Supplying the Missing Universalist Premise

Last week Dr Brendan Triffett published “Where the Chasm Really Lies: A Libertarian Infernalist Responds to Fr Aidan Kimel.” It’s not often that anyone directly replies to my writings on the greater hope, so I quickly read it. I confess I was a tad confused. Instead of responding to my many constructive pieces I have published over the past eight years, he decided to respond to my response to Joshua Brotherton’s review of That All Shall Be Saved. Wouldn’t it have been better to cut out the middle man? David Bentley Hart’s the man everyone’s gunning for. I’m small potatoes. But I get it. I suspect my article simply provided the spark for Triffett to write the piece he’s wanted to write for a good while now. Anyway, upon reading it I recognized that I lack the philo­soph­ical chops to address his more interesting arguments. But most importantly, it seems to me that he has missed the crucial universalist contention. Triffett must have come to the same conclusion because yesterday he followed up with a “pared-down” version: “The Source of the Disagreement Between Universalists and Infernalists.” In my opinion, this is a much better presentation. Triffett lays out seven theses in support of the Roman Catholic infernalist position, with comments on each. Excellent. Here is something I can sink my teeth into. The seven theses:

  1. Our hearts are restless until they rest in God.
  2. God is able to put each created person into a situation that would non-violently necessitate her acceptance of the love of God and infallibly secure her salvation.
  3. The only situation that could non-violently necessitate a person’s acceptance of the love of God and infallibly secure her salvation, is having a vision of God (and the Truth) that is equal to the beatific vision in clarity, if not in duration.
  4. The only situation that could possibly secure a person’s salvation non-violently and infallibly, is one that non-violently necessitates immediate and total adherence to God.
  5. While God can put each created person into a salvation-securing situation, He need not, and in fact, He chooses not to.
  6. There is a (non-empty) set of created persons such that for each member M of this set, God puts M into a salvation-securing situation.
  7. There is a (non-empty) set of created persons such that for each member M of this set (i) God puts M into a salvation-securing situation and (ii) God’s (eternal) decision to do so is not responsive to any previous merit of M.

Triffett concludes his article with this statement:

This much should be abundantly clear by now: simply pointing out the truth of the first two theses above is no argument in favour of universalism. In order to refute infernalism, the universalist has to refute (5) by introducing a further premise or set of premisses.

There’s a problem here. Can you see it? … [tick tock, tick tock] … Still need a hint? Okay, if you confess universal salvation, please gather in the center of the room so I can see you clearly. Everyone else, stand over by the walls. Okay, good, thank you. Universalists, raise your right hand if you believe that God will save all human beings because you are convinced that theses #1 and #2 are true. I see a few hands raised. (David, put your hand down!) But most hands are not raised. Exactly. All of you who are standing by the walls (Dr Triffett, I’m glad you could join us—welcome), are you seeing what I’m seeing? The overwhelming majority of universalists do not confess the greater hope because they have been convinced by a philosophical argument. I know I sure don’t. In his seven-point argument, Triffett has omitted the fundamental thesis that all universalists affirm and upon which they have expounded at great length. Thus when he writes that universalists need to refute thesis #5 by providing a further premise, they will simply shake their heads. “Well, duh. We’ve already done that.” As I recently noted in “The Closing of the Catholic Mind,” even if critics should refute Hart’s argument on human freedom, proponents of the greater hope would not be dissuaded one whit in their faith in the indomitable love of God.

So let me now provide the missing premise that Dr Triffett has overlooked. It can be formulated in different ways. I offer two versions:

In his absolute, infinite, and unconditional love, God wills the eternal salvation of every human being.

In, with, and through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, God the Father has predestined all of humanity to boundless life in his Kingdom.

Both statements deny Triffett’s fifth premise. Every universalist would emphatically reject the assertion that the God of absolute love, although possessing the power and freedom to place any and every person in a salvation-securing situation, has nonetheless chosen not to. If this were true, there would be no gospel to be proclaimed.

Are you interested in exploring the case for universal salvation? Start with the articles and books listed in my Readings in Universalism. If you are serious person and intend to write on this topic, I suggest that you at least read the following, in this order:

  1. The Consuming Fire” by George MacDonald
  2. Justice” by George MacDonald
  3. The Inescapable Love of God by Thomas Talbott
  4. God’s Final Victory by John Kronen and Eric Reitan
  5. That All Shall Be Saved by David Bentley Hart
  6. A universalist homily

I lead off with George MacDonald to highlight the point that universalists ground their faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, not upon abstract arguments on human freedom and divine agency. The books by Talbott, Kronen & Reitan, and Hart advance the strongest arguments in support of universal salvation. Quite frankly, if you have not carefully read and considered their arguments, you need to keep your opinions on the topic to yourself. As bonus reading (#6) I have assigned the only explicitly universalist sermon I have ever preached. Given how frequently I have declared the absolute love of God during the course of my priesthood of forty-one years, I have often been asked, “Does that mean all will be saved?” On 22 June 2012 I finally gave the answer my heart had long known but dared not speak.

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75 Responses to Supplying the Missing Universalist Premise

  1. Curdie says:

    Theses #5 immediately stuck out to me, I’m glad you addressed it. “While God can put each created person into a salvation-securing situation, He need not, and in fact, He chooses not to.” Don’t you need to like…prove the second half of that statement? That’s exactly the statement that Universalists clearly disagree with Triffett about and, whether we’re right or wrong, obviously have reasons for believing the contrary. “In fact, He chooses not to” is going to need to be proven by doing something other than uh…just saying so.

    Also, I know it’s a little beside the point, but does he really need flames running up and down the side of his blog?? Literally decorating your blog with hellfire seems like a bit of a fixation.

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    • Grant says:

      Well I would further with the Gospel declaring that God desires all to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, or the parable of the lost coin or lost sheep etc, that God desires not that any should perish but turn and be saved and so on means universalists have on our sides God’s active and revealed desire to save all. Which if God chooses not to place people in salvation securing situations, then this is clearly a lie, He does not wish and has chosen not to save some people from all eternity in His very act of Creation. Thus admitting that He has made such vessels for His wrath all along (very Calvinist, but at least John Calvin was also honest enough to acknowledge this meant God was not love in Himself but only as the saved experienced Him, to the damned He was hate, and so denies key Christian claims of God). I know all the attempts infernalists will try to use word-plays about somehow God desires something He has already made sure can’t happen, but it’s frankly self-condtraditory nonsense, that someone only forces themselves into these mental contortions because they are force to believe to completely oppossite things about God and reality and affirm hate is love, evil is good and so on and so on.

      To be honest, monstrous as it is, of all infernalists at least a hard-line Calvinist is the most honest with themselves that the God they proclaim isn’t love and doesn’t desire all to be saved (though how they still claim that this is consistent with the Gospel claims is a wonder).

      Anyway, yes, it’s the opposite, given Christianity’s firm revelation of God’s love and desire and intent to save all the Cosmos and all people, it’s on them to say since God loves and wants to save all, and in fact being God could arrange to save all, without affecting freedom and so on, He does not do so but instead brings them into a situation and existence where they will in fact suffer pain and torment and eternal ruination forever, and given up to that fate. They seem to be the ones putting forward a point that contradicts the Gospel revelation of God’s intent and desire not us.

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  2. Thomas says:

    I am confident that, no matter what I do, my parents’ love toward me would not cease. I hope that my children have that same confidence. No loving parent would fail to act to prevent their child from being eternally lost — especially if it is squarely within their power to do so.

    Dr. Triffet’s position means we cannot have that same confidence in the love of God. We might pine for an infinitely loving God, but I suppose Dr. Triffet thinks we should settle for the one he thinks we have.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Thomas, clearly your parents have yet to learn the hard love of the “biblical” God. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • basileius says:

      Thomas, when I think of the people who say that universalism removes the desire to repent I’m reminded of a father who says to his kid: “You better do this now because you don’t want me to make you do it later”. 🤣

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  3. JBG says:

    “While God can put each created person into a salvation-securing situation, He need not, and in fact, He chooses not to.”

    And do you notice that those propounding such an arbitrary and nakedly unjust scheme implicitly presume that they are among the saved. It’s always somebody else that will be excluded. Go figure, huh?

    How do I know this? Because they would never honestly extol the goodness and justice of such a scheme if they expected to be one of those chosen for eternal suffering. It is easier for some to overlook the glaring injustice when you presume you won’t be on the receiving end of said outcome.

    But, on what basis can one entertain such a presumption? If quoted statement above is is true, any manner of assurance that one has of being placed “into a salvation-securing situation” is a delusion. This is evident by the stark unintelligibility this entire scheme of salvation. One cannot place any reasonable hope in an arbitrary system. As such, any presumption—much less assurance—that you yourself will be one of the fortunate ones is altogether groundless.

    One of the flaws of these arguments, if one could even call them that, is that they exhibit a profound lack of empathy. Empathy is, in part, a faculty of the imagination. To exercise empathy is to imaginatively place yourself in the position of the other— in this case, the hypothetical other chosen for damnation.

    One should deeply imagine being this person; deeply imagine being one of the people called into being and arbitrarily sentenced to eternal, unrelenting torture. If you genuinely believe this outcome to be just and (this is key) are perfectly contented with such a course of events should it happen to yourself personally, then its soundness has been confirmed for you. If not, then frankly, you’re being grossly disingenuous. To anyone who seriously contemplates such a scheme of salvation, my prescription is to deeply inhabit the other—become one chosen for damnation—and the answer will become clear.

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  4. DBH says:

    5 is obviously false for the reasons set forth in my Meditation One and Three. So, that’s taken care of.

    Listen, Al, I don’t know what philosophical chops you think you lack, but Triffett is definitely offering no challenge you need take seriously. His god is s metaphysical nonsense, a finite psychological subject who makes deliberative choices that he might, if he so chose, not have made. We might as well be talking about the Tooth Fairy.

    He also bases his theology (which is an embarrassment) on precisely that stream of grace, predestination, and merit talk that every good New Testament scholar recognizes as a venerable misreading of Paul. But that is a problem impossible to fix. Superstition is difficult to do much about.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. DBH says:

    Excuse my impatience, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Excuse my impatience too, but I’m literally figuratively dying for your next book release. Last year it was going to be released in 2021; Well, now it’s 2021, so are you able to maybe tease us with which quarter we should expect it to appear? Or even which month?

      Also somewhere else you mentioned that it will be your “penultimate” theology book. My head exploded. How could the DBH theological epektasis possibly get any better? Then again, how could it possibly ever conclude? Hopefully once you’re done with the whole Christian project you will retire to mastering Sanskrit, so that after you pass away and are reborn in brahmaloka on account of your overabundant akarma, you will be thoroughly prepared to directly evangelise the Devas to our beloved crucified and risen Christ via their own primordial divinissimus language, and with direct reference to their very own sanctissimus shruti and smrti.

      Heck, someone’s gotta do it! Them principalities and powers aint gonna evangelise themselves! Hopefully you’ll be able to orchestrate the social scene up there such that St. Bulgakov will be able to have a conference with Vishnu and Shiva so that they can nut out a treaty for getting all us little folk past the tollbooths on the way to the eschaton without having to pay too many bribes. Some sort of spiritual e-tag system might be in order, as historical evidence seems to suggest this would quite effectively declog the traffic and queues that have been piling up in purgatory since Dante wrote his poem and the heavenly red tape multiplied more than it had to. Perhaps you could also schedule a time for Robert Jenson and Blessed Fr. Kimel to meet with Krishna and Prabhupada for the purpose of striking a bargain whereby they no longer require us to chant 1000 rounds of the mahamantra every day, and can instead just rest in the peace of trusting the unconditional promise of the Gospel.

      Anyway, all of this is just to say that there’s still so much to be done, and hence I’m skeptical that “You are Gods” will be your penultimate theological work. I’m sure our beloved divine father Yahweh H. Krishna still has plenty of blissful theological works prepared in advance, in order that you may write them for us. Therefore I eagerly await your definitive and canonical Sanskrit translation of the New Testament (and please, make it a translation worthy of the language you’re translating into. There will be no need to scrupulously write bad Sanskrit where Paul writes bad koine this time around – you’re translating for the Devas this time, not us littlefolk. It’s fitting that the Christian scriptures be written in the rough language of the common man, as Christ identifies himself with the lowest, but still, Sanskrit is the language of the Devas, so your the Sanskrit NT needs to be written in the highest and most immaculate register).

      Disclaimer: this post was written whimsically and tongue in cheek. I’m not really as insane as it might make me look :p In any case, I’m genuinely dying with anticipation for “You are God’s,” and it would be a wonderful divine mercy for you to dip your finger in some water and let a drop fall on my tongue by giving a more fine-grained estimate for when I’ll finally be able to order and read my 20 copies.

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    • arthurja says:

      Dr Hart,

      I’ve been reading J. W. Hanson lately and I’ve been wondering whether he’s a reliable source of information on universalism – forgive me but universalism is so beautiful (it almost sounds “too good to be true” to me given the horrible reality we inhabit) that I tend to assume many universalist writers are relatively biased.

      Furthermore, his work being over 120 years old, even if Hanson was a reliable historian of universalism, I still don’t know whether his work is still considered relevant today.

      On the other hand, Dr Ramelli seems to think highly of his work and she’s quite the expert.

      Would you agree with her that he’s *still* a reliable and relevant source of information or would you say that his work is a bit… I don’t know. Either outdated or perhaps slightly too biased?

      Thanks a lot in advance, have a great day.

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  6. Iain Lovejoy says:

    Of all the universalist texts recommended that I have read (and I have read all bar one), with the greatest respect to the learned authors concerned – especially DBH – to me it is the last that is the most convincing, the one that I can see no way to refute and retain my humanity, and I would like to thank you for sharing something so personal.

    Liked by 1 person

    • myshkin says:

      I second Iain Lovejoy’s comment. i’m sorry the homily’s genesis is tragedy, and i will pray for him. That homily is one of the clearest expressions of actual belief in Jesus Christ and all that his Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection mean about who God is that I have ever encountered. I let my older children read it because I am a stupid man and don’t know how to say anything with clarity, and your words / example said exactly what I needed them to know about my love and God’s love for them. peace.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Isn’t point 5 just plain old Calvinist “Limited Atonement” ? A good deal of infernalists (eg: the 1672 Jerusalem Synod) would condemn such idea as blasphemy, and a it requires a very tortured reading of the Bible (much worse than a universalist reading, at least) anyway.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      While premise #5 can be interpreted along Calvinist lines, I’m confident that Triffett intends it along Thomistic preteritional lines. Over at his blog he just left the following comment:

      Hi again. Perhaps you’re mistaking me for a TULIP Calvinist. The Father that I believe in does not “fail to act” when His children are in peril–He sends His Son and Spirit, provides the Church, sends all sorts of means of grace and opportunities to every person (nobody is reprobate in Calvinist’s sense).

      If in the act of “rescuing” you include the human response (co-operating with grace) which is necessary for salvation, then no, God does not “rescue” all–but that is not because God neglected anybody. But if by “rescue” you mean provide abundant means and genuine opportunities to be saved, then yes, God “rescues” everyone.

      To make sense of this, we need to posit a distinction between efficacious and sufficient grace. Thomists are convinced that their understanding of divine predestination is different from Calvinist double predestination; but when examined through an eschatological lens, it’s hard to see the difference.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rob says:

        Given that in their system “sufficient grace” invariably fails to actually save anyone on its own, one wonders what precisely it is supposed to be sufficient *for*. If a particular type of life vest leads to 100% of the people wearing it drowning, one is inclined to suspect there’s something wrong with it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • DBH says:

          If it weren’t sufficient to save everybody it wouldn’t be so droll and mischievous of God to deny the addition of efficacious grace. It’s rather as if in a starving world there were someone with food enough to feed everyone. What a jolly joke—and sign of absolute dispositive sovereignty to boot—if he should choose to feed only a small minority and leave the rest to perish. O quam inscrutabilia sunt iudicia Dei. Who are you, O man, to complain? And isn’t infinite power allied to absolute goodness beautiful?

          Liked by 1 person

          • Curdie says:

            Except in this scenario it’s as if this someone provided food that only a fraction of the starving population was capable of digesting, even though they are fully capable of providing food that everyone can digest. So sorry that God’s grace only operates at 1% efficiency, he’s working on that!

            Every time I hear a devout calvinist like John Piper or the like describe the difference between “sufficient” and “efficient” grace, it seems like the whole crowd gives a sigh of “aaaahh’s”, as if that clears up the matter completely. It’s just so painfully obvious that that argument is based purely on semantics with literally no substance behind it. You could use the concepts of “sufficiency” and “efficiency” to rhetorically clear up basically any theological or philosophical problem whatsoever, if it actually meant anything. If God’s grace is sufficient for all but efficient for some, we might as well say his goodness is efficient for all but only sufficient for some, and his justice, and his truthfulness, and his providence, etc etc etc. Of course it renders all theological language absolutely useless, but I guess that’s just what is required to defend an insane belief. Maybe Paul Rudd’s character in Anchorman summed it up best: “60% of the time, it works every time!”

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          • DBH says:

            Well, you see, “sufficient” grace by itself is precisely what makes a soul damnable when it is denied “efficacious” grace. Which makes it a damned peculiar sort of grace. The gracious gift of eternal torment. If God chooses to withhold one species of grace, it would be far kinder to withhold both.

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      • DBH says:

        The real problem with Triffett’s argument, however, is–once again, as has happened with such astounding regularity with all the book’s critics–he does not actually address the continuous argument made in TASBS. He addresses other arguments that he has superimposed over it, and so does not see that his case has already been answered and more than adequately refuted. It is especially obvious that he has not grasped what is going on in the book’s first meditation. And he thinks that the fourth meditation is saying something it is not. Of course, as he went after Al rather than me, maybe he had the sense to take an elliptical approach rather than pretend to be addressing the book itself.

        I have to say, this is beginning to have a Groundhog Day feel for me. It has got to the point that all I need to know is whether a critic is a Thomist, a Reformed Christian, a Lutheran, an Orthodox (convert), or an Evangelical (etc.) to know every possible “critique” he or she will advance. Their repertoire is entirely determined by past expectations. And some strange emotional or intellectual filter seems to be imposed between them and what is actually on the page. If it weren’t for the ability of sympathetic readers to follow the argument, I would think it all my fault.

        Oh well. I suppose that’s the price for winning an argument that a lot of people don’t want you to win. (Feel free to read that as having been written by someone with an arrogantly arched brow and a sneer of disdain on his face.)

        Oh, there is no difference in effect between TULIP Calvinists and Thomists in this matter. The difference lies only in which line of bad reasoning is employed to reach the same dismal conclusion.

        Liked by 4 people

  8. The parable of Lazarus and the rich man makes it very clear that Hell is real, that there is a chasm, and that there’s no crossing over it afterwards. Hart and Kimel need to cut down on the sophistical nonsense.

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    • I wish wordpress had “Lol!” reacts

      Liked by 3 people

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      I’m afraid you are reading your infernalist convictions into the parable.

      First of all, I am doubtful that Jesus intended in the parable to reveal information about the afterlife. He has appropriated common folk beliefs to speak a severe warning to the rich and give comfort to the poor. Admittedly, though, we do not have access to our Lord’s private intentions, one way or the other.

      Second, this parable is about hades, not hell. That is a critical difference. The notion that at the moment of death the souls of the wicked are irreversibly condemned to a place of eternal punishment (i.e. hell) is a second millennium Latin novelty. In the earlier tradition, still maintained in the Eastern Church, the souls of the wicked are consigned to hades/hell to await the final judgment. During this “time,” salvation (at least for some) is still possible through the prayers and intercessions of the saints. Some of the saints, particularly in the first millennium Irish Church, were well known for praying people out of hell. The chasm of which the parable speaks is not a hindrance to Christ and the Spirit.

      Third, this parable was told before our Lord’s harrowing of hades, at which point he rescued all of its inhabitant, at least according to one popular stream of the tradition. See Hilarion Alfeyev, Christ the Conqueror of Hell.

      Fourth, according to the older tradition (still maintained, as I said, in the Orthodox Church) hell does not “begin” until the Final Judgment, which hasn’t happened yet.

      Liked by 5 people

      • arthurja says:

        Father Kimel,

        I admit that I didn’t know about these Irish saints who prayed for those souls suffering in Hell during the first millenium CE.

        Could you please point to some of them so I can study them?

        Thanks a lot in advance.

        Liked by 1 person

      • basileius says:

        There’s an interpretation of Lazarus and the Rich man where the Rich man represents Judah or the Jewish leaders of his day and Lazarus represents the gentiles. There was a CERTAIN rich man, he had 5 brothers. Dressed in purple (royalty). Lazarus ate the crumbs that fell from the table (remember the Greek woman who asked Christ to heal her demoniac daughter and his remarks about dogs and hers about crumbs).

        Seeing as how the parable was part of a set where the theme was the Jews losing the promise and it going to the gentiles…

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        • Justin says:

          And, didn’t Abraham himself have an heir named Eliaezar (sic) or some “Lazarus” derivative? Who in the parable is now receiving his inheritance?

          Liked by 1 person

          • basileius says:

            Also the rich man didn’t seem to display a life that deserved hell, and Lazarus, although unfortunate, wasn’t exactly holy. (Though certainly not evil).

            The parable had a message, Hell wasn’t it.

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    • Geoffrey McKinney says:

      The passage about Lazarus and the rich man isn’t even about anyone’s eternal destiny. At the very worst, it indicates that some will have a very unpleasant intermediate state between death and resurrection.

      Liked by 2 people

    • arthurja says:

      @ theologumenon

      Wow, you’ve just utterly demolished the whole universalist exegetical and philosophical case in three lines, haven’t you?

      More seriously : the point you’ve just made has been refuted over and over again by plenty of proponents of universalism.
      Hence, if you’re going to attack that soteriological view as “sophistical nonsense”, at least make sure you’ve studied it extensively enough to be able to produce an informed judgment (be it positive *or* negative) on that matter.

      As for the “sophistical nonsense”, it’s not just Dr Hart and Fr Kimel who would “need to cut down” on it but the whole universalist tradition including Sts Clement of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa, Macrina the Younger, Isaac of Nineveh, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Diodore of Tarsus, Theodoret of Cyrus, Evagrius Ponticus, Didymus the Blind, Pamphilus Martyr, Eusebius of Caesarea, but also Eriugena, Berdiaev, Bulgakov, Milbank and many more, a tradition which is, as you can see, made up of people who knew the Scriptures much better than you and I ever will.

      Honestly, what an embarrassment of a comment.
      What an embarrassment.

      Liked by 4 people

    • Grant says:

      Theologumenon is it? Well, first off it’s a parable, and the point of the parable to Lord draws from this (as part of series) is in reference to the point which frames at (as all parables do) which is this:

      ‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

      The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.

      The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.

      Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.’

      The reference to a man forcing divorce on his wife was to the practice of these same Pharisees and similar using their own system to justify dumping one wife and getting another leaving her abandoned and vulnerable.

      And the parable is a demonstration using a common folk image of the fact that reality before God is very different that what it is before man, again, that cannot serve two masters, and to despise the poor and vulnerable and needy and leave them defenceless is to be leave yourself impoverished and destitute, and suffering in flame (similar to St James on the wealth that destroys the wealthy.

      That’s it, to take a parable as saying anything beyond the point that it is meaning to say is foolish and nonsensical, you might as well go looking for actual pearls that are God’s kingdom.

      But if you wish me to believe that you really do despite this, believe that this parable does reveal the nature of resurrection and what is to come, I will only if you accept therefore all that revelation. Which is, taken as you would have, this parable shows you are saved only by having nothing is this life, by being poor and destitute, notice, Lazarus isn’t declared a good or righteous man, he’s not even shown as repentant. He is simply homeless, a beggar, suffering sores and needy and dying of exposure. That, if you are putting forward this is a revelation of the judgement and the life to come, is the conditions of salvation, and only this, not belief in Christ, repentance and turn towards goodness and God, only that you are in need own and are filled then, otherwise hell it is for you.

      So, i’ll believe you believe this, is you give up everything you have and own, and live homeless, hungry and in need, refusing all help and advise all you love to do likewise. If you do, I’ll believe you believe it (I’ll feel sorrow for your mistaken understanding, but I’ll respect your commitment). Otherwise, you don’t actually believe that the parable is revealing the nature of the life to come, and just weaponizing it. And at present, with everyone I’ve seen using it this way, this has so far always shown to be true, so I don’t believe you think or belief this either as your actions and life shows otherwise (I mean you have a phone, tablet or computer to write this on so).

      Liked by 1 person

    • DBH says:

      The parable of Lazarus and the rich man, which borrows the topography of Hades from the Book of Enoch and countless other sources common to the Graeco-Roman and Semitic worlds, and which places both Lazarus and the rich man in Hades, in separate compartments, makes no reference to either heaven or hell–or, for that matter, to the Age to Come, which is what the early Christians believed in as lying beyond the eschatological horizon.

      It is amazing how much firm religious conviction depends upon ignorance and misreadings.

      Liked by 8 people

    • myshkin says:

      So even if one accepts completely your reading of this parable and accepts that it describes reality as it actually was in the moment in which this parable was actually spoken; there is still a massive problem; your conclusion of what the parable means today is a complete repudiation that the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord was efficacious. to the degree that the chasm is a concrete thing, whatever that chasm may have meant, that chasm was obliterated on Holy Saturday; His ineffable love will not be defeated by a mere puny chasm that is impossible for us to cross. I would never demand that you take St Catherine of Siena seriously, but I find it a thing of beauty that she describes that the Father reports to her that the Life, Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord is a bridge, and what does a bridge do? why it turns impossible chasms into roadways to the Kingdom. peace

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  9. Ed says:

    If we accept point 5, then it would seem to follow that God is indifferent to the fate of the damned. But if God is indifferent to their fate, and if we are to live Godlike lives, then it follows that we also ought to be indifferent to the fate of those who are damned. Hence, the supposed main motive for evangelism, i.e. to save people from going to hell, goes out the window. We need have no concern for those who are going to hell since God Himself has no concern for them.
    With regard to the parable of Lazarus, consider what Abraham says to the rich man: “But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. ” So, if the rich man is receiving tit for tat and if Lazarus received evil things for a finite time, it would seem that the rich man’s punishment would only be for a finite time.

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  10. rephinia says:

    I just say, DBH’s book is really bringing out the moral depravity of infernalists in public display like never before. Each one that attempts to critique the book ends up appearing like a circus act

    Liked by 1 person

  11. davidartman1 says:

    I had not read the funeral homily to your son. Thank you for sharing it.

    Like

  12. Well, looks like we have a Thomist here. And isn’t it amazing how, when you boil Thomist eschatology down to 7 logical points, you clearly perceive a monstrous and capricious God unworthy of worship, and every bit as Satanic as Calvin’s? Calvin is just more honest about it. Thomists want to employ casuistry to have it both ways at once, which is just not logically possible.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Tom Talbott says:

    I hold that the following rejection hypothesis (RH) is necessarily false or metaphysically impossible:

    (RH) Some free persons will freely make a fully informed and irreversible decision to reject God forever.

    I also have several different kinds of reasons, some biblical and some philosophical, for thinking that (RH) is necessarily false. So I was, of course, most interested in whether Dr. Triffett had provided any compelling reasons for thinking that (RH) might be true after all; and because I didn’t find any, I’ll here sketch out (in a truncated fashion) one line of thought for thinking that (RH) is indeed necessarily false.

    Suppose first, even as Dr. Triffett appears to do, that an utterly irrational, insane, or unmotivated choice would not qualify as a free moral choice in the so-called libertarian sense. For some degree of irrationality will, at some point, fall well below the minimal threshold of rationality that libertarian freedom requires and it does so even when someone retains the power to act otherwise. Consider next C. S. Lewis’s observation in Surprised by Joy (p 232) that “union with” the divine “Nature is bliss and separation from it [an objective] horror.” Here is my own comment on this quotation, which in order to save time I lift from my entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entitled “Heaven and hell in Christian Thought,” sec. 3.1:

    “Now consider again the view of C. S. Lewis and many other Christians concerning the bliss that union with the divine nature entails, so they believe. and the objective horror that separation from it entails, and suppose that the outer darkness—that is, a soul suspended alone in nothingness, without even a physical order to experience and without any human relationships at all—should be the logical limit (short of annihilation) of possible separation from the divine nature. These ideas seem to lead naturally to a dilemma argument for the conclusion that a freely chosen eternal destiny apart from God is metaphysically impossible. For either a person S is fully informed about who God is and what both union with the divine nature and separation from it would entail, or S is not so informed. If S is fully informed and should choose a life apart from God anyway, then S’s choice would be utterly and almost inconceivably irrational; such a choice would fall well below the threshold required for moral freedom. And if S is not fully informed, then God can of course continue to work with S, subjecting S to new experiences, shattering S’s illusions, and correcting S’s misjudgments in perfectly natural ways that do not interfere with S’s freedom. Beyond that, for as long as S remains less than fully informed, S is simply in no position to reject the true God; S may reject a caricature of God, perhaps even a caricature of S’s own devising, but S is in no position to reject the true God. Therefore, in either case, whether S is fully informed or less than fully informed, it is simply not possible that S should reject the true God freely.”

    For the full argument, see the four prior paragraphs in section 3.1.

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    • Jeff says:

      ‘ fall below the threshold ‘for moral freedom ,

      For it remains the case that the explanation for our action lies in the particular disposition of our own rationality, in particular our will, for which we ourselves are responsible.

      John of Damascus does not allow for any action against one’s choice. He allows for action, or rather behaviour, entirely guided by one’s non-rational desire. And he allows for action guided by one’s non-rational desire in the face of a countervailing rational desire, but not for action against one’s choice.

      You may like the paper by Michael Frede on Will in John of Damascus

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  14. Brenden says:

    The missing premise in the universalist argument is reincarnation, it’s the next logical conclusion. Without it this is no more solvent than the village theist soap box hour.

    I’m sure DBH is playing church father milk and meat on this.

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    • Tom Talbott says:

      Good heavens,. Brenden, what is the point of this post? You speak of “the universalist argument,” as if there were only one such argument. But there are many arguments for universalism in print and many that do not have a missing premise (and are in fact formally valid), even as there are many such arguments against universalism. So what, precisely, is the argument you have in mind here that has, so you say, a missing premise?

      You also say that the missing premise in your unidentified argument is reincarnation. But reincarnation is not itself a proposition, though some proposition about reincarnation may again be a missing premise in some unidentified argument for universalism. Who cares? An argument with a missing premise—otherwise known as an enthymeme—rarely poses a problem, since the missing premise can typically be easily identified from the context. I cannot help but wonder, therefore, just what you might have in mind when you speak of a missing premise in THE argument for universalism.

      Finally, you seem to imply that a proposition affirming the existence of reincarnation is not only a missing premise in some unidentified argument for universalism, but also the conclusion of this very same argument. Is that really what you wanted to say?

      As for the final two sentences of your post, neither of them made any sense to me. But if, as I suspect, they were an attempt to insult Christian universalists in general and DBH in particular, then they came across, to me at least, as pretty sophomoric,

      Liked by 1 person

      • Brenden says:

        Tom,

        “Spirit can exist only under the conditions of those rational conditions that logically define it. To ask why God did not create spiritual beings already wholly divinized without any prior history in the ambiguities of sin—or of sin’s possibility—is to pose a question no more interesting or solvent than one of those village atheist’s dilemmas: can God create a square circle, or a rock he is unable to lift? A finite created spirit must have the structure of, precisely, the finite, the created, and spirit. It must have an actual absolute past in nonbeing and an absolute future in the divine infinity, and the continuous successive ordering of its existence out of the former and into the latter is what it is to be a spiritual creature. Every spiritual creature as spirit is a pure act of rational and free intentionality away from the utter poverty of nonbeing and toward infinite union with God. This “temporal” or “diastematic” structure is no less intrinsic to it than is its dynamic synthesis of essence and existence, or of stability and change.“

        So, therefore, we might ask what of the stillborn, for example? God can’t create his square universalist circle, as noted above, so, we can assume along with every other universalist tradition that the soul gets cycled back into the cosmos. Otherwise, what is the mechanism that relieves the Christian universalist from this burden?

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        • TJF says:

          The stillborn still had life, albeit short. I see no reason why this is different from any other death in the world,logically speaking, just shorter.

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          • DBH says:

            The pertinent document would be Gregory of Nyssa’s De infantibus praemature abreptis (On infants prematurely taken away).

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          • TJF says:

            Thank you for reminding me DBH. I recall you talking about this document vaguely. I remember someone saying it wasn’t the most logically coherent, but then you replied that its aim was to give solace to grieving families in a harsher world or something like that. I also recall Fr. John Whiteford attempting to argue that Gregory defends the eternality of hell there, but I suspect that is due to a misinterpretation of aionios. I will have to look over the document sometime soon.

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          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            See Casimir McCambley’s translation of Concerning Infants Who Have Died Prematurely.”

            Liked by 1 person

          • TJF says:

            Thank you Fr. Aidan.

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          • DBH says:

            Whiteford reads no Greek. He also not the keenest critical thinker in the drawer. The word in question is apeiros, which Gregory passingly uses in the colloquial sense of “indeterminate” or “immense” when talking of possible postmortem suffering. That one could imagine that this somehow disproves the absolutely explicit and systematic universalism of Gregory’s treatises is rather embarrassing.

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          • TJF says:

            Thank you DBH,

            I’ve been wanting to learn Greek. Any resources you could recommend to a beginner who doesn’t want to learn just “biblical” Greek? I’d also love to read other texts like Plato’s dialogues, etc.

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        • Brenden says:

          The example was to hone in on freedom without any experience of the ‘ambiguity of sin’.

          Than you Fr. Al, this presentation sums it up tidily:

          https://hds.harvard.edu/news/2019/03/19/flesh-and-fire-reincarnation-and-universal-salvation-early-church#

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          • M. Robbins says:

            You mean “home in on.” To hone is to sharpen, to home in to move toward something. As the soul moves toward God, who does not hone a terrible swift sword.

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      • Brenden says:

        Webster’s: hone “US
        : to find and go directly toward (someone or something)
        The missile was honing in on its target”

        I have been warned not to troll, I disagreed with the label but moving on…

        Universalism necessarily entails reincarnation by its own internal logic. The above link is an interesting entry level read.

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        • Reincarnation actually lays waste to whatever meditation it is where DBH talks about how souls are only souls in relationship with other souls: during this life I have 3 brothers and 2 sisters; during the next I’m a single child; this sort of thing makes our human relationships accidental to our essential souls and considerably muddies the theological waters if you want to hold to Universalism as a certainty. Reincarnation makes Universalism harder to hold, not easier.

          Resurrection however might be the missing link you’re looking for. cf. Bulgakovs “The Bride of the Lamb” for a fantastic presentation on it all.

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        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          Brendan, the article on Origen on reincarnation is interesting but also misleading, The author does not also mention that Origen rejected the transmigration of souls within terrestrial history. So Origen is apparently thinking of a series of different worlds, each concluding in divine judgment.

          You have not established that reincarnation is necessarily connected to the universalist hope. You have asserted the claim but have not offered an argument. All the universalist position requires is an action by God that restores the soul to himself. As to when and how this happens we can only speculate. Origen proposes the possibility of the rehabilitation of the sinner in a different world and aeon. St Gregory of Nyssa proposes a purgative Gehenna. Others propose an immediate revelation of the risen Christ to the soul at the moment of death or at the final judgment. And still others propose that the wicked will be given to experience the horror of the outer darkness. These are all speculative proposals, not missing premises.

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          • Brenden says:

            Origen rejected it within our world, yes. All this does it test your palate for the speculative.

            “All the universalist position requires is an action by God that restores the soul to himself.”

            My point was that this “action” is the ‘village atheist’ dilemma if it is not free. Reincarnation would be that action. If you want to recuse free will and use the deus ex machina card, hen yes, not required, one does and is finally able to see God and Theodore chose him. But you are tabling how or what that action is. Universalist salvation becomes as arbitrary in its dealing with the cosmos as infernal damnation is with eternity.

            But to flesh this out? That would require an academic with unique credentials. Someone far more subtle and erudite. Someone with an appetite for these and other exotic things. I’m not your man, I confess. At the very least how one universalism doesn’t require it while others do, should be accounted for.

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          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            Brendan, if free will is your point, then you should have said so and we could have avoided all this nonsense about the necessity of reincarnation. The free will defense of hell has been discussed ad nauseam on this blog, and has of course been critiqued at length by universalist theologians, including Tom Talbott (above). If you have not read his book The Inescapable Love of God, then I suggest you do so. If you have done so, then feel free to pose questions to Tom (assuming he is still following this thread).

            In any case, at this point I exercise my blog authority and terminate all discussion of reincarnation.

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        • M. Robbins says:

          Uh, the dictionary is hardly a usage guide. It lists that definition because people make the mistake you did. It’s still an error, as is obvious from the meaning of the words and their etymology. Quoting Webster’s! (Which is not the title of a specific dictionary.) Be serious.

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  15. Luca says:

    Hi David, big fan of your writings here. They helped me to return to God and “circle” Orthodoxy for a possible conversion.
    Since you know a great deal about Buddhism and Vedantic traditions, wouldn’t you agree with this reflection of mine (sorry if It takes time):

    Buddhists thinks they are trapped in a metaphysical prison with many levels of reality, an infinite system of death and rebirth sustained by karma, with no builder behind (or at the very least it’s useless to delve on it). Yet they managed to create an entire religious system with positive qualities like compassion, non violence, etc. As a Christian, through, when I look at the metaphysic that lays behind those premises, I inevitably faint and panic. It sound so terrible that no matter how smiling Buddha statues are, I could never embrace a religion that believe in rebirth/reincarnation and a beginning-less and infinite universe. Furthermore, the only way to escape from that prison is to recognize “you” do not really exist as an entity: it’s just an assemblage of impermanent components.

    Christians did the opposite! We had a religion of hope, per Paul, a religion whereas the Creator made himself as a peasant in order to reconcile ourselves with Him and teach us how to behave, a religion of Agape, a religion which see the cosmos as something good created by a God who truly loves us… yet, on those radiant premises, we managed to build a prison (the concept of eternal hell).

    I think that, if we want to “make Christianity” great again, we should really try to embrace that message of Hope that is really the thing that differentiate the “good news” from everything else. If Buddhist were able to bring hope out of an hopeless, impersonal, tragic system, we Christians have no excuses.

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    • TJF says:

      I know what you mean. The mereological reductionism I saw in much of Buddhism, especially in Nagarjuna and in ideas like King Milinda’s chariot really didn’t sit well with me. But I love many aspects of the tradition, especially the Bodhisattva vow.

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      • Luca says:

        That’s great from a moral standpoint, but I never understood it since if there are no “person” at all and the final liberation consist in dissipating the illusion that “selves exists” it sound like making a vow that one won’t dissipate its false sense of existence until million of other being have been able to dissipate theirs. It’s the Buddhist version of “making Christ know to some remote aboriginal tribe so they won’t go to Hell” only we Christians could avoid that and Buddhists don’t.
        Like I said, Buddhism brought many great aspects out from an despairingly, bleak vision of reality (realities, there are many, from hells to heavens); Christianity built a terrifying and bleak vision of the afterlife out from an original message that was of soul-melting hope and harmony and victory on the forces that kept the cosmos in bondage.

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        • DBH says:

          You know, you’re confusing the dissolution of the empirical self with annihilation. Buddhism of every school, Abidharma no less than Mahayana, denies annihilation.

          Both of you, je vous en prie, stop.

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          • Luca says:

            I know, but some would say that the self can’t be annihilated because is nowhere to be found in the first place. We just believe it does, so we cling to eternalist/annihilationist views (like eternal life for Christians).

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          • DBH says:

            By the way, the Pali canon was committed to writing no earlier than the Sanskrit canon. The supposition that the Abidhamma tradition preserved aboriginal Buddhism in a pure form for more than two centuries by oral transmission alone is, of course, an ancient source of contention between the two major vehicles. I suspect that the Pali canon represents one plausible redaction and systematization of the early Buddhist doctrine, but I also think that the Mahayana drew on traditions that were, in another way, grounded in the early tradition.

            Anyway, on the issue of annihilation being denied simply “because” there is no self to annihilate, but that “because” already says what the Buddha explicitly said was a misleading supposition. Remember, all the evidence tells us that the Buddha’s teaching of “anatta” did not really even concern “Atman” in the special sense it acquired in the Upanishads, but probably referred only to the transient empirical ego of this or that jiva. In that sense, Vedanta and Buddhism share a certain intuition: that the unconditioned is attained through recognizing the difference between the conditioned and unconditioned properly. Still, as the Buddha said, there truly is an “unconditioned,” and were there not there could not be a “conditioned.”

            It’s all infuriatingly mysterious, I grant. But I suspect that the Western tendency to assimilate the early teachings to a kind of pure compositionalism is as misguided as trying to turn it into a story about individual souls trapped in this world.

            All of which is only tangentially related to your earlier distinction. So let me say this: Paul began his meditations from a position of cosmic despair as profound as any; for him, all are slaves of death, imprisoned in a cosmos guarded by celestial powers that forbids ascent to God’s heaven, and destined to descend to Hades. In Christ, hope has entered this cosmos, and now that old death-bound World-Age is destined to pass away. It is unclear, however, whether he ever came to a firm conviction regarding how many–all, a few, a good number–would definitely avoid destruction with the old age of the world and enter into the new. And that ambiguity entered into Christian consciousness very early on, I suspect. Maybe the Buddhist view is grimmer, but some might argue that–in refusing any picture of a final, inescapable dereliction for any sentient being–it is also more hopeful.

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    • DBH says:

      No, I would not agree. I never agree with the compare-and-contradt approach to different vast spiritual traditions, each with its own logic, complexities, sensibilities, and diversities. I especially dislike that as an apologetic strategy, as in Chesterton. Moreover, I think it objectively false. Many forms of Buddhism—like Shin and many strands of the larger cittamatra tradition—are radiantly hopeful. Conversely, the majority Christian tradition for most of the faith’s history, which tells us that the vast majority of humankind will endure eternal torment, is the very quintessence of spiritual despair. Is late Augustinianism, Thomism, Calvinism, Jansenism hopeful? And are Mahayana traditions that believe in numberless bodhisattvas—including Kshitigarbha, harrower of all hells—who will bring all to salvation somehow less hopeful? You’re starting from a vague thumbnail sketch of Buddhism and a sanitized picture of Christian tradition.

      Liked by 1 person

      • rephinia says:

        DBH, could you recommend some reading recommendations for Buddhism as you did for the theistic faiths in The Experience of God?

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      • Luca says:

        I said that because, before turning back to Christianity, I was deeply interested in Buddhism. Of course I am not a scholar, but I started with reading the Pali Canon, which is the oldest collection of suttas you can have (and for Theravadins equals almost to “sacred” scripture). I liked many things in it, but I couldn’t agree with Buddha’s assertion that if you hold an ontological view about anything at all (say, “the universe is created/not created” or “atman exist/does not exist”) then you are precluding your spiritual advancement. I mean, man is made to speculate about abstract things, otherwise we would be cows (the most peaceful beast in existence) or Richard Dawkins. Buddha’s denied annihilation, but he also denied eternalism. To be honest, in the Pali Canon he deny any speculative position they ask him to confirm. But he made clear that the five senses and the faculty of perception are unstable hence they can’t be our self, so where is the self, or the soul? Of course Buddhism evolved into an immense edifice with many alleys and rooms, but if there are three thing that in my search I found constant, these are: atman is not a thing, God (Brahman) does not exist but all things are inherently empty, and reincarnation is true.

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        • TJF says:

          What you say instantly brings to mind the Sutta Pitaka’s parable of the poisoned arrow. Would you or would you not say this reminds you of the pyrrhonian skepticism of Sextus Empiricus? Although I somewhat understand the position it is in many ways utterly repellant to me, but perhaps I am just a spiritual infant.

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    • DBH says:

      By the way, I understand what you’re getting at. But I don’t believe that Buddhism turned despair into hope and Christianity turned hope into despair. I think both start from positions of cosmic despair illuminated by hope. And both start from hope burdened by despair.

      Liked by 1 person

      • TJF says:

        I will defer to your wisdom and expertise on the matter. My knowledge is scant and vague. I just know that when I took a Buddhism class in college and then read more on the matter, mainly from Mark Siderits, I was simultaneously enlightened with hope but I felt a pit of despair at the bottom. I found that the hope they expressed didn’t seem to be grounded in reason. I felt like how Plotinus felt about the Stoics, many of their actions and attitudes were venerable and beautiful, but they didn’t really have any reason for being so. Compartmentalization is what it sounds like to me. But I am no expert.

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  16. TJF says:

    This is a bit off topic, so feel free to delete this, but it stirred my heart and so I wanted to share it. I also follow Edward Feser’s blog and he just posted something where he and someone in the comments are praying and hoping for the salvation of the soul of a rigorous atheist philosopher who passed a year ago, Quentin Smith. I think DBH is right, infernalists don’t really believe what they think they do. I’m sure they wouldn’t construe it that way, but I do.

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    • arthurja says:

      TJF

      I’m not really sure why you’re so surprised that Feser should pray for a deceased non-believer : as far as I can tell, he is a *traditional* but not a *traditionalist* catholic philosopher – meaning that his opinions on soteriology are awful but not *worse* than awful.
      Since he is not a traditionalist, I do not think that he believes in any *literalist* reading of “Extra Ecclesiam, Nulla Salus”.
      Thus, I think he’s always believed that non-catholics (and even non-believers like Smith) can still be saved.
      Nothing new under the sun, then (or so it seems).

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  17. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    Dr Brendan Triffett has responded to my response to his response. Am now contemplating my response to his response to my response.  😎

    https://brendantriffett1.blogspot.com/2021/02/the-premise-i-didnt-overlook.html

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    • DBH says:

      Once again, Triffett misses the point. The claim in Meditation Four that a total rejection of God in the manner presumed by the free will defense would not actually be wholly free (as that defense demands) is not the claim that such defiance is impossible. God, were he a certain sort of God, could indeed “permissively decree” such a thing. The argument that God could not be such a God appears in Meditation One. The additional claim that such a God could also save no persons as persons appears in Meditation Three.

      Many critics of the book seem to believe that each part of its argument is somehow an independent claim. This is annoying. Triffett is simply not dealing with the argument in the book.

      And his argument is inept as well, but I have vowed to engage no one henceforth who does not prove he or she has bothered to understand the book.

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