wrong to have a child, despite knowing that this unavoidably means that at some stage that child will be ‘killed’ by biological processes. It is one thing to bring about the disordering of some good in order to secure another good (evil), it is another to just produce a good, even though you know it will suffer from defects as disorder creeps in (good, and something we all do every day without sin)

          In my post at 11.48 to Christopher I make a few other points of relevance to this issue.

          “As final point I don’t conceptually see why coming from nothing would involve suffering and death as an inevitably rather than possibility, even in our damaged world a baby can griw heathly to an adult without having in real problems for example.”

          I agree, but equally I don’t see why even the possibility of suffering and death was inevitable either. Yes, creatures need to undergo movement and change in order to actually be a finite thing – that is 100% irrefutably obvious. But is it similarly irrefutably obvious that God could not have made us in such a way that we always had such a strong vision of the good (the kind we will enjoy in the eschaton) that we would always do good, without the possibility of falling? Consider Jesus, who *necessarily* did not sin (it’s not like God left salvation up to chance!)

          I’m not actually arguing that even the possibility of sin is non-necessary – for God to exist, given the facts of the case, it must be. I can see why this possibility makes sense, but I don’t think it’s logically demonstrable, with 100% certainty, in the same way that we can demonstrate the necessity of time and change.

          Basically sometimes we just have to accept causal connections for what they are. Human beings are not always that good at judging what is necessary and what is possible.

          Anyhow, whatever is actually the case in terms of metaphysical necessity, I believe it is plausible that *if* falleness were an inevitable side effect of creation, it would be justified to create, so long as all creation had a share in eschatological perfection.

          “(All written on my tablet so apologies for more than usual grammar issues 😉 ).”

          Ha not to worry… nothing wrong with you bringing about the good of your fascinating post, even though you knew this good would inevitably be disordered by the parasitic evil of grammatical errors… besides, the eschatological spellcheck will make everything right in the end! 😉


          • Grant says:

            With the first query, intentionally bringing someone into suffering, and to be truly fitting, intentionally forming it to be so, then that person would evil, a fairly depraved person even if by such cruelty that brought from the enlightened and benevolent end for them and others. That brought about cruelty, intentionally on their end, to forge that person into the one they wished, and mabye others, would be a monster and abuser most ahhorent to any of use I think, a Dr Frankenstien in fact (afterall he suceeds but is in many ways the true monster), or in the territory of Mengele. Because God is bring and creating things into being, not just having children in a fallen reality and sorrow but also in love towards those given to them. That is fundamental difference, to create a being to suffer and be thrown into a chamber of suffering, even where you would make sure somehow it would lead to a good outcome, even that they become some ideal version in this depraved scheme, that person would be a total monster, and that analogy fails at the free creating from nothing with total freedom that is God. That making sure is different from a giving of true life and environement to live it where some mistakes and even temporary mistakes and hurts could happen, where this is accomadated for and all effort put and ready for their deliverance, healing and rescue, securing their good end.

            Even with that, as I said above, the reality of evil still challenges but doesn’t defeat the assertion of God’s goodness and that He is Love, but the former does indeed. And as you know from our previous discussion I’m not of the view that God in that sense continues to put out souls ‘after’ the Fall, but rather Fall and are shattered in chronos time and this current fluctuation and shadow realm (as illustrated in Tolkien mythology in a mythological and narrative form, in that I’m with St Pamphilus mostly 🙂 ).

            And I agree with your distinctino about an evil praasitically invading, but your example fails, because from the vantage point of God’s creating, once it becomes inevetiable it is creating an evil in order to bring about the good desired. That is, the grim society whre it would be allowed to have a child you had to kill someone (including that the child dies by biological processes, since that is also a realized evil, even when they become old), would be related to God’s creating where that situation had been all set up and place people inot to about some ‘greater’ good. In that evil is an intentional agent to bring about the utopia, it is based on that torture and suffering, not despite it, not delivered from it, not against it, and it therefore is never destroyed. That torture and suffering and killing you describe is intrinsic in creating that idea good or society or persons. We haven’t had good views on just humans attempting such things to bring about the ulitmate good society, and they are limited to creaturely limits, when taken to God’s level such limitations of lack of freedom on creating, power, knowledge and without any limiations that is inherent to the wellspring of all being, the One who is Being and Beyond Being Himself, well it becomes wholly different, an evil on a even grander scale. Again you describe is that suffering is at the heart of this creative process, and essential to forging the ulitmate end, which is built on, driven by and mounment to that torture, death and suffering. What you a desribing is a created horror house being justified for a good, again the child is tortured to produce paradise, and therefore it is not paradise but hell.

            So while I agree in principal that there is definite and important distinction between evil as inherent to the purpose of creation and evil as parastic invader, this remains only if it is truly a possible evil, once it is inevtiable from the point of creation, it becomes intended and indeed part of, and co-creator of the outomce and an eternal stain on that outcome. And that is must have been a true chosen possiblity from the created to avoid to use such language is essential, the representation of it a true choice and fall is true no matter how mythological it is presented. If not, death is God handmadien as I said, it is perhaps a very revelation of His nature in His choice to forge us from and by death and suffering. And with such a God, not universal salvation, or any salvation can be counted on, at least not one that would not look like the infernalist hell. And Paradise even if eternally blissful, would be brought by the abuse of many within, by their torture and suffering and built upon that mountain of death and pain, going out from humanity to all creation (and any alien life that exists), the dirty secret, the child tortured to get there. And that too would hell.

            So (as it is clear) I’m afraid I don’t agree and see the issue as one that must be aboslutely resisted, God goodness is denied most emphatically in that thinking.

            Liked by 1 person

      • Robert Fortuin says:

        I do base my position on St Gregory’s model. Not without difficulties but the most tenable and vastly superior to others, IMO.

        Liked by 1 person

  29. evagrius says:

    All I know is the Lord’s Prayer seems to state something…”Forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”..seems pretty direct…


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