An Argument for Universalism

by Josh Rasmussen, Ph.D.

Suppose there is a perfect being (God)–a being maximal in power, knowledge, and goodness. Then this being will likely “save” (restore relationship with) everyone (all humans) eventually because:

1. God desires that everyone enjoy union with Himself.

2. If (1) is true, then God will do everything he can, without sacrificing a higher good, to maximize the chances of everyone enjoying union with Himself.

3. Granting each person an indefinite number of times the capacity to enter such a union (through repentance, trusting in Jesus, whatever) doesn’t sacrifice a higher good.

4. Granting each person an indefinite number of times the capacity to enter such a union is something God can do.

5. Granting each person an indefinite number of times the capacity to enter such a union maximizes the chances of all his creatures eventually entering such a union.

6. Therefore, God will grant each person an indefinite number of times the capacity to enjoy union with Himself.

7. If (6), then everyone will eventually enjoy union with God (argument for this to come).

8. Therefore, everyone will eventually enjoy union with God (be “saved”).

Here’s why to believe each of the premises.

1. God desires that everyone enjoy union with Himself.

This seems to fall out of God’s moral perfection. It’s good for creatures to enjoy union with a perfect being, so we’d expect a perfect being to desire this. I don’t expect this to be controversial: all the major monotheistic religions have sacred texts that suggest this.

2. If (1) is true, then God will do everything he can, without sacrificing a higher good, to maximize the chances of everyone enjoying union with Himself.

I don’t expect this to be controversial, either. God is a rational being. Therefore, if He wants something, we’d expect God to try to bring about x if He can do so without sacrificing a higher good (where “higher good” can include the prevention of certain bad things).

3. Granting each person an indefinite number of times the capacity to enter such a union (through repentance, trusting in Jesus, whatever) doesn’t sacrifice a higher good.

I suppose someone could get off here. But then I’d like to know: what higher good might be sacrificed by granting someone the capacity–any number of times–to enjoy God? It seems that enjoying God–a perfect person–would be among the very highest categories of good (if not the highest). Thus, it doesn’t seem to me that granting someone the capacity to enjoy that good could possibly sacrifice an even higher good.

Displaying God’s justice by punishing people who are not in union is plainly (it seems to me) not an outweighing good; sorry Calvinists.

(This isn’t to say that there might not be important goods reaped in delaying a person’s capacity to enjoy God.)

4. Granting each person an indefinite number of times the capacity to enter such a union is something God can do.

For example, God could grant each person the capacity to repent of their sins or to turn to God for salvation (or whatever). Both Calvinists and Arminians accept this much. If God could do it once for a person, I don’t see why God couldn’t do it again (and again…).

One might reply that a person can perform an action (or inaction) that, as a matter of ethical duty, God cannot ever forgive. But this would only seem plausible to me if, as a matter of metaphysical necessity, the guilty person couldn’t sincerely repent. For it makes no sense to me that a perfect being could be duty bound to never, ever forgive a certain sincerely repentant person. The problem is that it seems metaphysically possible for God to enable a person to repent from anything. So, I don’t see how a person could commit a sin which God would be duty bound to never forgive no matter what.

5. Granting each person an indefinite number of times the capacity to enter such a union maximizes the chances of all his creatures eventually entering such a union.

Well, maybe there’s something more God could do. But the thought is that He’d at least do this much to improve the chances (as no higher good would seem to be sacrificed).

6. Therefore, God will grant each person an indefinite number of times the capacity to enjoy union with Himself.

That follows from (1)-(5).

7. If (6), then everyone will eventually enjoy union with God.

Before you object, hear me out. Either the conditions for union with God must be entered into freely (in the libertarian sense) or not. If not, then God can achieve the end goal swiftly: cause everyone to meet the conditions for union. I am assuming that there can be no morally acceptable reason for God to not cause everyone to meet the conditions if He can. I will come back to this assumption in a moment.

Suppose, then, that people must enter the union with God freely. Now for another dilemma: either God knew prior to his decision of who to create which possible persons would freely unite with Him, or He didn’t know. Suppose God knew. In “Creating Worlds without Evil” I argued . . . that although it’s logically possible that everyone is trans-world depraved, this is extraordinarily unlikely given an infinite number of possible persons. Indeed, it’s very likely that it was feasible for God to actualize any number of people who would all freely enter union with God. If that’s correct, then God needs a reason for actualizing persons whom God knew would freely always reject union. It can’t be for a person’s own good to be indefinitely (ultimately) separated from God. Thus, it would have to be for the good of others (either God or other creatures). But it’s morally wrong (isn’t it?) to create someone whose fate is ultimate relational separation from the perfect being solely for the sake of others. This is why I suggested earlier that there can be no morally acceptable reason for God to not cause everyone to meet the conditions of salvation if He can.

This leaves the option that God didn’t know before deciding who to create what possible people would freely do. The most salient instances of this option include open theism and simple foreknowledge. (Side remark: if you’re an open theist, then you can’t say that God knows that anyone will always freely refuse union. Therefore, you can’t say that God knows that universalism is false, assuming that God will indeed grant each person the capacity for union an indefinite number of times into eternity. Therefore, you can’t say that God revealed to us that universalism is false. At least not certainly false.)

Now each person gets an indefinite number of chances (from [1]-[6]). That is to say, God keeps giving someone a chance (perhaps spaced across intervals of time and certain events) for union until that person takes it (by repenting, turning to Love, whatever). Since each chance is genuine, the objective probability of making the right choice during any given chance is not zero. Plausibly, there are values near enough to zero that the probability never must fall below those values: that is to say, God could always make one’s opportunity for union not absurdly unlikely. What follows is that the objective probability of anyone never (even after eons into the afterlife) making the right choice approaches zero as the number of opportunities increases. Therefore, we should think it’s very unlikely that anyone isn’t ultimately restored to God.

8. Therefore, everyone will eventually enjoy union with God (be “saved”).

(Originally published on The Prosblogion, 21 July 2010: https://tinyurl.com/964htbs)

* * *

Joshua Rasmussen is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Azusa Pacific University. His area of expertise is analytic metaphysics, with a focus on basic categories of reality, such as objects, ideas, and necessary existence. He is author of several books, including Defending the Correspondence Theory of Truth (2014), Necessary Existence (2015), How Reason Can Lead to God (2019), and Is God the Best Explanation of Things (with Felipe Leon, 2019).

This entry was posted in Eschatology. Bookmark the permalink.

47 Responses to An Argument for Universalism

  1. kempisosha says:

    I would consider myself a universalist, but where I got off the argument was a step earlier than he anticipated, when he made the statement “God is a rational being.”

    Like

    • Joe says:

      I concur. God is not a being.

      God is perfect being, not a perfect being. That “a” may seem like a minor quibble but it isn’t.

      Like

    • Robert Fortuin says:

      Kempisosha/Joe: It would be more charitable (and interesting) to ask the author to explain what God as a rational, maxiamal being means in his view.

      J0shua: Thanks for writing your reflection on universalism! Please explain how it is in your view that God is a being, and a rational one at that. You are likely aware of the charge Continentalists level at notions of a maximal God, God as a being, and such. And, how may this inform universalism?

      Like

      • kempisosha says:

        I assumed this was a simple repost, and wouldn’t have the input of the original author – but if he is reading these comments, ^^ those questions. I agree that the argument is well thought out if we argue God is a “being”, but if he is the ground of being, the rationale rather than a rational being, can we still argue in this same vein? I’m not convinced.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Robert Fortuin says:

          Yes let’s see what Josh has to say in reply. I agree BTW, indeed a maximal being is theologically a catastrophic move. Particularly if we want to hang on to the Christian claim of ex nihilo.

          Like

          • Joshua Rasmussen says:

            Great comments! I’m honored to see this post here and the discussion. It’s also interesting for me to see this window into my mind 10 years ago (when I first articulated this argument). That’s when I was just beginning to doubt eternal conscious torment views. At that time, I did not yet believe the conclusion of this argument, but I felt the weight of it.

            As for *a being* vs. *being*, I’m happy to articulate the steps in either terms. God is perfect being. We don’t even need to ascribe “rationality” to God, just that God would seek to achieve the ends that God sees are good.

            Btw., my wife and recently developed a little book, When Heaven Invades Hell (https://www.amazon.com/When-Heaven-Invades-Joshua-Rasmussen-ebook/dp/B088WR8C5X), were we explore this topic through a fictional setting. There we display what I now think are even more compelling arguments for universal reconciliation based on the pain of separation for beings in heaven.

            Like

          • David says:

            I agree that it is better to construe God as Being itself or beyond being – and that a ‘maximal being’ theology ultimately runs into significant issues.

            Still, I think that arguments which assume God to be a mere ‘perfect being’ remain valuable – inasmuch that, while God may not be a perfect being, he is certainly not *less* than a perfect being.

            That is, if we can prove how ‘a perfect being’ would act, while we cannot expect God to act identically, we can at least expect God not to act in ways that are inferior.

            If even we – being evil – give our children food and not snakes, so too won’t God? And if even ‘a perfect being’ would save all, how much more will that be true of the true God beyond being?

            Liked by 2 people

  2. It looks like the young Rasmussen is picking up Craig’s torch in the evangelical world of analytic philosophers but this torch is carried with a much much better eschatology. His universalism will have interesting residual effects.

    I do plan on picking up his new book on the nature of persons when it comes out. https://www.amazon.com/Who-Are-You-Really-Philosophers-ebook/dp/B0B91DL5CP/ref=mp_s_a_1_3?qid=1666871234&refinements=p_27%3AJoshua+Rasmussen&s=books&sr=1-3

    Like

  3. Logan(mercifullayman) says:

    I could be wrong on this, but wasn’t it Origen who suggested that we as humans continuously relive our lives over and over again until we learn all we are supposed to and then come to the fullness of the truth (Hence the reincarnation charge misunderstood later on?). It takes as long as it takes? Isn’t that in Peri Archon somewhere or am I making this up in my head?

    So not only is it analytically available in the now (constant repetitive choice), but could quite extend itself outward into eternity?

    Like

  4. David says:

    Bravo! I like this piece, although I think the weak link lies in point 4 – that “Granting each person an indefinite number of times the capacity to enter such a union is something God can do”.

    This is because some hold that a certain point of ‘no return’ can be reached – after which our character has been so solidified that we can no longer escape it – and that ‘hell’ represents a point at which our nature has been corrupted beyond repair. If this is true, there is only a finite number of times God can offer us the possibility to enter into union with God – or at least, only a finite number of times in which such an offer would have the possibility of success.

    This perhaps has a prima facie plausibility to it when we remember that the Christian story demands that the saved are eventually ‘confirmed in the good’, such that no further falls from grace are possible.

    Now I hold that the nature of the will, orientated as it is towards transcendental goodness, is actually such that it can never become completely closed off to positive change – and therefore that being ‘confirmed in the evil’ is an impossibility (in any case, if hell were a real possibility, no good God would create beings at risk of being sent there) and so God is indeed guaranteed to be successful sooner or later.

    But that is an arguable point, so I figure it’s just the kind of thing that needs to be addressed in an essay like this.

    Like

    • Although I don’t see Hart’s argument for the primordial orientation of the will immediately leading to universalism, I DO think it destroys this notion that someone can become eternally solidified in evil. So does any coherent understanding of Maximus’ theology, even though I know he states what seems the opposite in Ambigum 65 (emphasis on COHERENT understanding).

      Like

      • Logan(mercifullayman) says:

        Maximus has these weird moments across the Ambigua and Ad Thal where you can feel this annihilationist pulse, but I’m not so certain it isn’t for “cover” to keep himself way from certain accusations/associations. It’s almost as if he states it as a logical possibility but not a factuality that would occur. Much like I think Nazianzus kind of winks at Nyssa the same way. “I’m stating a line, but don’t believe that is the case.”

        Like

  5. Tom says:

    Hi Josh. Good stuff.

    I’m extracting a couple of convictions from this:

    a) The immeasurable and unconditional nature of God’s love.
    b) The irrevocable openness to God which irreducibly defines the creature’s relationship to God.

    Where you speak of God ‘granting each person an indefinite number of times’, I wonder if this doesn’t reduce to something even more basic, namely, the ‘irrevocable constitutional openness to God’ which defines creatures. This is our transcendental orientation.

    I also wonder if it doesn’t strengthen the argument to describe ‘God’s desire that everyone enjoy union with him’ in terms of something more basic, namely, God as the summum bonum (highest good), and union with this as the creature’s highest good.

    I’m just reworking it in my own mind. If we start with God as the summum bonum (something no Xan can disagree with) and then unpack what this must mean for every creature (that union w/ God as the creature’s highest good is the only possible end for creatures God, the highest good, can will for creatures). Were God to will anything other than himself as a person’s final end, he could not be the summum bonum, for surely to be the summum bonum is to will oneself as every person’s end and highest good. Even if God only permits the final loss of creatures he loves, he does so in light of some good, and if that good is compatible with final loss, then God is not the summum bonum as such.

    From this, then, it seems out of the question that there could conceivably be a ‘higher good’ God might have to sacrifice in light of anything less than the universal union of all spiritual creatures in him. Universal consummation is the only ‘possible’ end for creatures. Logical possibility is circumscribed by the Good (the True, the Beautiful, i.e., Love). Charles Hartshorne saw this years ago – that logical and metaphysical possibility eventually converge and are one and the same. So the idea there would be some ‘good’ secured by even the permission of eternal loss of even a single creature could only be true if God were not the summum bonum.

    Like

  6. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    Folks, be sure to go to click on the hyperlink and visit the original posting. There is some interesting discussion there between the philosophers. You may find your own questions discussed there.

    Like

    • Cameron Davis says:

      Considering that several of the commenters are professional philosophers, the objections are pretty underwhelming. I would also have liked to see more discussion of what free will actually allows for, given factors like human psychology and divine goodness.

      Like

  7. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    Thank you, Josh, for joining the conversation. Could you respond to an objection I’m sure that has been put to you on numerous occasions: The damned–or at least one of them–are so hardened and frozen in their hatred of God and their desire for total autonomy that they cannot repent and reorient themselves to God. How then can you final premise be unconditionally true?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joshua Rasmussen says:

      Thanks, that is indeed a very instructive question. I have two answers depending on one’s theology. If one’s theology includes the proposition that God knows ahead, prior to creation, which beings would become unredeemable, then I think God would have good reason not to create those beings in the first place. Why not only create the beings God knows would eventually repent? In “Creating Worlds without Evil,” I argue that with infinitely many possible people to choose from, there would likely be many people who would freely repent, and if God knows this ahead, God could then chose to only create those who freely repent.

      Second, even if God does not have that kind of foreknowledge, I’ve come to think that there is always a way to give someone new opportunities to do good by giving them new experiences and greater understanding. In fact, I would argue that hell itself supplies pressure and reasons to turn around, as one sees how one’s negative attitudes are self-damaging. The more extreme the hell, the more extreme the pressure to turn around. I’ve come to doubt that it is impossible for God to give someone an experience that liberates them to make a new choice.

      I hope that helps!

      Liked by 3 people

      • Joe says:

        “there is always a way to give someone new opportunities to do good by giving them new experiences and greater understanding.”

        If it is possible for God to give someone a greater understanding, is it not at least also possible to give someone the *greatest* understanding—i.e., the kind of understanding that inexorably leads to (or is) union—and to give it in a flash? And furthermore, is it also not possible transform people with positive experience rather than negative experience, especially since positive experience is the actual truth and negative experience is a distorted shadow of reality?

        The assumption seems to be that transformational understanding must be an incremental process and must be painful (maybe even agonizing) for some, but I don’t necessarily see why either these must necessarily be, especially in light of the testimony of innumerable transcendent religious experiences. There is a common testimony of being invaded from without with absolute love, all-consuming bliss, and universal knowledge in an mere instant.

        It just seems that perfect being— the Good, the True, and Beautiful—could do better than the negative reinforcement of “extreme hell”. It all just smacks of the ignorant, clumsy, uncompassionate human way of doing things and I’m deeply skeptical that this is how things will play out…but that is just me.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          I am very sympathetic to your opinion, Joe. All things are possible with God.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Joshua Rasmussen says:

          Joe, yes, I really appreciate those insights. When there are many paths to a truth (e.g., many ways for God to restore), I say “abundance of riches.”

          Like

        • Robert Fortuin says:

          I think Joe it takes two to tango and it it turns out we are bad dancers.

          Like

          • Robert F says:

            Yeah. The process of deification would seem to me to require, at some point, that we participate in the process, just as recovery from addiction requires the addict to participate in the process of recovery, which often, if not always, involves suffering to one degree or another. And I think recovery from addiction to sin and self is really what the process of deification is about, only in this case, as opposed to the case of say of recovery from alcoholism during ones lifetime, not only recovery but actual cure — the cure of the soul — is ultimately realized in deification.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Robert Fortuin says:

            Agreed – and the process of growth, discovery, maturation, learning, deification, etc over time comports with our current physical and spiritual experience. A synergistic transfiguration of salvation which requires our participation. I surmise the Annunciation is the model of models of such synergy which works out, wonders of wonders, for our salvation. Whatever the case may be, in my view, at the very least, even if final conversion turns out to be instantaneous, it nevertheless requires full consent and participation. That is to say that God’s presence in the end will be glad tidings to all, a delight of delights, a joy of joys. We all go willingly.

            Like

          • Joe says:

            Well, thankfully God is not another dancer, but rather the music and the dance itself.

            Like

          • Robert Fortuin says:

            Yes of course Joe, right you are. He is our sanctification. Even so we cannot marginalize the synergy, the co-operation, the working together, that remains a requirement either in this age or the next. But what is time right? An instant, a 1000 years. I speculate that we like to add that 1000 years to feel good about the long conversion process required of the Luciferians.

            Like

          • Robert F says:

            Which is nothing more nor less than ourselves being brought to the same place where Mary was able to say Yes to God.

            Liked by 1 person

  8. Browsing through the comments in response to Josh’s piece on the original website, I’ve decided I would love to see Alexander Pruss review TASBS. He would probably disagree, but he’s an incredibly smart Catholic who would do a much better job of engaging the work than a lot of others. A very interesting conversation on the original posting.

    Like

  9. Danny Klopovic says:

    As an open / kenotic theist, it would seem that universalism is entailed by same, given that if the future is open even for God, why foreclose the final salvation of all creatures? After all, to provide indefinite opportunities to turn towards God would seem compatible with an open theist view.

    Like

    • Logan(mercifullayman) says:

      Fwiw….Hegel and Schelling both wind up in a universalist position by the end, as the particular has to subsume itself into the universal so that one can’t be fully realized until they find themselves fully removed into the whole. Logically, only universalism would work then. (albeit, the late Schelling is working in a more traditional way/scope when he gets to the end again).

      Like

  10. Joe says:

    Robert F: “The process of deification would seem to me to require, at some point, that we participate in the process, just as recovery from addiction requires the addict to participate in the process of recovery, which often, if not always, involves suffering to one degree or another. And I think recovery from addiction to sin and self is really what the process of deification is about…”

    But the conundrum has always been: how does the sinful self overcome the sinful self? It is the very false self that desperately clings to itself—the false, sinful self. So, what one has described is tantamount to “pulling oneself up by the bootstraps.” The same contradiction is expressed acutely in Eastern philosophies, mind you.

    The false self is the mud on the stained glass window preventing the experience of the beautiful, divinizing light. The false self has to cleared away by something “external” to that our own self-will.

    This is whole idea of being rescued, rather than being given the opportunity for rescue. We are the equivalent of the disoriented, head-injured person trapped in the car that is sinking in the river. Reaching out a hand is not good enough. We need to be grabbed and pulled out, even it is “against” our disoriented will (which is not even our true will). We need to be rescued.

    Like

    • Robert F says:

      We are rescued by Christ in his incarnation, passion, resurrection, and ascension; we are deified by being incorporated into the heart of the Trinity, a process which requires that we take leave — with the constant empowering of the Holy Spirit — of our disordered self orientation, but not of our self itself, which was created by God and will be fulfilled through and in theosis. The separation of the self from its false orientation to itself — which is our primary addiction and sin, and the main impediment to sharing in the beatific vision, which requires purity of heart (“blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”)– : I don’t see how this can occur without our presence and volition, and without the attendant suffering, and willingness be present to that suffering, however much or little, and for however long or short a duration, that it must involve. Mary’s Yes to God at the annunciation was this, and I think we will all utter the same kind of Yes. We needed to be rescued, and we have been by Christ; and we need to cooperate with God in our deification that we may be pure enough in heart to see and live with God from inside the heart of the Trinity — which was God’s purpose in creating us.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Joe says:

        The disoriented will that delusionally resists the “invasion” of the Good is that from which we must be rescued. Otherwise, there is no reason that resistance could not go on indefinitely…even eternally.

        Like

        • Robert F says:

          We are rescued from it, by Christ. We enter both life and death, we are born and die, already rescued from it by Christ. The whole human race, and by extension creation itself, has been rescued from it. What we are involved in here, and in the hereafter, is getting on with it, realizing the beatific fullness of that gift. Having already been rescued, there is every reason “resistance” can not go on forever. God has far more resources than we do, and we really don’t want to resist, because resistance is not our best interest, or our real desire. We desire to see God; the gift of desire to see God is implicit in the gift of redemption.

          Like

          • Joe says:

            “…. resistance is not our best interest, or our real desire.”

            Well, this is exactly my point. God knows what we want better than we ourselves. God knows that our true orientation is to absolute Goodness. So, God “overcoming” one with Goodness is NEVER a violation of anyone’s will. On the contrary, it is the culmination of our will. It may only appear to violate one’s will from the perspective of our distorted view (the glass darkly) which is blindness.

            So this entire notion that God is this respecter of the deranged will and will accept one’s “rejection,” let them wallow in misery for a while in an “extreme hell” to teach them and give them another opportunity later, over and over and over again, indefinitely, is in my opinion, irrational.

            Unless and until the blindness is lifted, all of our effort to escape suffering and find rest is fruitless. And once the blindness is lifted, resistance is impossible, as it is absolutely self-evident that this is what we have always wanted.

            Like

          • Robert Fortuin says:

            You guys are going around in circles. Joe: I don’t think anyone here is claiming that post-mortem conversion is indefinite (i.e. infinite, without end). While the deliberative process is important, it is God who is our End, who alone is the infinitely definite and the definitively infinite. We have been rescued by Christ from our endless, senseless indeterminate deliberative motion to our one true termination.

            Like

          • Robert F says:

            I’m not really sure what our disagreement is. If it’s the issue of whether the process of postmortem theosis involves suffering, due to our resistance to God, I’d prefer that it doesn’t, since I know how far from righteous I’ve been in this life, and how much sin will assuredly still be weighing me down at death. So I hope you’re right, and resistance to God’s good will for us on the other side of death will be, not only futile, but impossible.

            But pre-mortem theosis definitely involves suffering, and I’m not banking on that changing after death. God loves us just as completely in this life, and wants what’s best for us even now before our death, and in our clearer moment, however few or many those may be, we know this, yet we suffer as we try to make changes in line with what we believe and even know he wants.

            And then I’m not quite sure what to make of all those texts, attributed to Jesus — who speaks more about this matter than any other figure in the Bible — regarding a postmortem condition involving suffering. I disavow the idea that he was referring to Everlasting Conscious Torment, aka Hell, but then it seems to me he must have been talking about a purgatorial state involving purification of the dead soul. I’m by no means a “literalist” when it comes to reading and understanding the Bible, nor do I like proof-texting or using scriptural passages to squelch disagreement, but when the New Testament has Jesus speaking so much about a matter that is hardly mentioned or addressed anywhere else in the Bible, don’t we have to configure our view of the postmortem life in such a way that we take this into account?

            I’m uncertain about all of this, so I’m willing to be convinced otherwise.

            Like

  11. Joe says:

    Robert Fortuin: “ Joe: I don’t think anyone here is claiming that post-mortem conversion is indefinite (i.e. infinite, without end).”

    No, I don’t think anyone is claiming this. I’m simply saying that if it depends, even partly, on the deluded individual to remove the cause of resistance (which is delusion), well then, it could go on forever. That should be abundantly obvious.

    But no, I certainly don’t think it will go forever, or will even be protracted—much the opposite actually, for the reasons already stated.

    Robert F: “But pre-mortem theosis definitely involves suffering…”

    I’m not sure about pre-mortem theosis. The closest to this would be what is called “enlightenement” or “awakening” in eastern philosophies, but I still think that this is still only the slightest nibble.

    Like

    • Robert F says:

      Joe,
      I think the idea that the process of theosis may and does start in this life, before death, is well-supported in the history of Christianity and the life of the church. And however sleight it may be in comparison to postmortem, it is the same process. So my question is: given that God loves us and wants what is best for us, and we may have a proximate and imperfect knowledge of that in this life (and it will remain proximate and imperfect in the next life too — in comparison to God’s knowledge), and that process of theosis, or call it purification, includes suffering, why would it be otherwise in the postmortem state? To what purpose all this earthly suffering, both human and animal/nonhuman, if it has no relation to the postmortem life? If the process of theosis does not and can not meaningfully start in this life, why is God wasting our time?

      Like

      • Joe says:

        There is a lot here. I’ll give you my tentative speculations. Bear with me…

        Robert F: “…why would it be otherwise in the postmortem state?”

        Well, I suspect that it might have something to do with the present “structure” of our being, in that physical life is a necessary developmental stage on our journey ex nihilo, but it undoubtedly has certain limitations that impact our capacity for the direct experience of Spirit (or to maintain such direct experience).

        Remember: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” It’s just the nature of earthly, physical life that we see only in part (and what we do see is “darkened”).

        But I think post-mortem existence will be an unimaginable leap akin to that of biological life “emerging” from matter—a leap into a new order of being. We will transcend physicality and put on our “spiritual body.” So, I don’t think that the limiting “rules” of the physical (or even psychological) levels of existence need apply. Also, suffering has no purpose (more on that below).

        Moreover, as death represents a leap into a new order of being, this new order of being also happens to be “further” into God. Now, I’m not one that thinks that God’s presence can be experienced as torment like those that posit heaven hell as divergent responses to the same reality—God. As such, as we move further into God, expedience can only improve.

        “To what purpose all this earthly suffering, both human and animal/nonhuman, if it has no relation to the postmortem life? If the process of theosis does not and can not meaningfully start in this life, why is God wasting our time?”

        I grant you that the immense suffering in life confounds this issue. It is the most difficult of all issues. I struggle with the existence of suffering on a daily basis.

        I’ll say this— I, for one, do not think that earthly suffering was intended by God or is used by God, after the fact. That perspective is morally disastrous. I think suffering is incidental to this level of existence but need not have occurred*. This tells me that suffering has no purpose in the grand scheme of things. And as it has no purpose, it has no value. Yes, it is something we must pass through but not because this passing through suffering was intentionally willed by God for the achievement of some end.

        *As to the question of why God allowed evil/suffering in the first place, well that is a thorny issue that has been delved into on this blog many times in the past.

        Like

        • Robert F says:

          Thanks for your perspective, Joe. I’m too uncertain of where the truth lay in all this to venture further in this discussion than we’ve already gone. I’m no trained philosopher or theologian, as I’m sure is apparent. Amateur and inexpert as I am, I dare to engage on this blog where so many intellectual giants gather only because the matters that are discussed here have such existential importance to me, as one who also struggles “with the existence of suffering on a daily basis.” I will say this: I do not exactly consider the idea that suffering, and that my suffering, has no value an encouraging one; but, otoh, I do not exactly consider the idea that suffering, and my suffering, has value an encouraging one either. To talk of the instrumentality of suffering, or lack thereof, makes abstract and impersonal a matter that is always concrete and closely personal, visceral.

          Like

          • Joe says:

            “I do not exactly consider the idea that suffering, and that my suffering, has no value an encouraging one; but, otoh, I do not exactly consider the idea that suffering, and my suffering, has value an encouraging one either.”

            Yes, believe me, I get that.

            Like

Comments are closed.