Universal Salvation: Love Is Its Own Necessity

I know that some are wondering why I have spent so much blog time featuring discussion of Fr James Dominic Rooney’s article “The Incoherences of Hard Universalism” and why I have now written yet another piece on it. I wonder about that myself. I think I have done so mainly because I am intrigued and challenged by his statement that “universalists hold that it is a necessary truth that all are saved,” with the clear implication that if it’s a necessary truth, then the greater hope is grounded in a deterministic metaphysics. Even God’s freedom, so Rooney argues, is fatally compromised by the universalist doctrine. As a lowly parish priest (retired!), I am not well-versed in the ins and outs of necessary truths. So I grabbed my virtual copy of The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy and found this explanation:

A necessary truth is one that could not have been otherwise. It would have been true under all circumstances. A contin­gent truth is one that is true, but could have been false. A necessary truth is one that must be true; a contin­gent truth is one that is true as it happens, or as things are, but that did not have to be true. In Leibniz’s phrase, a necessary truth is true in all possible worlds. If these are all the worlds that accord with the principles of logic, however different they may be otherwise, then the truth is a logically necessary truth. If they cover all the worlds whose metaphysics is possible, then the proposition is metaphysically necessary. If a proposition is only true in all the worlds that are physically possible, then the proposition is true of physical necessity.1

So what kind of necessary truth is the proposition God will save all human beings without exception—logically necessary, metaphysically necessary, or physically necessary? I’m not sure it fits into any of these categories, given that God is the transcendent Creator of necessity. The truth and necessity of the universalist proposition lies in God himself, who is infinite Being, perfect Goodness, and absolute Love. I’m happy to stipulate the following:

In his absolute and unconditional love, the God and Father of Jesus Christ has eternally and immutably determined to bring every human being into the love, bliss, and ecstatic joy of his Kingdom.

Does this proposition qualify as a necessary truth? I suppose it must, as there is no possible world in which God creates human beings where he does not will to save and deify all. Love is its own necessity.

This brings us to Rooney’s central claim:

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.

Rooney informs us that both #1 and #2 are heretical, as each entails the violation and denial of the freedom of the respective agent(s). If either is true, hard universalism is heretical. In this article I will focus on the first claim, as the second has received ample attention by universalist theologians over the past decades.

The Freedom of Divine Aseity

Question: What does “cause” mean in “God could not do otherwise than cause human beings to love him”?

  • Does it mean that God unilaterally changes the wills of obdurate sinners, something along the lines of an involuntary lobotomy? All universalists would reject this form of causal invasion.
  • Does it mean that God providentially places sinners in situations, perhaps acutely uncomfortable and painful, where conversion becomes compelling, even existentially necessary? St Paul’s encounter with the risen Christ would be an example of such divine causation.
  • Does it mean that God heals sinners from their disordered desires and passions, thereby liberating them for a relationship of friendship and love with their Creator?
  • Does it mean something along the lines of the Augustinian and Thomist construals of infallible or efficacious grace, whereby God “causes” sinners to freely repent of their sins and turn to him in faith? In that case, Rooney finds himself opposing not just universalists but a longstanding Latin tradition.

As both Jeremiah Carey and Thomas Talbott have noted, Rooney needs to clearly define causality in this context. Until corrected, I will assume that he is thinking of a divine action (or series of actions) that serves as the sufficient condition for the individual’s love of God.

Initial observation: the phrase “could not do otherwise” suggests that Rooney is attribut­ing libertarian freedom of choice to God. To be free God must enjoy the liberty to save or not save sinners in every possible world he might create, just as he must enjoy the same liberty to become or not become incarnate in every world he might create. If God lacks this freedom, then his salvific will is necessitated and determined. As Rooney likes to put it, “Necessitation is not Freedom” (NINF). As we shall see, however, the attribution of libertarian choice to the transcendent Creator is by no means uncontroversial and cannot be said to enjoy philosophical and theological consensus.

Most Christians will immediately balk at the unqualified suggestion that anything deter­mines the life and activities of the Holy Trinity. In his transcendence, aseity, eternality, and simplicity, God is absolute freedom. Even his inner Trinitarian processions, as St Bonaventure puts it, may be described as “natural and voluntary, free and necessary”2—free and voluntary, because God is the infinite plenitude of being; natural and necessary, because God eternally is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For the Seraphic Doctor, the voluntary is the most perfect mode of activity. Unlike St Thomas Aquinas, therefore, he has no problem saying that the Father freely and necessarily wills the begetting of the Son and the spiration of the Spirit.3 Not only may the Trinitarian processions be described as free (and necessary); but every ad extra action of the Trinity “within” his one eternal act of creation is, by metaphysical definition, absolutely free. Nothing compels God to act. He does not acquire greater being and happiness by his creating and doing, nor does he lose being and happiness by not creating and doing. God’s absolute freedom, in other words, is a given.

As a Latin theologian, Rooney is heir to the Augustinian-Thomist tradition that after humanity’s fall into sin and alienation, God remains free to decide whether or not to exercise his salvific will. Humanity does not deserve rescue, only judgment and dam­nation. If God should subsequently decide to save, it’s pure grace, contingent not necessary.4 Modern Eastern theologians, however, following St Maximus the Confessor, insist otherwise.5 God’s free decision to create includes his decision to save fallen humanity in Jesus Christ. Incarnation logically precedes creation. If humanity had not sinned, the eternal Son would still have embodied himself as a human being in order to divinize all; but given the Adamic Fall, the incarnate Son freely but necessarily embraces his soterio­logical mission of cross and resurrection, not as a second decision but as a decision made in God’s one eternal act. From the beginning, it’s all grace. In the words of the Apostle Paul:

Christ is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Col 1:15-20)

But given that the majority of Eastern theologians also affirm everlasting perdition, this difference between the traditions would appear to be irrelevant for the present discussion. But perhaps not completely irrelevant. Orthodox universalists like myself believe that God’s eternal determination to reconcile and deify all sinners is intrinsic to God’s eternal decision to create rational beings in the image of his incarnate Son.

So why does the universalist disagree with Rooney’s claim that universal salvation implies the heretical necessitation of God’s salvific will? Perhaps it’s just the word necessitation, which seems to imply that God is compelled to save against his desire and will. We need to be clear: In and because of his aseity, all of God’s ad extra actions are performed in utter freedom. Nothing external or internal coerces him to act. But perhaps Rooney has in mind what philosophers call natural necessity: an agent performs an action by natural necessity when its nature functions as the principle of its action.6 Natural necessity typically obtains when the agent is inanimate or nonrational.

  • If it rains hard and long enough, a river will pour over its banks and flood the valley.
  • If the wind blows hard enough, a hanging apple will fall from the tree.
  • If you touch a lighted match to a dry piece of paper, it will catch fire.
  • If it’s hungry, a tiger will seek a lamb to devour.
  • If you feed and care for a dog, it will love you. If it doesn’t, there’s something terribly wrong with you.

In all such cases, the being necessarily acts according to its nature; it is not free to do otherwise. Human beings may also be described as acting according to nature if their disordered desires and addictions inhibit their willing according to the sound dictates of reason.

Free action, on the other hand, always involves three elements: knowledge, volition, consent/approval. And so it is with God: he knows what he wants; he wills and approves what he does. He is the absolute and final source of all his decisions. In his divine simplicity, God is his will and therefore is freely willed action. His ad extra activities are intrinsically voluntary, self-determined, non-necessitated—even if he always does what he does in every possible world. Nothing can compel him to will and act; nothing can inhibit him from expressing his nature and achieving his ends. He is incomparably free in his divine aseity and omnipotence. God, we might say, is the ultimate source incompatibilist. He is totally responsible for his actions. Divine freedom does not logically entail the ability to do otherwise and therefore does not require libertarian free choice.7

The Freedom and Necessity of the Good

In his article Rooney takes David Bentley Hart to task for teaching that God’s creation of the world is necessary. Divine freedom necessarily entails the ability to choose between creating or not creating the world. Rooney’s understanding is dependent upon St Thomas Aquinas, among others. Philosopher Katherin Rogers advances an interpretation of St Anselm that challenges Rooney’s Thomistic construal of divine freedom. Like all medieval philosophers, she tells us, Anselm affirms that God’s creation of the world is free and voluntary. He does not need to create in order to fill an ontological lack or defect. How­ever, she goes on to say, Anselm’s understanding of the divine goodness—God always does the best—logically leads to the conclusion the creation of the world was in fact inevitable:

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 and in this, I take it, he is in the company of many if not most western philoso­phers, including Augustine and Thomas. Anselm explicitly rejects the view that freedom is the ability to sin or not, since he wants a definition which can apply univocally to men, angels, and God. But the good angels in their present state cannot sin, and God never could. . . .

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.

Anselm defines freedom as “the ability to keep rightness of will for its own sake” and being able to choose otherwise is not a requirement for this ability. Interestingly, Anselm does conclude that rational creatures, in order to merit praise and blame, must, at some point in their careers as agents, have been able to choose between radically open options. Created agents do need the sort of “morally significant” freedom that involves being able to choose between good and evil. This is the only way in which the creature, which exists entirely per aliud, can make a choice on its own.

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. . . . God’s freedom does not entail options.8

Rogers’ point about options is crucial yet easily overlooked. As soon as the question of divine freedom is raised, we immediately slip into ontic divinity mode. We think of God as a being among beings who must navigate a multitude of choices. And of course his first choice, so we think, was to decide whether to create or not create a finite universe. And then he had to decide what kind of beings he wants to populate within it. And so on and so forth . . . a grand cosmos-building sim game. But what if God is not a being but transcendent, divinely simple actuality? What if God does not choose between alternatives, which would imply that he suffers from passive potentiality, but is the doer and doing, the savior and saving of creation? God is his eternal act of existence—ipsum esse subsistens. Or perhaps even better: Deus suus actus amandi est—“God is his act of loving.”

Rogers acknowledges that Anselm does not explicitly affirm the inevitability of divine creation—it wasn’t a burning question at the time he lived—but Anselm had no qualms about affirming the necessity of the Incarnation:

God exists a se, He cannot fail to do what is best, and in Cur deus homo, the conclusion is that, since only a God-man can effect the completion of the work God started with the creation of man, God ‘must’ become Incarnate. God’s act of Incarnation and sacrifice is ‘necessary’ in that He could not will otherwise, and yet it is entirely free by the definition of ‘free will’ that Anselm developed in De libertate arbitrii. . . . Thus we have good reason to take it that Anselm’s point in Cur deus homo that God’s freedom does not require choosing between open options is intended to apply to any divine act, not just to actions relative to a given world. Rather, divine freedom is entirely consistent with God doing the best as an inevitability of His nature.10

Once God decides to create human beings, then, thinks Anselm, he is obligated to his Goodness to become the man Jesus Christ and make atonement for the sins of the world. God always does his best. To do otherwise would be for God to deny himself.

Both Thomas and Anselm affirm that God is free in his act of creation. For Thomas, though, this means God was equally indifferent to the three options before him—to create this world,  to create a different world, or not to create any world at all. For this reason God’s creation of the world must be seen as an eruption of pure voluntarist will and therefore arbitrary. No decisive reason can be offered.11 But Anselm comes at the matter from a different starting point:

But perhaps the issue is this: the God of traditional, classical theism is absolutely and necessarily perfect in every way. He cannot possibly be in need of anything. As Aquinas understands choice, one wills a means to an end by necessity only if one cannot achieve one’s end without it. But God does not need anything outside of Himself to make Him perfect, and so there can be no question of His willing creation by necessity. Certainly Anselm does not think that God ‘needs’ creation. He makes the point that the three persons of the Trinity have no need of each other, though their mutual relationships are necessary and could not possibly be otherwise. Anselm is simply starting from other (possibly more Platonic?) assumptions than is Aquinas. God does not see creation as a means to some further end. God’s act of creation is an outward-turning choice, not made from a need to perfect Himself, but simply because He wants the world to be. He loves creation not for what it can do for Him, but for itself. God ‘must’ create, not because creation adds to His perfection, but because it expresses it. True, Anselm apparently believes that God cannot fail to express Himself in creation, but the ‘cannot’ is a function not of some lack or need in God, but of His infinite and immutable goodness.12

I quote the above not to deflect our discussion into another topic, but simply to point out the diversity of understandings of divine freedom and necessity.

So why does the universalist believe that God freely, necessarily, and efficaciously wills the salvation of all? The answer is simple: because God is Love.

God loves the cosmos into being.
He loves every human being into existence.
He loves and will love each unto deification and glory.

In love he became Man in Jesus Christ.
In love he died on the cross for the sins of the world.
In love he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.
In love he poured out the Spirit on all flesh.
In love he will return in glory to judge the quick and the dead.
In love he will restore all of creation to himself.
In love he will be all in all.

God always acts in Love and Goodness, in every possible world.
God always wills the good; he always does the best.
And the best, the very, very best, is apokatastasis.

Love is its own necessity . . . and its own freedom.

(Revised: 17 January 2023)

Footnotes

[1] The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, 2nd ed., p. 248.

[2] Bonaventure, Itinerarium Mentis in Deum, chap. 6. On Bonaventure’s understanding of divinity and necessity, see Zachary Hayes’s “Introduction” to Bonaventure, Disputed Questions on the Mystery of the Trinity (2000), pp. 45-46, 97-100. Hayes writes:

But of all the types [of necessity] which may be distinguished, it is only a completely intrinsic necessity springing from the very nature of the being in question that can be applied to God. It is that type of necessity which Bonaventure calls a necessity of immutability or independence. By it he wishes to say that God is in no way necessitated by anything outside Himself and is in no way dependent on others for His fullness of being. He is fully and completely self-sufficient and completely true to his nature. He can be in no other way than He is. Such an understanding of necessity does not conflict with the freedom of the divine will, as would be the case with the other types of necessity. It is precisely because God is fully self-sufficient in Himself that He can communicate Himself freely to others without any loss or any threat of loss. (p. 98)

[3] On this point I am indebted to several telephone and online discussions with Jared Goff.

[4] Let’s put to the side, for the moment, the observation that this understanding of gratuitous (arbitrary?) grace overthrows the fundamental Chritian apprehension of God as absolute love. The gospel is reduced to conditional promise, i.e., law. See “Preaching Good Good Very Good News.”

[5] See Georges Florovsky, “Cur Deus Homo? The Motive of the IncarnationCollected Works of Georges Florovsky, Vol. III: Creation and Redemption (1976), pp. 163-170; Bogdan Bucur, “Foreordained From All Eternity,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 62 (2008): 199-215; Artemije Radosavljević, “Deification as the End and Fulfillment of Salvation According to St. Maximos the Confessor.”

[6] Julie Swanstrom, “Avicenna’s Account of Creation by Divine Voluntary Emanation,” Otrosiglo 1 (2017): 115-116.

[7] See Tobias Hoffman, “Freedom Without Choice: Medieval Theories of the Essence of Freedom,” in The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Ethics (2019), pp. 194–216; and my article “Avicenna and Aquinas: Ruminating Divine Freedom.”

[8] Katherin Rogers, “Anselm on God’s Perfect Freedom,” The Saint Anselm Journal 1.1 (Fall 2003): 3-4; emphasis mine. In a recent email to me (31 October 2022), philosopher Eric Perl writes: “Philosophically speaking, the notion of a God who ‘might-or-might-not-create,’ and who ‘chooses’ to create in the sense of choosing between alternatives, is anthropomorphic nonsense.” Perl then goes on to say that he seriously doubts that Aquinas is guilty of such a blunder: “If God ‘might not create,’ or ‘might-or-might-not-create,’ then (a) God-creating is different from God-not-creating, (b) there is a real distinction in God between the divine essence and the act-of-creating, (c) that act is an accident in God, and (d) that accident is a real relation of God to the world. Aquinas expressly repudiates (a), (b), (c), and (d). So unless he’s totally inconsistent, he can’t mean that God ‘might-or-might-not-create.’” Also see “Avicenna and Aquinas: Ruminating Divine Freedom and Necessity.”

[9] I confess I find it virtually impossible to contemplate God in his transcendence and even more so to articulate. How do we think Deity beyond being and his decision to create the cosmos? And of course we can’t. Inevitably we think of him as a being confronted by a variety of choices. Reading Dionysius the Areopagite several years ago, with Eric Perl as my guide, was a real eye-opener for me. See, e.g., my article “Transcending Freedom and Necessity.” Until one has glimpsed the radical difference between Creator and creature, statements like the following will make little sense:

God is not a finite being in whom the distinction of freedom from necessity has any meaning. Perfect freedom is the unhindered realization of a nature in its proper end; and God’s infinite freedom is the eternal fulfillment of the divine nature in the divine life.” (David Bentley Hart, You Are Gods [2022], p. 115)

As such, the One itself just is the ‘making’ of all things: not a thing-which-makes, which would imply a distinction between the One and its act of making and thus treat the One as a being and as having activities distinct from itself, but simply ‘making’ itself, not an ontic producer but rather the production of all things. As Plotinus so often says, the One is not any thing but rather the “power of all things,” . . . the enabling condition in virtue of which they are beings. Thus if we are to speak of the generation of being in terms of ‘will’ or ‘activity’ at all, we must allow no distinction between the One and its will or activity but say that this will or activity just is the One itself. (Eric Perl, Thinking Being [2014], p. 124)

[10] Katherin Rogers, Anselm on Freedom (2008), pp. 191, 194-195. I am told that Rogers’ interpretation of Anselm is contested on this point.

[12] “[For Thomas] the decision to create has nothing directly to do with the divine goodness, since it is an arbitrary and radically free act of the divine will.” Kevin Keane, “Why Creation? Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas on God as Creative Good,” Downside Review 95 (April 1975): 101.

[12] Rogers, Anselm on Freedom, p. 200.

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85 Responses to Universal Salvation: Love Is Its Own Necessity

  1. Fr. JD, OP says:

    The question is what makes it true that all will necessarily be saved. You need to identify what that is clearly before you figure out what my response is to your position, since I responded to the three possible ways universalism can be true.

    If I understand this correctly (“…God’s eternal determination to reconcile and deify all sinners is intrinsic to God’s eternal decision to create rational beings in the image of his incarnate Son”), what you need to respond to is either the criticisms of my first or last options in the dilemma.

    Put aside all the concerns about freedom, because they’re a distraction from what we’re discussing here.

    The first option seems to me much more serious, and I think it’s the way you, DBH, and Jordan Wood go. This is that you think God makes an eternal decision such that God cannot have done otherwise than create and save human beings, because God being the Good requires that He always act this way. This simply makes God dependent on the universe, implying a form of pantheism, because God has an essential relation to the universe. This is obviously true if you accept that account of modality implied by possible world semantics, since you said that God necessarily does exactly the same thing in every universe – on that possible world semantics, this entails that God is essentially related to the universe. Now, you can give another account of essence, but you seem to think that God’s essence involves necessarily creating and redeeming. If this is essential to God, you have a deep problem in your account of the divine nature.

    The problem with the first option is that God would not be God. God would not be the origin of all being and goodness, but a dependent thing; or, you think the universe is akin to a fourth person of the Trinity (distinct in hypostasis but not in nature); or, you think the universe is essential to the eternal procession of the Son. All of these are bad, serious, and should be entirely rejected. The reason is that all the options are heretical accounts of the divine nature, by everyone’s lights Orthodox, Catholic, and mainline Protestant, and that each these accounts is a kind of nonsense (i.e., saying God is essentially related to the universe is going to lead you into the equivalent of affirming the existence of a ‘shapeless square’).

    The second option is that you think God can have no good justifying reason for permitting anyone to persist in mortal sin forever, in the sense that not even God could achieve suitable greater goods by virtue of this permission. Nothing of what you’ve said shows that this is true.

    But don’t forget Part II!

    https://churchlifejournal.nd.edu/articles/hell-and-the-coherence-of-christian-hope/

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    • Iainlovejoy says:

      “This is that you think God makes an eternal decision such that God cannot have done otherwise than create and save human beings, because God being the Good requires that He always act this way. This simply makes God dependent on the universe, implying a form of pantheism, because God has an essential relation to the universe.”
      You are simply concatenating two different statements and pretending they are the same to make a frankly disingenuous point. Whether God might not have created, and whether God, having created human beings, and having seen them fall into sin and death, might then abandon them to eternal torment, are completely different questions, and your entire point about God’s “essential relation to the universe” is about the first question, not the second.
      Your objection about saying God “cannot” also relies on slight of hand. God is not God if there is nothing he cannot do, in the sense he is omnipotent – this everyone agrees. The sense in which God “cannot” abandon his wayward children to hell is, however, the same sense in which we say, with absolute Christian orthodoxy, God “cannot” sin. Your position really seems to rely on the idea that God is not inherently good, and to be God is free to be, and indeed might be, good or evil as God chooses.
      You also seem to be asserting the position that God damns people to hell according to some extrinsic purpose that we don’t know. If that were the case, it would be the sinners in hell dying eternally whose sacrifice saved the world, not Christ’s, which is scarcely Christian, and God would be exploiting their eternal suffering for his own purposes, which is basically evil.
      Universalism is only necessarily true if God is good, and your arguments rely on God capable of evil. And you call universalism heresy!

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    • David says:

      Father, consider that the sun necessarily heats the earth – in the sense that, if there is an earth, the sun will heat it – but that does not make the sun dependent on the earth.

      Likewise, God necessarily creates – in the sense, if there there is a ‘nothing’ (other than God), God will necessarily fill it with a ‘something’ (i.e. create) – but that does not make God dependent on that something, on creation.

      I think you are confusing the issue by failing to take into account what is true of God intrinsically and what is true by extrinsic denomination.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Calvin says:

      “The second option is that you think God can have no good justifying reason for permitting anyone to persist in mortal sin forever, in the sense that not even God could achieve suitable greater goods by virtue of this permission. Nothing of what you’ve said shows that this is true.”

      Because it is metaphysically impossible for there to be any “goods” outside of union with the Good, therefore there is no “greater good” which could ever be achieved by anything less than that. It’s incredibly obvious.

      Moreover, it is a lie under the absolute predestination which you admit to believing in to say God “permits” anything. Say what you mean plainly and stop attempting to obfuscate it.

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  2. Fr. JD, OP says:

    Also, I think it’s important to see that universalism is really problematic on many different levels in terms of other heretical beliefs it entails. I’ve only mentioned some of the more prominent. But since the folks here always inevitably get up on bickering about free will, you might consider that, if universalism were true, Pelagianism would also be true.

    What did original sin do? According to orthodox Christianity, it was an actual mortal sin. Original sin earned eternal spiritual death. Death of the body is an image of that. But universalists have to reject this, since they reject that anyone merits eternal spiritual death.

    That leaves them needing to find other options: there are precisely three. Either original sin does not involve spiritual death because
    1. sin is by nature impossible.
    2. only venial sin is possible.
    3. mortal sin is possible and maybe actual but God has no reason to permit a state such that, if God does not help, you would remain in it forever.

    1. straight forwardly would undermine the Christian claims about Adam and Eve sinning. Put those aside. If 1 allows there is free action toward the good, 1. then could imply that we can by nature do good deeds, without God’s special grace. This is Pelagianism exactly.

    2. is like 1. But grant we need grace to live a life of charity, it’s not by nature, and that God allows us to resist grace insofar as we can damage our relationship to Him but not lose charity. Here the implication is that original sin did not lose charity.
    If original sin did not lose grace for human beings (since one can only have charity in a state of grace), then baptism and sacraments are not necessary means for restoring humans to grace, as applying His sacrifice to us. Christ’s sacrifice only left us a good example. Pelagius!

    3. says God has no reason to permit anyone to persist in a state such a that, without His help, you would remain in mortal sin. (Pelagius claimed it would be unjust to permit anyone to be punished for the actions of others. Expand that to include those of my past self!) On 3, it seems God’s grace is not freely given. God’s decisions to give grace would be a necessary consequence of God’s nature and His decision to create human beings. But, if so, grace does not appear to be grace anymore; it is something we merit by nature.

    Of course, the last point lands us back with problematic pantheistic theories of God’s nature, which seriously problematic assumptions are in the backdrop of contemporary defenses of universalism. My point, again, is that these assumptions about God’s nature that are playing a serious background role in motivating universalism for many here are not as innocent as they seem. They are profoundly heretical in the sense that they undermine the whole orthodox Christian story at the roots and substitute a distinct Gospel.

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    • Iainlovejoy says:

      This makes no sense. Asserting God will save everyone because God is good is not the same as saying God will save everyone because we are good, as you must surely be aware.
      Your second point is basically the same repeated one that you keep making, which boils down to that God must be capable of evil in order to be good: in this case saying God must be capable of not being gracious in order for grace to count as grace. Asserting other people are heretical in the circumstances is a bit of a cheek, frankly.

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    • David says:

      Father, regarding your worry in option 3 – that grace would not be “freely given” if it necessarily followed from God’s nature – seems to depend upon a libertarian and voluntarist construal of divine freedom that is highly contestable. Consider that the fact God – having made a promise to Abraham – will necessarily keep it does not mean that God does not freely keep his promise.

      I’d also ask you to imagine that you came across an evil man – perhaps someone who had killed your entire family – injured on the roadside. I’m sure you know that it would be your Christian duty to treat him with respect and care, to nurse him back to heath, to love him, to forgive him – in short to show him grace. I’d suggest two conclusions we can draw from this are:

      1) this would not mean that this individual ‘deserves’ grace – it’s simply that the fulfilment of human nature requires conformity to the good, which in turn requires showing grace in such situations (and the same goes for God)

      2) just because humans – in order to conform to their nature – must show grace, it does not mean this grace is not given freely (consider the fact that Jesus could hardly have decided not to show grace and mercy during his earthly ministry and somehow still count as ‘good’ – to reject grace is to reject God)

      The point is that grace and mercy are not mere optional extras for humans and that we cannot count as ‘good’ – we cannot act in conformity with our nature – if we chose to reject them.

      The next question I ask myself is “am I better than God?”. It seems pretty obvious to me that I am not and therefore that – if showing grace and mercy is an essential constituent of perfect human goodness – then we cannot hold God to a lower standard than we do ourselves.

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    • Calvin says:

      If your orthodoxy, rightly considered, is a cosmic horror story to dwarf anything Lovecraft could ever have imagined by orders of magnitude, then maybe your orthodoxy is just a falsehood.

      Like

  3. Iainlovejoy says:

    By the logic that inevitability and necessity are the same, for God to be free, God must be capable of sin, and could have chosen to sin, and just happened not to. To say otherwise is apparently heretical as imposing a necessity on God. Even if one arbitrarily carves out a necessity not to sin as somehow different, it doesn’t really help. Imperfection in love is a sin, and the whole point of universalism is that abandoning people unnecessarily for eternity in hell is an imperfection in love, which is why we can be 100% confident God won’t do it.

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    • Matt says:

      The necessity of human death is counterbalanced by the necessity of God’s love. Could It be?

      Like

    • Fr. JD, OP says:

      Being able to do otherwise does not require being able to sin. Conversely, being unable to do otherwise, simply speaking, is not the same as being unable to sin. We are talking about different things.

      If it is the case that God can do otherwise than He does, that does not imply that He can sin; it means, for example, that He could not have created the universe, but also that could have created a better one than this, etc.

      Here’s a possibility: it would have been possible for God to create a universe in which nobody had ever sinned and in which the Holocaust never occurred. Do you agree that God can do this? I do.

      Like

      • Fr. JD, OP says:

        [To run the logic a little more clearly:]

        Denying God can do otherwise entails that God cannot merely permit evil.

        If this world contains horrendous evils, e.g., the Holocaust, these are metaphysically necessary. All worlds God could make involve them all.

        If God can create worlds without them, He merely permits them.

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      • Iainlovejoy says:

        You are again undermining your own argument. Universalism claims that God, by his nature, could never leave his creatures eternally in hell, and so will in the end save even all those confined there. You claim this is heresy because it restricts God’s freedom and limits what God can and cannot do. At the same time, however, you concede that there are indeed at least some things that God by his nature cannot do (i.e. sin) and this doesn’t limit his freedom. This is a contradiction.

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        • Fr. JD, OP says:

          I do not think you understand. My argument depends on the claim that the only limits on God’s omnipotence arose from logical possibility and from His own intentions. My argument has been that neither of these limits can account for the truth of your claim that “God, by his nature, could never leave his creatures eternally in hell.” If God cannot do otherwise than this, something makes it true. These limits were simply how I derive the three possibilities that I listed as to what makes universalism true!

          “God by His nature needs human beings, logically speaking.”

          BUT to hold this is pantheism.

          OR

          “God by His nature cannot do otherwise than cause human beings to love Him to the end either [1] because they are human or they act a certain way (e.g., love God by natural necessity) or [2] to let any individual fail to love Him would be to fail to bring about a greater good by permission of sin.”

          BUT to hold [1] is Pelagianism or something similar. And [2] cannot be shown to be true, except on dubious false assumptions about the nature of hell. I argued we cannot know that God could not be able to bring about greater goods than damnation through permitting it.

          Thus, my argument is simply that God, by His nature, needs to do none of what you claim He must do.

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          • Iainlovejoy says:

            “Thus, my argument is simply that God, by His nature, needs to do none of what you claim He must do.”
            With respect, that’s not the argument you originally made. Your argument was that it was heresy to suggest that God by his nature necessarily did anything or avoided doing anything at all. Without that argument (which you now retreat from) it is down to what in fact it is or is not in God’s nature to do.
            You assert that it is within God’s nature to deliberately abandon or potentially abandon at least some people to eternal conscious torment; universalists assert that it is not. To say that it is within God’s nature to do so is to run contrary to declaration after declaration in the Bible that it isn’t. Your only justification for this is that there might be some completely unknowable good that comes from it. I really don’t understand what good you think that could be. It cannot be a good for God, since, by your own argument which we all agree on, God has nothing that for himself he needs or wants. It cannot be for the sinners in hell themselves, since that would mean they would be better off unsaved than saved, which is absurd. The only persons, therefore, that it could be a good for is the saved, which means that they would be being saved, or somehow achieving greater bliss, at the expense of the deliberate sacrifice and eternal torment of the damned. Is that what you really believe? If so, then your belief is as bad as the “abominable fancy”, the idea that the saved are entertained and increased in bliss by observing the torments of the damned, and, which is worse, you would believe that God saves us not through sending us Christ who voluntarily sacrificed himself and descended to hell to save us from it, but through the involuntary sacrificing of sinners to eternal torment.

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          • Calvin says:

            1) Humans obviously love the Good by natural necessity, as a condition of willing anything at all. This is where your dualism comes in, as you must separate God from the Good to make any claims that humans do not do so by nature.

            2) Given that the damnation of even a single individual would be an infinite evil, it is not mathematically possible for there to be any good greater than it. Therefore basic logic informs us that no such reason could exist.

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  4. Robert F says:

    I’m no trained philosopher or theologian. I’m trying to learn how to go from treading to swimming in deep waters that I’ve found myself thrown into by virtue of having been born, and part of that is trying to listen to others, and think through these matters for myself, matters which have always seemed vitally important to me. Having said that, I will add my two cents by saying that I think the issue that divides Fr. Rooney from the Fr. Kimel and most of the commenters here (including me) is a matter moral imagination. I, for one, can imagine a Creator God choosing between different goods in the act of creation, as I assume there are many different kinds of good that God could choose to realize in the act of creating. But I cannot imagine a good God choosing a creation in which any of his creatures would wind up in a state of eternal, tormented separation from him. I don’t imagine this as a choice between real goods, but rather as an illusory choice that might be made by a Gnostic Demiurge, thinking, in its ignorance and self-delusion, that it is the Creator, and that its twisted act of imitation is authentic Divine creation. A god playing God, and getting it all wrong — that’s the only kind of god I can imagine choosing to allow such a fate for beings it thinks it has created. Fortunately, that god is not our Creator, and lacks the power to realize such a perverse choice.

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    • Fr. JD, OP says:

      The mere incapacity to imagine why God might allow some to be separated from Him eternally does not give us good reason to believe it is not possible, however. And we do not need any reason to say that we should trust that whatever God might do is good, even if He were to allow hell: https://churchlifejournal.nd.edu/articles/hell-and-the-coherence-of-christian-hope/

      So, in other words, I do not find a mere inability to conceive of a possible reason God could have any compelling reason to embrace universalism. It might be possible God allows hell, it might not. The Christian orthodox tradition disclaims knowledge of what God’s ultimate goal might be, only affirming that it is possible for people to go to hell forever. I’ve argued that the possibility is a necessary component of Christianity. Otherwise, grace is not grace. That’s the serious deep issue at the heart of this discussion.

      Like

      • Fr. JD, OP says:

        Sorry, to clarify, I meant we do not know whether it is possible God allows *some to be actually lost* as opposed to the mere unactualized possibility.

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      • Calvin says:

        What? The incapacity to imagine why God might “allow” (really: cause) some to be tormented for all eternity gives us excellent reason to suppose it is not possible, simply because moral reason makes it quite obvious that there is none that could ever be a metaphysical possibility. As morality exists logically prior to any claims of revelation, any such claims of which such cruel absurdity are necessary components can only be false revelations.

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      • Robert F says:

        Thank you for your reply, Fr. Rooney.

        On the basis of what you say, it seems to me that any picture/description of divinity could be justified, however morally repugnant, and anything such a god did or does could be morally justified. In short, it would be impossible to determine the difference between God and demons, or between the God and Father of Jesus Christ from the god of the Aztec priests offering human sacrifices. It would also be impossible to use morality to determine whether what is said of such a god’s character and actions would disqualify them from consideration in identifying the true God. Furthermore, any action, however morally repulsive, could be justified on the part of devotees to such a god, and there would be no moral guideline to adjudicate the claims or actions either of such pretenders to Godhood, or their followers, because nothing is more morally repulsive than letting/making (the distinction is without difference) sentient beings exist forever in a state of eternal, conscious torment.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Fr. JD, OP says:

          “…any picture/description of divinity could be justified, however morally repugnant, and anything such a god did or does could be morally justified.”

          What in my claims required this to be the case? I think it is fairly obvious that God is quite different from demons on the basis of being the Good itself. I do not deny that we can know God is good, but that we cannot know whether He has a good reason (that is, a reason in harmony with that goodness) for any given instance of evil and suffering, which would permit Him to allow that evil in light of His good purposes.

          So, you are misinterpreting what I am saying, it seems to me.

          “nothing is more morally repulsive than letting/making (the distinction is without difference) sentient beings exist forever in a state of eternal, conscious torment.”

          This, I think, is the crux. You do not see any reason that God could have for allowing that state. But it’s not a logical contradiction with God’s goodness. It’s not a contradiction with God’s desire to create human beings who are free that they can do this. Human beings are not such that they would cease to be human when they persist in mortal sin forever, i.e., exist in hell. There is nothing in the situation that actually entails a logical contradiction. Hell is a metaphysical possibility.

          Now, you can suspect there is, I think, merely because you cannot imagine any possible situation that could serve as a counterexample where God is good and He allows hell, because you can see no good that could possibly come of it. This is where, by contrast, I think we can be confident, trusting God that there is some such good, if God were to permit hell to exist.

          This position of mine does not require thinking God would act immorally, contrary to our moral intuitions, but that we just cannot *see* how it is that God is acting well according to all of those intuitions. So, I take hell to be identical with any other instance of horrendous evil, like the Holocaust. I see that evil and have no way of explaining why it is that God allowed it. I even think it would likely be problematic to try to do so. But I do not doubt that God has such a good reason to permit it.

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          • Calvin says:

            “But it’s not a logical contradiction with God’s goodness. It’s not a contradiction with God’s desire to create human beings who are free that they can do this.”

            Yes it is. To establish an evil which last forever is in fact the exact opposite of goodness and therefore constitutes a logical contradiction to the claim of goodness.

            Also, your definition of “freedom” is wildly incoherent notion driven by absolutely nothing but a will to believe in an eternal hell for the sake of believing it. You switch between libertarian and compatibilist positions freely depending on whether you are calling universalists determinists or Pelagians this week. You believe in an absolute predestination and then have the gall to say “freedom” as a reason for believing in an eternity of torment.

            Like

          • David says:

            ” So, I take hell to be identical with any other instance of horrendous evil, like the Holocaust.”

            The difference here is that hell is an endless evil, whereas the holocaust – evil as it was – did not last forever and therefore in principle can be redeemed.

            Also remember that there is no higher good for human beings other than loving God – I’m sure you agree that “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

            Therefore you should note that the holocaust does not involve man’s highest good being denied. Eternal hell, on the other hand, does deny man’s highest good.

            However you posit that there is some ‘higher good’ which God desires *more* than his children loving him, i.e. you think it is acceptable for God to allow man’s chief end to be denied, because he has some even more important ‘end’ in sight.

            But there are two major problems with this view

            1) It implies an instrumentalist and utilitarian morality – an ‘ends justify the means’ approach – which of course is contrary to the Church’s ethical teachings. The idea that an endless and irredeemable evil could ever be justified is illogical – because it is literally irredeemable, i.e. nothing could make it right.

            2) No genuine father could ever love something more than he loved his own children. But Jesus teaches us that God *is* our Father. If you think there is a *higher end* that God loves more than the good of his own children, then you must deny that God is our Father.

            So you see, it’s a not a problem of ‘imagination’ – it’s a problem of logic. It is not logically consistent to hold that 1) humans’ chief end is to love God; 2) God loves humans unconditionally as their Father; and 3) God permits humans’ chief end to be denied because God values certain goods more than he values the good of human beings.

            Liked by 2 people

          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            Well stated, David. Impeccable logic.

            Like

          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            The “greater good” defense of eternal damnation is without doubt the worst possible argument. The same logic is employed by Calvinist double predestinarians and Augustinian-Thomist preteritionists. It can be used to justify any evil. Ultimately, it is nothing more than might makes right. It has no place in Christian discourse.

            When God Becomes Jack Bauer: Torture, Hell, and the Greater Good

            Liked by 1 person

          • Fr. JD, OP says:

            “The “greater good” defense of eternal damnation is without doubt the worst possible argument.”

            I would point out that appeal to greater goods – namely, that of final union of all with God – is precisely what universalists appeal to in order to justify evils as well. So it would be inconsistent for universalists to reject appeal to greater goods in principle. If the sufferings of this life were not permitted on account of the goods involved in that final union, that make such sufferings negligible, then God would be pretty bad (I take it) to allow all the suffering along the way.

            What I believe you mean is that not everything God can do would be justified by production of greater goods. Utilitarianism is wrong because there are intrinsically evil acts, like torture (Jack Bauer), so that intentionally choosing to torture so as to achieve greater goods would be an evil act. But this merely misrepresents the orthodox position on hell. On the orthodox classical picture, God merely permits the evil of hell, but does not positively intend it. So this objection misfires. You might think God is omnipotent and can do literally anything. But God cannot – as you yourself insist – given His being the Good itself. There are some actions which are either logically impossible or impossible given God’s intentions to achieve certain goods. But God can exist without us, so no logical contradiction, and God can create humans without raising them to grace, so no problem on the second option either.

            All we could possibly think is that God’s intention to raise humans to grace before the Fall is what implies that God must do something to repair the Fall – and I agree! But that’s not an argument for universalism, since it entails the necessary possibility of eternal separation from God. If God cannot achieve what greater goods He intends to bring about except by permission of the possibility of hell in the possibility of the Fall (losing supernatural grace *happened* and would not have been repaired without the atonement, i.e., a state of spiritual death was actual and therefore necessarily possible someone could persist in it forever metaphysically), we ONLY know strictly that God intends to achieve a proportionately greater good which will defeat that spiritual death, at the end of time, through Christ.

            What we would need to ask is whether that situation He aims to bring about at the end of time would, in fact, be a proportionate good that would defeat even the badness involved in hell’s existence, or whether it could not possibly involve an eternal hell. And we cannot prove that there is NO possible state at the end times that would defeat the badness of hell. The fact someone cannot imagine what that end state might look like is no objection to its possibility. [But I think we can also give an account of the way in which that might be possible, which I hope to share with you all in a future article.]

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          • Calvin says:

            “But this merely misrepresents the orthodox position on hell. On the orthodox classical picture, God merely permits the evil of hell, but does not positively intend it. So this objection misfires.”

            You are, by any measure, simply lying. Does this not bother you at all?

            Like

          • David says:

            Father Rooney, you seem to be skipping over most of the substantive points, so I will try to restate them more succinctly:

            Man’s chief end is to love God. If God acts in a way that allowed this chief end to be frustrated and subordinated to some ‘higher good’, this would mean:

            1) He would be treating us as a means, not an end – because he would be subordinating our good to some higher good – which is contrary to the Church’s ethical teachings.

            2) He would not be acting towards us as a loving Father would act – which is contrary to Jesus’ teachings

            You have not addressed point 2 at all. As for point 1, you point out that universalists might sometimes appeal to ‘higher goods’ – and that therefore for all we know there is some higher good that would justify hell.

            But the problem is not ‘higher goods’ per se – the problem is allowing man’s ‘chief end’ to be frustrated in order to achieve this ‘higher good’ – because to do so would be to treat human beings as instruments, as a means to an end.

            God’s permitting temporary evils do not fall foul of this objection, so long as this permission is ultimately aimed at achieving man’s ‘chief end’ – in which case God would (by definition) be treating us as an end in itself. Whereas if God allowed man’s ‘chief end’ to be frustrated in order to achieve some other end, this would very obviously be to treat us as a means, not an end.

            So I hope you now see that it is not good enough for you to say that Universalists are wrong because they cannot prove there is a ‘higher good’. The status of any such good is in fact irrelevant.

            The point is that we know what *our* highest good is – to love God – and if God chose to allow the frustration of our highest good in order to achieve some supposedly ‘higher good’ – then he would not be acting towards us as a loving father, and he would be treating us as a means, not end.

            Liked by 1 person

      • kenanada says:

        Fr. Rooney…the following is what you have argued is at the core of this debate…

        “I’ve argued that the possibility (of an eternal hell) is a necessary component of Christianity. Otherwise, grace is not grace. That’s the serious deep issue at the heart of this discussion.”

        I understand you to be saying that if the possibility of a place of eternal conscious torment doesn’t exist then grace would be diluted because the death sentence that God commutes is less hideous.

        Similarly, I’ve heard clergymen argue that without an eternal hell, God would never have sent His Son to endure the agony of the cross. One author I’ve recently read put it this way… “It is the greatest defence of hell, for surely if there is not an eternal hell of the greatest possible torments, God would not have sent His Son to endure such agony. Without hell there would be no need for the cross. Given the historical fact of Christ’s crucifixion, God would be a moral monster if there were not an eternal hell to demand such penal suffering. If there is no hell, either Jesus is not God’s son or God is not good.”

        I think that your view of grace and this author’s view of the cross illustrates a fundamental error in your and his soteriology. God’s grace and Jesus’ mission on earth did not save us from an eternal hell.

        Jesus, in fact, came to save us from sin. As the angel told Joseph…
        “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

        Jesus did not come to deliver us from punishment or the consequences of our sin. He came to deliver us from bondage to sin.
        “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4-5

        God’s punishment flows out of His hatred for sin because God hates the devastating consequences that sin has on His creation. His utter hatred for sin is an understandable reaction of a God who supremely loves sinners. It follows therefore that God must not just punish sin, but in the words of George MacDonald, “He must destroy sin in every man.” A God who only punishes sin infinitely, without destroying it in His creation is less loving than the God who does.

        And respectfully, I’ll ask you again Fr. Rooney.
        How certain are you, that you will be saved and why?
        I would love the opportunity for a follow up – based on your answer.

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        • Fr. JD, OP says:

          “I understand you to be saying that if the possibility of a place of eternal conscious torment doesn’t exist then grace would be diluted because the death sentence that God commutes is less hideous.”

          Let me stop you right there: you’ve misunderstood all that I have said.

          “God’s grace and Jesus’ mission on earth did not save us from an eternal hell. Jesus, in fact, came to save us from sin.”

          This is, in fact, my position. An eternal hell just is the same as persisting in mortal sin forever. They are literally identical states of affairs. And now you should hopefully see my point: Jesus would not have *needed* to save us if bondage to sin would have ‘ended’ on its own. If Jesus saves us from ‘bondage’ to sin, it is not merely temporary bondage, but spiritual death that *would have* persisted unless He had come to raise our souls from the dead.

          “How certain are you, that you will be saved and why?”

          I am not certain that I will be saved, but I trust God’s word to me that, if I hope in Him, He will do so.

          [For a fuller response to this last question, see my: https://churchlifejournal.nd.edu/articles/hell-and-the-coherence-of-christian-hope/%5D

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          • kenanada says:

            Fr. Rooney thanks for taking the time to reply. I was pleased to read that you agree that Christ’s mission was not redemption from hell, but from sin. For many, hell is the construct of God as a place of eternal punishment. However, after reading your linked article https://churchlifejournal.nd.edu/articles/hell-and-the-coherence-of-christian-hope/ it seems clear that you believe that hell is self inflicted. You wrote “Hell being a real possibility is not God’s doing but mine.”

            We also agree that Jesus saves us from an eternity of spiritual death. So far, so good. However, after reading your church life journal post I am convinced even more, that your arguments against a “hard universalism” are untenable and somewhat contradictory.

            You start the article with the spiritual journey of St. Francis de Sales who, in your words…

            “does not end up with the knowledge that God must save all people, he does not end up with the knowledge that Francis cannot end up rejecting God or that God cannot do otherwise than save Francis. Instead, Francis’s fear leaves him because, even if Francis cannot imagine what God will do, or how God will do it, Francis comes to trust God. In that trust, he knows that nothing God will ever let happen to him will be ultimately tragic or hopeless.”

            Now, here is the key phrase “he knows that nothing God will ever let happen to him will be ultimately tragic or hopeless.” You end the article in a similar vein “When we have hope, we already expect that God’s goodness will shatter even the limits of our imagination, and that, even when things appear to be hopeless, they never are.”

            This is the very thesis of universalism. This is really just a repetition of Thomas Talbott’s conviction that an omnipotent God will never let his creation suffer irreparable harm.

            And yet, you insist that Francis or you or me or some of us or most of us may possibly reject God’s grace forever, which is to be in a place of spiritual death or an ultimately tragic or hopeless situation.

            When you admit that you are not certain that you will be saved, you are leaving open the possibility that your eternity will be ultimately tragic. It is possible that you will experience eternal death. As you wrote, “If it were not possible for us to end up in eternal death, if Christ did not harrow hell, Easter is a sham victory, “our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” (1 Cor 15:14).”

            You insist, like universalists, that God is good. The critical difference is the definition of good. Universalists proclaim that God’s character of goodness and love precludes ultimate tragedy. Your view is that a good God may, in fact, allow evil to reign and men to suffer eternal death. Inexplicably, you argue that allowing His creation to suffer irreparable harm would be an expression of God’s love and mercy – an expression of God’s goodness even if we can’t imagine a reason that God could act in such a way.

            You wrote…
            “If we were to discover that God made it possible for us to resist his grace forever, then, I would think, we come to know that, if he did so, he did this for a good reason that was an expression of his love and mercy for us. I would be more confident of that than of any argument to the contrary, even if I were unable to imagine any possible reason that God had for doing so, because I think it is good to trust God.”

            Frankly, this is not very convincing. (God may be good, as I understand good – but if it turns out that he acts in a way that I can’t perceive as good, let’s all agree that God is good, anyway.) This God of uncertain conduct hardly seems trustworthy.

            Then, you seamlessly revert to an argument for hard universalism. You wrote…
            “In trust, I know that I might possibly resist God’s grace, but I know that God is also Good and that He cares for me—Christ, then, is my fortress and bulwark against myself.”

            Here, you seem to be arguing that despite your sinful nature’s resistance to God’s grace He will deliver you from yourself because God is good. Despite your best efforts to damn yourself, Christ is your salvation. Period. End of story.

            “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4-5

            It’s already done. We can argue about whether God needed to do it or not. It doesn’t matter. He did it. Through the cross Christ made us alive when we were dead in sin. Past tense…done…by grace we have been saved. God’s love is great, He is rich in mercy, His goodness far exceeds anything we can imagine. In the cross, God has saved all. The ending has already been written … and it ends happily ever after.

            But then, Fr. Rooney, you contend that Christ may not be a sufficient bulwark against yourself. Persons, you say, may apparently reject God for all eternity.

            You wrote…
            “We should, therefore, first, reject any claim that we need to know God’s reason to permit anyone to reject him. I do not need to know or be able to prove that everyone is going to heaven in order to trust that God loves me, will not abandon me, or that he will take care of my loved ones. I do not need to know whether hell is empty to know that Christ comes to harrow the hell in my heart, a hell that would be my eternity if I were not to cling to him.”

            Your salvation, you seem to be saying, will be determined not by Christ clinging to you, but by you clinging to Christ. What a terrifying thought. My salvation and that of my loved ones is dependent – not on Christ’s death and resurrection – but on our desperate attempts to maintain our faith in Him. God’s plan of salvation hinges not on His love, care or lack of abandonment, but on our decision to accept or reject God – despite our finite, limited and often deluded perception of who He is. Do you really believe that anyone will reject God when they see Him in all His glory?

            “So that at the name of Jesus every knee – of beings heavenly and earthly and subterranean – should bend, And every tongue shall gladly confess that Jesus the Anointed is Lord, for the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2: 10,11

            Study those Philippians verses again. Do you think that God the Father would be glorified by mankind’s continued and eternal rejection of His Son?

            Later in your article you insist that if evil persists eternally, then God must have an acceptable rationale. You wrote …
            “So, if evil occurs, we can be confident that God has good reasons for permitting it. This point is not very strange or controversial, I think, as it formalizes the “hopeful” reasoning by which Christians respond to evils in their life.”

            Here you are mistakenly conflating temporal sin with the eternal co-existence of evil in God’s creation. For more on the difficult issue of temporal suffering, please have a look at these…
            https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2021/01/20/if-god-is-going-to-deify-everyone-anyway-why-not-deify-everyone-immediately/
            https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2021/04/12/creation-theodicy-and-the-problem-of-evil-2/

            You conclude that universalists misunderstand the essence of Christianity.

            You wrote…
            “Hard universalism, in a profound way, misses the point of Christianity. It misses, as I have already argued, the point of the Cross and what we are saved from. But, if universalist arguments that supposedly give us “knowledge” that God will save everyone were true, this would also make trusting God unnecessary. “For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?” (Rom 8:24). Knowledge that God will save all, on views like “hard universalism,” is just supposed to be knowledge that things could not have been otherwise.”

            On the contrary, universalists clearly assert that Christ’s death and resurrection is the means by which all are delivered from sin and death. This hardly makes trusting God unnecessary. Conversely, trusting Christ is the path everyone will take to be reconciled to God. It is not simply knowledge that things could not have been otherwise. It is our full assurance of what things will be – because God is love.

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  5. Tom says:

    Fr Rooney: The question is what makes it true that all will necessarily be saved.

    —————–

    That’s a central question of course. But I don’t recall the word “necessarily” in, say, Hart’s book title. It’s just ‘That All Shall Be Saved’. I don’t think he or any other universalist would object to bringing ‘necessity’ into the conversation, provided it’s carefully defined and qualified.

    It’s obviously not metaphysical or ontological necessity since created being isn’t ontologically necessary. Nothing ‘created’ could be ontologically necessary. Nevertheless, you seem intent on arguing that for Hart and other confident universalists, such necessity defines ‘what it is’ that makes it true that all who are created shall be saved. But this is false.

    Nor is it a purely logical necessity if by that one has in mind what philosophers generally take broadly speaking logical necessity to mean (prior to the assumption of any other metaphysical worldview that would narrow the scope), i.e., any proposition positing a state of affairs whose grammar does not generate a contradiction in its terms.

    Before I suggest one hard universalist’s suggestion of what it is that make it true that all shall be saved, let me suggest that there are some other equally crucial questions to ask. One is: What makes it true that none can freely and irrevocably foreclose upon all possibility of Godward movement? It’s fair to ask what makes other views possible or impossible as well. In my own journey, I became certain that ECT (and annihilation for the same reason) was an impossible eschatology before I came to bring this to bear upon the question of what it was that the brought it about that all shall bow the knee to Christ. But once the possibility of ECT’s being true disappeared, final universal reconciliation became the only possible ‘final end’ to humanity’s journey from origin to end.

    Making sense then of the psychology by which human agency maintains its integrity (without collapsing into any kind of unilateral determination of its exercise in all the objectionable ways Orthodox, including Hart, maintain) in coming round to see God as its highest good and surrendering itself to the, shall we say, ‘enchantment’ of divine love and beauty is a separate matter. But what’s important is that when it comes to this or that necessity, it’s as important to ask what makes it necessarily the case that ECT is an impossible final end to creation.

    For me, the Moral Argument secures the impossibility of ECT as a ‘possible outcome’ of any world an infinitely loving God would create. Even if one were to understand God’s determination to create in full libertarian mode (and I know many who see it this way – some universalists and others not) it wouldn’t matter; i.e., it wouldn’t make infernalism possibly true (for all the reasons Hart’s Moral Argument describes). There is no morally intelligible ‘final end’ to God’s creative act that includes the final loss of any of us (regardless of the degree to which one believes 2ndary agency to obtain).

    There are answers to the questions you ask about what it is that ‘makes it true’ that none can possibly be irrevocably lost and that all shall finally be saved.

    – that a God of infinite and unconditional love could not (not just would not) create a world of sentient creatures whose end could ‘possibly’ be anything other than final union with God.
    – that spiritual creatures (however free) cannot irrevocably foreclose upon themselves all possibility of Godward movement, for the possibility to move Godward always precedes any movement of the created will as its very ground.
    – Given the metaphysics of created being grounded in the Good, in unconditional and infinite love, as its most inward reality, there can be no finite perspective on reality so privated as to foreclose upon itself all possibility of Godward becoming.

    The ‘making true’ of this inevitability is not a terminus ad quem, not a sand in the line, a point at which God steps in and ‘gets it done’. It’s an aesthetic inevitability, James; the inevitability of enchantment and seduction. God rescues and saves us erotically. It can’t be possible that the surrender of the beloved to the divine lover is just a calculated machination of necessity.

    Try (please try) to imagine God loves us without measure or condition, that this love sustains our agency (the exercise of which we’re debating) as the means for our responding to God’s ‘invitation’, that this agency is thus a ‘gift’ possessing its integrity only in its being willingly received “as a gift” (which precludes it’s be a ‘determined necessity’ – which I take it is your worry), but which also cannot foreclose upon itself its very nature ‘as open to God’ at the transcendental level. We don’t bring ourselves into being ex nihilo and we cannot foreclose upon ourselves at that level, no matter how fragmented and privated we may be at more superficial levels of consciousness or habituation.

    We’re essentially back where we were in January of 2021 when we all discussed a good deal of these issues, DBH included:

    https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2021/01/24/david-bentley-hart-and-the-moral-argument-against-hell/

    Pardon all the typos.

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    • Tom says:

      Line in the sand* not sand in the line. Ugh.

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    • Fr. JD, OP says:

      See my comment above to Robert F.

      In short, the ‘moral argument’ involves one of the two things.

      Either it merely expresses the inability to see a reason according to which God could be good and permit an eternal hell. I’ve already argued we need no such reason in order to hope, despite the possibility of hell. And I’ve argued that hell is necessarily possible, although not necessarily actual. So the lack of imagination does not give us reason to reject the orthodox teaching that hell is possible.

      Or, the moral argument expresses a heretical claim that God cannot be God without us, or that our humanity is somehow essentially connected to the goods of supernatural life, so that humans cannot be human without supernaturally sharing in God’s own life. Both of these are clearly a kind of heretical claim because the first is pantheism and the second is Pelagianism or a related view.

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      • Calvin says:

        Firstly, God cannot be good without willing the fullness of the Good for all things, and hence there can be no scenario in which he introduces that which fails to attain to it as it would be impossible to motivate him to create such, even setting aside the blatantly insane arguments that one could ever choose anything else given full comprehension.

        As to the second, of course a human cannot be a human without sharing in the divine life. Really, what do you think the human telos is? Or the telos of anything, for that matter? Have you forgotten your basic metaphysics? Nothing exists except insofar as it shares in the Good.

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        • Fr. JD, OP says:

          “…of course a human cannot be a human without sharing in the divine life.”

          QED. This involves a confusion between nature and grace.

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          • Calvin says:

            You seem to be the one who is dreadfully confused. And, for that matter, something of a dualist who won’t admit to it.

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      • David says:

        Justifying evil by suggesting we simply lack the imagination to see the mysterious “good reason” behind it is absurd and dangerous.

        If anything can in principle be justified on the basis God might have some mysterious ‘good reason’ for it, you might as well claim Jesus Christ married a goat.

        Or drowned puppies. Or struck men blind. Or – here’s a really absurd one for you – tortured his children forever!

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  6. Andy P says:

    Perhaps I am thinking about this too simplistically, but if we posit that God desires all to be saved, how can God be “freer” if there is a possibility that all ultimately are not saved? In other words, the point is not that God necessarily must save everyone, but rather that because God is free and not subject to any external necessity we can be confident He will accomplish His desire to save everyone. Of course, if we don’t posit that God desires all to be saved the point doesn’t hold, but then that is the issue, not any concern about necessity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fr. JD, OP says:

      I do not claim God is freer for damning some, so that’s to misunderstand the point. Here’s the nub: God is the source of being and we are not. If God must save us if He creates us, this is very closely analogous to the situation where God must create us, because otherwise He would not be God without us. Both of these kind of views implicitly presuppose a pantheistic mixture of the divine and human nature. Now, the fact that we always are contingent beings, whose nature involves the possibility of sin, does not require that God abandon us to that sin. But it does imply that all we have is received from Him, freely and not deserved. This is a central claim of orthodox Christianity, not a strange view of the divine freedom unique to myself or a ‘libertarian’ views of free will.

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      • Fr. JD, OP says:

        So, to complete the above (in case it was unclear): our human ability to resist grace and fall away from God consists metaphysically in our contingent being. Even God cannot create or redeem human beings without humans being contingent in this way, because it would be a contradiction otherwise. God is not freer for allowing this possibility, certainly. But God is free to create beings such as us in the sense that there is no reason He cannot create contingent and finite things. He does not ‘need’ merely to generate or spirate the Persons of the Trinity.

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        • Calvin says:

          “Even God cannot create or redeem human beings without humans being contingent in this way, because it would be a contradiction otherwise.”

          No. This is absolute nonsense. The truth is the opposite: even God cannot create human beings or anything else that has any final destination or ultimate desire beyond himself. He couldn’t do so even if he wanted to (which of course he couldn’t) because there simply is nothing else.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Andy P says:

          The point is not the God must save us, but that if His character as revealed in scripture is true we can have confident faith that He will save us, not out of any compulsion or necessity but out of the outpouring of his love. If something about the nature of creation means that we cannot have that faith, it seems to me that is the view that is subjecting God to necessity. Freedom Really Ain’t Unmet Desires (FRAUD) 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          • Fr. JD, OP says:

            I am perfectly happy to say we can be confident in God’s love to save us. We cannot be confident, however, that God does not allow some to reject His love. Even if we are not confident that God *actually* allows anyone to resist His love, we can both know that hell is possible (there is no contradiction) and that, if hell were actual, we would thereby know that God intends to achieve something good for everyone by means of allowing some to resist His love forever. I might not see that reason here or be able to imagine it, but I should trust that God would have such a reason, just as I might be scandalized by God’s permission of great and atrocious evils like the Holocaust but, since they have occurred, I know God must have some good reason for permitting them which, when we see Him face-to-face, will not leave us in despair.

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          • Calvin says:

            “I am perfectly happy to say we can be confident in God’s love to save us. We cannot be confident, however, that God does not allow some to reject His love.”

            Then no you can’t. If a life preserver works one percent of the time and does nothing as the bearer drowns the other ninety-nine percent, then no you cannot be confident in it. Even if you reversed those numbers you could still not be confident in it.

            “Even if we are not confident that God *actually* allows anyone to resist His love, we can both know that hell is possible (there is no contradiction)”

            Yes there is, it is manifest and obvious. Hell is an eternal and everlasting evil and therefore cannot be product of nor can it in any way be a necessary ingredient in any kind of good. Therefore, if God is good, it is impossible that he should create any everlasting evil, let alone any creature which would suffer it.

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      • Calvin says:

        Yes, God would not be the Good if he were not good in all his actions. This much is, I would hope, quite self-evident. He must by his nature will nothing but the Good for all that is, was, and ever will be. To say therefore that he must save that which he creates is simply the rather banal observation that God must be himself and not someone else.

        Oh, and, incidentally once you’ve accepted that the Good is all that positively exists and all that could ever possibly exist in any metaphysically possible universe, then you have by that very belief accepted that “mixture” you’re so frightened of, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not. If something is not already in its deepest essence of and one with the Good, it simply doesn’t exist at all.

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      • David says:

        ” If God must save us if He creates us, this is very closely analogous to the situation where God must create us, because otherwise He would not be God without us. ”

        That is not right. If God makes a promise to Abraham, while he is in a sense able not to keep that promise, it would be incompatible with his goodness (and his true freedom) not do so. Same for saving us – it’s an implicit in the very act of children. To think otherwise just makes God a dead-beat dad.

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        • Fr. JD, OP says:

          “Same for saving us – it’s an implicit in the very act of children.”

          Here we have the grace-nature confusion.

          You are right that God makes a promise to Abraham and that THIS act is what establishes God’s promise. The creation of the universe and human beings does not establish that later promise. God’s later promise and covenant with Abraham is His response to the Fall, not to the creation.

          I think God has offered to save His children in Christ, and that this offer is a free one. God could have prevented the Fall in the first place. The Fall was not metaphysically necessary in God’s creation of the world. He only permitted the Fall to bring about a more glorious set of goods for us. Similarly, if God permits some to fall away and end up in hell forever, that this too would be part of His good plan for us, and that He would only permit it because He intends a triumph in and through that evil.

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          • David says:

            “The creation of the universe and human beings does not establish that later promise.”

            This is false and it is totally improper for you to say this.

            If I choose to have children, the very act of having children commits me to support them and love them for life – and it certainly prevents me from using them as instruments to achieve some higher good.

            There is no ‘grace-nature’ confusion because God’s nature *is* grace.

            If you genuinely think that ‘grace’ is something extrinsic to God’s nature – something optional which he so happens to choose but could have done otherwise – then you deny the incarnation is a genuine revelation, which of course is to deny the incarnation full stop.

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          • Calvin says:

            “Similarly, if God permits some to fall away and end up in hell forever, that this too would be part of His good plan for us, and that He would only permit it because He intends a triumph in and through that evil.”

            Eternal evil now constitutes the triumph of goodness? What madness is this?

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      • Iainlovejoy says:

        “If God must save us if He creates us, this is very closely analogous to the situation where God must create us, because otherwise He would not be God without us.”
        It’s not “closely analogous” at all. This is just two different things you have mashed together. The latter statement has nothing to do with the former and arguments about it are irrelevant to arguments about universalism.
        Even the former statement is also not actually what universalism states, which is simply that if God is good then, because he is good, he will save us when we fall. The only “must” or “cannot” or “necessary” that is involved here is that God by his very nature is good and so it is impossible that he should not otherwise than good.

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        • Fr. JD, OP says:

          The confusion lies in where God’s goodness requires that He must save us all. Either it is merely logically impossible that anyone be saved – that’s clearly wrong – or it is impossible given something else God did or wanted. If that thing God did or wanted was merely to create human beings, creating human beings does not make it that God must elevate them all to supernatural life. Maybe God could have done something else to bring them into a different sort of union with Himself. Similarly, what we know is that, when God permitted the Fall and mortal sin, that He intended to repair it so that its evil would be vanquished and defeated. We now know, through faith, that Christ has defeated it. But, necessarily, if that evil needed vanquishing, we ipso facto know hell is possible: that evil was the possibility that we would have been eternally separated from God without Christ’s atonement. My position is then there are no a priori reasons from God’s goodness that will show us that hell is impossible and, given our faith, know a posteriori that hell is possible. We can then have faith and hope that, since sin has been vanquished, God’s plan for the future will be good enough even to defeat a possible situation where some might persist in eternal separation from God through their sins.

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          • Iainlovejoy says:

            “Similarly, what we know is that, when God permitted the Fall and mortal sin, that He intended to repair it so that its evil would be vanquished and defeated. We now know, through faith, that Christ has defeated it.”
            But that is universalism! It is
            your case that God did not intend to repair it and that its evil won’t be vanquished and defeated, and Christ has not defeated it, but rather that God may either permit or be unable to prevent some proportion of its evil to remain, so that some may remain unsaved and condemned to hell for eternity.
            You keep making the same point over and over again despite being told by many, many people that this has nothing to do with universalism. Universalism does not deny hell, nor the possibility (indeed certainty) that *without the intervention of God through Christ* we’d all end up eternally confined there. What universalism insists on is that God, because of the nature of God and who and what God is, will necessarily and inevitably “repair it so that its evil would be vanquished and defeated” and ultimately destroy hell and save all in hell from being eternally confined within it.

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  7. Tom says:

    When Fr Rooney was going on about freedom, universalists were guilty of determinism. Now we’re Pelagians!

    I’m done. Later all!

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    • DBH says:

      Any port in a storm.

      A certain want of coherence has been noticeable all along, don’t you think?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Tom says:

        It really is mind boggling. I always thought you were exaggerating when you talked about how pointlessly infuriating Catholic fundamentalists (Thomists or otherwise) are.

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        • Tom says:

          *mind-boggling*

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          • DBH says:

            Combine that with their proud ignorance of the Christian tradition as a whole and you may see why, after decades of dealing with them, I have decided always to treat them with the asperity they deserve. You can’t hold a debate with what is, in the end, a tragic psychosis. As it’s self-induced, however, it’s also hard to pity it too earnestly.

            Liked by 2 people

  8. kenanada says:

    Fr. Rooney,

    I’d like to ask you a serious question – not intended in any way to be cheeky.

    How certain are you, that you will be saved and why?

    I would love the opportunity for a follow up – based on your answer.

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  9. Joe says:

    To those that trudge on:

    Your perseverance is commendable, but there is absolutely no argument that will alter Rooney’s perspective. He said so.

    Fr Rooney: “My argument is simply that universalists have not shown that it is impossible for God to permit people to reject His love forever – and that proving this is *necessarily* impossible. There is no way to do so.”

    You have have been asked to prove that which he had already concluded is “necessarily impossible” to prove.

    Thus, Fr Rooney is not interested in genuine debate and never was, which is why you are not getting it from him. That became obvious very early on.

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    • DBH says:

      Alas, I have been saying this from the first. But the truth is that, as the “debate” has dragged on, Rooney’s arguments have become both ever more contradictory and ever more confused. In a sense, he’s doing all the work for the universalist side. I don’t know why he thinks the arguments he’s making are good. Maybe just a moral tone-deafness, maybe a sorely deficient capacity for logical consistency, maybe just desperation to promote a nonsensical and monstrous theology. Who can say? All I know is that by now I think he’s made it very clear how very incoherent the tradition he wants to defend truly is–and how genuinely horrifying in the damage it does to every moral analogy between God and creation. So keep encouraging him to talk. The longer he goes on, twisting and turning among incompatible rationalizations, the more he proves the universalist critique correct.

      (The threat of hell secures the gratuity of grace? Can any argument be more inane and perverse than that?)

      Liked by 1 person

    • DBH says:

      Not also that he keeps getting the argument wrong. No one has said that it is impossible for God to permit creatures to resist his love forever. The claim–the logically irrefutable claim–is that such rejection cannot truly be free, and so the God who permits it cannot possibly be good. But he still has failed to demonstrate an understanding of TASBS–which is what set this endless debate in motion–so it’s not surprising that he still doesn’t get it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • DBH says:

        Note, not not.

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      • Calvin says:

        I said that it is impossible, though admittedly I was working under the premise that God is the Good and therefore can will nothing but the Good for anything or anyone, which Fr. Rooney seems to have some sort of problem with. He appears to believe that the two are somehow separate, but only when convenient for whatever his notion of “freedom” is today.

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      • Joe says:

        DBH: “ The claim–the logically irrefutable claim–is that such rejection cannot truly be free, and so the God who permits it cannot possibly be good.”

        Yes, of course.

        Unless you rely on the claim that, in some hitherto unknown and unknowable way, evil can be good. Oh, I’m sorry, “permitting evil.”

        Yes, all that Rooney has demonstrated is that he is utterly confused as to what constitutes goodness. I wish him all the best with that.

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    • Fr. JD, OP says:

      Joe,

      I think you need to re-read what I said. I am not presuming that it is impossible for anyone to prove God could not have a reason to prevent the evil of damnation, I gave arguments that show it is so. The argument is that everything which could possibly show that God cannot permit that evil of eternal damnation would entail heretical conclusions. Either, on the first fork (God cannot do otherwise because God would not be God without us), you get pantheism; or, on the second fork (mortal sin is metaphysically impossible because humans cannot do otherwise, by nature, than love God supernaturally), then you arrive at Pelagianism and the denial that the Cross was necessary to redeem us from the possibility of eternal separation from God. That is why I said the universalist story on either fork makes nonsense of the Cross and is incompatible with the orthodox Christian story of the atonement.

      The only option as to why God cannot permit damnation is that God could not possibly intend to bring about a greater good which would be proportionate to His permission of damnation. And there is no way to prove that what God will do could not be so great, as it would require access to God’s own knowledge in order to determine that there is no possible end state of affairs where the goods involved defeat the evil of an eternal hell. I concluded that the fact we cannot imagine what that end state would be like is not an objection to its possibility. [And, as I said in another post this morning, I hope to show in the future that we can imagine one such possible scenario.]

      Like

      • Andy P says:

        So, you basically have Ivan Karamazov’s view of God, but it doesn’t bother you.

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      • Calvin says:

        Your forks are both nonsense, God cannot will anything less than the Good and also humans cannot will anything except the Good as best they perceive it at any given time. If that makes nonsense of your theory of the atonement all that shows is your theory of the atonement is gibberish.

        Nothing can outweigh an infinite evil for the precise reason that it is infinite and therefore can never be anything but infinitely, objectively bad.

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        • Fr. JD, OP says:

          Would deicide – killing Jesus on the cross – count objectively as an infinite evil? Can anything outweigh that evil?

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          • Calvin says:

            Sure. There are a number of more brutal and prolonged ways to kill someone than even crucifixion. Jesus, for example, being infinitely burned alive would likewise outweigh the crucifixion. He could also have stayed dead for four days, or five, or forever. The last is only one of those that would actually constitute an objectively infinite evil, by the way. A temporary evil befalling an infinite person does not thereby acquire for itself the status of infinite.

            Liked by 2 people

          • DBH says:

            Actually, Calvin, the proper answer to that silly question would be “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Leave it to a Thomist to read the story as a moral rationale for eternal torture of the crucifiers.

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          • Calvin says:

            You got a good point there David.

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          • Does this claim stem from the logic of Pentecost and what it seems to imply? I mean the sermon that was preached does have this kind of impulse of “how dare you kill the Lord?” Yet, isn’t it the same Peter who not a chapter later in Acts 3 makes the same assertion that all things would be universally restored? So the “guilt” that seems to be heaped is one that is solely for the emotive effect of beginning that restorative journey….a wake up call of sorts? Same guy, same basic sermon, one key detail that emerges…universal restoration. And the last time I checked all individuals make up a universal. It isn’t merely typological, but a totally encompassing teleology.

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          • I also think that maybe you should take a look at Perl’s “Theophany” to understand the critical function of a more Neo-Platonic view that most of us are starting from. Unless you’re one of those people creeping up everywhere who seems to think Aquinas was really more Neo-Platonically influenced than previously thought (which I don’t buy, but hey, I’m here for the conversation).

            The very function of choice etc, are starting from very different semantic places. Since you seem to be misconstruing Hart, maybe Perl will say the same thing in a different way for you to glean a clearer picture.

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  10. Iainlovejoy says:

    “God cannot do otherwise because God would not be God without us”
    Nobody is saying this. You are simply either refusing to listen to anything said to you or out-and-out lying. How is it possible for an apparently intelligent man dealing honestly to derive this statement from “God would not do otherwise than save a person who would otherwise eternally suffer because God is good.”? There is no connection between the two statements. You must know this, you have been told this repeatedly, and yet just mindlessly repeat the same lie: why?

    Like

    • DBH says:

      “Apparently intelligent man…?” Well, let’s not argue that point. Adherence to a wicked idea that a whole life of indoctrination says is both good and true can make idiots of us all.

      You all keep asking him to make good arguments. He can’t. You also adk him to respond to what universalists actually say rather than to his empty caricatures of their views. He daren’t.

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      • Iainlovejoy says:

        I wonder vaguely if what is happening is that there he has purchased some standard “How to respond to universalists” playbook and he is just looking up the approved standard response in each given circumstance based on looking up keywords in the index: it certainly reads like that. A more charitable thought is to remember that he is a Catholic Priest and his entire life and calling is dependent on his continuing to believe the infernalist party line – what we are seeing is less someone responding rationally to arguments and more a panicked throwing up of something, anything to justify his own continued belief to himself.

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        • DBH says:

          I think he’s doing what he thinks he has to do and using the only tools he has. But it’s getting ridiculous by this point. You’re not going to get good arguments from him and he’s not going to respond to the arguments you’re actually making. I’ve been dealing with this pathology for years. I swear, you’ll either go mad or, like me, one day you’ll stop being nice about it, recognize you’re dealing with something truly unwholesome, and start saying it openly.

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          • Iainlovejoy says:

            I like to think that in most cases they don’t really believe this stuff, but, as someone once said (and apologies if it was you!) they only believe that they believe it. They’ll tell you in the abstract that a loving God does indeed abandon people to be tortured for all eternity, but face them with examples of any actual real person God might do it to, and they’ll always find a reason why, in that particular case, God would surely make a compassionate exception.

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          • DBH says:

            As a rule that’s true. But no rule is absolute.

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