by Thomas Belt, DD
I offer the following argument for your consideration. It is not an argument for universalism as such. It is an argument that aims to demonstrate the impossibility of every other alternative to universalism. My own journey to universalist belief followed a path that began with becoming increasingly convinced the alternatives on offer (infernalism and annihilationism) were not possible. Even when these alternatives finally failed, it wasn’t because I had secured airtight answers to all my questions about universalism. But there was no comparison between what were clearly the impossible to imagine alternatives, on the one hand, and the mystery that binds the integrity of human agency to its inevitable surrender to God, on the other. What I offer here is an argument against eschatologies that envision the possibility of the irrevocable loss of any creature’s final enjoyment of its highest well-being in God.
A few opening thoughts.
First, this argument is for theists, so I assume the truth of theism. Second, by ‘infernalism’ I intend no insult or disdain for those who believe Hell is eternal conscious torment. I understand those who hold this view don’t like the handle. Sorry. I’m not going to type “those who believe Hell is unending torment” or “the historically predominant view that Hell is…” each time I want to refer to this view. Until a better single-word handle comes along, ‘infernalism’ it is. Thirdly, let me remind everyone that I am not a professional philosopher or logician. If there are better, more concise ways to make this argument with greater effectiveness and clarity, by all means point the way.
Lastly, and most importantly, I don’t personally find syllogistic arguments like this very helpful, not like I once did. Kierkegaard made the point that the more refined our logical arguments for God are, the less convincing they become. There is more to the concrete realities of persons-in-relation than can be abstracted by propositional logic and notation. As I’ve said repeatedly, in spite of objections that dismiss this point, there is no moral argument regarding any state of affairs that does not rely at some point upon moral intuition or sense which, though it is abstractable into stated precepts, remains a truth of aesthetic perception or valuation not convertible to non-intuitive categories. Seeing the moral insanity of supposing God capable of creating creatures whose ‘possible’ ends include unending torment and suffering is an aesthetic seeing or valuation. It is more like seeing the beauty in a Renoir or a Turner canvas than it is seeing the truth of a mathematical equation. Hence, if one has to make a logical argument about why permitting unending torment is morally reprehensible, one is in a sense a fish out of water, which brings me to my argument here. I don’t particularly need such arguments myself, but I do find them interesting. And if they help someone think their way from a more abstract and propositional frame of mind to a more genuinely moral and aesthetic frame of mind, that’s a beautiful thing.
The argument first then:
P1 God is the summum bonum.
P2 God is the ground of all possibilities.
P3 God wills the final good (highest well-being) of all creatures in him.
P4 God permits only possibilities that aid creatures in achieving their highest well-being in him. (From P1-3)
P5 The possibility of finally failing to achieve one’s highest well-being in God is not necessary to achieving that well-being.
P6 God would not permit the possibility of any creature finally failing to achieve its highest well-being in him. (From P1-5)
P7 God has not permitted the possibility of any creature finally failing to achieve its highest well-being in him. (From P6)
P8 No evil God permits can prevent a creature’s achieving its highest good in him. (From P3, P7)
P9 ‘God as summum bonum’ is not compossible with ‘the possible irrevocable loss of a creature’s highest well-being in God’. (From P1-4)
P10 God exists and is the summum bonum. (P1)
Conclusion 1: Therefore, it is not possible that any creature should fail irrevocably to achieve its highest well-being in God.
Conclusion 2: Therefore, both annihilationism and infernalism are impossible since both assert the possibility of a creature’s failing to achieve its highest well-being in God.
P1 God is the True, the Good, and the Beautiful as such, the infinite plenitude of being. This is not a controversial claim among theists.
P2 That God is the source of all possibilities whatsoever for creation is, I assume, also not a controversial statement. The relevant point here will be clear: who and what God is as the plenitude and beatitude of being must be understood as determining and defining what possibilities exist to be given to beings.
P3 This should also not be a controversial claim. God, if he is perfectly good and loving, cannot intend the final ill-being of any creature. I take willing the highest good of creatures as the definition of what it means to be the Good. As the summum bonum, then, God cannot fail to know he is every creature’s highest good or fail to will himself as the final end and well-being of creatures.
P4 If God is the Good as such, and if the Good as such is the source and ground of all possibility, then all created possibilities have God as the end state to which they tend. To put it more awkwardly, ‘God is what possibilities are finally possible of’, and this must be the case since all possibilities express the goodness and love of God who is their origin and ground. This, as the argument shows, precludes there being any possibility which is not a final openness to its fulfillment in God. It does not matter if one is unable to say what ‘good’ is achieved in permitting the failure of creatures to finally achieve their highest good in God; that final failure contradicts the Good that defines all possible goods. There can be no ‘good’ that is achieved by the Good in a creature’s final failure to realize its highest good in God. That highest good is every good that derives from it. So to propose its final failure ‘as good’ is to not understand the Good from which all possibilities come. All possibilities derive from and express and open upon God as the ground and giver and end those possibilities.
It should also be noted that though we continue to speak colloquially of the ‘possibility of evil’, this is properly speaking inaccurate. As a ‘privation’ of being, evil is a privation ‘of the possible’. Sin and evil are not, properly understood, ‘possibilities’ of being.
P5 This makes clear for all the libertarians out there (and I’m ‘libertarian’) that while the deliberative capacity to say ‘no’ is necessary to the process of habituating the will into its final rest as irrevocable ‘yes’, this necessity does not logically imply the capacity to irrevocably foreclose upon the possibility of ‘yes’. The possibility of final foreclosure is not definitionally a part of the possibility of our highest well-being in God. This needs to be seen by my libertarian friends who believe that if we have the capacity to say ‘yes’ to participating in the infinite God, this must entail an alternative ‘no’ that is proportional in consequence. This is false, as I try to show here and here on this blog.
P6 and P7 These gather the preceding premises into a minor conclusion. I thought of eliminating P6 since would not may be taken to suppose God could do such a thing, which we dispute. I’m fine with eliminating P6. It’s P7 that matters. Given the preceding premises, God in fact has not permitted such a possibility, as annihilationists and infernalists claim.
P8 Though God has not permitted the possibility of our finally failing to achieve our highest well-being in him, he certainly has permitted the possibility of a great many evils. But it remains that no possible evil can prevent or result in creatures finally achieving their highest well-being in God. Hence, it is a good and beautiful thing that God should grant humanity the deliberative space it needs to responsibly travel the distance from origin to end in God, even if that space also permits a great many transitory evils. What is not good and beautiful, because it is not necessary to any good end, is that one should be capable of finally foreclosing upon oneself the possibility of achieving one’s highest good in God. We may sin and wander aimlessly in the grip of evil, but we do so within the grip of the greater possibility of our highest well-being in God.
P9 I trust it’s clear that, given the preceding premises, this is true.
P10 Here P1 is reaffirmed in response to P9 which leads to the Conclusions 1 and 2.
I believe the conclusions follow validly from the premises, and I believe all the premises are true. Some will find this or that premise objectionable, and I don’t doubt which premises those will be. In the end, where one begins determines where one ends up if one maintains that beginning throughout the journey. Begin with God as infinite love and goodness, ground the nature of possibility in that love and goodness, stay consistent, and follow the logic.
All typos are Fr Aidan’s doing, and the DD is apocryphal!
Tom, have you forgotten already? You were awarded an honorary doctorate, Doctor of Divinity, by the Eclectic Orthodoxy University on 22 September 2022. The diploma is in the mail. 😜
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Is there a temporary hell for those who die in rebellion? A hell for the purpose of being refined by the fire, purified and prepared to receive His love?
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I think so, certainly. That would be the only imaginable hell. It’s permanent, unending loss of one’s highest well-being in God that I’m arguing is unimaginable.
I think we need another “name” for a temporary hell, given that “hell” is associated as a place of damnation and perpetual torment. “Purgatory” immediately comes to mind. “Gehenna” also carries less baggage and can be redeployed to Christian usages.
“Gehenna” in the Jewish tradition is a temporary place of punishment / reform pending admission to the final heavenly “place to come”, so would be a good fit.
The argument is not valid or logically well-formed. At all the steps, pretty much, the conclusions are not formulated in ways that are supported by the premises, and the logical moves are thus merely informal.
The argument you are trying to make is actually much simpler than what you think.
God is the highest good of every creature.
God wills that all things attain that good.
If God allows anything to fail to reach its highest good, God would not be God [because it means He is not loving/omnipotent].
The existence of hell would involve God allowing something to fail to attain that highest good.
Therefore, God cannot allow hell.
The argument is not much better than any you’ve given before, since it depends on a variant of an earlier controversial claim we’ve been discussing rather than demonstrating it: “If God allows anything to fail to reach its highest good, God would not be [loving/omnipotent].” What we need is an argument for this conclusion, whereas the arguments you are giving all are question-begging (circular).
It also has implausible premises, even if your universalism were true. The argument proves too much as stated, because anything that exists would have to attain the Beatific Vision or whatever mode of good you think heaven consists in. That is the highest good you mean. But a scarf or rock or chair doesn’t have that as its highest good. Similarly, it is false God wills that all things attain their highest end and does not permit anything to fail to do so. Cats die, rats starve, there are unstable chemical elements that go out of existence, plants that people forget to water, etc. All of these fail to achieve the highest ends that they can achieve. Even in terms of possibilities God permits, God clearly permits all those things to fail to achieve their highest ends, so failures are actual and hence possible. So the premises are way too strong as stated.
Here’s a couple of arguments for hell in the same mold as your own, to help you see the issue:
God permits what He has good reasons for.
God can have good reasons to permit hell.
Therefore, God can permit hell.
God is the highest good of every creature.
God wills that all things attain that good, according to their own mode of action.
Some things can fail to attain that highest good by their own mode of action.
If something fails to attain that highest good by its own mode of acting, God “merely permits” rather than positively intends they do so.
Therefore, God merely permits some things to be able to fail to attain their highest good.
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Cats die, rats starve, there are unstable chemical elements that go out of existence, plants that people forget to water, etc. All of these fail to achieve the highest ends that they can achieve.
Why do you assume that? Why couldn’t God bring these all these beings and things to their highest end, beyond the failure and perishing that we see in this world, even as he brings human beings to their highest end beyond death?
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I was going to mention this, but I didn’t wanna blow his mind. Nobody who cannot imagine God as competent and good enough to permit only possibilities that are necessary as means to achieving the final good he intends for spiritual creatures will have the presence of mind to imagine God good enough to finally restore ‘all sentient creatures’.
If something fails to attain that highest good by its own mode of acting, God “merely permits” rather than positively intends they do so.
If the child fails to extricate herself from the deep end of the pool because of her inexpert swimming, the lifeguard “merely permits” rather than positively intends her do die.
I understand that this is a bad analogy. I was shooting from the hip. The idea of God being so weak or wicked that he would let his creatures “drown” in an eternal hell makes me nearly apoplectic, and prone to fuzzy thinking.
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Why am I not surprised?
I do not say God intends “all things” (trees, rocks, cows, rats) to experience the beatific vision. Nor do I suppose cows cannot fail to live as pleasant a life as God intends them. When I speak of ‘creatures’ achieving or not achieving their ‘highest well-being’ in God I am speaking of sentient, spiritual creatures, of course.
But if you can fail to understand it, it’s certainly worth nailing down better. I’ll leave it as it since it’s published, but for the record, I do not imagine God intends cows or rats to realize theosis.
Your trimmed down ‘simpler’ version of the argument is unacceptable. You miss the relationship must obtain between the ‘highest good God intends spiritual creatures’ and the ‘sorts of possibility God permits those creatures’, i.e., the former must be the rationale for the latter. There is no getting around it, not if God is the Good as such. It is simply not true that God can be the Good, will himself as the highest good of spiritual creatures, and yet have some ‘other good’ (reason or rationale) for permitting the possibility spiritual creatures to finally fail to achieve the highest good he intends IF the latter possibility (final loss of our highest good) is not necessary (as means) to the realization of the former possibility (achieving highest good in God). If God ‘intends’ our highest well-being in him, and if permitting us to fail to realize that end is not a necessary means to that end, there is no notion of ‘goodness’ you can defend that can make the propriety of such a ‘permission’ morally intelligible.
Don’t you think that “the Good” will need to be defined to exclude any shade of grey for there to be any advance on this merry-go-round? I surmise that means are not justified by the end. Isn’t this the very core of the disagreement?
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You ask about greys. I’m unable to see anything but black in Fr Rooney’s portrayal of God. I’m sorry to say it, and I mean no insult to him as a person. Shades of grey or dark charcoal would be an improvement. I would not believe Fr Rooney should he claim ‘God is good’ or ‘God is love’. Coming from him the words have no coherent meaning to me, for he supposes God capable and willing to doing what I can only comprehend as unqualifiedly evil.
I haven’t a clue about what Fr Rooney’s notion of goodness, love, and justice are or how he thinks they even relate to the question of ‘means and ‘ends’. To suggest that God, the Good as such, would seek a ‘good’ that contradicts that ‘highest good’ he wills for spiritual creatures, is morally incoherent. For to create the possibility of the final failure of the good you say you intend, when that possibility is not necessary in any sense for the realization of that good, is to fail to fully intend that good (either because of a failure in character or competence or knowledge or all these). And when the good in question is eternal beatitude and the (unnecessarily established) possibility of its failure is irrevocable unending suffering – both perfectly comprehended and freely brought into being – the free act is infinitely evil.
Dr. Hart, if you’re around, I understand. I didn’t before. But I do now.
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I was just noting that the premises are not stated clearly/unambiguously. That is the point, however, of phrasing such arguments formally, that they are precise, so I thought to point out an ambiguity. If you’re unconcerned, I’d think it defeats the point.
The third premise says “If God allows anything to fail to reach its highest good, God would not be God.” You think we need to qualify: “God can [not] be the Good, will himself as the highest good of spiritual creatures, and yet have some ‘other good’ (reason or rationale) for permitting the possibility spiritual creatures to finally fail to achieve the highest good he intends…”
I think your qualification is too strong, and unnecessary, since it would be even more controversial than the premise above, and I don’t see that you need it for the argument to work. Introducing this modal claim complicates the argument unnecessarily, as we already have a clear sense in which, if God cannot permit anyone to fail to achieve their highest end, He cannot also permit any possibilities that anyone fail to achieve that end, in the sense of God being unable to permit anyone to actually fail. But it is overly complicated to say it could not have been possible – in some other sense – for these to fail, since you would need to distinguish kinds of necessity and show reasons for why each type was incompatible with benevolence. It would be vague and unhelpful to group them together, and you don’t need to do so for the conclusion to stand as I put it.
Nevertheless, I think the argument is dialectically useless. Premise 3 is obviously what you need to prove, and so the argument is beside the point. Nobody not already convinced of universalism is going to accept premise 3. That was the point of my example arguments for hell. Nobody here accepts the relevant controversial premises, and the arguments do not give you reasons to accept them. That’s what makes them dialectically useless.
Premise 3 is basically saying God loves all his creation. If it is necessary to deny this to deny universalism then you have already lost the argument, at least assuming that you accept the basic premises of Christianity. No-one is arguing that universalism is still true if God is not good.
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Iain: No-one is arguing that universalism is still true if God is not good.
FrR: The third premise says “If God allows anything to fail to reach its highest good, God would not be God.”
Tom: Premise 3? No, P3 says “God wills the final good (highest well-being) of all creatures in him.
FrR: You think we need to qualify: “God can [not] be the Good, will himself as the highest good of spiritual creatures, and yet have some ‘other good’ (reason or rationale) for permitting the possibility spiritual creatures to finally fail to achieve the highest good he intends…”
Tom: Where one freely and unnecessarily permits the failure of some good end one claims to intend with every fiber of one’s being, desire, and intention, one has not in fact so intended that end.
FrR: …if God cannot permit anyone to fail to achieve their highest end, He cannot also permit any possibilities that anyone fail to achieve that end…
Tom: They’re identical propositions:
‘God cannot permit anyone to fail to achieve their highest end’
‘God cannot permit any possibility that anyone fail to achieve that (i.e., their highest) end.’
FrR: Premise 3 is obviously what you need to prove, and so the argument is beside the point. Nobody not already convinced of universalism is going to accept premise 3.
Tom: Are you sure you mean P3? Again, P3 just says ‘God wills the final good (highest well-being) of all creatures in him’. It just states the end/telos of all spiritual creatures as being union with God. I was sure you believed God at least intended this. But OK, if you disagree, then you don’t believe God is the Good.
I’m not going to attempt to convince you God is the Good as such. Like I said, I assume Christian theism as a minimum. God is the Good, the True, the Beautiful, etc.
“They’re identical propositions…”
They are not identical propositions. One involves possibility and one does not.
Consider: John cannot allow you to drop the eggs; John cannot allow the possibility of you dropping the eggs.
The first has as its object you doing something; the second has as its object the possibility of you doing something. That matters logically speaking, since they express distinct propositions.
My point is that you should go for the simpler one that has the ‘you doing something’ equivalent as the object: ‘God cannot permit anyone to fail to achieve their highest end.’ This entails not permitting certain possibilities but does not have the possibilities as the object.
“Premise 3? No, P3 says…”
As you noted, I was referring to the third premise of your argument, simplified in my reconstruction, which was: “If God allows anything to fail to reach its highest good, God would not be God.”
Call this one 3*, if that makes it easier to keep track.
Consequently, I was saying that this 3* is the premise one needs to give an argument for, and was not referring to your P3. So there is just a simple confusion in which premise I was referring to.
Sorry, I did not notice your last post, which DOES have some reasons given for 3*. I can now work out a little argument for you.
I think you hold that the reason that ‘If God allows anything to fail to reach its highest good, God would not be God [because God would not be loving/omnipotent]’ is true is as follows:
a. If God allows anything to fail to reach its highest good, God unnecessarily and knowingly puts in place the very means by which that thing can fail.
b. If God unnecessarily and knowingly puts in place the very means by which that thing can fail, then God does not will that all things attain that good.
c. BUT the assumption generates contradiction with the earlier premise (in my reconstruction): ‘God wills that all things attain that good.’
d. Therefore, God cannot allow anything to fail to reach its highest good.
It looks, however, as if premise a. can be denied:
By analogous reasoning: if I do not prevent John from dropping the eggs, that does not entail that I put in place something to make John drop the eggs.
Then, it looks like we should deny a.: if God permits something to fail, that does not entail that God puts in place anything to prevent that thing from reaching its highest good.
I responded to this down below justified left. It gets cramped when the columns push us far right!
FrR: “They’re identical propositions…” They are not identical propositions. One involves possibility and one does not.
Tom: You are mistaken. If I say, “If A, then A,” to say these are different propositions because the condition is only formally attributed to the first is beside the point. They’re the same prop. The conditional doesn’t change the fact that what you’re positing as a consequence simply restates the condition.
And besides, this doubling up is your doing. I haven’t, and wouldn’t, make such a move.
FrR: Consider: John cannot allow you to drop the eggs; John cannot allow the possibility of you dropping the eggs.
Tom: You’re missing the point. It may be the case that John, within the scope of his own finite agency and influence, cannot do anything to allow me to drop the eggs, but the possibility that I drop them may lie outside the scope of his agency. But if John is God, then what God ‘cannot allow’ also ‘is not possible’, since nothing comes to be outside his permission – unlike John.
FrR: Call this one 3*, if that makes it easier to keep track. Consequently, I was saying that this 3* is the premise one needs to give an argument for, and was not referring to your P3. So there is just a simple confusion in which premise I was referring to.
Tom: OK, but your 3* is the Conclusion of my argument – that the Good God cannot undermine (and so has not undermined) the intended realization of the highest well-being of spiritual creatures by unnecessarily making it possible for that end to fail. As I say elsewhere (without any particular theistic presupposition) to undermine one’s own intended ends unnecessarily is in some measure stupid; at the very least it entails not fully intended the end in question. If becomes morally stupid when the end in question is the well-being of others. I know you don’t buy the premises. I can’t help that. I think the Conclusion follows validly. There you have it!
JDR: “The argument proves too much as stated, because anything that exists would have to attain the Beatific Vision or whatever mode of good you think heaven consists in. That is the highest good you mean. But a scarf or rock or chair doesn’t have that as its highest good.”
Fr Rooney, you do not know that rocks and scarfs or dinosaurs and dogs do not have God as their final end. Does not Aquinas somewhere say that God is the end of the cosmos? In the Eastern tradition the entirety of creation is destined for deification in Jesus Christ. I have no idea what this means or how God will bring it to pass; but we accept the witness of Scripture of a new heaven and a new earth:
So I will continue to hope that all dogs go to heaven and am looking forward to seeing Missy and Kayla again. It’s even possible that cats will get to heaven, too–that is more controversial. 😉
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You should notice the way I put my point, because I did so intentionally as not to disagree with you. I said the rocks don’t have the Beatific Vision as their highest good, although (I implied) they DO have God as their highest end. So I explicitly qualified as to admit your views here.
Your argument is premised on deism, that God is a mere bystander to creation. There’s nothing “merely permitting” about God abandoning people in hell without doing anything about it, quite regardless of whether it’s their own fault or not they have ended up there. Either God doesn’t care that people are in hell or he is impotent to rescue them. Pick one and justify it.
What do you make of this idea?
1. The eschaton is the final cause of creation
2. All final causes are antecedently willed by God
3. Evil is a part of the eschaton
4. God antecedently wills evil
Please note that one cannot respond that God antecedently wills only the goods of the eschaton. For antecedently willing a good which is made possible by some evil also includes the antecedent willing of that evil. For example, justice can only be consequently and not antecedently willed because if I will that justice come about, I also will that which is necessary for justice, which is disorder, to come about.
Premise 3 is basically saying God loves all his creation. If it is necessary to deny this to deny universalism then you have already lost the argument, at least assuming that you accept the basic premises of Christianity. No-one is arguing that universalism is still true if God is not good.
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George MacDonald (1824–1905)
All sights and sounds of day and year,
All groups and forms, each leaf and gem,
Are thine, O God, nor will I fear
To talk to Thee of them.
Too great Thy heart is to despise,
Whose day girds centuries about;
From things which we name small, Thine eyes
See great things looking out.
Therefore the prayerful song I sing
May come to Thee in ordered words:
Though lowly born, it needs not cling
In terror to its chords.
I think that nothing made is lost;
That not a moon has ever shone,
That not a cloud my eyes hath crossed
But to my soul is gone.
That all the lost years garnered lie
In this Thy casket, my dim soul;
And Thou wilt, once, the key apply,
And show the shining whole.
But were they dead in me, they live
In Thee, Whose Parable is—Time,
And Worlds, and Forms—all things that give
Me thoughts, and this my rime.
Father, in joy our knees we bow:
This earth is not a place of tombs:
We are but in the nursery now;
They in the upper rooms.
For are we not at home in Thee,
And all this world a visioned show;
That, knowing what Abroad is, we
What Home is too may know?
He’s not Thomas or “in the fold”? His same assertions about dogma, tradition, etc, preclude the use of GMac…One could dare venture that if truth exists outside the “group” he may be blind to see it. And oddly, with the resurgence of the Angelic Doctor, more people are starting to split on just how Aristotelian one needs to make him…so all the logic may have been a tool for something more.
Look, I just think it’s sometimes bad philosophy/theology to keep trying to force God into being itself. God, if anything, descends into Being. The notion of “actus purus” has its own problems when we try to pigeon hole it, and to reify Being as being, or the good, beautiful, heck transcendentals in general. This results in the onto-theology that allows being to become its own idol and forces necessity upon “God” in a way that isn’t necessarily true (Hence Rooney’s perspective) and is only logically oriented in a syllogistic model that isn’t even calculable fully in any other sense than argumentation, and even that is poorly done. You aren’t going to out Being people like Heidegger et al with trying to equate the two, and thus lie in a world of superphysical claims instead of truly metaphysical ones, and oddly, lose the analogical in an effort to miss the one essential claim in Exodus of His own name…. “I am what I am” or rather “I’ll be what I will be.” And what are we told He is…..Love. Love never fails, it never could be wrong. And as Athanasius is keen to point out in “On the Incarnation” the absurdity actually lies in the premise that all of humanity would be lost, period, if he didn’t do something as radical as he does. It’s the whole crux of story. God becomes a liar and an absurdity if the Incarnation isn’t used to pull, well, all, back to the groundswell that is God, not Being, but Love itself. For love you were made, and love you will return. Not some, not a portion, not a predestined few, but all.
Ironically, it is Nyssa himself who kind of responds to the assertion about these false perspectives in the Life of Moses. No one sees God truly face to face because in doing so, only an idol is ever seen. What your conjectures are about the divine life, amount to nothing more than your own conjectures and presuppositions about how you would take control. You create your own divine image, instead of the inverse, the divine creating you in the sheer audacity of abandonment via metanoia. So someone like Rooney, doesn’t see anyone other than his own judgmental and arbitrary sense of “justice” in the God he views….and for someone to set limits on God, well, Nyssa has something to say about that too.
I quote this in full because of how logically connected it is:
“Such an experience seems to me to belong to the soul which loves what is beautiful. Hope always draws the soul from the beauty which is seen to what is beyond, always kindles the desire for the hidden through what is constantly perceived. Therefore, the ardent lover of beauty, although receiving what is
always visible as an image of what he desires, yet longs to be filled with the very stamp of the archetype. And the bold request which goes up the mountains of desire asks this: to enjoy the Beauty not in
mirrors and reflections, but face to face. The divine voice granted what was requested in what was denied, showing in a few words an immeasurable depth of thought. The munificence of God assented to the fulfillment of his
desire, but did not promise any cessation or satiety of the desire. He would not have shown himself to his servant if the sight were such as to bring the desire of the beholder to an end, since the true sight of God consists in this, that the one who looks up to God never ceases in that desire. For he says: You cannot see my face, for man cannot see me and live. Scripture does not indicate that this causes the death of those who look, for how would the face of life ever be the cause of death to those who approach it? On the contrary, the Divine is by its nature life giving.
Yet the characteristic of the divine nature is to transcend all characteristics. Therefore, he who thinks God is something to be known does not have life, because he has turned from true Being to what he considers by sense perception to have being. True Being is true life. This Being is inaccessible to knowledge. If then the life-giving nature transcends knowledge, that which is perceived certainly is not life. It is not in the nature of what is not life to be the cause of life. Thus, what Moses yearned for is satisfied by the very things which leave his desire unsatisfied.
He learns from what was said that the Divine is by its very nature infinite, enclosed by no boundary. If the Divine is perceived as though bounded by something, one must by all means consider along with that boundary what is beyond it. For certainly that which is bounded leaves off at some point, as air
provides the boundary for all that flies and water for all that live in it. Therefore, fish are surrounded on every side by water, and birds by air.
The limits of the boundaries which circumscribe the birds or the fish are obvious: The water is the limit to what swims and the air to what flies. In the same way, God, if he is conceived as bounded, would necessarily be surrounded by something different in nature. It is only logical that what encompasses is much larger than what is contained. Now it is agreed that the Divine is good in nature. But what is different in nature from the Good is surely something other than the Good. What is outside the Good is perceived to be evil in nature. But it was shown that what encompasses is much larger than what is encompassed. It most certainly follows, then, that those who think God is bounded conclude that he is enclosed by evil. Since what is encompassed is certainly less than what encompasses, it would follow that the stronger prevails.
Therefore, he who encloses the Divine by any boundary makes out that the Good is ruled over by its opposite. But that is out of the question. Therefore, no consideration will be given to anything enclosing infinite nature. It is not in the nature of what is unenclosed to be grasped. But every desire for the Good which is attracted to that ascent constantly expands as one progresses in pressing on to the Good. This truly is the vision of God: never to be satisfied in the desire to see him.” (Life of Moses, translated by Malherbe & Ferguson, pp.114-115)
I’d be careful “binding” anything when it comes to the divine, after all Jesus took care of that strong man and plundered the goods. Did he leave some goods behind? I doubt it. And the goods here are obvious, they are souls. And if we are all made in the image of the good, then by proxy so are we. Sounds pretty complete to me.
But hey….I’m not a philosopher so what do I know, and it’s probably so easy to swat away the Nyssen as well, I mean after all neither was he. Maybe we don’t wear the right smocks to have these discussions.
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I’m not sure what it is about George MacDonald that prompted that. I shared that poem because it’s related to the belief Robert F mentioned, that broad expectation that all life gets restored, that nothing is finally lost.
But I agree with so much of what you said. Even Nyssa – a convinced universalist – can manage the gracious and openminded pursuit of truth that doesn’t see God as circumscribed by the things we say, even the true things we say. I would not try to argue against this.
When we say things like ‘God cannot’ do this or that, we do not think of God as suffering some real lack of ability or power. After all, to say of some general that he ‘cannot lose in battle’ is not to attribute some weakness to him, and to say St. Francis that ‘He cannot abuse the poor’ is not to say that those who can abuse the poor ‘have a power’ to realize greater dimensions of being and existence than St. Francis.
I take such statements (and sometimes remember to say so explicitly) as describing what can and cannot ‘be said’ about God. I don’t think even the true things we say about God describe some objective reality that God conforms to and abides by. My goodness no. But I also don’t this can mean our language doesn’t in any way reflect the truth of God’s own concrete reality (more words – ‘concrete’, ‘reality’!). It would be nonsensical to say divine transcendence means we must attribute every ‘can’ to God (because it expands and manifests agency positively, outwardly) and deny him every ‘cannot’ (because it circumscribes and limits). I mean, if you’ve read Hart’s Notre Dame paper on this, you know how much of it is dedicated to the question of analogy and theological language. It seems you may think universalists try to ‘force God into being’.
I agree, if I read you rightly, that Fr Rooney seems to think this, and that he reduces universalist claims to attributing to God some real deficiency or constraint upon his freedom: ‘No, God cannot do that! Not allowed. Bad God!’ universalists might be thought of as saying, as if there is a real power or ability which is properly manifest in God’s doing what Fr Rooney insists we have to grant God the power and freedom to do.
Look, I’ll confess to being the most clumsily awkward trespasser of properly analogical predication on the planet, that is, if avoiding ‘God cannot…’ propositions is part of proper respect for divine transcendence. But then so are the NT authors who claim ‘God cannot lie’. What must they mean to deny God this ‘capacity’? Do they suppose him deprived of some real power or ability? Obviously not. Honestly, I think we sometimes use transcendence like butcher paper in which to wrap and serve up truly horrible things we have come to believe about God.
I may still be entirely misreading you. I hope not. Sorry if I am. I sometimes have trouble falling asleep imagining Dr Hart reading through my scribblings here (What presumption that must be on my part!) and then just hanging his head and facepalming at my barbarisms.
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Oh it has nothing to do with your opinion at all Tom. You did a fine job and I agree with the outcome you find. It was more a shot across the bow on the ad hom/appeal to authority he committed when he made the claim, “well you aren’t a philosopher.” God’s constraint can or cannot be due as it relates to him acting like a “being.” It was more of a swipe at Rooney’s position with the idea of saying what can or cannot be done within the outcomes of God, because when we argue in that realm, it does commit the onto-theological fallacy in multiple ways. I think to maintain any analogical integrity we do have to remove Him in many ways that strip being away. That doesn’t mean you can’t say anything, but in fact, you can say everything you need to and still be silent where it falls/ and needs to and still be coherent.
My own preference for existentialism/phenomenology makes me wary of any being talk, even when we say things like God is the “infinite plenitude of being” I kind of bristle because I might say he is the ground of the infinite plenitude of being but yet is also not Being. In all being, and yet not being itself. But that’s just me being me ideologically(I’d admit that). I think that’s essentially the Nyssen’s point. Any boundary that you create for the illimitable that isn’t actual or apply, straps him to being a being as such and makes an idol of it. In a way, he anticipates Heidegger on that front. And further, since he resides beyond being itself, then even logical claims must be coherent for God behaves as God. Not as any aspect of being itself. Arguing within the realm of being creates a God who becomes the Sovereign Being (Rooney) versus God(the ancient tradition/Hart). So if he lies beyond it, he also is not bound by it. He freely gives it as the ground of Love that he is. Necessity, in the view of the Augustinian/Thomistic side is an already failed start for the argument because it’s tied to being as it plays out prior. It’s foreknown as decreed and occurs.
Nyssen encounters those claims before they could be thought and rebuts it. Much like Origen anticipated Augustine in his Commentaries on Romans and did the same.
We can say a lot of things but we can’t bind Got to incoherence that betrays the logical ends of the only appropriate logic that is the ground of being….Love.
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And when I say that ‘where one freely and unnecessarily permits the means for the failure of some good end one claims to intend fully and sincerely, one has not in fact so intended that end’ I am not saying something that is especially theological at all. Any atheist should not have a problem agreeing. A final end one intends (supposedly fully, freely, and competently) is by definition directly undermined (logically speaking) when one unnecessarily and knowingly puts in place the very means by which one’s own intended end can finally fail. To do so is is stupid. This is not a uniquely universalist insight.
The stupidity in question becomes moral stupidity when the end in question concerns the well-being of others. As I’ve already said, it becomes positively evil (to switch now to the eschatological) when the end in question is ‘eternal beatitude’.
Sorry Fr Rooney, I have to post this down here. I can’t seem to get into the far right columns to respond to your last post.
I wouldn’t word your a-c quite the way you do, but yes, that’s basically the line.
Your analogy of John and the eggs does not work at all to falsify a. You offer: “If I do not prevent John from dropping the eggs, that does not entail that I put in place something to make John drop the eggs.”
First, who said anything about “make”? “Make John drop the eggs”? “Make human beings condemn themselves to unending suffering”? Where did the “make” come from?
So – we’re talking about ‘Intending some final good’ and also being in a position to determine what possibilities attend or qualify the realization of that good. That is our scenario.
Let’s go with John’s eggs. You may not be in a position to determine all the relevant possibilities that define John’s world and his eggs. So if John drops the eggs, it doesn’t mean you put that possibility in place. But let’s suppose SOME of the possible ways John could drop the eggs DO lie directly within the scope of your say-so, and you know this. You know you could help insure that John doesn’t drop the eggs by removing these ‘possibilities’. But you don’t. You freely and knowingly choose to allow those possibilities. Now, can it be said that you fully and sincerely intend that John not drop the eggs? No, it cannot. And if it’s not eggs but the life of a busload of kids he is carrying, then ‘your intention to make it more possible’ (which is what it can only amount to) that the all die is evil.
Still more. This may all be true for you, a dependent finite creature who is not the ontological ground of all possibility, who is the creator of the world and the Absolute who intends, permits, allows, etc. There are no ‘possible ways’ God’s final intentions for spiritual creatures can finally fail that are not directly given and maintained (and intended) by God. Just because God only ‘permits’ some evil doesn’t mean he essentially throws up his hands and says, “Oops. I didn’t have anything to do with even the possibility of that happening.” That would be a lie. What God ‘permits’ he ‘intends to permit’ (freely and knowingly). And if he (knowingly, intentionally, and unnecessarily) permits the final failure of spiritual creatures to realize their highest good in him, he cannot be said to fully and sincerely will their good, in which case he is not perfectly good.
So there is no denying ‘a’ if God is believed to be the Good as such, the Absolute ground and giver of all possibilities.
As I understand the first concern, it is this: ‘If God allows anything to fail to reach its highest good, God unnecessarily and knowingly puts in place the very means by which that thing can fail’ does not involve God making a thing fail, but it does involve ‘putting in place the means by which’ the thing can fail.
But I’m not quite sure I see much of a difference here. If John permits me to drop the eggs, or does not prevent me from dropping the eggs, you think that John is supplying a means by which I can drop the eggs. I don’t see that this follows either, rephrased.
It looks like ‘supplying a means by which’ I do something could mean ‘makes it possible that I drop the eggs’ which is not objectionable in one sense (John is not making it impossible that I drop the eggs) yet clearly objectionable in another. John not preventing me from dropping the eggs does not ipso facto make it possible for me to drop the eggs, since there might be other means for preventing me from dropping them.
I think here the claim by Tom would be omnipotence does somehow entail the second, since God not preventing me from doing something is for Him to make it possible that I do something. But this too does not follow, since God not preventing you – not making it impossible that I drop the eggs – does not entail any sense stronger than the John case: God not preventing you from dropping the eggs does not by itself make it possible for you to drop the eggs, since there might be other means for preventing me from dropping them.
What we’d need to distinguish is whether God ‘not preventing you’ means God not intervening (like John intervenes in the case above) to stop you from dropping the eggs or God not creating a world in which it is literally impossible for you to drop eggs generally. But, then it seems the premise in question, 3a, is even less obvious or self-evident when phrased with these qualifications.
‘If God creates a world in which it is possible for anything to fail, then God unnecessarily and knowingly puts in place the very means by which that thing can fail.’
We’d need a proof for this premise, since it seems obviously false as stated. A possibility of failure is not a means by which something fails. It being possible for John to drop the eggs (him living a world in which eggs obey the laws of gravity, etc.) is not a means John uses to drop the eggs nor a means by which someone causes John to drop the eggs, etc.
Clearly, it will be true that God creating a world in which it is possible for eggs to be dropped is a world in which it is possible for eggs to be dropped, certainly, but that is not interesting – it’s mere tautology. So, if we interpret ‘means’ merely in terms of possibility, the premise is tautological and the rest of the argument does not follow from this.
The only way to get the rest of the argument to follow is to employ the more controversial sense of ‘means’ as meaning only that, ‘If God creates a world in which it is possible for anything to fail, then God unnecessarily and knowingly makes it possible that such a thing can fail.’
But then 3a and 3b would look unmotivated or outright false.
Start with 3a: “If God creates a world in which it is possible for anything to fail, then God unnecessarily and knowingly makes it possible that such a thing can fail.”
3a looks false or, at least, we have no clear reason to accept this as concerns the part of the claim ‘unnecessarily.’ Here, the claim could be that God did not need to create a world in which there were eggs at all, in which case the claim is not interesting and does not support 3b. Or, the claim could be that God could have created a world in which all things are identical with the actual world – eggs and gravity and so forth – but it was not possible for John to drop the eggs. Then we are saying that God could have made exactly the same world, but the possibilities in that world have been different. This is not clear at all. It is not obvious that God could have created a world in which there are eggs – exactly identical with the eggs in our world – but which it was impossible to break.
What that seems to involve is an assumption that God could have created a world in which there were eggs, but that God would intervene in such a way that the eggs were unable to be broken (God would resolve to do a miracle each time any egg could break, to stop the eggs from breaking). But then it does not seem to be a claim about the worlds God could have created at all, and merely a claim that God could always do a miracle to prevent natural possibilities from occurring.
However, when we reformulate 3a to reflect THAT vision of things, what we are really saying is: “If God does not perform miracles in order to prevent something from failing, then God unnecessarily and knowingly makes it possible that such a thing can fail.’ But this switches senses of possibility, too, since (in one sense) it is true that God not working a miracle makes something occurring possible, because God could act outside the natural order of possibilities, but (in another sense) God not working a miracle does not make something occurring possible, because God can do other things (aside from a miracle) to make it impossible for that to occur. God could create a world in which there were no eggs, and then it would be impossible for eggs to break, even though God performed no miracles at all within that world. Similarly, if God does not perform a miracle to prevent someone from sinning, then it is true that God makes it possible for that person to sin, but it does not ipso facto follow that God makes it possible (in that sense) ‘unnecessarily,’ since necessity/possibility is not now about omnipotence.
And so it looks like this reformulated claim about miracles is false.
3b, ‘If God unnecessarily and knowingly makes it possible that such a thing can fail, then God does not will that all things attain that good.’
‘God creating a world in which it is possible for you to drop eggs is one in which God wills that you not carry eggs securely’ would appear false, since there can be other things God does in that world in order to make it that you DO carry eggs securely and do not drop them, even if it is possible. Then, we could appeal to such things (e.g., your ability to be careful in carrying eggs) by which God did not ‘will’ that you drop the eggs. Now, we apply this to the case in question: what it comes down to, in a more complicated round-about way, is whether God making it possible that X occur entails that God wants X to occur. Straightforwardly speaking, that does not follow except by reading a stronger sense of what God is making ‘possible’ than we need to admit. God making it possible that X occur entails that God wants it to be possible that X occur, but not necessarily also that X occur, since God can do other things to make it possible for X not to occur.
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That’s an impressive dance routine, and a good job of avoiding the point. It really isn’t that complicated or difficult to see. I can’t get back to ya for a couple days, so it’ll have to simmer.
I found time this morning…
You suppose the first concern to be: ‘If God allows anything to fail to reach its highest good, God unnecessarily and knowingly puts in place the very means by which that thing can fail’.
This is not especially my concern. My concern is not with ‘anything’. It is with spiritual creatures.
Now, you then suppose I think this ‘does not involve God making a thing fail, but it does involve ‘putting in place the means by which’ the thing can fail, and you don’t see much of a difference here. This is a failure of sight and imagination on your part, for it is very different to ‘freely pursue an end whose necessary means includes certain risks’, on the one hand, and ‘seeing to it that some realize those risks’.
FrR: ‘If God creates a world in which it is possible for anything to fail, then God unnecessarily and knowingly puts in place the very means by which that thing can fail.’ We’d need a proof for this premise…
Tom: No, we don’t need a proof for this premise, since it is not my premise and needn’t be true for my argument. What you’re reconstructed premise here says could be false and yet it be true that: ‘Should God grant spiritual creatures the capacity to finally deprive themselves of their highest good in him, and should this capacity not be necessary for the realization of that highest end, then God does not fully and sincerely intend our highest good in him’.
FrR: Clearly, it will be true that God creating a world in which it is possible for eggs to be dropped is a world in which it is possible for eggs to be dropped, certainly, but that is not interesting – it’s mere tautology.
Tom: I can’t believe we’re talking about eggs.
It is not an uninteresting tautology. It is crucial, but you don’t see it.
Why would God create a world in which it is ‘possible’ that John drop the eggs IF it is true that a) God intends John to make the trip without dropping the eggs, and b) creating the world such that it’s possible that he drop the eggs is not necessary to John’s realizing God’s intentions? For God to give this ‘uninteresting’ possibly to the world is simply for God to not fully and sincerely intend for John not to drop the eggs.
What one permits relative to what one freely intends reveals a good deal about the one forming the intention, i.e., his/her knowledge/awareness, competence, sincerity, and moral character, especially where the intended end and permissions involve the well-being others.
Again, this is undeniably the case. I refuse to believe you don’t see it. The capacity to irrevocably deny oneself one’s highest well-being in God is *not* necessary to realizing that well-being (P5). If God sincerely, fully, and competently intends that well-being for all spiritual creatures, it cannot be the case that he would also give those same creatures the capacity to irrevocably forfeit that well-being. And since the intention and permission in question regard the well-being of spiritual creatures, it is morally significant. To give spiritual creatures a capacity to irrevocably fail to realize their highest well-being, when that capacity is not necessary to the realization of that well-being, is an evil act.
FrR: So, if we interpret ‘means’ merely…
Tom: Forget whether ‘possibility’ = ‘means’ for now. You’re chasing minutia and missing the point.
“To give spiritual creatures a capacity to irrevocably fail to realize their highest well-being, when that capacity is not necessary to the realization of that well-being, is an evil act.”
“Should God grant spiritual creatures the capacity to finally deprive themselves of their highest good in him, and should this capacity not be necessary for the realization of that highest end, then God does not fully and sincerely intend our highest good in him.”
After all the back and forth, and claims that I have misrepresented or misunderstood the motivations, we come to exactly what I claimed initially was the crucial premise in DBH’s moral argument and which you would need to prove.
Here was the earlier reconstruction of Hart’s moral argument against hell:
1. God is unconstrained.
2* Since God is unconstrained, what evils exist are evils for which He is responsible.
3* God would be responsible for evil, in the sense of intending and not merely permitting, if the goods God achieves do not require evils.
3a There are no goods necessarily connected to possibility of eternal evils.
3b God does not need to permit any possibility of eternal evils to achieve whatever goods He intends.
4*. Therefore, if damnation is possible, God would be responsible in the sense of intending it.
Premise 3b looks to be what you are asserting above. In short, 3b is a metaphysical question about whether any good IS connected necessarily with such possibilities, and I do not see any way in which one could prove that there are no such possibilities. I have so far seen no good argument for why we ought to believe that 3b is true.
And I think we can show is that it is possible that the premise is false.
Here’s my quick illustration: it might be true in all worlds where God creates rational creatures destined for union with Himself, including those worlds where God contingently predestines all people (i.e., contingent universalism, where He could have done otherwise), that it remains possible for each and every person to have failed to go to heaven. Damnation would be possible, even if not actual, in all such worlds, because that possibility is metaphysically necessary as a result of creating rational free creatures. We do not have to think of them as having a capacity FOR damning themselves, but a capacity by which creatures could damn themselves, such as the will. If free union with God requires a creature having a will, it therefore cannot be achieved without that capacity. Therefore, in every world where God creates free creatures destined for union with Him, it is necessarily the case that there is the metaphysical possibility of damnation in virtue of what is required for such union, even if God were to make it the case that no creature actually is damned in that world.
I do not think that this scenario is impossible. And, while I mentioned the will and the good of union with God in the above scenario, I think it is quite possible that there could be some other good which God intends, and which also could require such evils, which are not mere union through the will. Yet, if there were a possible scenario on which whatever good God intends for His creatures necessarily involves possibility of eternal evils, then 3b is wrong.
FrR: Damnation would be possible, even if not actual, in all such worlds, because that possibility is metaphysically necessary as a result of creating rational free creatures. We do not have to think of them as having a capacity FOR damning themselves, but a capacity by which creatures could damn themselves, such as the will.
Tom: Obviously, ‘for’ does not mean ‘for the purpose of’ here.
So, this is the disputed F5. I do not hold that the capacity (or possibility, if you prefer) to damn oneself is metaphysically necessary to (or entailed in) the capacity (or possibility) to realize one’s highest well-being in God. And this is not a moral intuition either. But the metaphysical arguments would be an entirely different conversation.
But, still, if one were to suppose it was metaphysically necessary in the sense you describe, it would absolutely be an evil act for God to freely create any such world.
FrR: I do not think that this scenario is impossible.
Tom: All you’ve done is describe a scenario that would have to be the case for your claims to be true: ‘Let me illustrate how what I’m saying is true. OK, now imagine a world in which what I’m saying is true. Got it? There ya go!’ It seems odd for me to be the one saying it, but – there’s no argument here.
There are no good reasons for believing the capacity (or possibility) of a spiritual creature to realize its highest end in God ‘metaphysically requires’ the capacity (possibility) to irrevocably negate the first possibility. This is why I put F5 in and did not go for a simpler argument that left it out. And there are very good reasons for concluding such foreclosure (the possibility of the foreclosure you describe) is metaphysically impossible. But as I said above, that’s an entirely different conversation.
I think we’re done, Father Rooney. I’m very grateful to understand you better, and I wish you all the best.
Fr Rooney, the post linked to below (here on Fr Al’s site) points in the direction of F5, i.e., reasons for thinking spiritual creatures are essentially open toward Godward becoming and thus incapable of final foreclosure upon the possibility of realizing their end in God.
Have a blessed Lent.
Until and unless Rooney actually engages with the argument of Hart’s 1st Meditation, all of his other claims are nothing more than posturing.
In its essentials, the argument is not complicated and hence not difficult to formulate:
1. If a person is eternally separated from God, then God intends that separation.
2. God cannot intend that separation.
3. Therefore, it cannot be the case that a person is eternally separated from God.
2, I think, is agreed upon by all. So, the soundness of the argument depends on 1.
Hart summarizes his rationale for 1 in the second half of this: https://publicorthodoxy.org/2020/05/05/what-god-wills-and-what-god-permits/
“Stated most simply, it is this: given the metaphysics and logic of the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo, any distinction between what God wills and what God permits necessarily collapses at creation’s eschatological horizon.”
I don’t think Fr Rooney accepts proposition 2. His basic point seems to be that it is possible that at least some people being eternally separated from God serves some higher good, even though Fr Rooney cannot say how, or why, or what that higher good might be. I think he also denies proposition 1 because he also asserts that if God cannot achieve this higher good without necessarily risking eternal separation for some, then, because it is out of necessity not choice, it doesn’t count as intention, only permission: I think it’s essentially an argument over semantics. Part of the problem is his method of argument is to attack any first premises willy-nilly as not proven without actually going into why or whether he actually disagrees with them, or what his own position on the point is.
I’d deny premise 1, since I admit a distinction between God intending and merely permitting. So, ‘if a person is eternally separated from God’ it does not follow that God intends that separation. If we take 1 in the sense of intending that covers both intending and merely permitting, however, premise 2 is false: God can merely permit separation.
“His basic point seems to be that it is possible that at least some people being eternally separated from God serves some higher good,”
Nothing about higher goods is not necessary to draw the distinction above. Mere permission is simply a different kind of intending.
“he also asserts that if God cannot achieve this higher good without necessarily risking eternal separation for some, then, because it is out of necessity not choice, it doesn’t count as intention, only permission”
I don’t see I have said anything about ‘necessity not choice’. What I would say is that God intending and permitting are simply two different choices God could make. It has nothing to do with either of them being necessary, full stop. It is true, however, that if you permit something, it will follow that you permit X for a reason. Then the question will be what it is to have good reasons to permit X. You might think that something can be a good reason to permit X on account of Y, if you cannot obtain Y except by permitting X. But this is just to go further into the nature of what it is to permit something.
“it’s essentially an argument over semantics. …his method of argument is to attack any first premises willy-nilly as not proven without actually going into why or whether he actually disagrees with them, or what his own position on the point is.”
No, it’s an argument over the logic of the universalist position. I do not need to disprove universalism from independent premises, showing that God has a good reason for hell, in order to analyze universalist arguments and show that the arguments are faulty. You can show someone else is committing a logical fallacy without demonstrating what the truth about the matter is.
[And, as to the last point, showing the arguments being given for universalism are fallacious would not thereby show universalism itself cannot be true. Even a universalist can acknowledge that there are bad arguments on its behalf, just as I acknowledge there are bad arguments for hell. I’m doing no more than getting clear on these arguments and helping show that many of them are fallacious or not well-formed.]
“I do not need to disprove universalism from independent premises, showing that God has a good reason for hell, in order to analyze universalist arguments and show that the arguments are faulty. You can show someone else is committing a logical fallacy without demonstrating what the truth about the matter is.”
Thank you for admitting you are arguing in bad faith, with no interest in the truth of the matter, as it saves any further response.
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I said that I was examining universalist arguments, which is what this thread was about, and not that I had “no interest in the truth of the matter.” I think it is obvious that I can about the truth of the matter. Showing that God has a good reason for hell, however, is still irrelevant to showing that an given argument that there is no hell is a bad argument. Indeed, you can think of me as doing a service to your community by weeding out bad explanations or arguments for the conclusion you accept. Certainly, it would be sophistry to think we should not care whether our arguments are sound or valid, as long as they ‘work’ to convince people what we want them to believe.
“. . . since I admit a distinction between God intending and merely permitting . . .”
So, you simply reassert, without engaging his argument, the very thing that Hart denies.
I’ll make it easy for you. Here is Hart’s summary of the point that you need to counter:
“So, even if God allows only for the mere possibility of an ultimately unredeemed natural evil in creation, this means that, in the very act of creation, he accepted this reality—or this real possibility—as an acceptable price for the ends he desired. In acting freely, all the possibilities that the agent knowingly accepts are positively willed as acceptable conditions of the end the agent seeks to achieve. If I freely and knowingly choose a course of action that may involve the death of my child, knowing that that death will then be an ineradicable detail of the pattern of what I bring about, morally I have willed his death within the total calculus of my final intentions, as a cost freely accepted, even if in the end his death never actually comes about. One cannot positively will the whole without positively willing all the necessary parts of the whole (whether those parts exist in only potential or in fully actual states). And so, if God does indeed tolerate that final unredeemed natural evil as the price of his creation, he not only thereby reduces the “goodness” of his creative act to a merely relative goodness; he also converts that natural evil into a moral evil, one wholly enfolded within the total calculus of his own venture in creating, and thereby reveals himself to be not God, the Good as such, but only a god who is (at most) relatively good.”
In particular, the middle sentence–“One cannot positively will the whole without positively willing all the necessary parts of the whole”–is the crux of the matter. God, in His perfect independence, freely creates, i.e. He wills the finished whole, the final state of creation. It follows, logically, that He also wills ALL of the parts of that whole, including any persons that have freely chosen to separate themselves from God.
Thus, there is no part of the final state of creation that is merely permitted by God. EVERY part of the whole is willed (and hence intended).
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If you were a sincere seeker of the truth, rather than a partisan solely interested in sophistry, your inability to reply to this (Hart’s) argument would put you on the path to conversion. But, alas, no.
Does Fr Rooney not merely believe in the existence of hell and the possibility of being damned to it forever, but also that, if one rejects the idea such a place or state existing, then one is actually committing a damnable offense? Does he consider believing in the possibility of damnation to eternal hell a precondition of being redeemed?
Hopefully he’ll explain. But he tweeted a Poll that basically asked folks to weigh in on a kind of (Pascal’s) wager. It had to do with the effects of believing in the possibility of eternal conscious torment vs denying that possibility and believing God will eventually save all instead.
I didn’t follow it all, but yeah, it seemed Fr Rooney believes that actually believing God will save all is more likely to land you in hell than is believing in the possibility that people land themselves perpetually in hell.
The poll was asking “Is it rational for all to act as if hell is possible?”
I said: “The cost of being wrong universal salvation will occur is much more serious than the cost of being wrong in affirming the orthodox doctrine of hell. If I’m wrong, I go to heaven. If they’re wrong, they might go to hell.”
The last part about costs merely says that, if hell exists, you could go there; if hell does not exist, you could not. The cost of going to hell outweighs significantly the cost of not. [Yes, I mean eternal hell.] So, we can then ask whether it is rational to act as if it is possible to go to hell. ‘Rational’ here is left open. And I’m not specifying what it is to ‘act as if it is possible,’ but I didn’t necessarily mean (for instance) ‘try to force yourself to believe that people are going to hell.’ Nor did the poll presume that believing in universalism will ipso facto merit going to hell.
While it is more complicated, the question of what we believe CAN enter into ‘act as if it is possible.’ If universalism were heretical either in its own right or by what it implies, as I have argued, and if one admits the possibility that one can commit a sin of heresy by believing such things culpably, then one would have a serious moral question about whether one was believing something heretical in a manner that was culpable.
Then it would be a good question whether it was rational to be particularly careful about one’s reasons for holding universalist beliefs, or even change how one holds universalist beliefs. Perhaps one should hold those beliefs in a way that allows the possibility of being wrong about them in something beyond a very weak logical possibility. If the latter were true, one might think that hopeful or soft universalist was acting more rationally than the hard universalist.
If hell exists, then holding incorrect doctrines of many kinds might land you there. Universalism would be just one of a passel of such doctrines. The existence of hell would make it necessary that you make quite sure that you are adhering to all the right ones, and with the right attitude and conscientiousness. Since you are fallible and can’t be sure that you are doing all that, you must not only believe that you are always at very high risk of ending up in hell at any moment, but, if you are indeed thoughtful enough to know your own fallibility, you must also always be painfully aware of your constant imminent danger. It should be very hard to sleep well at night, with so much riding on being right when you lay your head down on your pillow. Universalism is just one threat among so many others. Perfect love casts out fear, but belief in the possibility of eternal hell invites fear in.
You are quite right that, if hell exists, many different sins might get you there. I’d think you should, rationally, be careful about them all. But that does not require living in fear any more than knowing I could die in a car accident means that I must drive in mortal terror of such a thing. One can think there are other requirements on what it is to act rationally, if hell exists, apart from fearing to go there.
My article deals with these topics: https://churchlifejournal.nd.edu/articles/hell-and-the-coherence-of-christian-hope/
How can you compare the fear of dying in a car accident, with the fear of damnation to an eternal hell? The immense difference of degree in magnitude amounts to a nearly infinite qualitative difference between the outcomes of the two possibilities. Your lack of appreciation of the disproportion between the one and the other sounds irrational. It really sounds as if you are not taking the possibility that, if hell exists, you could be damned seriously, as a real possibility given your own convictions.
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Fr. Al Kimel writes an ‘open letter’ to me. https://afkimel.wordpress.com/…/an-open-letter-to-fr…/ I will respond below, since Fr. Aidan does not give me a chance to do so on that post by closing comments.
I have challenged universalists like yourself to provide arguments for your universalism, rather than merely assert it to be true and your opponents to be moral imbeciles or lacking faith in the true God. Instead of providing an argument, you responded by providing a list of assertions that universal salvation is true.
I then pointed out in a comment that this list does not constitute an argument that universal salvation is true; using these premises, one could at best make a merely circular argument.
You now agree that your argument IS circular, but now claim that you never needed to offer any arguments at all, because your views are beyond any possible rational criticism.
That would be a reasonable place to end the discussion: you decide your universalist beliefs are beyond reason, held on mere faith, and no longer desire to have a discussion with me, since there is nothing further that can be said.
What is manifestly stupid is what comes next, however, when you go on in your letter to paint my disagreement here as if it were a disagreement about your first statement, that “God is self-revealed in Jesus Christ as absolute and unconditional love (1 John 2:16)—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
As you put it, “the absolute and unconditional love of God functions within universalist theological reflection as an ultimate axiom or first principle” and that “the unconditionality of the divine love is grounded in God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ and experienced in and by the Spirit. As such it can only be apprehended through faith, worship, prayer, contemplation, ministry and service. …To see the Scripture as witnessing to a God of unconditional love requires a paradigm shift, and only the Spirit can generate such a shift. Ultimately, you either see it or you don’t. …If one does not believe that God’s love is unconditional, then the other twenty-four proposistions in my list become moot. The infernalist/universalist dispute, in other words, is a dispute between two irreconcilable apprehensions of the divine love.”
This is tendentious and insulting, and you know it.
Because, as is obvious to an impartial observer, this is the whole ground of the disagreement: whether God being unconditionally loving *rules out* the possibility of God permitting anyone to reject His love forever. I have never denied that God’s love is unconditional.
Since your letter was personal, I will now move beyond the question of theoretical positions to address the mode of this argument. To unfairly paint your opponents as rejecting that God is loving is, simply, not to treat your opponents or their arguments as worthy of your attention or regard. It makes clear to everyone that your attitude is the opposite of a purported commitment to unconditional love, and rather to be an insidious spiritual disease of pride. The disease of the soul that is in evidence, it seems to me, is precisely what the Fathers called ‘prelest.’
It is well-known that you attack those who disagree with you by calling them names, such as ‘infernalist,’ and spend your time on your blog arguing that anything other than universalism involves God being positively gleeful about punishing the damned or requires a strict predestinarianism on which God makes it impossible for some to go to heaven, and so forth. You make it your life project to construct strawmen claims about the possibility of hell (as I have shown repeatedly, the simple possibility of hell requires nothing you claim that it does), and to offer (what I have also shown on many occasions to be) merely sophistical arguments to convince others to embrace universalism.
On the one hand, we see an example of the former in painting me (falsely) as holding that I believe in a God who would “sacrifice his children, wicked or not, to achieve [some] ostensible good.”
Fr. Al: I do not believe this, or argue for it, and you know it. The fact that you say it anyway illustrates that your strategy (like that of David Bentley Hart) is to distract attention from any reasons I might offer, and paint me as a priori unreasonable.
I believe the motive for this behavior lies in a desire either to protect yourself from being possibly persuaded or to demonstrate that you are morally superior to me. I might be misguided in my estimation that God might have good reasons for permitting eternal suffering in hell, but I most certainly do not think God sacrifices His children for those ends – and you know that I do not, given our long conversations.
Those actions betray a hurt somewhere that leads you to behave this way. Otherwise, you would not choose publicly to impute hateful beliefs to me that you know I do not hold. I cannot read your heart, and only your words, but I think it would be a good idea to ask yourself sincerely why you desire to do this, in an examination of conscience, and be willing to face the truth of whether those reasons are good ones. The mere belief that your beliefs are true is not that reason.
On the other hand, we see an example of a sophistical argument in your claim that John Damascene’s distinction between God antecendent/consequent will, or merely permitting and intending sin, “rests upon a conditionalist understanding of the divine love. God may be omnipotent, but he doesn’t always get what he wants—hence hell.” This is obviously not true; it relies on a specious shift between God BEING loving, despite whether His beloved creatures love God or not, and God GETTING what He wants from His creatures, namely their love, regardless whether His beloved creatures would love Him or not on their own. Now you can also, incidentally, see my point that universalism requires an essential relationship between God and His creatures: if God NEEDS to ‘get what He wants’ in getting His creatures to love Him, and cannot do without the love of His creatures, then God depends on them for His happiness. Which is simply contradictory nonsense on any classical picture of God.
We see the latter in your other recent posts that, even if it would be possible for hell to be reconcilable with God’s benevolence or make sense, this doctrine of hell is contrary to the teaching of Scripture or the Church [and, for external readers, I know Fr. Al is Orthodox]. As is apparent to anyone that knows the least about universalism and its relation to doctrinal authority, this is a double standard. It is well-known you do not take Church teaching as binding in the same way I do, or agree with my readings of that teaching, and thus feel free to interpret Scripture in order to fit your conception about what kinds of salvation are compatible with God’s benevolence. So, if I have shown that some notion of hell is possibly compatible with God’s benevolence, it does not matter whether it fits with what you think Church teaching requires, since you already reject what it does (in my opinion) require. But, of course, you don’t care to engage with me on the arguments I do give in favor of my readings of that teaching.
In short, it is obviously less than unimportant to you what anyone else thinks or why they might think it, if it conflicts with your fervent beliefs in universalism. Instead, your attitude is apparently that to treat another person or their arguments as worthy of respect, if they conflict with universalism, would be to doubt your own beliefs. That is the demonic spiritual delusion of pride, not the Spirit of unconditional love. To use your own words, “that is the way of Moloch, not the Father of Jesus.”
By contrast with your own attitude, I have done my best to engage with your fairly, on equal terms, by asking you to provide arguments and reasons to me. You claimed that I misrepresented the arguments, so I went to your blog and spoke with you to make sure that I was representing those arguments fairly. And I have spent a good deal of time doing so, because I care about your arguments and the truth of the matter, as well as caring about YOU as a person (since I have been praying for you all and asking others to do so as well). I think it was no secret that the analogy in my ‘Incoherence’ article was inspired by thinking about your personal narrative as to how you came to reject the doctrine of hell.
Nevertheless, you have refused to comply, many times, to engage with me on offering non-circular arguments for your beliefs; and, in the end, have only made half-hearted motions in that direction in such a way as to attack my moral character or purported ability to read/characterize your arguments fairly/accurately, in just the same manner as DB Hart, rather than offer any real argument.
I do think the Church teaches that hell is possible and have faith in Christ who revealed it to us, but I have made a good faith effort to convince you that this is reasonable, independently of any Church teaching or my view of Christ’s words. Despite your (and Hart’s) continuous insinuation that I believe what I do merely because I am a fanatic, I admit openly that, if someone convinced me otherwise, I would cease to believe what I do. This is why I believe your own engagement with me, and the way you want to conclude it, illustrates publicly to all concerned that you and your followers are – nevertheless – the dogmatic fanatics in this discussion. It is apparent that you all do not care to treat me, or any other opponents, on anything approaching a level playing field of impartial reasons, despite me personally being willing to engage with you on fair terms.
“It’s clear that constructive dialogue is presently impossible, though I hope that will change in the future.”
I do not wish you ill or want to hurt you or insult you or belittle you in the public eye. I am happy to be shown wrong in my estimation of your behavior. I admit that I am a fallible human being, who can be wrong about many things, and I pray that God (and you) forgive me if I have defended falsehood or done you wrong or imputed false motives to you. But I say what I say above in order to be honest and direct, since you have moved to personal engagement with my motives and character, and I believe that deserves a public response.
I state what I do because I myself would want a correction of this sort, if I were to fall into the dogmatic fanaticism that I see in you and your followers. I take this to be what unconditional love requires of me.
God keep you and bless you.
I will celebrate Mass for you and your followers tomorrow, and I ask that you keep me in your prayers.
Yours in Christ,
Fr. James Dominic Rooney, OP
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Father Rooney, I don’t believe that non-universalists normally come across a fanatics: you are the exception, not the rule. Many non-universalists will be embarrassed by your intervention, and very sad to see their good faith belief in the traditional view of the church being publicly undermined by your bad arguments. Nobody wants to be represented by a strawman. Many non-universalists make quite compelling cases against universalism, but yours seem to hold no appeal to either side. As to why, all I can say is that most of your responses genuinely read as though you haven’t even looked at the arguments you’re responding to. I don’t know why that is, but there you go. Anyway, all the best to you chum.
“I might be misguided in my estimation that God might have good reasons for permitting eternal suffering in hell, but I most certainly do not think God sacrifices His children for those ends”
Your ability to contradict yourself within the same sentence continues to astound, as does your refusal to state any coherent position of your own.
It is logically impossible that God both has some unknown good reasons for abandoning souls to an eternity in hell and also that God does not abandon souls to an eternity in hell for whatever such unknown good reasons God may have. Pick one.
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Honestly. There are people worth arguing with. This is not one of those cases. You can’t lay hold of something that refuses to assume a substantial form. You’re trying to cast a net over a shadow.
I am not really arguing with him now, more performing a piblic service by flagging up why there isn’t really any point. He reminds me, oddly, of your standard argumentative atheist who insists on telling everyone about how you can’t “prove” the existence of God. It’s the same method “infinite regression” technique of simply refusing to accept the premises of any argument and insisting they are proved, too, and so on. Even the catchprases like “burden of proof” are the same.
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I did try to warn you.
— “It is well-known that you attack those who disagree with you by calling them names, such as ‘infernalist’…”
Given you literally believe in ‘infernal punishment’ – a term which appears in modern Catholic study bibles and church documents – it’s hard to see this as a deliberate insult (however if it is a stumbling block for you or others I agree it should be avoided). But whatever the rights and wrongs of this particular term, your ‘such as’ implies that this is just one of many ‘names’ that Fr Al regularly calls his opponents, as though the blog were littered with insults and terms of abuse – could you please list them all so we can all judge? Of the many non-universalists who interact on this blog, I’m yet to see any of them complain about being insulted – indeed many have praised Fr Al as being a model of graceful disagreement – which makes me a tad sceptical of your claims.
— Fr Al thinks non-universalism means God must be “positively gleeful about punishing the damned”
The position is merely that inflicting eternal punishment would mean that God would not really be the Good. Where does Fr Al say that would make God gleeful? Could you provide some quotes please?
— Fr Al holds that non-universalism requires “strict predestinarianism”
Fr Al literally constantly make the point that God creating the mere ‘possibility’ of damnation would be wrong and incompatible with His nautre as the Good. Indeed this blog contains countless articles examining the free-will model of damnation.
— “To unfairly paint your opponents as rejecting that God is loving is, simply, not to treat your opponents or their arguments as worthy of your attention or regard.”
I’ve not seen Fr Al suggest that you or other traditionalists consciously believe that God is not loving. The argument is simply that the other positions you hold (i.e. eternal punishment) would logically imply that God is not loving – and there therefore in a sense you are committed to this position. If you don’t like that, fair enough, but aren’t you doing this to universalists all the time? That is, universalists obviously don’t *think* that they reject classical theism, or that they deny God has freedom, or that they believe God’s happiness depends on us, or that they are Pelagians, or that they are heretics. But you have accused them of all this and much more – haven’t you? – on the grounds that you believe the universalist position implies them. Are you then also guilty of ‘not treating your opponents or their arguments as worthy of your attention or regard’?
— “if God NEEDS to ‘get what He wants’ in getting His creatures to love Him, and cannot do without the love of His creatures, then God depends on them for His happiness.”
But the argument is just that God could not act in X manner towards His creatures and still be the Good, and therefore to act in X manner would reveal He was not really God – just as, if God didn’t know truth X about the created world (including the outcomes of creatures’ free decisions), he wouldn’t be omniscient, and therefore would not be God. That doesn’t make God ‘dependent’ on truths or their truth-makers in the finite world. All it means is that part of the definition of God is knowing everything, and thus not to know everything is outside the nature of God. In exactly the same way, God does not ‘depend on us’ to be happy, yet it is still true that if he acted in a way that risked eternal damnation, then (so the universalist argument goes) that would mean that, per impossible, God was not really the Good and so could not be the infinite plentitude of Bliss that He necessarily is. You’ve been told this before.
— “By contrast with your own attitude, I have done my best to engage with your fairly,”
I suppose this is in line with your many previous posts in which you have described your own contributions to the debate as ‘charitable’ or ‘loving’ or ‘erenic’ – culminating with today’s self-description as showing ‘unconditional love’. Meanwhile Fr Al has the ‘insidious spiritual disease of pride’ and his ‘followers’ are ‘dogmatic fanatics’. Well, I won’t direct you to do an examination of conscience, but I do think you might benefit from an examination of the dictionary – try looking up the word ‘irony’.
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The gospel of Father Rooney vs. The gospel of Jesus Christ
Father Rooney you insist that God is good.
You wrote “…we already expect that God’s goodness will shatter even the limits of our imagination”
However, you also have admitted that you are uncertain that you will be saved. And I’m assuming that if you face the real possibility of eternal damnation, then so do I and all the readers of this blog, and possibly every human being who lives now on this planet. Why? Because, you leave open the possibility that God may permit the evil of our eternal torment for a greater good that we finite persons cannot comprehend.
“…an all-good, all-knowing, all-powerful God can have some good, justifying reason for allowing any given instance of evil. I might not know what it is, but, if some such reason is possible, there is simply no logical contradiction between God’s existence and any given evil, including the possibility that God permits us to reject his love forever.”
But then you argue that this horrific possibility should not be a cause for fear anymore than I should fear dying in a car accident. (I will assure you, that if by getting in a car I may possibly suffer endless suffering then I would never use this mode of transport again.) If you insist that there is no way that I can be assured (if you can’t, I can’t) of escaping everlasting torment, then I will admit that I am fearful – for me, for you, for my family, for everyone I know and love.
However, the Bible tells me that perfect love casts out fear. So who should I believe? You – who’s gospel offers no reason not to fear or the Bible which tells me that God’s love is the reason that I shouldn’t be fearful?
Jesus also tells me that my joy should be full. You are insisting that I can never experience full joy in this lifetime because God’s greater good may permit my eternal damnation and the everlasting suffering of all those that I love. Should I believe Jesus or you?
Then, you tell me that if I dare to believe that God’s love and goodness means that He will be loving and good to everyone – in the way that I comprehend love and goodness – then I am possibly in greater danger of hell’s fires because I am a heretic.
So, I can choose between your gospel of fear and absence of joy or Jesus’ gospel of peace and jubilation. I can choose to believe that love means love and good means good or I can choose to believe that God may have a hidden agenda, unfathomable to human imagination, that ends with me NOT living happily ever after.
I’m sorry Father Rooney. I cannot choose your religion.
P.S. If you refer me to your article https://churchlifejournal.nd.edu/articles/hell-and-the-coherence-of-christian-hope/ I have written lengthy replies (twice) pointing out what I believe are significant deficiencies in your thinking. Please feel free to reply directly to those posts.
I sense in the recent comments in this thread frustration and disappointment on all sides about the discord and disunity that has been engendered by the conversation. The exchange does not appear to be headed for a satisfying conclusion to anyone. I find it difficult to believe that anything of this nature will persist at the eschaton pictured in 1 Cor. 15 when God is all in all.
I think it might be worthwhile to pose this question as a close to our discussions, since I think it summarizes my objections to universalism quite clearly.
Some on Twitter seem to disagree with a claim I made as follows: “whether God is good, loves us, and can be trusted is not something we believe on the basis of how many people will be in heaven.”
That’s about belief.
But: do you think whether God IS good or loves us depends on whether you or loved ones end up in heaven?
[For instance, if you or loved ones did not end up in heaven, and God exists, would God be evil or hateful? Or, if you can’t conceive of that, would God not exist? If so, answer “yes”.]
Whatever our personal difficulties in trusting God, whatever we can or cannot imagine God to do, whatever difficulties we might have in thinking about what heaven would be like if we cannot see loved ones there, I think the answer to such questions are secondary to our strict knowledge that God is Good and that He exists. If they conflict with what we do know, they must be rejected. If someone says “yes” to my question above, however, their notion of God conflicts with what we do know about Him, because what God is would depend on facts about us.
God could have chosen not to create anything, so no. But if God creates, then He will act in a loving manner toward spiritual beings. The hard universalist would say that entails that if there are spiritual beings, then they go to heaven. I don’t see why this is interesting. The non-universalist would say that you or loved ones will end up in either heaven (if they don’t resist sufficient grace) or hell (if they sin mortally)–so is God (justice itself) dependent on facts about us, then? If you bring up libertarian free will I’ve already pointed out, with a quote with W. Matthews Grant, that libertarian freedom is not incompatible with hard universalism. It seems both schools could agree with Ed Feser when he writes, “Does God have obligations to us? No, He doesn’t. But doesn’t that entail that He could do just any old thing to us? No, it doesn’t.”
Do you think the Virgin Mary could have gone to hell (was it metaphysically possible (and if you affirm middle knowledge, feasible?)?)? Could she have sinned mortally before, during, or after the birth of Jesus and died unrepentant?
You continue to dodge the central issue. The distinction between what God permits and positively wills necessarily collapses at the eschatological horizon. Concerning the final state of creation, God can only will the whole and hence all of its parts. Therefore, if that final state includes a person eternally separated from Him, He wills that separation.
Quantity of people in heaven is not the issue. The issue is: How many people is my identity so inextricably entangled with that it would be impossible for me to exist in a beatific state without them, because I would be unable to actually exist? My answer: All people, in every time and place, and all living creatures, and probably all creation as well.
“Do you think whether God IS good or loves us depends on whether you or loved ones end up in heaven?”
It’s a nonsensical question, really. It’s like asking if God’s goodness depends on His ability to create a square circle.
God, as you know and correctly point out, is not dependent on anything. He creates ex nihilo. Everything He creates depends on Him. God is not dependent. Period.
God is simple. He is love. He is light and there is not darkness in Him. He is good.
As David Bentley Hart comments this means…
“We know that, logically speaking, he is not merely obliged to do good things; rather, he is himself transcendent goodness, and so cannot be the source of injustice. He does not flit capriciously between isolated expressions of his true nature and isolated departures from it. He is the ground and substance and end of every moral action. And, as we have some very real knowledge of what moral action is, we know something also of who God therefore is. So we should really stop telling such sordid lies about him.”
Because we know that determining or permitting an existence of eternal conscious torment is the antithesis of love and goodness, we know that an eternal hell is an impossibility.
To rephrase your question as a statement. Because God is love, everyone will be restored to Him. God can only do who He is.
A couple more quotes from DBH…
“In the end of all things is their beginning, and only from the perspective of the end can one know what they are, why they have been made, and who the God is who has called them forth from nothingness.”
“It would be impious, I suppose, to suggest that, in his final divine judgment on his creatures, God will judge himself; but one must hold that by that judgment God will truly disclose himself (which, of course, is to say the same thing, in a more hushed and reverential voice).”
Since, you have affirmed the goodness of God, Father Rooney, then you should already know that in the end all will be well.
Unless, of course, you invent a transcendent form of goodness that permits evil and Jesus’ revelation of the Father is the inverse of our understanding – or if – in the end, God discloses Himself to be evil.
FrR: But: do you think whether God IS good or loves us depends on whether you or loved ones end up in heaven?
Tom: Obviously not. But distinguish the order of knowing from the order of being (as it applies to your question). Nothing God ‘is’ depends on anything ‘believed by us’ to be the case about God.
But no universalist makes the mistake of believing ‘whether God ‘is’ good’ ontologically depends upon anything we believe. God doesn’t derive his goodness from events or conditions outside himself.
But this does not mean that whatever we attribute to God is good simply because we suppose God to be the subject of some the act we attribute to him. One may misconstrue the truth about God, but none thinks that God derives his existence, nature, and character ‘from’ our beliefs about him.
FrR: Whatever our personal difficulties in trusting God, whatever we can or cannot imagine God to do, whatever difficulties we might have in thinking about what heaven would be like if we cannot see loved ones there, I think the answer to such questions are secondary to our strict knowledge that God is Good and that He exists.
Tom: I noticed Robert agreed, but I’ll disagree. I do not think the answer to ‘Has God freely created and in doing so permitted spiritual creatures to finally fail to realize their highest well-being in God?’ is secondary to our believing God to be good. It’s certainly secondary to God’s ‘being’ good. All our beliefs are secondary in this sense. But the answer to this question is primary to what ‘we believe’ it means for God to be good (what sorts of acts can be justifiably attributed to God as good). We can have differences of opinions about what it means for God to be good, but none of our beliefs are secondary to believing he is good. Those opinions ARE that belief. I, for example, don’t believe you believe God is good, though we both give the same ‘name’ (“Good”) to God, we disagree radically about what this name signifies and represents, and your understanding (in my mind) falls under what I view as evil.
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Yes and no 🙂
Yes epistemologically but no ontologically.
Yes, if all were not saved, then this would mean that ‘the Good’ – aka God – did not exist.
That’s because creating the possibility of hell is evil, and any reality which is less than completely good must – by definition – by a composition of actuality and potency, of good and evil, and therefore would not be God.
However this is strictly an epistemological claim. God is not God ‘because’ He saves all – God saves all because He is God!
Theologians use this kind of reasoning all the time – for example, consider the ‘possibility’ that Jesus stole from the poor or married a goat. If Jesus did this, then no, he would not be God. But he is not God *because* he did not steal from the poor or marry a goat – rather, because He is God, we know He would never do these things.
Again, consider God’s knowledge of free creaturely decisions. God must know the outcome of all free creaturely decisions (else he would not be omniscient and therefore would not be God) – but this is not a relationship of dependency. God does not ‘become’ God ‘because’ of the free decisions of creatures – yet God must know all and therefore it is true enough that, if He didn’t know the outcome of these decisions, He obviously wouldn’t be God.