Universal Salvation and Free Will: A Response to Fr James Dominic Rooney

by Jeremiah Carey, Ph.D.

Fr. James Dominic Rooney’s recent attack on universalism, and David Bentley Hart’s version of it in particular, contains so many claims and takes a stand on so many contentious fundamental issues in philosophy and theology that it’s hard to know where to start in evaluation or response. Thankfully, he summarizes his main argument with what seems admirable clarity:

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.

On the face of it, this allows us a sensible method to see whether his argument is a good one or not. In particular, we can ask the following questions: Does universalism require for its truth that (1) or (2) or both be true? Is it true that there are no other options for explaining the truth of universalism than (1) or (2)? Do (1) and (2) both entail heresy?  If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” then the argument doesn’t go through. And, as it happens, I think “no” is the correct answer to every one of those questions.

But, then again, I worry the apparent clarity of the argument summary turns out to be a mere appearance. Take the first claim, for example, that, supposedly, according to universalism God could not do otherwise than cause human beings to love him.  How are we to understand the word “cause” here? There are many different ways someone can rightfully be said to cause something. I can cause you to eat a piece of moldy cheese, for example, by shoving it down your throat. Or I can cause you to eat it by telling you (falsely) that it’s actually a perfectly inoffensive piece of Gouda. I can cause you to eat it by offering you $20 to do so. Or I can cause you to eat it simply by handing it to you, knowing that for some reason you enjoy the taste of blue cheese.

Carefully distinguishing between the different senses of “cause” that might be at play isn’t just a tedious game enjoyed by analytic philosophers. It’s absolutely central to under­stand­ing whether the causing at issue violates free will or leads to heretical views about God or man. If the universalist claims that God causes human beings to love him by deceiving or coercing them, then we have a problem. If he causes human beings to love him simply by being what he is, i.e., the Good and thus the ultimate object of their deepest longings, then we don’t.  

Or so it seems. I can’t see how any orthodox Christian could deny the claim that God is the Good and the ultimate object of our deepest longings. So the problem Fr. Rooney has must be about how exactly it is that God’s being the Good and our natural longing for the good combine to cause our loving of him. Thus, the crux of the issue is his (2), or something like it. The real problem is not with divine freedom, but human freedom.  No universalist thinks God causes us to love him by coercion or manipulation or deception. Rather, God causes us to love him just by being God. God doesn’t change as we come to love him.  We do. So the primary question is: What is the nature of that change, and can we understand it in a way that doesn’t undermine human freedom?

This is important to point out because much of the discussion following Fr. Rooney’s article has instead focused on the first claim, and has been aimed at alternatively accusing or excusing Hart for his allegedly heretical views on “the necessity” of creation. Hart himself has said that his views on this question are irrelevant to his arguments for universalism, so I can only conclude that the furor has more to do with many Christians’ penchant for heresy hunting than much else.

I’m not going to say much about this ongoing debate; in part because it is beyond my ken, and in part because it seems, as I’ve said, mostly irrelevant to the main debate about universalism. Still, I think the discussion so far illuminates what seems to me the main problem with Fr. Rooney’s side in the debate: a surprising lack of attention to the different ways words can be used. Fr. Rooney has amassed quite a few conciliar statements and patristic quotations insisting that God does not create necessarily. Hart has denied that he uses this word to describe God’s creative activity. But even if he had, that would only be a problem if it could be shown that the sense in which he might think creation is “necessary” is the same as the sense in which earlier authorities insisted it is not. For those of a libertarian bent (and I confess to having some inclinations that way myself), it is very easy to read all claims about lack of necessity, choice, decision, freedom, as if those very terms implied by their use a commitment to a libertarian conception of free will or ability to do otherwise. But, of course, they don’t.

Returning, then, to what I take to be the main issue, I suggest we start by restating the two possible claims upon which Fr. Rooney suspects universalism depends. The first strikes me as too vague, for reasons already discussed. The second also seems too vague.  On the face of it, it is obviously false, since we have all of us been led astray, and it is simply a matter of experience that not everyone loves God. Still, I think he is right that the fundamental support for universalism lies in two claims, one about God, and one about man. Here are those two claims as I would put them:

1. God is Goodness/Truth/Beauty.

2. Rational nature just is a teleological orientation towards goodness, truth, and beauty (and, thus, ultimate fulfillment in God).

The first is simply part of the traditional Christian view of God. The second is also over­whelmingly accepted in the tradition. In the case of action, it implies the claim that anything we do, insofar as it is to be seen as an intentional action—as something we do rather than something that merely happens to us, as something we can be held morally responsible for—must be done for a reason, i.e., in the light of some end which at least seems to us to be good.

Note that these two claims on their own do not get us to universalism, though. Even if we all pursue some good in all our actions, that doesn’t mean that we pursue the Good. Even worse, we are all ignorant, ambivalent, confused, and self-deceived in all sorts of ways about our actions and their aims. Sometimes we pursue lesser goods at the expense of higher goods. Sometimes we pursue ends that are only apparently good. Just because we are teleologically directed towards something doesn’t mean we will obtain it. Teleologically speaking, an acorn is meant to become an oak. But that doesn’t mean that it will. It might be eaten by a squirrel.

This means that if we are to get to universalism, we need to add in more premises. I suggest two more will get us to our conclusion:

3. God wills for all human beings that they reach the fulfillment of their nature in union with him.

4. This willing can be made effective in a way that doesn’t undermine freely chosen human acceptance of this union.

5. Therefore, God will bring about the free union of all human beings with himself.

Claim three seems to follow from any morally sane understanding of what it means for God to be a good and loving creator, and is something for which, at any rate, we have good scriptural evidence (see, e.g., Ezekiel 33:11 and 1 Timothy 2:4). The conclusion, claim five, follows from (3) and (4), so long as we suppose God’s will is always brought about unless it is impossible in the circumstances or would conflict with some greater good willed.

So the key premise is really (4). It is this that most critics of universalism are really worried about. Is it true? I’m going to argue that it is. But first, we need to know a bit more about what human freedom consists in. This is no easy thing to settle and is a central area of disagreement between Hart and Fr. Rooney.  Hart upholds a conception of freedom as the ability to unimpededly know and do the good, in accordance with one’s nature. On this approach, the highest freedom involves a real inability to do otherwise:

To see the good and know it truly is to desire it insatiably and to obey it unconditionally, while not to desire it is not to have known it truly.
(That All Shall Be Saved, 79-80)  

Fr. Rooney, on the other hand, seems to defend a libertarian conception of freedom in which an inability to do otherwise than one does in the circumstances is nearly the definition of lack of freedom.

On the one hand, I don’t think a Christian can really be a full-blown incompatibilist of this sort (and I’m not sure Fr. Rooney is, though it is hard to tell from the article). For we know that God is perfectly free and yet unable to do evil, and that perfected human beings will be unable to sin. It would be very odd, if not incoherent, given the supposed value and impor­tance of freedom, if the more perfect something is, the less freedom it has. We see this even in our imperfect state. As I said above, our imperfection means that even if we always pursue some apparent good, we may not always do what is actually good or what is best. Still, our rational nature means that there are some things we cannot freely do. You could not freely decide right now to stick a needle into your eye, or the eye of a child or loved one, for absolutely no reason. Yet that lack of ability does not in any way hinder or reduce your freedom. Rather, having that ability would likely show that you don’t count as the sort of rational agent to whom we can ascribe the relevant sort of freedom at all.

On the other hand, we often do seem to have the ability to do otherwise than we do, and this seems an important and valuable fact. After all, it seems to secure the possibility for moral responsibility and the ability to significantly form ourselves in different ways on the basis of our choices. 

We needn’t necessarily choose between these two conceptions of freedom. We can see them as two types of freedom, a lower and a higher. As the inability to refuse the known good represents the perfection of our nature, surely it is the higher type of freedom, and the other is valuable insofar as, lacking the higher freedom, we can through our choices attain to it. This seems more or less the approach of St. Augustine:

Neither are we to suppose that because sin shall have no power to delight [perfected humans], free will must be withdrawn.  It will, on the contrary, be all the more truly free, because set free from delight in sinning to take unfailing delight in not sinning.  For the first freedom of will which man received when he was created upright consisted in an ability not to sin, but also in an ability to sin; whereas this last freedom of will shall be superior, inasmuch as it shall not be able to sin. (City of God 22.30.3.)

With that in mind, let me proceed to my argument. It takes the form of a double dilemma:

1. For those in hell, it is either possible for them to repent and move toward union with God, or not.

2. If it is not, they are either not in hell freely, or no longer count as persons.

3. If it is, then it must be possible for God to bring it about that they move toward union with him.  

4. God can bring this movement about in a way that either violates their free will or doesn’t.

5. If he does it without in any way violating their free will, there is no problem, and as a loving God, he would do so.

6. But even if he does violate their free will initially to bring about their movement towards him, this need not undermine their free acceptance of union with him, so he would do so.

7. Thus, either one must deny that those in hell are there freely, or accept that God will bring all into freely accepted union with him.

The first premise is a logical truth, so let’s move to the second.  Why think that those in hell must be able to repent and move toward the good? Well, if they can’t, then they surely lack alternative possibilities–the ability to do otherwise–which is the hallmark of libertarian accounts of freedom. So they aren’t free in that sense. 

But, one might object, they are there as a result of their previous free choices, so they still have a type of “derivative freedom.” The problem with this claim has to do with the way that it goes against the fundamental nature of what it is to be a rational creature, i.e., a person. To be a person, remember, just is to have a teleological orientation towards goodness and truth. This orientation can fail to manifest properly through confusion, stubbornness, self-deception, and the like. But it must always be there. Any creature that is free in even a minimal sense must pursue at least an apparent good. But if those in hell are there because they are following an apparent good, then it must always be possible for them to come to learn that the good they are pursuing is not actually good, or that they are pursuing it in a wrong way. If they are totally immune in every way to being turned towards truth and goodness, then they could not genuinely think or act at all. They would be non-persons. This would result in a type of annihilationism, not the traditional view of hell.

So let’s say it’s at least possible that those in hell can move towards union with God, i.e., out of their self-imposed hell. Then it seems to follow that God could bring this about somehow or other. After all, omnipotence means being able to do anything it is possible to do. And there are reasons to think that his doing so need not in any case undermine free human acceptance of this union.

For example, it seems that he could do so by some sort of revelation or experience, so far as possible for us, of either his absolute goodness, or of the absolute badness of hell, or both.  William Lane Craig has said that even such a revelation would not have an effect, and thinking that it would simply shows that we don’t understand how deeply those in hell hate God. On the contrary, I think this sort of reply shows that we simply don’t understand the perfect goodness of God or the terrible badness of hell. Think back to the person who is literally unable to freely decide to stick a needle in his or his child’s eye “just because.”Surely, as awful and incomprehensible as doing such a thing would be, providing no reason that could motivate any sane person to act, choosing hell after seeing what it truly is and rejecting God after seeing who he truly is could furnish even less reason. The person who could make such a choice is either totally unable to see the truth or totally unable to be motivated by goodness. In either case, as I’ve said, he should then fail to be a person at all.

Ah, but then wouldn’t such a revelation undermine his free will? On the one hand, it’s hard to see why it would. After all, a Christian must believe that deep down everyone is made for union for God, that in it consists their greatest happiness.  Even if a person doesn’t realize this, and even if their blindness to the truth is a result of their own doing, how could revealing the truth about their own greatest happiness be a limitation of their freedom? It secures for them the possibility of obtaining what they’ve really been searching for all along. Isn’t that an increase in freedom?

But suppose, on the other hand, that such a revelation would itself constitute a violation of the person’s free will. Would that be so bad? It surely isn’t true that God is somehow obligated never to tamper with or violate human freedom. He is said in Scripture and tradition to have done so in all sorts of ways. (Didn’t he interfere with St Paul’s freedom to persecute the Christians in Damascus by striking him blind?) What is true, and what seems required by orthodox tradition, is that God wants our union with him to be freely accept­ed. But even if the revelation of the truth about God, ourselves, and our situation were itself to constitute a violation of our freedom (as it did at least to some degree for St. Paul), it doesn’t follow that what we did after and in the light of that revelation would be unfree.  Union with God, after all, is not something that happens all at once simply through a glimpse of the truth or a first turn in the right direction.

A little story by way of analogy may help, even if it is a bit silly and forced. Suppose there were someone whose entire happiness depended in the end on their finding some object.  Finding it was their life’s purpose, and failure to find it would mean unimaginable suffering. And suppose the main way they would be able to recognize such an object would be by color. Suppose, though, that through their own negligence and a life spent poorly, something were to happen to their color vision, such that even if they were to have the object right in front of them, they would be unable to recognize it. Suppose you love this person deeply—suppose it were your child. You know deep down they want to find the object, but their quest is about to fail, leading to an eternity of suffering. Now suppose you were able to do something to fix their vision. It might be temporarily painful for them, but thereafter they would see the object for what it is and gladly take hold of it and their eternal happiness. You are able and willing to do this, but they do not believe their vision is flawed. You know that if you do not, they will be consigned to certain misery.

Would you be obligated in such a case, knowing the stakes, to respect this resistance and simply let them live in agony for the rest of their life? Could a loving father or mother do such a thing? If you were to decide as a last resort to do it anyway, would you have done some unforgivable wrong and made their finding of the object meaningless and their happiness empty? I think not. Rather, you would have done them the greatest possible benefit. They would finally see clearly the object that they had been searching for all along, they would take it gladly and freely, repent of their obstinacy, and you would joyfully share in their happiness.

The story is perhaps too on the nose not to see its connection to the issue at hand. The biggest difference, I suppose, is that the protagonist in the story is supposed to know from the beginning the object of his quest. But failure to know that is just one more bit of ignorance to be overcome, for we are all on a quest anyhow. The Christian believes that union with God is the life purpose of every human being, the thing each of us is really seeking in every pursuit of every apparent good. One who sees and knows what this truly means could not fail to pursue such an end. And pursuing with open eyes this Goodness that is the perfection of our own nature is necessarily the highest possible freedom.

* * *

Jeremiah Carey has a PhD in philosophy from U.C. Berkeley, and taught for three years at Siena College. He has had articles published in the European Journal of Philosophy, the British Journal for the History of Philosophy, and the International Journal for Philosophy of Religion. He is currently working on a book which is a theological and philosophical defense of Christian vegetarianism.

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21 Responses to Universal Salvation and Free Will: A Response to Fr James Dominic Rooney

  1. revdavidgrieve says:

    Very impressive arguments on each side, but so many, many words!!! I realise that some are called to enquire into these things, but maybe there is too much learning in these debates, in contrast to the plain wisdom of Scripture eg John 3.16-17.

    I am a convert to Universalism, and my faith seeks understanding. But all our understanding is provisional and earth bound. In Glory we shall know. But in what remains to me of life I haven’t the time for scholastic disputes. I want to proclaim Him by whom we come to know-in-experience the eternal Love which sets us free towards salvation. I want more and more people to come into the joy of their Lord NOW and in eternity.

    We must never be distracted from making disciples for whom the extraordinary encounter which God grants is actual and vital, life-giving!

    David Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Like

  2. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    Fr Rooney responds to Dr Carey: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1587107618484793346.html:

    Jeremiah has misconstrued my arguments, not least of which arguing (like Hart) that my criticisms of universalism depend on a ‘libertarian’ account of freedom.

    They do not.

    Let me briefly address his arguments.

    I refrained from defining freedom in my article, because it’s unnecessary for my critique. I needed to reject that all God’s decisions were necessary, so that God does not depend on creation for His happiness/goodness, in order to defuse objections.

    One objection was that God’s happiness would be impossible without that of created persons. For God, that is false. God’s happiness does not depend on the happiness of created persons, so it is not for that reason that God’s love is logically incompatible with permission of hell. Another objection was that we cannot retreat to a distinction between God’s mere permission and positive will of evil. This alleges a ‘modal collapse’: that if God’s will is necessary, and identical with God, then all God wills is necessary. But this is what I showed false. Hard universalism does not require all God’s decisions being necessary, as Jeremiah points out. It only needs the view God could not permit one person to go to hell. Either: not even God could create a being capable of damnation, or God could not have a good reason to permit it. Jeremiah argues that “God wills for all human beings that they reach the fulfillment of their nature in union with him,” and that “this willing can be made effective in a way that doesn’t undermine freely chosen human acceptance of this union.”

    But Jeremiah’s point gets buried. His real point lies in arguing that having the sort of freedom by which an individual could bring about their eternal separation from God in hell “would likely show that you don’t count as” a responsible agent or free at all.

    The deep point replicates an argument given by DBH. Jeremiah has given an argument that a deliberate & culpable act of wrongdoing by which someone does what is evil, choosing or loving something incompatible with love of God – a ‘mortal sin’ – is a contradiction.

    Thus, not even God could bring about a being capable of mortal sin. Jeremiah makes this clear in arguing that the damned would cease to be persons if they had the ability to deliberately reject God.

    “If [the damned] are totally immune in every way to being turned towards truth and goodness, then they could not genuinely think or act at all.” Just as with Hart, Jeremiah’s ignores two facts. First, the damned are not totally immune to the truth or goodness as such. They do not love God. But desire to act on the Good is not the same as love of God. People can stop loving God and everybody does not always love God. Second, it ignores culpable ignorance. The damned cannot will to love God NOT because they cease to be free, but because they have formed themselves not to do so.

    People in life ‘harden’ themselves in sin, and their state is culpable, as their character was in their control. We don’t even need to think about habits or ‘fixity of the will’ after death in order to get the point. As long as human beings do not always and necessarily love God, damnation is possible because you can will not to love God at any one time & continue for indefinite time. Thus, all I need to reject Jeremiah’s argument is:

    1. People do not necessarily or naturally want to love God.
    2. Learning new facts about the world, God, or yourself need not change what you want.
    3. God does not need to change what you want. The other argument Jeremiah gives is similar to DBH’s that God can have no good reason to permit damnation.

    Jeremiah argues God wouldn’t have any good reason to allow the kind of freedom or not to override the kind of freedom that permits people to reject Him eternally. Thus, the argument rests on an analogy: someone’s happiness depends on finding an object that they cannot see, given colorblindness (itself a result of their poor choices). They will suffer eternally if they don’t.

    What loving parent would not intervene to fix their vision? The analogy is flawed. First, it sets up happiness as to lie in an external good – finding an object – rather than relationship with God. Hell is separation from personal union with God because you don’t want to be in that relationship. It is not a result of mere circumstances. The analogy circularly presumes that everyone would want this object to prevent them from suffering. But loving God is more than hating suffering. Fixing someone’s ‘vision’ and giving them all the facts about what is good for them does not cause someone to love God. Second, we can imagine a parent who gives their children all that is good, is kind, loving, and so forth. But their child hates them. Is this the fault of the parent?

    The analogy presumes God failed to give the damned something they needed to avoid hell. But this is false. In the end, as with DBH, Jeremiah gives us no argument that God could NOT have a good reason to create creatures who possibly reject His love and persist in that state eternally. His case rests on rejecting scenarios where damnation is arbitrary & results from God’s failures. But we can rule out those bad scenarios and still be left with a range of possible GOOD reasons where God merely permits (does not cause) people to reject Him, on account of goods He could not achieve but by doing so, and where that permission expresses God’s love for the damned. We have no access to all God’s possible reasons & cannot rule out God’s having such a good reason. CS Lewis and others have imagined possible good scenarios for us.

    We should pray and hope all are saved, but we have no basis to conclude it is impossible for hell to be empty.

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    • Cameron Davis says:

      “1. People do not necessarily or naturally want to love God.”

      This is incredibly revealing and, if sufficiently teased out, has some incredibly damning implications for one’s view of human persons.

      Liked by 1 person

      • DBH says:

        There you have the two-tier view in a nutshell. The damning implications, however, extend to the view of God.

        Liked by 3 people

        • Teena H. Blackburn says:

          Dr. Hart, I’ve read your book (and find your arguments very fine). I do not recall if you dealt with this. Do people who believe in an eternal hell ever seek to explain why God, if He is infinite love and goodness, would even MAKE a creature He knew would damn itself? I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but this is a huge issue for me. What excuse would there be to give a limited earthly life to a human who would send themselves to an eternal hell?

          Like

          • DBH says:

            Well, Thomists will tell you it would somehow be worse for God to deny them existence than to sustain them in eternal torment. But only Thomists are damaged enough to believe that, so it’s not a particularly impressive argument.

            Like

        • Cameron Davis says:

          Yes, that too, seeing as God creates humans and everything else.

          Like

        • David says:

          On the ‘existence is preferable to non-existence no matter what’ point I always smile and think of this:

          https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/existence

          Like

      • Bob says:

        If communion with God exceeds the natural capacity of man, then there can be no desiderium naturale in the strict sense. Unless one means that indeterminate desire, which of itself, however, can always find only substitute objects. Ans one looks for the Christian message only after you have encountered it.

        People are naturally sinners in need of redemption.

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    • Iainlovejoy says:

      1. People do not necessarily or naturally want to love God.
      This is either irrelevant or stupid, depending on what precisely is meant. If what is meant that people may have no knowledge or experience of God, and therefore not want what they are simply unaware of, then so what? No-one is suggesting that if God deliberately hid himself from people he could thereby trick them into hell, but who sane thinks God would do that? If what is meant is that people could genuinely know and experience God and be put off or repulsed by what they saw, then you are basically denying that God is good. Universalism assumes the perfect goodness of God. If God is not perfectly good, then of course universalism may be, indeed probably is false.
      2. Learning new facts about the world, God, or yourself need not change what you want.
      This is just plain silly as an argument. If you think God is good, then you will want God; in so far as you don’t think God is good, you won’t. That is what it means to be a thinking being. On the assumption that God is, in fact, perfectly good, learning new, true facts about God will either reveal more of God’s goodness or disabuse false notions that God is not good. There is nothing else about God which could be (correctly) learned about him.
      3. God does not need to change what you want.
      This is agsin either irrelevant or silly. No-one is saying God *needs* to change what people want, only that if God is good and what people want is hurting them, then God, being good, will naturally act so as to change this. Again, if God is not good, then of course he could be perfectly content to let people go on suffering for wanting the wrong things.
      For some reason you keep banging on about “culpability”, as if this were relevant to the point. Your take seems to be that as long as God can find some culpability in man that excuses it, God will take this excuse and duck out of loving us, and happily wash his hands of anything we suffer as a consequence.
      I don’t think you are actually in disagreement with Hart at all, however much you try and disguise it. Hart’s basic point is not that universalism is definitely true, but rather that universalism is definitely true *if God is good*. Your point seems to boil down to that universalism is not inevitable as God might not, in fact, be good. I don’t think, however, that this makes Hart the heretic here.

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  3. Brad says:

    Fr. Rooney,

    You write: “People in life ‘harden’ themselves in sin, and their state is culpable, as their character was in their control.”

    Is it your view that this ‘hardening’ in sin is the result of actions performed with full knowledge of the good and in complete freedom?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Bob says:

    My 2 Cents:

    It is not possible to reject God’s love knowingly and in full awareness, because his love can only be recognized by faith, i.e by believing in the gospel, but then it is already accepted: God’s love can only be recognized by letting it be proclaimed to you in faith. Outside of faith, one can only recognize that the Christian message claims to be God’s good word, but not the truth of that message. In this sense, rejection is not based on knowledge and freedom, but rather on misunderstanding and ignorance. This explains Jesus’ statement on the cross: “Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

    In the whole debate, it seems to me that the difference between faith and reason in relation to God and his offer of salvation is not sufficiently taken into account.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Bob says:

    Furthermore:

    If faith is ultimately always only about God’s self-communication to his creature or about communion with God, and all statements of faith must be traced back to this (reductio in unum mysterium), then the existence of an eternal hell can never be an object of faith. One cannot believe in hell in a theological sense. This would be superstition.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Bob says:

    And finally this:

    The idea that God would have to “respect” human freedom also fails to recognize that everything, including human acts, is ontologically dependent on him in an unsurpassable way and cannot exist without him. God, therefore, does not respond to anything in the world, even if only in the way of respect.

    Although nothing, not even our human sin, can be without God,
    this does not mean at all – as one usually hastily thinks – that one could then hold God responsible for our sins. For being created is such a completely one-sided relation of the created world to God that any “deduction” of created states of affairs from God would be devoid of any ontological basis. The world is the realm of interactions. One must not imagine being created likewise as a kind of interaction between world and God. With that one would God be a creature beside all other creatures.

    The sum is: The whole world is from the very beginning taken up into the eternal Love between the Father and the Son, i.e. the Holy Spirit. The Son assumed human nature in order to tell and proclaim this Love by a human word: Faith comes from hearing. By this faith we are liberated from the slavery of fear and eogism,

    Liked by 1 person

  7. dokow says:

    The Good is what we’re all striving for, aren’t we? That good can be found in beautiful things or, to immediately go to the oncoming objections, in the fulfillment of twisted desires. Our state doesn’t permit us to fully look at goodness in itself, but I fail to see what rational action there could be that doesn’t have goodness as its goal.

    God is goodness in itself. He isn’t perfectly good, but the axiological ground for goodness, the final cause of everything whose nature can’t be perfected without him.

    The way I see it, claiming “that God could not do otherwise than cause human beings to love him” is heretical, depends on a very specific notion of love. On the viewpoint I broadly outlined above, it must be necessarily true. Sure, whatever the name “God” designates is an irrelevant entity, if he were divorced from Goodness itself. The failure to love could only stem from a failure to recognize identity, removing that failure and still rejecting the claim above would entail for a rational being to find goodness in the rejection of goodness, a contradiction.

    Does God cause anyone to love him? Not more or less than he causes us to exist. Our love for him follows from what he is and the final causes we as created beings have, being completely fulfilled in him. And if we were in a state where that path to fulfillment were apparent, what could the possible reasons be for rejecting it? Fr Rooney wants to claim that people can twist themselves enough to not recognize Goodness. That is true, but do we really want to claim that God would take advantage of states of ignorance? Because what else would it be? If my rejection of the Good were due to my incapability of recognizing it, in which way am I responsible for not being able to? A damnation could only ever be justified if my blindness would be removed and I’d still be unwilling to see. But again, given the creatures we are and the being God is, this would be a metaphysical impossibility. And yes, this makes “mortal sins” a nonsensical concept.

    The, albeit amateurish, outline of the ideas above aren’t new and shouldn’t be surprising, they are actually very similar to the chief reasons given as to why people in heaven won’t sin while having free will.

    Universal salvation seems to follow from everyone eventually being made to see Goodness in itself. Defences of hell either collapse into the divorce of “God” and “Goodness itself” or the taking advantage of ignorance (which is actually just an example of that divorce). Fr Rooney makes that point himself by saying that desire to act on the Good is not the same as love of God. I don’t think it’s smart to differentiate these two ideas, on the danger of making the second practically irrelevant and conceptually hollow. The religious views shared here aren’t rationally compelling, in the sense, that they won’t be seen as overwhelmingly evident, once shared. The big variety, I think, along with our rejection of differing views of God, makes it hard to find common ground in the conception of love of God, even between interlucors here. I freely admit for example to not find any divinity in the being defenders of ECT describe, much less something worthy of worship or love. The common ground would be our desire for goodness. Divorcing that desire from loving God will only have detrimental consequences.

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  8. Elizabeth says:

    We are all also a mix of life experiences and a mix of strengths and weaknesses…
    “By nature our will wants God, and the good will of God wants us.” Julian of Norwich

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  9. Joe says:

    Fr Rooney: “The damned cannot will to love God NOT because they cease to be free, but because they have formed themselves not to do so.”

    And why have they formed themselves not to do so? This is the question.
    Is this self-formation predicated on an accurate view of reality? It’s a rather simple question.

    Would willing to love God not be objectively good for them, “the damned”? If not, then we have a problem. Either God is not the Good or there is a disjuncture with their inherent—i.e., given, created—constitution. There is a problem with either God’s nature or their nature.

    Do “the damned” actually desire after the experience of endless misery? Were the created to eschew real happiness, peace, and contentment? Or were they created as a blank slate and given the freedom of “forming themselves” into such a confused, mistaken state that they should be tormented without end?

    And once again, is their chosen orientation right, true and good? Is it good for them?
    Is it formed from an accurate view of reality or a mistaken view of reality? Yes or no?

    You have essentially been stating, “it’s right for them; it’s their good.”

    Wrong.

    You see, infernalists are relativists of the worst kind. For them, there is no objectively right, true, and good orientation. If there is no right, true and good orientation then there is no ultimate Right, True, and Good.

    No, it’s all subjective; the right orientation is simply whatever one chooses, which means God is not the Good—the infinite source, ground, and culmination of Goodness.

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  10. Joe says:

    Fr. Rooney: “Jeremiah argues God wouldn’t have any good reason to allow the kind of freedom or not to override the kind of freedom that permits people to reject Him eternally.”

    There you have it.

    God allows “the kind of freedom” that results in an outcome that God does not and cannot desire. For some mysterious “good reason”—an obvious deus ex machina—God elevates this “kind of freedom” above and against his very own desire.

    Look, I’m just going to go ahead and state in plainly.

    Infernalist Christians are, in the final analysis, worshippers of human freedom, not God. The groundless, arbitrary human will is the resplendent pinnacle of creation. The totally self-determining human will is the good that supersedes all goods, even the Good itself. To it, all must defer and all get on bended knee…including its creator.

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    • Calvin says:

      “Infernalist Christians are, in the final analysis, worshippers of human freedom, not God.”

      Oh no, it’s a good deal worse than that. Fr. Rooney admitted on Twitter he thinks God can infallibly predestine those he elects to salvation to be saved, and in doing so he does not violate their freedom. The reason his God does not just do so for everyone is, presumably, sheer malice. The whole “freedom” schtick is just a red herring, given his actual professed beliefs.

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