Fr Rooney Takes on DBH and Universalism

If it is a necessary truth that all will be saved, something makes it so. The only way it would be impossible for anyone to go to hell is,

  1. that God could not do otherwise than cause human beings to love him or
  2. that human beings could not do otherwise than love God.
  3. There is no third option.

Both of these options, however, entail heresy. This is why universalism has been seen as heretical by mainstream Christianity for millennia, for good reason.

Continue reading:

https://churchlifejournal.nd.edu/articles/the-incoherencies-of-hard-universalism/

This entry was posted in David B. Hart, Eschatology. Bookmark the permalink.

145 Responses to Fr Rooney Takes on DBH and Universalism

  1. Tom says:

    I’ve love to see some good conversation on this. I think Fr Rooney is mistaken on several fronts.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Mike H says:

    Is this any different than the standard “free will” defense?

    I don’t understand how free will arguments can take this unfettered “free choice” as the highest good, as the very highest gift of love, and then simultaneously defend the final irrevocability of that “choice” at some moment in time. It’s “freedom”….only up to a certain point. Then that freedom is gone (seemingly at the design of God), the exact thing that they’re accusing others of.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Fr. JD, OP says:

      My response invokes at no point the ‘free will defense.’ I merely affirm God and human beings are free, that necessitation is incompatible with freedom, and undermine alleged reasons universalism must be true or no justifying reason can be given for hell.

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      • Logan(mercifullayman) says:

        I probably wouldn’t survive one of your philosophy courses as a novice but I do have a question that kind of popped up from this response.

        If God and Human Beings are free….Then human beings share in the freedom that is given to them as it is of the same kind of freedom that God enjoys (that may appear univocal but it’s analogical), I mean one could even argue that it is this same freedom that is the actual image we are made in and the link between us as you state(probably too Idealistic or Russian for your tastes). Yet, God’s freedom is limited to what he can actually be free to do. So in a sense, we are only ever free when we employ it in such a way that God would use it as that’s the very claim that Nyssen et al. have mentioned as theosis, etc. (Aren’t you kind of proving this, the very claim Hart makes, by saying we’re both free?) So any privative act on our end, isn’t really a choice at all. It’s the lack of choice. It’s natural necessity that lies in the ignorance of our actual non-choosing.

        And I actually think this is a good spot to kind of show the same idea another way. László Földényi says the following in his work on Dostoyevsky reading Hegel….

        “Whoever insists on viewing the world rationally at all costs eventually fall victim to irrationality-and such people always do so more quickly and more visibly than those whose primary wish is to live freely. Reason is not the master and creator of freedom but rather receives its share from it. Freedom itself is determinative; the mind is merely one of its instruments and does not engender it. Everything that is rational or irrational finds itself within the confines; freedom, however – the one single divine element of humans – is beyond rationality and irrationality. I become free only through that which surpasses me (transcends) me- I find myself only in that which I lose myself once and for all” (p.30)

        So if freedom is the ground we enjoy, and we can only ever logically be free if we act as the fount of freedom itself (God) then one would never be free fully until the move towards the Good. So in a sense, there is only one direction choice can truly flow and in one arena we can be free, in the fully transcendent sphere of the divine. To put a metaphysical limit on something as basic as pure act that determines its on limits seems somewhat antithetical to the notion of any free act ontologically. So then what really is freedom?

        I also kind of take quibble with your section about God and change but that is a tangent that would lead us too far astray. But for now, I’ll just leave the question about freedom for you.

        Thanks for the dialogue!

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        • Fr. JD, OP says:

          Let me reply to both you and Stephen by saying simply: no.

          Freedom does not involve necessarily acting on love of God. Making a choice requires acting on a reason, something that appears to you to be good. It does not require specifically acting out of love for God, who is the Good itself. The former is merely to act on the good universally and abstractly conceived – to act on a reason. The latter is to act on a specific reason.

          Is it true that being unable to sin is to be ‘more free’ than being able to sin? Sure. But that does not mean that choices made by someone capable of sinning are unfree, necessitated, or involuntary.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Logan(mercifullayman) says:

            Thanks for the response!

            Making a choice would require “acting on a reason” but if those reasons are conditioned responses about the value of a perceived good (and here we get into the ramifications of just how and when we get to those points of what bring us to that moment psychologically) wouldn’t be necessarily anymore free than anything else. To have a reason for doing something, and expecting different results, could also be the definition of insanity. A locked in perspective of self-defeat. There is no x or y choice that isn’t conditioned in some way…If anything, to me it’s when we see through the perception of a “good” for something else that may be a “denial” in which we become free.

            I also think we have very different understandings of what necessity and freedom mean, so that’s cool too! Just wanted to see how you were defining freedom for yourself.

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          • DBH says:

            They are as free as the rationales prompting them are true–and no more free than that.

            Liked by 3 people

        • Logan(mercifullayman) says:

          I do have one question though about that DBH. I know in other places you’ve mentioned how the truth may also be a lie. In the example you gave, I believe it was lying to protect a Jew in your house from being killed by Nazis. You did a “true” act while telling a “lie.” So in a sense, wouldn’t we have to still somewhat interpret the existential good from the essential good? Most people, I think, are either seeing the ethical marker in some pseudo-Kantian “duty requires it, and truth is truth ipso facto”, or some utilitarian reduction of suffering creates a grayness in the transcendentals.

          But the true Good, in a sense, must lie beyond good and evil in actu sometimes? Or how do we interpret those differentials from each other in light of contrary acts that may appear good or evil, but only become so seemingly anachronistically?

          (This is an honest question. I know you know Berdyaev like the back of your hand and his intentionality to try and “fix” Nietzsche for instance comes into play here. That’s why I’m asking. Not that I disagree with your point about rational movement and what it entails.)

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      • Steven says:

        Your ‘not free will defense’ arguments against universalism from the standpoint of human freedom (but not free will), strike me as missing the target you’re aiming for. I’m not theologian or philosopher so my opinion has about as much weight as a cell phone signal, but it seems to me that if our telos is rooted in our Creator, then there’s no problem asserting that we can sin grievously or even maliciously while simultaneously asserting that in so doing we’re at the root of it acting out of a desire to find the Good, however misguided and perverted our attempts. Freedom, delusion, and ultimately coming to our senses by the love of God and learning to know and love Who we’ve been striving after without being fully cognizant of it, seem to fit naturally with one another. But I imagine we’re probably speaking two different theological languages and coming from very different assumptions, so all this is basically just talking past each other and not understanding one another. Either way, I enjoyed your article. Peace.

        Liked by 2 people

      • In other words, not that anyone is unable to repent, but that is possible for someone to never repent?

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      • DBH says:

        Mr Rooney,

        Since you feel free to speak of heresy with such pontifical authority, I can be blunt.

        And your failure at reading my argument is manifest in your inability to distinguish between necessitation under extrinsic coercion from necessitation as entailed in a rational nature set free from inhibitions of the natural will. You can keep repeating this vapid voluntarist argument as often as you like, but it has already been answered in my book, quite irrefutably, and by countless better philosophers than you. Talbott’s refutation is quite good.

        You cannot win this argument. Even Thomas is against you. The only reason people go to hell in Thomas’s teaching is not that they freely reject God in a way that was not necessitated (physically, but that means morally as well once removes the obfuscations), but because the evil God of his theology has infallibly withheld the efficacious grace that would have liberated them from bondage to sin and death, and made them truly free to elect the only end a rational nature can seek when unencumbered of such conditions. Yours is absurd and infantile reasoning, and it doesn’t even rise to the level of decent basic Thomism.

        Incidentally, using the word “heresy” on matters not doctrinally defined is, according to your church’s teachings, a heretical act. It is also the despicable behavior of an emotional child. The nature of rational freedom is absolutely nowhere defined in your church’s dogmatic corpus, and certainly not in that of Orthodoxy.

        Incidentally, also, your God is far worse than satan, you know. May I recommend finding a better one–like the one who came to save the world rather than condemn it? (I’m quoting scripture there, by the way, which as a Thomist you’re unlikely to know.)

        Liked by 7 people

        • ACR says:

          Dr. Hart,

          I want to make sure I understand you – I am not as learned or studied as anyone else here – but I am going to try and outline the disagreement that you and what we’ll call the “traditional” catholic doctrine is:

          Rooney would say that…: Even if someone was standing before The One True God – The Eternal One – and therefor knew with absolute certainty of God’s glory and love and had no doubt of its existence or efficacy, that person could *still* knowingly/rationally/voluntarily decline or reject God’s love.

          Hart would say that…: If someone was standing before The One True God – The Eternal One – and therefor knew with absolute certainty of God’s glory and love and had no doubt of its existence or efficacy, that person could no more reject God than they could choose a plate of broken glass and barbed wire over a delicious desert.

          Even if our wills are free (even libertarian free) that does not entail that we don’t have to have reasons or explanations for our decisions. Therefor… if you had full and complete knowledge of God, literally no one would ever turn away from God – if they knew the truth, what reason could possibly explain that decision?

          Liked by 1 person

  3. One, Universal reconciliation is scriptural. John 12v32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw EVERYONE to Myself.”(caps mine emphasis) 1 Corinthians 15v28And when all things have been subjected to Him, then the Son Himself will be made subject to Him who put all things under Him, so that God may be all in ALL.’ (Caps mine emphasis!)2 Sam 14v14 14 Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; RATHER, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him.’ (Caps mine emphasis) And so many more. But regardless some will persist in making hell worthy of God. Regardless of the fact God ravished and destroyed and emptied hell. To those I say the words of C.S.Lewis book; The Silver chair. When the white witch (the mean god) tries to deceive and say Narnia and the sun are not real, only her realm of death is; Puddleglum replies. Verbatim, ‘If Narnia be fake, then our fake world licks your dark world hollow. And I would rather go searching for my world and die in the doing of it, where the Son (mine!) shines forever on, than live to serve your small narrow world……’(now my worlds) where God is not big enough to do good, but petty and mean, sticking to the laws of men who cannot see through their prison bars, but would damn some to fit their tiny narrow minded theology. I will believe that my God is big enough, deep enough, wide enough, strong enough, good enough, merciful enough (Psalm 136 tells us 26 times; his mercy lasts forever, and why forever if it is not needed somewhere??!) and loving enough, that when He cried ‘It is finished,’ He meant that all mankind were indeed included, no matter how long that took them. And that His promise of Jerusalem’s gates, ‘That they are never shut..’ Its gates will never be closed during the day (and there will be no night there). (Revelation 21:25 NET) was said for the reason that some would be late arriving. I will die believing my God IS ENOUGH for all. For if God is not enough, Nothing is! If Gods rally cry to man is NOT good news (that some only survive to heaven) then you are listening to the WRONG God. For He is Father FIRST! And no father, as we saw in 2 Sam 14v14 leaves their child to die. But like the prodigal son, before he even repents was running towards him with his arms open wide, ‘My son was dead, and is alive again! He was lost! But now he is found!’ 1 John 4v18; love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment. The one who fears has not been perfected in love.’ Fear involves punishment. Love saves. Therefore FEAR not love involves punishment. And we know FEAR did not win! Jesus defeated it!Hebrews 2v14; Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same, that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death — that is, the devil — WE are Gods children. At it said ‘AS THE CHILDREN were partakers of Flesh and blood……(ALL humanity being this!)Being revealed to ourselves and the world when Gods good time is right. Galatian’s 1v16 TO REVEAL His Son IN me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not rush to consult with flesh and blood’(bold emphasis) I stand on this; that MY GOD Saves. Period. That is who and what He is and does. And He leaves the 99 and goes after the ONE. That all may be brought into the love of God.Romans 8v38: 38For I am convinced that neither DEATH nor life, neither angels (Includes ALL as well as Satan!) nor principalities, (including ourselves!) neither the present nor the FUTURE (Where is your hell here???!), nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ NOTHING and NO-ONE, can separate us from the love of God!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Love this! Such an inspiring thought!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Elizabeth says:

      Inspiring message! Thank you 🙂 In the parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus portrays God as unconditional love. The father’s love was always available, waiting for the son’s return. God bless 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

      • What I am realising, is God is not even wanting a sorry. (That is more for us!) what He wants is just for us to re-turn our face to Him, and the split second we begin to make that turn? (Even before we are aware we have!) he is running towards us. Julian of Norwich said God does not blame us for our sin. That blew me away. The is no blame. Just compassion, understanding and healing. And even that He works in us to be able to receive.

        Liked by 1 person

        • robertowenkelly says:

          Well said.
          Pure being, in which we’re securely rooted; pure love, which blooms the more we step out of the way.
          Inspiring thoughts, thank you.

          Liked by 1 person

    • pleppan says:

      Thanks so much for some wonderful reminders …I think non academics like myself just need to read George Mac Donald “Unspoken Sermons and Hope of the Gospel” …When we know our Fathers heart nothing else much matters…so liberating we can just sing and dance with joy.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ives Digory says:

    Rooney’s position on Divine freedom and necessity feels off to me. At least when we are speaking of something like the creation of the cosmos, how could God have reasons outside Himself? Does it make sense to posit a God “prior” to His choices? But I’m no metaphysician….

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    • Fr. JD, OP says:

      God doesn’t have any reasons outside of Himself. He therefore does not depend on anything to be the Good or require causing anything to occur in order to be the Good, including creating the cosmos. Thus, my point follows: God’s being free entails (against DBH) that God does not necessarily create the cosmos. He could have done otherwise, as there was no reason He had to do so. This is, indeed, traditional Christian doctrine about creation.

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      • Fr. JD, OP says:

        Sorry, that should read – God’s *ultimate* reasons are not outside of Himself. God can act on reasons that are not merely His own essence, as when He answers prayers. But He always acts, as it were, merely because He is Good and not because of any necessity.

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        • DBH says:

          And where did I ever suggest God was prompted by a necessity beyond himself–or even within himself? I said that creation follows necessarily from who God freely is. If you cannot grasp the difference between those modalities, then the entire question of necessity and freedom in relation to the infinite goodness and being of God is clearly one you have not thought through logically.

          Liked by 4 people

          • Michael Robbins says:

            Father Rooney seems to imagine a God captive to metaphysical necessity, but the claim is no different from the banal assertion that God cannot commit evil. Does that imply that he is impelled in some way? No, it means that God is who he is. Creation follows from who God is in the same way that it follows that he could not will anything that was not good.

            Liked by 5 people

      • I suspect this is a case of people talking past each other & neither of us understanding reality fully, never mind that words certainly cannot grasp the exactitude of reality. What does it mean even to ask if the I AM WHO AM *could have* chosen differently than He has? Perhaps, it is a question that has no answer.

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  5. Owen says:

    God’s nature is an interior constraint on God’s action. I.e., God acts freely according to God’s nature. And the nature of the Good is fecund. Thus, God is freely necessarily fecund. Could it have been otherwise? God just is who he is, and could be none other than the infinite, eternal, fecund, Benign source and ground of all being(s). He omnipotently wills the world’s healing, y’all. If any church’s or religion’s god cannot finally overcome evil by *converting* it freely to good, then I know One that can. Why remain content with a lesser conception (and experience) of that, than which nothing greater can be conceived?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Fr. JD, OP says:

      God shares Himself every time He causes something. He is the Good diffusive, as you say. But, precisely if He is free, He does not need to be ‘fecund’ in any particular way. That is, He does not need to do anything in particular: e.g., create the cosmos, redeem humanity, etc. etc. I disagree, further, that there is any ‘best’ thing God can do. God’s power is unlimited – there is no ‘best’ thing God could possibly do, because God can literally always do something better. So He cannot be obligated by His nature to do what is best in that way.

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      • Owen says:

        Thank you for the feedback, Fr. JD. Question: are we sure we want to say, God “does not need to be ‘fecund’ in any particular way”?

        Since indeed “God is love,” I would wager God is fecund, productive, generative in a particularly loving sort of way. And a loving fecundity worthy of God seems to entail God’s causing and doing particular loving things—like creating a world and, if need be, saving that world from everlasting doom.

        But maybe you’re right, God could always do better. Given our current situation, however, universal restoration seems a good bit better than what mainline Christianity gives us. If we can’t logically have God’s “best,” shouldn’t we at least believe God will grant us “the better”?

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      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        Fr Rooney, I think that the question of the “necessity” of creation is more complicated than you you allow, given the divine simplicity. Please read my article “The Absolute Freedom of the Simple Life” and share your comments under that article.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Fr. JD, OP says:

          First, I think it’s incoherent to claim that God chooses to create Himself or His nature. It is simply nonsense that something causes itself in the same time and respect, as would happen if God causes Himself to exist. What is causing what? God would have to exist to cause Himself to exist. But if He did not exist, as would be necessary if He were to cause Himself to exist, then God doesn’t exist. So, God exists and does not exist. That is a straightforward logical contradiction. So I’m not on board with any of the claims made that are supposedly entailed by it.

          Second, the claim that a free choice is not a necessary one is not some ‘libertarian’ claim. That’s incompatibilism about free will. You can find it said of God very clearly by Aquinas. https://www.newadvent.org/summa/1019.htm#article10.

          John Damascene and other classical authors make the same claims about necessitation being incompatible with free will for God and human beings.

          Finally, “Why did God create? Was it a purely arbitrary, motiveless choice? Is Thomas guilty of voluntarism after all?” The fact that God does not have a reason such that He must necessarily act a certain way (i.e., any one uniquely best reason to do X) does not mean that God lacks a reason for what He does. I suspect what lies at the root is confusing these two claims.

          So, no, God’s choice to create is not necessary, metaphysically or otherwise. God would still be entirely good, happy, and perfect without having chosen to create the universe. Nothing about what God is demands or necessitates that He create the universe. As I note (briefly) in my CLJ article, the reason this is false is that the claim that what God is requires Him to make the universe would make God dependent on something that is not God (namely, the universe) to be what He is.

          Liked by 1 person

          • David says:

            “As I note (briefly) in my CLJ article, the reason this is false is that the claim that what God is requires Him to make the universe would make God dependent on something that is not God (namely, the universe) to be what He is.”

            So because the sun necessarily heats the earth, the sun is dependent on the earth?

            “So, no, God’s choice to create is not necessary, metaphysically or otherwise. God would still be entirely good, happy, and perfect without having chosen to create the universe.”

            So the default state of being is that literally *everything* in existence was entirely good, happy and perfect – but God decided it would be an improvement to introduce the possibility of eternal hell? What rational motivation could God have for a course of action which would necessarily make things worse?

            Liked by 1 person

          • Hold on. “God’s choice to create is not necessary, metaphysically or otherwise. God would still be entirely good, happy, and perfect without having chosen to create the universe.” Those sentences are two separate claims, and the second (which one might view as both vacuously and trivially true) does not imply the first, but I get the sense that you think they’re more or less equivalent. Am I wrong?

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          • Calvin says:

            How exactly is claiming God could have chosen to do differently than he actually did not:

            A) Arbitrary voluntarism?
            B) A violation of divine simplicity?

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          • Logan(mercifullayman) says:

            Calvin,

            I feel like some types would be better to read someone outside the sphere of their camps from time to time more thoroughly. Any idea cannot transcend its Ideatum…so all possibilities are ideas that emerge. If we can think them, then surely the divine has thought them because we think them thus giving them an existence even if not an essentiality. No logoi is greater than the final Logos…but that doesn’t mean anything other than what could be in the imagination.

            Thanks for raising that point in your comment!

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          • njada2 says:

            But isn’t the issue at hand not so much whether it’s necessary that God creates creation, but that, given we happen to know that He *did/does* create creation, there are constraints on how that creation can be (even if it could have been otherwise within those constraints) because it is a creation following from His nature?–and so there are certain things creation necessarily cannot be, like a creation having logical contradictions, or where the good or love can fail eternally in any part of it, or where a creature can be in an abiding state of contradiction with its own nature and final end?

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          • Logan(mercifullayman) says:

            njada2,

            Fair question, but I think the issue is more that what you are asking is indeed true. There are logical contradictions everywhere. The ultimate question becomes who has done the creating at that point and why? The interplay of the divine creation in actuality allows for contradiction because of who we are as actors that are brought forth, but that doesn’t mean that any act is necessarily guaranteed to exist in perpetuity. Only those acts that forge the teleological picture towards the good, the true, etc, will stand the test of time, as Paul mentions in 1 Cor. God is creating as he wills, yet we too are creating, and so it becomes down to the very smallest iota us and He partnering together in finality. There will be no failure, because only what can’t fail will remain. And to be fair, we won’t ever know the fullness of the divine nature. That is the Godhead’s alone to understand and know.

            Liked by 1 person

          • njada2 says:

            Logan,
            Well that’s what it looks to me like it comes to, if evil can persist forever. That’s what makes eternal hell immediately, self-evidently incoherent to my mind, that sin and evil states of affairs – which are characterized by nothing at all but privation of what ought to be – cannot last perpetually.

            Liked by 1 person

    • njada2 says:

      I’m not exactly sure what to think of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich’s writings, but I couldn’t help but remember something she said in the opening chapter (on the Creation and the Fall) from her “Complete Visions”:

      “They had been images of God; but after the Fall, they became images of self, which images originated in sin. Sin placed them in communication with the fallen angels. They sought all their good in self and the creatures around them with all of whom the fallen angels had connection; and from that interminable blending, that sinking of his noble faculties in self and in fallen nature, sprang manifold wickedness and misery.

      “My Affianced showed me this clearly, distinctly, intelligibly’ more clearly than one beholds the things of daily life. At the time, I thought that a child might comprehend it, but now I cannot repeat it. He showed me the whole plan of Redemption with the way in which it was to be effected, as also all that He Himself had done. I saw that it is not right to say that God need not have become man, need not have died for us upon the Cross; that He could, by virtue of His omnipotence, have redeemed us otherwise. I saw that He did what He did in conformity with His own infinite perfection, His mercy, and His justice; that there is indeed no necessity in God, He does what He does, He is what He is!”

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      • Owen says:

        I agree, “…there is indeed no necessity in God,” meaning no external constraint on God. (A redundant statement, actually, because there is no-thing external to God to constrain God.) On the other hand, I personally have no problem saying God acts by necessity of the divine nature. God just is the divine nature, as well as every act that proceeds therefrom…including creation. Divine simplicity means God is what he has and is what he does.

        Liked by 2 people

        • njada2 says:

          Yes I thought it was interesting how, these two things Fr. James seems to find contradictory, Bl. Anne Catherine says of God in the very same breath as explaining each another. We could almost quote her like this: “that it is not right to say that God need not have … [done] what He did in conformity with His own infinite perfection…”

          And as Fr. James quotes DBH: “And in the calculus of the infinite, any tension between freedom and necessity simply disappears; there is no problem to be resolved because, in regard to the transcendent and infinite fullness of all Being, the distinction is meaningless.”

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  6. Roger Chait says:

    Rooney’s statement, “Atheism is a real possibility,” is perhaps the heart of the matter. For the rational soul it is never a possibility; what is sought is necessarily always the divine. And it’s also getting annoying to hear of eternity spoken of as if it were yet an extension of linear time. There are degrees of infinity, qualitative differences

    Liked by 3 people

  7. brian says:

    I am dubious about the value of these kind of debates. Too much apologetics seems distant from the compelling beauty of the gospel. And I think God transcends finite antinomies, so the language of freedom and necessity holds more force regarding creaturely being. Nonetheless, for the sake of argument, let’s stipulate that God is free to create or not create. (It is more complicated than this, however, because Creation is never separated from Christ.) Let us also assert that divine aseity is Pure Act, without unfulfilled potencies. Further, let us stipulate that Triune Bliss avoids any danger of a solitary plenitude lacking relation and thus intrinsic, ecstatic love. The Christian God is not Aristotle’s aloof final cause, Thought Thinking Itself apart from the dance of eternal discovery. Finally, let us posit creatio ex nihilo as a refusal to limit God’s capacity to serenely achieve the perfect satisfaction of his creative ambitions. God is not compelled to rework faulty material. God does not require creation to become God. There is no necessity of Creation beyond God’s desire to share with creatures the joy of loving relations. If nothing compels God to create, nothing compels God to accept Creation under logical restrictions that would end in the possibility of unmitigated doom. The God could simply refuse to create if that were truly the logic of creaturely freedom. So, unlike a Platonic demiurge, the Triune God is uniquely responsible. Under these premises, the question remains whether or not a truly good God would create at all if there were hazard that some creatures would conclude in damnation or annihilation. And if you think asking this question somehow entails obliging God to necessarily gift creation with saving grace, ask yourself if at minimum God’s obligation to the Good that is Himself would allow even the possibility of some part of creation coming to utter grief. None of this takes full account of a proper metaphysics of freedom or of personhood in light of Christology, Incarnation, and Triune Relation as the “space” that allows for creaturely difference. It does not account for a coincidence of cosmology and Christology, or a theology in which Creation is ultimately achieved by the Triduum and the perfection of creatures proleptically affirmed in Paschal light. Yet even as a bare sketch, it is enough to put in question the logical certitudes of those who quickly ascribe heresy to those who hold apokatastasis as the truth of Christ’s victory.

    Liked by 7 people

  8. Tom says:

    There’s no disagreement regarding the fact that God’s decisions (to whatever extent the exercise of his will is analogous to our) are not necessitated. He seems to take Hart’s belief that creation flows inevitably from the divine nature as the imposition of necessity from without. But nobody thinks this (least of all Hart). There are classical theists (Catholic and Orthodox) who are not universalists would agree creation flows inevitably from God. But when I listen closely to them, it seems to me they mean to affirm only that the alternate – ‘no creation’ – as a divine counterfactual is an abstraction impossible to make sense of as an instance of the sort of thing we mean when we employ the term to describe a temporal-finite causal chain). A few months ago I asked Hart about this very question here and he granted the valid use of the counterfactual in precisely this modal sense). I personally like to affirm a robust sense of “might not have created” to express God’s freedom with respect to creation.

    Fr Rooney may want to revisit Hart’s Notre Dame paper on universalism re: to creation ex nihilo where Hart’s whole point is that God creates freely, though this cannot mean just what it means when we use the term of any finite, indeterminate causal chain. So if creation is ‘inevitable’, it’s not inevitable in the sense which the word carries in our understanding of temporal becoming and causality.

    Fr Rooney’s construal of divine love for those God freely (in Fr Rooney’s sense) creates knowing (even willing their eternal torment via permission) fails for all the reasons Hart makes clear in his moral argument. I didn’t see anything in it that frees up the traditional notion of an eternal hell from the criticism of Hart’s moral argument. And to conclude that “we should broadly conclude God permits the possibility of damnation only because God loves us and wills our good. Whatever those reasons are in particular, God does ‘not desire the death of the wicked but that the wicked turn from his way and that he live’ (Ezek 33:11)” to restates the problem.

    And as far as I could make out his understanding of creaturely agency justly condemning itself to eternal perdition, I think this is the same misguided attempt to ground the irrevocable nature of hell in a kind of rational freedom that ears eternal separation without ever intentionally choosing it. Fr Manoussakis and Zach Manis both offer versions of this (essentially) free-will defense. One simply reads off the sense in which we in our present limited understanding are able choose responsibly and suffer accordingly and then extends this into eternity where the will is irrevocably solidified but without the person ever intentionally choosing that end “as an end.” But this is precisely the problem. The terms under which we must move from origin to end are teleological, then span the ‘interim’. They cannot define terms in which creaturely movement ends. We must (I’d agree, as a universalist) remain free (precariously, gnomically, deliberatively) in some minimal sense for creaturely consent to be given (in the very conditions in which it strayed originally), and if that means there’s no terminus ad quem at which point God decides to save us ‘whether we want it or not’, that’s fine. It also means we are always already constitutionally, irrevocably, minimally ‘open’ to Godward movement. That’s our grounding. We can misrelate within this space, but we can never freely ‘foreclose’ upon it absolutely. God loves us and is not in a rush – ‘as long as it takes’.

    Lastly, his opening argument:

    “The only way it would be impossible for anyone to go to hell is:
    1 that God could not do otherwise than cause human beings to love him or
    2 that human beings could not do otherwise than love God.
    3 There is no third option.”

    There are certainly other options for expressing the first two premises. His (1) seems intentionally worded to describe God as the Wizard behind the curtain pushing button and pulling levers, decidedly not a view of God universalists need to adopt. And his (2) seems worded to make it seem that universalists have zero concern for affirming creaturely agency or assent as indispensable to creaturely movement toward union with God. I don’t doubt there are some universalists who just jettison created agency as such. I’ve met a few Calvinist universalists. But there’s no need to go that route (cf. paragraphs above). One might argue:

    It’s impossible for anyone to irrevocably foreclose upon oneself all possibility of Godward movement because:
    1 Infinite love, the Good as such, would not freely create if creating meant permitting such irrevocable loss, and
    2 Spiritual beings, transcendentally grounded in God, are as such irrevocably constitutionally open to Godward movement and cannot foreclose upon such openness.

    One needn’t see God as eschatologically waving a magic wand to ‘determine’ the exercise of creaturely will in his direction.

    Last thought. Fr Rooney objected above that his response “invokes at no point the ‘free will defense.’ [He] merely affirms God and human beings are free, that necessitation is incompatible with freedom…”

    But how is ‘merely affirming that God and human beings are free and that necessitation is incompatible with freedom’ different from the free-will defense? That is the free-will defense essentially. But, to repeat, Fr Rooney might want to review Hart’s insistence upon divine freedom with respect to creation in that Notre Dame piece.

    On the whole, I don’t see that Fr Rooney’s objections add anything new. This all seems to have been discussed before.

    Tom

    Liked by 5 people

    • DBH says:

      Tom,

      All you say is so. But it won’t matter, because the merits of the argument have nothing to do with Rooney’s article.

      I don’t object to Rooney making the same bad arguments yet again, no matter how often their failings have been exposed. I do object to the extraordinary arrogance with which he uses the word “here’s”y on this issue. I say nothing about either divine or human freedom not explicitly found in Gregory Nazianzen (whom the RC’s consider a doctor of the church), Gregory of Nyssa, Ps-Denys, Maximus, and many other fathers and teachers. There is no defined doctrine on the nature of freedom, divine or human, that grants Rooney the license he has apparently issued himself to make ex cathedra pronouncements. But this is very typical of Thomists and Thomas-fetishists: for them, Thomas (and that means whatever Thomas they happen to embrace) defines Christian orthodoxy. I find it worse than tedious to be confronted yet again by an adolescent Thomist who, on encountering anything that doesn’t fit within the mold of the sterile, narrow, exceedingly local sect of Western theology he knows, believes he has the authority to denounce it as heretical. It is comical, but it is also morally contemptible.

      DBH

      Liked by 5 people

      • Tom says:

        “Tom, all you say is so.”
        David Bentley Hart

        ——————-

        Somebody engrave it somewhere. Print it. Publish it, before he changes his mind.

        Liked by 8 people

    • Brad says:

      “But when I listen closely to them, it seems to me they mean to affirm only that the alternate – ‘no creation’ – as a divine counterfactual is an abstraction impossible to make sense of as an instance of the sort of thing we mean when we employ the term to describe a temporal-finite causal chain.”

      It’s not clear to me how God, understood as pure actuality, can be said to have done something that has real alternatives. Which, I think, is another way of putting the point that it is impossible to make sense of the counterfactual. But if it’s nonsense, we should stop uttering it.

      “A few months ago I asked Hart about this very question here and he granted the valid use of the counterfactual in precisely this modal sense.”

      Tom, would you mind linking to this?

      Like

      • Tom says:

        Brad: It’s not clear to me how God, understood as pure actuality, can be said to have done something that has real alternatives. Which, I think, is another way of putting the point that it is impossible to make sense of the counterfactual. But if it’s nonsense, we should stop uttering it.

        ——————-

        Obviously, there’s no way to make sense of a counterfactual (regarding God’s freedom vis-a-via creating) if we’re imagining an instance of a counterfactual within a temporal causal chain in which the deliberative reasons that brought about the fact might be as consistent with some other outcome. As others have said, God can’t be thought of as deliberating (discursively) among a menu of options and ‘taking time’ to weigh the risks and benefits and then picking one of the options. In that sense (I think Hart’s made clear) none of the terms we employ (freedom, necessity, choice), being as they all are derived from and grounded in our temporal/deliberative agency, can span the difference between us and God univocally. Ergo, we’re using what terms we have to point to divine mysteries that are off our map so to speak.

        But it seems to me there’s value in making certain distinctions. I think we all want to affirm God’s freedom ‘for’ as well as ‘from’ creation – ‘from’ in the sense of God’s not needing or requiring creation to play a role or function in realizing God’s own fullness and being – that fulness being always antecedent to God’s creative/expressive work. I don’t mind using ‘counterfactual’ (carefully qualified in this way) as shorthand that directs us to this distinction. I still find it important to say God doesn’t realize himself in the determination to create even if he expresses himself in that determination, and when talk of ‘necessity’ (or ‘freedom’!) gets brought to bear too literally, I find myself thinking of God as achieving or constituting himself via creation, and I’m uncomfortable with that. But again, these are (for me) more logical (modal?) tabs we’re keeping on the relationship in God between his own self-constituting triune fullness and creation.

        That short exchange b/ David and me re: this question is in the final 5 comments here:
        https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2022/05/09/natura-pura-in-the-one-storey-universe/#comment-38367

        Tom

        Like

  9. armsopenwide says:

    God Is Who He Is. As the Scriptures relate, His ways are inscrutable, His thoughts are higher than ours. So there is uncertainty in these matters from a human perspective. But we, who are made in His image, send prisoners to “Correctional facilities.” Despite the widespread emptiness of that intention due to our sin, that intent relates to concern for both society and the criminal; to love. God is love, and we are made in His image, though we have fallen short of His likeness. While I leave the question open, I know that the God Who Is Love is faithful; we can count on His love. Everlasting punishment versus a purifying fire equates to punishment versus correction. How can everlasting punishment and rejection of sinners be anything other than hate? God will act in ways consistent with Who He Is, as He Is faithful. We are to be[come] perfect as He Is perfect. How would God’s ability to act contrary to His character possibly be an aspect of His absolute freedom? Does this freedom necessarily extend to a freedom to hate? I suppose as a mental construct on our part it can be, just as we are able to write science fiction. But this way of conceiving the God Who “so loved the world . . .” is simply absurd. People who think this way simply think too much. They should go work in their garden, volunteer in a soup kitchen, visit prisoners or nursing home residents, or do other similar things, so as to be better able to connect their thought to reality.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Creation is unnecessary in that it adds nothing to God. However, creation is inevitable given the boundless love of God.

    Liked by 4 people

    • DBH says:

      Precisely.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Justin says:

      This inevitability is precisely the most difficult thing for me to understand and come to grips with, as it may be for others. Yet…

      It is precisely what gives my soul the comfort it so desperately needs.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Logan(mercifullayman) says:

      This is totally where I think Vedanta expresses this idea so much more clearly than maybe the language we employ within our Christian metaphysical circles, but the point is the same.

      “Brahman is full of all perfections. And to say that Brahman has some purpose in creating the world will mean that it wants to attain through the process of creation something which it has not. And that is impossible. Hence, there can be no purpose of Brahman in creating the world. The world is a mere spontaneous creation of Brahman. It is a Lila, or sport(I’d prefer drama since Aurobindo uses it explicitly), of Brahman. It is created out of Bliss, by Bliss and for Bliss. Lila indicates a spontaneous sportive activity of Brahman as distinguished from a self-conscious volitional effort. The concept of Lila signifies freedom as distinguished from necessity.”
      – Ram Shanker Misra on Aurobindo’s Advaitism.

      The creative act of the Divine is unbridled freedom at work in the core of Divinity itself.

      And the last time I checked….pretty sure some of these critics skipped the whole section on Bliss from DBH’s EOG.

      Like

  11. Joe says:

    “….hell, or its possibility, must be an expression of God’s love and mercy.”
    “People would not exist in hell if God did not love them.”

    Love? Mercy?

    I’m sorry, but we have crossed over into the land of unabashed nonsense. God eternally sustaining those in a state of endless maximal agony is an act of love and mercy? This is the apogee of absurdity.

    “We remember the great doctrine that God’s love is not like ours.”

    Oh yes, that old chestnut: God’s love is not our love. God’s love is a love that can countenance the eternal misery of his children!

    I’ll take a hard pass on that kind of “love”.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sonya Stockklausner says:

      It’s not like our love not because it is other or less than our love, but because it is infinitely greater, stronger, inexhaustible and more efficacious than ours. .

      Like

      • Joe says:

        Right, but it is still *like* our love, albeit infinitely greater. Otherwise we would not be able to define it as love, much less recognize it, experience it, and know it as love.

        What Fr. Rooney is describing is NOT love. He has just chosen to call it love, in an effort to evade the stark contradiction that inheres in an infinitely loving and merciful God intentionally sustaining a person in a state of everlasting torture. He tries to sanitize this this by referring to it as a “paradox” rather than the contradiction that it is.

        If he has genuinely convinced himself that this represents love, then he can clearly convince himself of anything. When it comes to religious belief, this is supremely dangerous.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Sonya says:

          I was agreeing with you by adding my own two cents. Unfortunately I can’t ‘like’ a reply until I remember a password that is hiding somewhere. But I can make comments without it. Go figure.

          Liked by 1 person

  12. The phrase “I cannot see how we can know that God would not have such a good reason” I find quite telling. Rooney may not be able to see it (or he refuses to see), but that has no bearing on anyone else’s ability to see it—and others have seen exactly what he admits to not seeing. It’s like an atheist saying “I cannot see how we can know that God exists.”

    Like

  13. Iainlovejoy says:

    Utter tosh.
    Rooney’s starts by completely misrepresenting the universalist argument.
    He observes, correctly, that universalism asserts that God would not be good if he did not save everyone, but then pretends this is equivalent to saying that God is unable to do otherwise than save everyone.
    Lets so some more of this, shall we?
    Saying “God would not be a saving God if he did not save anyone” means saying “God is unable to do otherwise than save at least someone.
    Saying “God would not be the creator if he did not make the universe” means saying God is unable to do otherwise than make the universe.
    Saying “God would not be the God of Abraham if he did not call Abraham” means saying God was unable to do otherwise than call Abraham.
    etc etc
    He then does a little side shimmy into the issue of whether God has a gnomic will, which has nothing whatsoever to do with universalism – the issue as to whether the universe could logically be other than it is is completely irrelevant to the issue as to whether in the universe *as it is* it is possible for anyone to end up in hell.
    Reverting back to at least addressing the issue he then re-defines mortal sin totally contrary to orthodox Catholic doctrine. The Catholic catechism defines mortal sin as sin which is “committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent”. Hart argues this definition of mortal sin is incoherent because a person cannot deliberately choose hell fully knowing what they are choosing, since hell is by definition the worst possible thing and heaven the best possible, and there can therefore be literally no reason to deliberately choose hell over heaven. Rooney “refutes” this by (heretically) asserting that instead something can be a mortal sin *without* full knowledge as long as a person is “culpably negligent” in getting their facts wrong.
    Rooney concedes that we all, in theory at least, act out of love of the Good, but argues that even if we do we can nevertheless still make bad / mistaken choices as to what is the Good so as to be eventually unable to get ourselves out of our entanglement in mistaken false goods. Having then said this, he then immediately contradicts himself by stating that if we do have a natural inclination towards the good as Hart states (and which a few sentences previously he conceded) we would always be in a state of grace and never need saving (which conclusion in his own previous paragraph he has just denied). Having stated two completely contradictory things in two successive paragraphs, Rooney then just baldly asserts that Hart’s claims are therefore “unsound”, without having at this point even cogently set out what Hart’s claims are, let alone refuted them.
    In dealing with Hart’s next argument claims Hart says God could have created a world in which it was impossible for creatures to sin, and that God’s happiness depends on all humankind being happy, neither of which Hart says and, naturally, Rooney fails to cite where he claims Hart does so.
    Having pointlessly side-tracked into the issue of whether God wills or permits sinners to end up in hell, he then concedes that, actually, whether God wills or only permits eternity in hell, God still needs some good reason for doing so. He then does another contradictory double-take: he says, firstly, that there may be some unknown reason for permitting hell which we can’t understand, but then concedes that this isn’t in fact how God works at all and God wouldn’t impose eternal hell on sinners for any such extraneous reason after all, and reverts back to saying that actually hell is self-inflicted and not God’s doing.
    Rooney then, in what I think is the only decent, well argued and cogent bit of the article, makes exactly Hart’s argument *for* universalism. Rooney says that there is no way if you loved someone that you would let go of them if they were falling into the hell, and you would always try and save them no matter how long it took. He apparently forgets that, in trying to make the free will argument for hell earlier in his article, he said that for eternal hell to exist, it had to be the case not only that it was possible to get stuck in sin so badly that one could not get oneself out, but that also “God is under no obligation to break you out of this state, so you could persist in it forever.” – precisely what he says in this bit God could not fail to keep trying to do.
    The conclusion is equally incoherent. It asserts that universalism says there is no “real” sin, only ignorance of God’s goodness, forgetting that he has himself already conceded earlier that sin does indeed consist of mistaking other goods for the true Good (a “perverse attachment to certain goods” to quote the Catholic catechism).
    He then claims that universalism denies the existence of sin or of moral evil at all, which is simply untrue, and he must know is untrue, and then, bizarrely, claims that because universalism asserts that the Cross saves everyone this somehow means denying that it saves? I can’t even work out what Rooeney is even trying to say at this point.
    He then just re-asserts the “free will” defence of hell without any argument for it, having failed to in any way prove it or deal with Hart’s arguments against it earlier in the piece.
    He finishes with yet another complete self-contradiction. He first criticises universalism for asserting that if God allows people to go to hell then God must be to blame because it is God who is choosing that they should do so, but then asserts that universalism must be wrong because it denies God the free choice to send people to hell, which he has just denied as being a choice made by God at all.
    As I said, utter tosh.

    Liked by 4 people

    • DBH says:

      Iain

      You know, you could write that out as a small riposte for Church Life Journal. I’m so tired of repeating arguments against the Rooneys out there that I’d gladly send you a gallon of sherbet in gratitude.

      Seriously, I would see it gets published.

      DBH

      Liked by 5 people

      • Iainlovejoy says:

        Yeah, sure, OK, do what you will with it. I can neaten it up a bit if you like: what do you want me to do?

        Like

        • DBH says:

          Oh, I just meant that you could turn it into a short refutatio, point by point; maybe 1000 words or so; but it might not be worth your time. It’s my lazy way of getting someone else to deal with the little “Imp of the Perverse,” with promises of the fame and fortune that only publication in The Church Life Journal can grant.

          It’s just that you put your finger neatly on the cardinal points. I know it’s rather a fish-in-a-barrel exercise, but what annoying fish.

          Isn’t it curious how Rooney thinks “culpable negligence” isn’t just another instance of bondage of the will through spiritual ignorance. The principle of infinite regress seems beyond his ken. Odder still, how can he imagine that Thomas’s clear statements on predestination and efficacious grace allow for the sort of free-will defense he proposes. And how much odder even than that that he can pronounce heretical a claim about God’s necessary diffusiveness in creation (by his own nature) that one finds in many of the greatest fathers.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            On Twitter, Fr Rooney has expressed his disagreement with Aquinas on efficacious grace. His libertarianism comes out pretty strongly in his critique of Taylor Patrick O’Neill and Banezianism.

            Like

          • DBH says:

            That in no way changes the reality that he wants to reconcile and incoherent libertarianism with a system whose sole coherence lies in its pitiless predestinarianism.

            Like

          • Iainlovejoy says:

            I’ve neatened the thing up a little, made it flow a little better and made it slightly politer (or at least removed the word “tosh”); it’s now about 1600 words. If you still think anyone would be interested in it, where should I send it?

            Like

          • DBH says:

            Maybe to me: davidbentleyhart@substack.com

            I’ll have a look

            Like

        • kielrgillard says:

          Maybe also send a photo of the the gallon of gratitude sherbet 😉

          Like

  14. A Sinner says:

    In the article Fr. Rooney writes, “Even if some great saints or a significant minority in certain ages of the Church held universalist beliefs, historical orthodox Christianity definitively came to reject universalism.”

    Forgive my ignorance but isn’t it a contradiction to argue that the Church definitively rejected universalism while acknowledging the existence of great saints who held universalist beliefs? Wouldn’t “heretical” beliefs preclude canonization?

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Teena H. Blackburn says:

    I’m no theologian, but it seems to me you can reduce the problem of eternal damnation to a rather simple observation. If someone infallibly told me the child I was getting ready to conceive would grow up, die, and go to an eternal hell, I would never conceive the child. Nothing good the child could ever experience in this life would make existence worth having. We believe God infallibly knows who will be damned-right? So, if God would make people He foreknows will be damned, then He’s not Good. He doesn’t have to directly will it. It doesn’t matter. He knows, and made them anyway, so they can have the limited goods of this world, and then suffer eternally. I simply do not know how to square the goodness of God, which I firmly believe in, with this possibility. Am I missing something?

    Liked by 4 people

  16. Calvin says:

    Personally I’d like to know what you think creation even is, Fr. Rooney. By which I mean, being that only goodness has positive existence, what else could creation consist of?

    Like

  17. pleppan says:

    all will be saved does not mean there is no hell , the difference is that hell is not for absolute eternity as its a place where the purifying fire of God will never stop till eventually that soul will turn back to God.

    Like

  18. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    I’ve been ruminating on Rooney’s two necessary truths:

    1) that God could not do otherwise than cause human beings to love him, or

    2) that human beings could not do otherwise than love God.

    What strikes me about them is that no universalist would formulate these statements as they stand. They are abstracted from the moral framework in which universalists think about the creatio ex nihilo and the problem of hell.

    According to universalist conviction, the God of absolute love would not create this world, or any world, in which one or human beings would definitively reject God, thereby condemning themselves to eternal torment.

    My question: How must or should Fr Rooney’s two necessary truths be rephrased to express the universalist framework?

    Fr Rooney’s article, in other words, suffers from a critical failure to present the “heresy” of universalism accurately. As it stands, his article does not constructively add to the debate.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. John H says:

    Father Al,

    Why not just paraphrase Augustine? Something like the following:

    1. God has freely created human beings, as well as probably other intelligent beings

    2. With free but restless hearts which can know rest solely in His embrace.

    There is of course the problem that Augustine believed in double predestination but Aquinas followed him and so does Rooney, since his purported free will defense is total nonsense as others have pointed out. But really there is nothing wrong with saying that the Good God has predestined all beings to union with Him in the eschaton. It is only in the present world that we choose lesser goods. So a single predestination to eternal bliss is perfectly compatible with free will in the present Age. Rooney’s formulation ignores the distinction between primary and secondary causality which is so key to maintaining human freedom as ultimately non-competitive with God’s efficacious grace offered and ultimately given to all.

    Liked by 2 people

    • DBH says:

      Yes, but you’re stating the obvious. Rooney is engaged in stating the absurd as if it were the obvious. So you’re playing different games.

      Like

  20. Rafael says:

    Well, Ed Feser has weightily pronounced on this exchange:

    https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2022/10/divine-freedom-and-heresy.html

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    A recommendation for all (especially Catholics) who have read Fr Rooney’s article. Follow up by reading Nutter Taylor’s article “The Possibility of a Thomistic Universalism.”

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Anthony says:

    From FR:

    “Then, even given an infinite time, there is no necessity that you learn anything new about yourself or the cause of your suffering that would make it impossible for you to do anything else except love God. This is to affirm that humans are free. A person does not need to act on any one set of reasons they have available to them, *but can always reconsider the reasons for which they act*. Nothing outside of them necessitates their choices (i.e., which reasons they act upon).”

    See emphasis. Is *this* an orthodox position? Souls, once in hell, are locked in, so to speak, are they not? So DBH claims that eventually a soul will realize its circumstances and turn to God, and FR says “not necessarily,” because the soul is free and not just in a categorical sense. Ok. But how could that freedom end in hell without running smack into the critiques DBH makes in ASBS? Doesn’t seem like it can, and FR seems to agree. Rightfully so.

    Like

  23. Tom says:

    I wonder if it’s time to recognize that some Xans really do believe in a fundamentally different God than other Xans. They don’t share the same ‘Faith’, i.e., the most artificial and flimsy thing about Christianity is the notion of a singularity/unity that embraces it. If only those who affirm the Ecumenical Creeds are in view. Still, those who agree on these Creeds can have fundamentally contradictory views of God.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. The scary thing is: if John Piper and I believe in different Gods, and both of us have genuine experiences of the Gods we worship—so we are both making contact with real spiritual beings—is one of us worshipping the devil? At what point does one cross from having false beliefs about the true God one knows to knowing an imposter instead of the true God?

    Universalism, of course, makes this much less scary than it would otherwise be, since ultimately even the devil is serving God’s purposes in a roundabout way, so worshipping him won’t permanently destroy one’s soul, but I still would rather not have anyone worship the devil at all.

    Like

    • Oops. This is supposed to be a reply to Tom.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Tom says:

      Good point.

      We know (from Jesus, MT 7, right?) that many self-proclaimed worshippers of God will be surprised to discover they ‘know not’ God, nor worship him in truth, however orthodox their beliefs might be. I will confess to standing first in line to confront this possibility in myself. So it’s not in my powers of judgment to say what the truth is about another person’s state of heart.

      That said, none of us has 100% of our theological ducks in a row, not even Dr. Hart. I’m sure he’d agree. We all suffer from some measure of ignorance regarding God, and we misconstrue the truth about him in ways we cannot see, and we all harbor some measure of infidelity to the truths we do believe. So it’s always the case (presently) that none of us worships God ‘as he truly is’ or even ‘as we truly are’. How much can you get God wrong and still worship him? I don’t know. I hope quite a bit, because I’m a pretty fracked up bag of inconsistencies. I desire to please him perfectly, but whether or not I am doing so I don’t know. But I think the desire to please him pleases him. That’s all I got.

      So while I wouldn’t wanna say I know that I worship God but Piper worships the Devil because we conceive of God in such contradictory ways, I will say that my adopting Piper’s core beliefs about God (the beliefs which define the vast distance b/ us theologically) would (for me) reduce worship to idolatry at the very least. I could not worship what he worships as he conceives it.

      I honestly don’t know how God sifts through it all. I think he looks for broken and contrite hearts that humbly long for union with the transcendent ultimate (by whatever name that is known). Wherever a heart worships the Ultimate in such terms, I think the true God is worshipped and worshipers return to their homes ‘justified before God’ (LK 18, Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector). I would never say Piper’s heart ‘cannot’ realize this within the horror show that is his theology. But I know ‘I’ could never realize it in such terms.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Robert F says:

        Yes. If Piper is worshiping an idol rather than God, it would be because he falsely imagines the highest good he has so far been able to imagine to be the actual highest good. The same is true of you or me, to the degree that our beliefs about God are wrong. People far more intelligent and informed than me don’t agree in this matter of ultimate importance, so the chances that I have it all, or even the main and important things, correct are ridiculously low. I have to depend and trust on the idea that the true God looks with mercy on all our errors, willful or otherwise, and will bring us all to whatever redemption he has for us. Otherwise, I know I’m in big trouble. I have to depend on grace.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I’ve very slowly arrived at that position (and still have much farther to travel). I’ve found it very difficult to break free from the mindset that there is one perfectly true religion, and it’s somewhere in American Protestantism, and everyone else is going to hell.

          Liked by 1 person

  25. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    Response to the recent premature accusations of necessitarianism now being leveled against DBH by Fr JDR and Ed Feser:

    First read David’s early books Beauty of the Infinite and Doors of the Sea. In these works he makes clear that God’s creation of the world is radically nonnecessary, flowing from God’s inner Trinitarian delight. He is quite clear that the world does not add anything to God’s infinite being and bliss: “God’s gracious action in creation belongs from the first to that delight, pleasure, and regard that the Trinity enjoys from eternity, as an outward and unnecessary expression of that love; and thus creation must be received before all else as gift and as beauty” (Beauty, p. 249). Hence David prefers to speak of an aesthetic necessity, which I suppose is analogous to St Thomas’ convenientia.

    The question is thus raised: Has David changed his mind in his book You Are Gods, given his Bulgakovian turn. I am fairly confident that he has not, but I am insufficiently acquainted with Bulgakov’s theology of creation to offer a definitive opinion. I acknowledge, therefore, that this is a legitimate question to put to him. But I remind everyone that in YAG he maintains what he has always insisted upon–namely, God as Being utterly transcends our philosophical construals of necessity and freedom.

    In the meantime, read Paul Silas Peterson’s 2009 article “Creatio ex pulchritudine”:
    https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/15665399.2009.10819998.

    P.S. David, are you reading this? Have I accurately presented your views? Has your understanding of the non-necessity of creation changed in recent years?

    Liked by 1 person

    • DBH says:

      Nothing has changed. I’ve always maintained that “necessity” is not a meaningful concept in relation to God, and that his freedom does not consist in the (necessarily limiting) modes of deliberative choice. Creation is not necessary for God; but it is impossible that God–the Good as such–would not create, not because he must, but because nothing could prevent him from acting as what he is. Is a mother’s love for her child unfree because it flows necessarily from her nature, unimpeded by exterior conditions? In the case of a finite agent, there may be ambiguities. But if the “agent” is the infinite simple being of all that is…? If one cannot grasp that saying “Necessity cannot attach to him who is perfect infinite act” is not somehow to say “He who is perfect infinite act is bound by necessity,” then one just isn’t a good philosopher.

      Anyway, it doesn’t matter how one parses the terms. A God who merely chooses to create–as one equally possible exercise of deliberative will among others–is either actualizing a potential beyond his nature (in which case he is not God, but a god only) or he is actualizing some otherwise unrealized potential within himself (in which case, again, he is not God, but a god only). Even Augustine–whose late theology comes as near voluntarism as any ancient form of thought ever did–insists that creation exists not because God elected it out of a variety of equally good ends, but because he is Goodness and therefore does what is good, without hindrance. This just isn’t an interesting debate. Either you’re talking about God or a god; if the former, then what I’m saying is simply analytically true (like 2+2=4).

      May I just point out, incidentally, that Rooney for some reason draws a connection between this issue and my arguments for universalism. One need only consult TASBS to see that, while the nature of rational freedom is important to the argument there, the nature of freedom and necessity in relation to God himself is not.

      Liked by 7 people

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Fr John Dominic Rooney responds on Twitter to David’s above comment:

      DBH draws a distinction between God being compelled to create and God creating necessarily as a result of His essence.

      First, this distinction is irrelevant for avoiding heresy in Christianity. It is precisely the view that God necessarily created the world that is condemned.

      Second, the continued emphasis on ‘deliberative choice’ is a red herring and I’ve already said it is unimportant. Everyone agrees God does not deliberate; the claim is His choices are contingent – God could have NOT created. God freely chose to create, among other possibilities.

      Third, a ‘volitional necessity’ of the sort described (the mother) is not natural necessity at issue. The view God necessarily chooses to create does not follow merely from God’s nature unless God depends upon creation for His Goodness/happiness. That’s why the claim is heretical

      The question is what makes the natural necessity follow. If God acts on reasons, God necessarily creates because, by nature, He has a unique reason always to create. The only reason that exists prior to creation is His own goodness. He would need to create to be who He is.

      Or, if God creates by natural necessity, without depending on what He creates for His goodness and without any compelling reason, then it seems He does not act on reasons in creating. Rather, He would create because He cannot do anything else, as a pencil does not choose to fall.

      Finally, the argument against God being able to do otherwise is a false dichotomy. Everyone rejects God actualizes a potential within Himself by creating. But the other option is strange and unmotivated: “actualizing a potential beyond His nature”? What does that mean?

      This might be: [1] God’s choice to create a world other than this one, or not to create, would be actualizing something God cannot do; [2] if God could have done something He did not do, it was ‘beyond His nature’ because He did not do it by natural necessity. Both look circular.

      In conclusion, the claim God is beyond freedom and necessity, so that the concepts do not apply to Him, are weasel words in light of what DBH goes on to say. He clearly believes God cannot do otherwise by reason of His essence. This plays an integral role in his universalism.

      DBH’s view of freedom is what undergirds his claim God cannot do otherwise than save all human beings and that humans are not morally responsible when they love something other than God. ‘True’ freedom involves necessitation: grace must be irresistible and God necessarily create.

      These claims are all heretical. Grace is resistible (e.g., Trent); God does not necessarily create (e.g., Vatican I). That is what I meant by saying universalism was rightly condemned as entailing other heretical beliefs. DBH’s views clearly entail these heretical consequences.

      Like

      • Ipse says:

        “The claim is His choices are contingent – God could have NOT created.”

        “Everyone rejects God actualizes a potential within Himself by creating.”

        Please explain how these are compatible.

        Like

      • andrewofmo says:

        So why does Rooney keep jumping around to different platforms for his replies? DBH is right on this platform. Why does Rooney not engage DBH directly?

        And it seems deliberation is exactly the point to my unlettered mind. If God chooses not to create, that has to be deliberative. Am I missing something?

        Like

        • DBH says:

          No. Obviously deliberation is the entire issue. Rooney is simply thrashing around.

          Look, this isn’t hard. Can God lie? Can God will evil? No and no, manifestly, because he is the infinite unhindered Good. Clearly no one would say that God is therefore compelled to speak truth and will the good. So it is with creation: God as the good cannot fail to be the diffusive generosity of love precisely because nothing compels him.

          The mark of a bad theologian is the habit if screaming “Heresy.” Of course, the way dogma works is by minimal formulation, which leaves the theologoumenal interpretation rather open. Not that I give a toss about Roman dogma, but the fact remains that there is no doctrinal rule regarding the metaphysical content of the claim that God creates freely. Since what I have written on the matter is one very venerable way of affirming divine freedom in creation, Rooney’s behavior is simply inexcusable.

          Liked by 5 people

          • DDH says:

            DBH is simply making assertions of obviousness, rather than providing rational vindications for the very thesis being debated. So far, it’s question begging to continue asserting that deliberation is indispensable to any power of will that can will alternative intelligible goods. God’s diffusive goodness is perfect in itself, it does not need to issue forth in creation to be complete, there is no failure of divine diffusive goodness if it does not create.

            “God as the good cannot fail to be the diffusive generosity of love precisely because nothing compels him.”

            How is this contention compatible with divine aseity?
            If God’s goodness can’t fail to be diffusively creative, then this is either because (a) God cannot control the diffusiveness of his goodness, (b) or because God’s goodness would be incomplete/imperfect without diffusively creating, etc., (c) or some other alternative. Which is it?

            A different front and troubling implication:

            Let us grant that “God as the good cannot fail to be the diffusive generosity of love” can be rendered modally distinct from “God creates necessarily”. Can God as the good that cannot fail to create diffusively, create any aspect of this creation differently than God in fact created it? Could St Peter have been named Matthew? Could one more deer exist in the history creation? Could one deer live one day more? In short, does God’s diffusive goodness create one and only one created order of beings? Are there any true counterfactuals pertaining to the diffusive creation of God’s goodness? If there are, how can you maintain this without appealing to an understanding of divine will that neither involves deliberation nor wills arbitrarily but always wills intelligible goods, including this created good rather than that created good?

            Additional marks of bad theologians and philosophers are the habits of naming calling rather than arguing, and attributing philosophical incompetence to others while failing to raise objections or counter-arguments to that same interlocuter’s premises.

            Like

      • Calvin says:

        So, again, Rooney believes in divine voluntarism?

        And, pardon me for saying so, but Rooney also stated on Twitter he believes that God can predestine people to salvation with certainty, so even he doesn’t actually believe that God couldn’t bring about universal salvation without that entailing a violation of freedom. He just actively refuses to do so, presumably out of malice.

        If this dogmatic Catholicism then, frankly, so much the worse for Catholicism.

        Liked by 2 people

  26. Cameron Davis says:

    Man! Dogma makes people defend some wild stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Logan(mercifullayman) says:

    I might have a dumb question to ask as the guy who is on the creation/creative act train as a defining marker of the Image itself, but…why can’t creation be necessary and additive to the existence of God in actu but not in the essentiality of the Godhead. So if He creates, it IS additive as the One clearly is becoming a many…right? The many literally in this case “add up” to the One as it is revealed, and yet it is also a One that is bound to itself in se. So creation is both a necessary act of revelation, but also a chosen act of deliberation/freedom. Once the desire to bring forth is begun, there is an additive effect it seems, for why else work so hard to return everything back to the All? There is something about the life of man that does seem to add to God in a way. Maybe that is blasphemous, I don’t know. I just see it as relational in a way. Why else create something that is essentially going to fall as soon as it opens its eyes? That drama has to have a more cosmic essentiality than some mere exercise of will/being that’s just love overflowing itself outward. That’s hard for me to wrap my head around, and almost makes it seem like if He doesn’t create, as some have noted in the past philosophically, that if He doesn’t create, then He is merely self-absorbed, blissfully full of nothing but Himself. And I already know the charge that’s coming….”that’s very anthropomorphic of you,” but is it? It’s one of the things that I feel is lacking in the classical definitions. I’ve read them, I think I get them and understand them, but it is the one thing that some of my favorites hit on that still I can’t let go of the fact that the creative act has a larger significance.

    Like

    • brian says:

      It’s a can of worms, Logan. You and I have gone back and forth on this and various other matters. After a while, I dunno, it’s diminishing returns. Still, I am actually sensitive to your concern and you know I appreciate Berdyaev and Jordan Wood’s take on things, even if I must ultimately side with “classical theism.” I think there’s a “sideways” work around, but it probably won’t satisfy anyone but me, perhaps. The thing about aseity and Pure Act is one can’t square that with any unfulfilled potency in God. You can’t have the kind of “erotic” need of lack in God and maintain that God is the simple ultra flourishing fount from which all creaturely being derives. If the creature is needed to fill a metaphysical lack, then Creation is not agapeic. But of course, all this gets mucked up by the difference between finite creatures and divinity and the way the God transcends antinomies that appear as contradiction on the level of creation. And like you I suspect, I still think there is a sense in which the God “needs” Creation and the thematic relation between God and Israel, God and Church, the yearning of the God for the Beloved disappears into abstract analogy if there isn’t, in reality, mutual regard and desire. And in this same vein, I’d reference Balthasar’s Theo-Drama where Balthasar is unwilling to treat Triune perfection as anything akin to a Parmenidean surfeit or a “finished” drama where there is nothing beyond a kind of contemplative appreciation for harmonious Plenitude. Rather, Balthasar asserts that the drama, adventure, and discovery available to temporal finitude is rooted in the ever greater Event quality of Triune Life which (again refusing finite antinomies) is both complete and open to eternal discovery.

      So, my suggestion, and lots of folks have contributed to this surmise, is that the aseity of Triune Bliss has “always already” contained the Creation. Hence, the lack is anticipated and fulfilled “prior” to what appears from our finite, fallen Time to be something missing and needed. Further, one must stipulate that it isn’t just that God “has” the Creation from all eternity, but that the Creation itself is a function of Christ, so Christology is key. Insofar as God “yearns” for the created other, this is desire rooted in Triune perichoretic ecstasy and the way the Second Person of the Trinity is never asarkos, free from flesh, as well as the way the Spirit is always creatively expanding the horizon of the eternal bliss, an act that can only appear contradictory to our finite modes of thinking.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Logan(mercifullayman) says:

        Hey Brian! I always value our chats, so it makes me sad you think there are diminishing returns. What I hope you mean is I’m stubborn and I just hope it isn’t annoying but maybe so. That, I would grant to you wholesale haha.

        I tend to know where you stand on it as you’ve said. The funny thing about aseity is that any desire posited as such is a desire for something. Desire as desire has an object. It is the de facto expression of want. Whether we want to admit it or not, that is precisely the Neo-Platonic “hole,” at least as I understand it. I don’t think the contradictions we encounter are anything but perspectives that we aren’t fully capable of handling either. Some antinomies are solely subjective. Not all, but many. Antinomies, more often than not, are ignorance of perspective than actuality in tension. This idea of “Lila” does fit a more Schillerian perspective, I’d gladly admit that, and yet perspective identifies the mystery as such. It actually gives us immense value that qualifies the why of the whole kenotic act that also works around some Hegelian movement of self-becoming for itself and is ignorant until it occurs, but truly exploring all that can be to fully realize what it already is and knows itself to be. To self-actualize what it is already and knows itself to be. And while the end of a drama may be known deep within the depths of the divine as its beginning helps point to its end, the desire to move as such is necessary or why else ideate into the divine before the foundations of the world at all? It is because by creating in such a way that allows the plenitude to share itself fully in a myriad of ways and yet return to itself, fulfills that aseity that is love unbound and wanting to realize itself fully. “I desire to disclose myself outside of myself, so to say, and I must create to do that.” Yet, it is a desire to share, to nurture, to grow, to become, and to journey along with, to fully realize, and it is that movement that betrays some classical tropes. It isn’t about a lack in God, as if something is missing. It’s about desire as desire. It’s about the function of divine life exercising what it is in toto as it is. To assume because something desires something it is missing something seems like an odd point to have to accept.

        Like

  28. Rafael says:

    From Rooney’s twitter about an hour ago:

    “DBH has a hold on people that is unhealthy. Nothing will dissuade groupies of ‘the great sage’ he could be wrong; not the Church, not the Fathers, not logic itself.

    The heretical spirit is the one that says ‘better to rule in hell,’ ‘I will follow THIS rather than the Church.'”

    Fish-in-a-barrel question: What here has the real unhealthy hold?

    Like

    • Logan(mercifullayman) says:

      I mean Thomas could never be wrong, could he…? It’s unhealthy that one is stuck in a Medieval worldview, but whatever. And actually one couldn’t rule in Hell because you’d just be ruling in love as it manifests to us all as it brings it to our fullest scope. So…sign me up, I guess?

      Like

    • brian says:

      The Fathers are not monolithic on the matter of apokatastasis. Logic is only as sound as the initial premises. Plenty of advocates for universal redemption preceded Hart, so one can hardly ascribe their allegiance to sycophancy towards a great sage. Rooney has been given a complex, nuanced argument and he has not refuted it. (Ignoring the substance or replacing subtlety with crude caricature is not an answer.) Much easier to retreat into a cozy, insular understanding of Tradition that could not possibly be open to the creative freedom of the Spirit (and I am a Catholic, btw, who among other things, loves the Latin Mass, so this is no brief for the avant garde just for the sake of novelty.)

      And one can hardly desire to rule in hell when one’s deepest desire and commitment is the victory of Christ over every form of delusion and egophanic revolt against God.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Joe says:

      “DBH has a hold on people that is unhealthy. Nothing will dissuade groupies of ‘the great sage’ he could be wrong; not the Church, not the Fathers, not logic itself.”

      Well, actually it is universal salvation that has a hold on people.

      Furthermore, what could be unhealthier than believing in and (worse still) propagating the single most vile, abusive, and terroristic fantasy that is eternal torment.

      The mention of logic is ironic, as appeals to the Fathers and the Church, in any other sphere than religion, would be properly discounted as logical fallacies.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Brad says:

      The amusing part of this is that Rooney fancies himself the voice of the Church, the Fathers, and logic itself.

      As Hart has pointed out, there is no dogmatic definition of divine or human freedom, and the Fathers are of several minds on these questions. As for ‘logic itself’, Rooney has not provided a sound argument for any conclusion.

      Like

  29. Tom says:

    Comments were too indented to respond to this where it appears above, so I’m hoping DDH sees this at some point).

    DDH: In short, does God’s diffusive goodness create one and only one created order of beings? Are there any true counterfactuals pertaining to the diffusive creation of God’s goodness? If there are, how can you maintain this without appealing to an understanding of divine will that neither involves deliberation nor wills arbitrarily but always wills intelligible goods, including this created good rather than that created good?

    ———————-

    I thought Hart answered these. He doesn’t think there are any ‘true counterfactual’ propositions that posit what God ‘might have done’ relative to his having created for the very reasons you describe – God’s determination to create isn’t a deliberative temporal act involving discursive cognition. If one speaks of counterfactual with respect to God’s creating, it’s only to express the ‘modal status’ of that act relative to the trinitarian fullness. God is not a temporal being who exists in time, possessing his being in its fullness and perfections through deliberative acts that move from past to present.

    But God’s self-constituting triune act (the Father’s begetting of the Son, the proceeding of the Spirit, the triune fullness and beatitude of this knowing and loving) cannot be subject to temporal becoming in this way. It cannot supervene upon a process that deliberatively prehends ‘past’ data from which God’s ‘present’ is determined discursively in light of some desire to become in the ‘future’ what he is not ‘now’.

    However we construe the ‘freedom’ of God’s determination to create (something I believe extremely important), it can’t involve God in temporal, deliberative process of the libertarian sort that defines us. Besides, libertarian free will (not ‘voluntarism’ by the way) involves a certain epistemic distance (some measure of ignorance). There have to be relative truths one does not comprehend if one is to deliberate and exercise libertarian agency. But God, knowing and perceiving all things exhaustively (including himself), could not ‘take time to deliberate’ or ‘weigh pros and cons’ in this way. That’s what Zeus does.

    That said, I don’t think any of us knows how to describe the freedom of God’s creative act. We’re suspended above an abyss of apparently competing truths at the very origin of our own existence. We rightly conclude God’s triune perfections cannot entail his determination to create in a way that construes creation as defining how his perfections are ‘achieved’ or ‘constituted’. We have to do our best to affirm the ‘gratuitous’ nature of creation in a way that sufficiently distinguishes the determination to create from other divine acts (the begetting of the Son, the proceeding of the Spirit) we admit are not gratuitous.

    My own anxiety-laden and tentative approach is to admit none of us finally ‘knows’ what the hell he/she is talking about, but we must attempt to say what we think we know, always groping toward it. A qualified counterfactual will sometimes help, or using both the language of ‘contingency’ and ‘necessity’, while other times admitting that all these terms converge in God such that no one of them asserts its truth without the others. Like David says, these terms are all “not meaningful concepts in relation to God.” Personally, though, I’m a bit uncomfortable with David’s “it is impossible that God–the Good as such–would not create, not because he must, but because nothing could prevent him from acting as what he is.” When I bring the concern for freedom (even with qualifications in place) to bear upon the question, it seems to me that the fullness of this Good is antecedent to the determination to create, and I feel like this that places me in the uncomfortable position of having to admit something of a counterfactual: God the Good is perfectly and fully the Good sans creation. There’s nothing ‘impossible’ about this. It’s part of what it means to say creation is gratuitous vis-à-vis the divine fullness.

    Lite me up,
    Tom

    Liked by 2 people

    • brian says:

      Tom,

      I have sketched something of an answer to your quandary above in my response to Logan– not an argument, but the direction I think one might consider. A side note: the matter of the counter-factual could be broached as a subset of Molinist middle knowledge which I do not find tenable. From another angle, it touches upon the question of the metaphysical status of the fictive, of what we normally take as “merely imagined.” How do we locate Tolkein’s “subcreation” as the working out of Creation proper? If we are brought into the process, what does that say about the way God desires to work? How should we understand the role of poesis in the constitution of revelatory insight? Jordan Daniel Wood says Maximus equates faith with true knowledge. Yes, good, though from here, as you note, it is a “dark knowledge.” How does faith communicate the real? The equivocities of imagination, the connection between art and the angelic (Bulgakov), as well as the drama of redemption as the victory of iconicity over the demonic narratives of idolatry invokes a play of “secondary causalities” that nonetheless rest in Triune serenity.

      Further side note: I never seem to have a lighter at hand, but the requests for incendiary response lead me to suspect you are only slightly less avid for martyrdom than Ignatius of Antioch.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Bob Sacamano says:

      I don’t think the counterfactual holds and I just don’t see any way around the notion that creation is at least in some sense an “inevitable” result of God’s nature. If we say that God is perfectly and fully the Good (which he is), and that God created (which he did), then it simply must follow that creation is “bound up” in his perfect and full Goodness. In other words, if God’s Act and Being are one, then positing any counterfactual related to his Act is also to ask “if God were not who He is, then….” which is just a nonsense hypothetical question.

      We know who He is, and we know what He has done – any “thing” apart from that is the literal definition of impossible.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tom says:

        Bob: I don’t think the counterfactual holds and I just don’t see any way around the notion that creation is at least in some sense an “inevitable” result of God’s nature.

        Tom: I think most are agreeing that there’s “some sense” in which language of ‘necessity’ or ‘inevitability’ makes sense, though never univocal.

        Bob: If we say that God is perfectly and fully the Good (which he is), and that God created (which he did), then it simply must follow that creation is “bound up” in his perfect and full Goodness.

        Tom: This is where I struggle. I don’t see how it’s the case that the plenitude of knowing and loving is incapable of genuinely ‘gratuitous’ expression (i.e., an expressive act that is gratuitous to the fullness it expresses, so that one cannot reason backwards from the expression to the inconceivability of the fullness sans the expression). I know this gets controversial the tighter one tries to tie the knot. But for me there seem to be equally valuable convictions on either side of the equation: God’s plenitude not being subject to temporal becoming or deliberative processes (on the one side) and the gratuitous and free nature of God’s creative act (on the other).

        Like

        • Bob Sacamano says:

          I see the difficulty as well. Using your definition, I would have to say “no,” genuinely gratuitous expression is not possible. But I’m not sure I agree with your definition. Could one not argue God is the Gratuitous as such, and that his Goodness is always “exceeded” by an ever greater generosity ad infinitum? One might even call it “The Beauty of the Infinite”…?

          Perhaps that just restates the problem or evacuates the meaning of a truly gratuitous expression. But again, I see no other way that doesn’t terminate in a metaphysical dead end.

          Like

    • Brad says:

      Tom: “it seems to me that the fullness of this Good is antecedent to the determination to create”

      Brad: What is the difficulty in saying that creating is an aspect of the fullness of Goodness itself? That to be God is to reveal Himself both infinitely and finitely? I wonder whether any perceived problems might be ultimately dissolved by following through the line of thought that, in some mystical eschaton, the apparent otherness of creation, and especially of us, is completely sublimated.

      Like

      • Logan(mercifullayman) says:

        FWIW…. I think it is western metaphysical problem of categories that need not apply. In the east, particularly within the Vedanta, the idea of Bliss is always an ever expressive gift of exceeding desire, gratuity, and joy. Its where we fall, I think, into the pitfalls of equalizing transcendentals as the “same” at times, and as I do think you rightly state, moves Beauty from a merely secondary conditional recognition to one of actually the fundamental culminating finality of all transcendentals honed together, and not only that, is the only way one can truly move beyond them as such. The beautiful is always more full, more exacting, and more (x) than any surmising of a singular moment. And there is a necessity, I think, that creation holds within the divine life. As I mentioned before in another reply, I agree with you that the notion of creativity as part of the divine life is there. The divine may rest in the slumber of all its functions and still be itself, and yet that fullness includes a desire to move. So in a sense, it at least appears as if the divine must replicate it necessarily precisely because that is a function in and of itself in actu. If it doesn’t, then creativity as an ontic function/ideatum ceases to be, and as such, nothing would be/could be created otherwise. So it is an inevitability and a necessity. It doesn’t add anything to the divine life in the sense of lack, but because there is an overwhelming flow of plenitude that needs to exercise that joy, etc outward, it must because that’s just what it means to be creative in the first place.

        Like

      • Tom says:

        Brad: What is the difficulty in saying that creating is an aspect of the fullness of Goodness itself? That to be God is to reveal Himself both infinitely and finitely?

        —————-

        Brad, I haven’t read Logan’s response yet. Sorry.

        The first problematic thing (for me) that comes to mind is that if creation is “an aspect of the divine fulness” such that “to be God” is to manifest himself finitely, this sure looks like God either achieves or possesses or realizes his very divinity (his being) by means of creating, for if God possesses himself in the fullness of his being in and through “every aspect” of his being (to whatever expect speaking of this fulness as having “aspect”), which seems safe to suppose, and if creating (or creation) is definitive or constitutive of God’s “being” as you say, then (again, for me) we’ve no ‘aseity’ or ‘transcendence’ to speak of. I know all these terms require lots of work to define and have to be employed apophatically.

        Even the Process philosopher Whitehead (who was no Xan at all) conceded that there is to/in God an ‘occasion’ (the epochal immediacy of God’s specious moment – an absolute occasion which does not ‘become’ at all — which you don’t hear Process theologians speak about much), but whatever this ‘occasion’ was, it is metaphysically conjoined to the material order of being; God, Whitehead held, has no experience of himself (even self-knowledge) in his absoluteness; the world of contingent becoming is the stage upon which God was (to whatever mysterious extent we can extend the concepts) conscious or knew or experienced anything at all. I sometimes wonder if the Xan insistence upon the inconceivability of God’s not creating logically ends up here – with a God who doesn’t know himself ‘ad intra’ so to speak, i.e., doesn’t know himself in that very fullness which is antecedent (qua necessity) to the world (qua contingency).

        I’m just lost at sea on this Brad. Sorry. But I want to avoid supposing God’s only knowledge of himself is of himself ‘as creator’. I don’t want to introduce temporal becoming into God, but I do want to say the Father, Son, and Spirit know and love each other in a primordial moment we call “Necessary Being” as such – and THAT moment is God’s free fullness ‘sans creation’. I’d like to think God knows the difference in himself between ‘self-constituting’ and ‘self-expressive’ acts – even if those acts are not acts of temporal becoming. I have no idea how to articulate or defend this idea. It’s just a poetic kind of gut feeling.

        Like

  30. Fr. JD, OP says:

    An irenic suggestion:

    David Bentley Hart belongs to a church with authoritative doctrinal oversight (like mine).

    If he thinks his controversial beliefs are orthodox, he should submit them for the equivalent of ‘nihil obstat’ from his canonical Orthodox bishops.

    https://www.assemblyofbishops.org/

    Those who want to defend David Bentley Hart against the claims that his views are heretical should be the first to jump at the chance to vindicate him.

    They should organize, engage in a group letter-writing campaign to Hart and the canonical bishops, get some momentum going.

    Liked by 1 person

    • brian says:

      Does one have to wait for ecclessial approval to ponder the logical consequences of creatio ex nihilo and Triune aseity? Does a Christological basis for Personhood and an understanding of relation as an intrinsic element constitutive of the person remain outside consideration until Church hierarchy deems it worthy of dogmatic respect? There are, of course, heresies, but to throw that word around easily often becomes a pretext to shut down thinking and to preemptively claim the refutation of an argument when all one has actually done is to dismiss genuine thought under the cloak of traditional authority. If you begin by presuming the argument is necessarily wrong, one no longer feels compelled to adequately deal with the argument. Regardless, I don’t see how this “irenic” proposal touches upon the relative value of the differing arguments. A consensus of bishops may allow the faithful to feel they can rest easy, but the truth is no less a matter of reason, revelation, and dialectical inquiry.

      Liked by 1 person

    • andrewofmo says:

      I seem to remember condemnation falling on some of the most popular and well-known theologians of the Catholic Church about 50 years ago. That condemnation only served to increase their readership. I don’t think it would work out the way you want it to. But then, I am a Protestant.

      Like

    • David says:

      It beggars belief to think that a referral to the heresy-hunters could in any sense be seen as ‘irenic’.

      If you truly believe in your heart that this is an acceptable suggestion – particularly in light of your failure to actually engage with DBH’s specific refutations of your points – then there’s something seriously off about your moral reasoning.

      That said I’ll refrain from leading a group letter-writing campaign to your bishop asking him to provide you with some authoritative moral oversight.

      Like

    • DBH says:

      No Orthodox body makes the preposterous claim that it possesses infallible discretion in matters of theology. There is a body of Orthodox doctrine that nowhere defines the proper metaphysics of infinite divine freedom. So the next thing to try would be to consult the fathers. Let’s say Gregory Nazianzen and Maximus. Oh, but they agree with what I’ve said.

      It is amazing that Rooney is so bad at reasoning these things out that he cannot distinguish between the logically necessary and the logically inevitable. And yet this is elementary logic.

      Of my friend John, it is neither logically nor metaphysically necessary that he would not, while in his right mind, walk up to a baby in its stroller and strike it in the face. And yet there is a zero percent chance of that happening. It is impossible because of who John is.

      Now, take this simple distinction into one’s meditations on the infinite and simple God who is himself the plenitude of all being and pure actuality. At that point, there is no question what conclusion follows.

      Anyway, given Rooney’s incontinently petulant rhetoric, there seems no reason not to say what’s already obvious: he’s simply not very clever.

      Liked by 1 person

  31. Tom says:

    Years ago I read a line from a Church Father (John of Damascus maybe, but I don’t recall) to the effect that “…and God was not content to remain alone…” reflecting on God’s determination to create. I discussed the passage with Fr Behr at the time. But I don’t have that email & can’t recall the reference.

    Anyone?

    Like

  32. Tom says:

    Fr Rooney (Tweet): Universalists disagree with me whether it’s theologoumenon that God’s decisions are necessary, mortal sin is impossible, grace is irresistible, etc., not whether hard universalism entails these.

    ————-

    This is false.

    Indeed, I can’t think of a hard universalist who agrees that belief in the final salvation of all entails the notions that God’s decisions are ‘necessary’, that mortal sin is impossible, and that grace is irresistible.

    Admittedly, the Orthodox don’t have the Catholic categorizations of sin as moral or venial, but no Orthodox believes our participation in and union with God in Christ is a matter that is indifferent to sin (however defined). Sin, however categorized, has consequences and must be sincerely confronted and repented of. Without holiness no one shall see the Lord.

    I don’t know any Orthodox universalist who thinks God’s decisions are properly speaking “necessary” or that grace is irresistible. Grace is resisted all the time. Can it be absolutely and irrevocably foreclosed upon? That is a different question, but to suppose grace cannot be foreclosed upon does not require thinking grace is ever irresistible as such.

    Tom

    Liked by 1 person

    • brian says:

      Tom,

      I’ve confronted these sorts of distortions enough to simply walk away most of the time. It’s a spurious argument when one is consistently asked to defend assertions one is not making. Partly, it’s because one’s interlocutors frequently presume their own metaphysics, implicit definitions of freedom, person, sin, grace, etc. and can then only understand differing views as necessarily erroneous rather than logically coherent given fundamentally different premises. The theology of an idol doesn’t comprehend sufficient light to even have a genuine back-and-forth. But consider the other side thinks you are the idolator — that is annoying; yet also why the pretext of inquiry is most often surreptitious namecalling that peeks out when “irenic” proposals turn out to be sarcastic putdowns.

      Liked by 6 people

  33. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    Compare this quotation of Eric Perl on Dionysius and divine creation. Question for DBH: Is Perl saying what you have been saying about divine creation?

    The disjunctive proposition that either God chooses between possible alternatives or he is necessitated to create situates God within a total framework of possibilities, as though the logical conditions of possibility and impossibility were prior to and more universal than God, conditions to which even he is subject. This presupposition envisions God either as confronted with a multiplicity of logical possibilities among which he can choose, or as subject to a logical law such that there is only one possibility open to him. This is precisely the “ontic” conception of God that Plotinus, and Dionysius, are concerned to avoid by declaring him “beyond being.” God is not a being, subject, as are beings, to the conditions of logical possibility such as the principle of non-contradiction. This is not to say that God can violate that principle; on the contrary, it would be more accurate to say that for the Neoplatonists, God, or the One is the principle of non-contradiction. … God is not a being, contained within a framework of possibilities determined by an abstract logic independent of himself. Rather, he is that framework within which all beings are contained, and hence he cannot be considered either as a being who chooses among a multiplicity of logical possibilities, or as a being confined by principles more universal than himself to a single possibility. (Theophany, pp. 50-51)

    Liked by 4 people

    • DBH says:

      Of.course. It’s exactly what I have been saying.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        I thought so. This is what it means to say that God transcends freedom and necessity.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Logan(mercifullayman) says:

          So I’m not entirely wrong about placing God beyond being itself. Great! lol

          I often wonder if the issue is a modal semantic problem because of how we discuss the concept of any “act.” And I think it is the general confusion or issue with the concept of “Actus Purus” most often. One, generally and where the pitfall of analogy comes in, does not act without some impetus or factor that leads to the arousal/desire of movement towards and end, and thus, as being happens, it “becomes” and to borrow a term to make sense of it, it is the “objectivization of a moment.” It concretizes which forces necessity (in the sense of response to a world it is inserted into) and also the freedom to continually create from that insertion into existence.

          So in a sense, we as creatures move with those constraints in mind because they are constraints placed on us as creatures, within the fabric of our being. Yet, the divine “moves” with a singular focus or aim. It isn’t bound to do it, but in a sense must because it is the fullness of itself as it reveals itself, and yet it even lays beyond that moment.

          Transcending the distinction between freedom and necessity has to require, in my view, a God beyond being as such (although I’m sure some would say that I’m saying it’s God beyond God, but I’m not.) Which also allows for the actual expression of what a simple pure act that powers being itself is and to commence. Weirdly, the end result of a negative/apophatic view, winds up in some sense scaling the walls of positivist/cataphatic views to find the answer. And then vice versa. It is not an either/or position. It is a conjoined perspective that can only be parsed in the end, when it it will be fully revealed. We can just gleam glimpses of it as we are changed. In a way, it’s like a theological flip of Heidegger. Instead of being hiding and popping up from the shadows to hide again, we are stripping off the darkness around the stained glass that is actuality. And in each moment, we get piece by piece closer to the truth, when we change our perspectives.

          Liked by 1 person

  34. Tom says:

    I don’t know if this will simplify things or not. Just thinking out loud.

    Norris Clarke: “What could possibly be the point of a created universe entirely plunged in the darkness of unconsciousness, unable to know or appreciate that it is there at all?…The person is ultimately the key to why there is anything and not rather nothing.”

    Clarke sees clearly that hypostatic-personal existence is the only consistently Xan way to conceive of God’s purpose in creation. The idea that God could have created any number of material orders, even some with no sentient beings at all, is impossible to imagine in light of Christology.

    I wonder if ‘logic’ has been so divorced from theological conviction that theologians feel themselves forced to give an account of the faith in terms of innumerable ‘logically’ possible worlds, worlds the possibility of which have to be accounted for theologically so long as they generate no ‘logical contradiction’ (strictly speaking) but which are unthinkable Christologically. This commits the Church to having to accommodate and understand herself in terms of possibilities which, Christologically speaking, are no possibilities at all.

    What of Leibniz? We talk of the logic of infinite possible worlds and whether there is a “best of all possible worlds.” But God is the best possible world (the summum bonum), and whatever God creates has its best possible end in him. When God is viewed as such, there can be no one best possible world among an infinite number of possible worlds (if we multiply worlds for the sake of argument) since every candidate possibility has God as its end. My point is, as the value of anything created ex nihilo derives entirely from God and has its end in God, no ‘world-order’ God brings into being can be better or worse than any other order God brings to be. There is no ‘best possible world’, for anything God does is as good as anything else God does.

    I’d like to bring this to bear upon the counterfactual question and suggest (I’ll get lit up now!) that the divine plenitude is indifferent to creation (and so to creating and not creating). Both are equally good options to him.

    I think we have to say something like this if we believe God really doesn’t ‘need’ or ‘require’ creation in any sense. And a libertarian choice is out of the question. So maybe something more like the Hindu notion of Lila (play or playfulness)? A spontaneity that isn’t arbitrary because it finds its place, as in all ‘playfulness’, in an overall purpose the prescribes, requires even, a measure of genuine spontaneity. Why? Because we’re playing.

    Maybe God’s creating is more like: “Sure! What the Hell. Let’s do this!”

    There, I said it.

    Like

  35. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    Fr Rooney summarizes his gravamen against Hart’s universalism:
    https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1585182622132899840.html

    Like

    • Tom says:

      That’s very lame of him – even intellectually dishonest. Come on.

      All his arguments are dealt with, several times over. When it comes to ‘arguments’ all he does is double-down, pretending no response has been given.

      He played the heresy card, and he keeps playing it over and over again.

      Lord have mercy; there is no conversation to be had with Rooney.

      ————-

      Rooney: Hard universalists believe in X, Y, and Z.
      Response: Well, actually no we don’t.
      Rooney: Show me.
      Response: Here: A, B, and C is why we don’t believe in X, Y, and Z.
      Rooney tweet: Hard universalists now agree with me that they believe in X, Y, and Z!
      Response: No, we don’t. We told you why: A, B, and C.
      Rooney: Hart is a heretic.
      Response: You’re not even engaging A, B, and C! Come on. There are Orthodox hard universalists by the way.
      Rooney: See, all you guys wanna do is complain that my accusation that you’re heretics is me being unkind.
      Response: A, B, and C?
      Feser: Henry Wallis worships Hart, ergo universalism is false.
      Response: Facepalm.

      Liked by 4 people

    • DBH says:

      Oh, for God’s sake, just more of the same nonsense. None of this is in any way relevant to anything universalists actually believe or say, and all of it is incoherent. It’s embarrassing. And the pretense that he’s made solvent points that haven’t been answered is painfully absurd.

      Al, have some mercy. Ignore Rooney. He’s simply making a spectacle of himself. It’s like watching a man setting his own shoelaces on fire over and over again. He’s never going to engage with the actual arguments, and he’d make of mess of things if he did.

      I’m told that on Twitter you’ve been adducing several quotations from impeccably “orthodox” thinkers in agreement with my point. That’s enough. Such a cloud of witnesses… Leave Rooney to his confusions and screeches of “heresy,” and pray for his enlightenment.

      Liked by 5 people

  36. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    In his book ‘The Radiance of Being,’ Stratford Caldecott writes:

    “It was not necessary but fitting that God should create all things as an image of divine Wisdom, and God will always do what is fitting, though he is not constrained to do so. If we deny this, we are implying that his acts are merely arbitrary or whimsical. No, things are beautiful, and they are created in order to reflect and participate in the beauty of God.”

    A question for DBH, Jeremiah, and the rest of the EO brethren:

    If divine creation is “fitting” for the reason mentioned by Caldecott (following Aquinas, I suppose), then does that not raise the question whether the refusal to create would be _unfitting_? Given the fact that divine creation is, according to Aquinas, hypothetically, or suppositionally, necessary–God did in fact “choose” to create–may we not infer that he _would_ create in all possible worlds? Jared Goff, a Bonaventure and Scotus scholar, calls this “wouldingness.”

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  37. John H says:

    Father, I really like the point that you make in your earlier article on Dionysius (which was just reposted) that God as the One Beyond Being transcends the distinction between freedom and necessity. Apophatic silence on that issue is probably best since to constrain the infinite plenitude of being by such finite, limiting notions like freedom and necessity is surely a category error.

    Liked by 3 people

  38. John H says:

    Father,
    When you finish reading “Thinking Being” would you consider reviewing it on EO? I like Perl’s works but unfortunately the price of this one is way beyond my budgetary constraints.

    Liked by 2 people

  39. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    Two days ago I came across a couple of articles by Katherin Rogers on St Anselm of Canterbury. Imagine my surprise to learn that Anselm affirms that God’s creation of the world is free and nonnecessary, yet because he always acts in and from his Goodness, its creation was inevitable! God always does his best. She elaborates:

    But doesn’t the claim that God’s decision to create is inevitable render the divine act of creation unfree? If freedom must entail indeterminately open options, then a choice that could not be otherwise is not free. But by Anselm’s definition, freedom does not require indeterminate options. . . . God himself is a necessary being. In his perfect being and simplicity, he just is an act, and that act is necessarily perfectly and infinitely good. The question is not, “Does creation involve any necessity?” Obviously it does. The question is whether or not the necessarily perfect divine action inevitably produces one best creation, our world, which is the position I have attributed to Anselm, or might it have ended in some entirely different creation, or no creation at all, as Thomas holds. . . . In Anselm’s view, in order to be free and praiseworthy a being must be able to choose a se, from itself. But God exists entirely a se, and so, while open options are very important in creaturely free choice, they are completely irrelevant for God. God’s inevitably willing the best due to His wisdom and goodness does not conflict with divine freedom. (Katherin Rogers, “Anselm on God’s Perfect Freedom,” The Saint Anselm Journal 1.1 (Fall 2003): 3)

    Does anyone want to accuse St Anselm of heresy?

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