Thursday, October 20, 2022

Divine freedom and heresy

I commend to you Fr. James Dominic Rooney’s excellent recent Church Life Journal article “The Incoherencies of Hard Universalism.”  It is directed primarily at David Bentley Hart’s defense of universalism in his book That All Shall Be Saved, of which I have also been critical.  Fr. Rooney sums up his basic argument as follows:

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

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

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

3. There is no third option.

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

End quote.  The article goes on to criticize both options at length.  Here I want to focus just on the first one.  It is related not only to Hart’s universalism, but also to his pantheism, which, as I noted in a review of his more recent book You Are Gods, Hart has now made explicit.  I there observed that:

Hart takes creation to follow of necessity from the divine nature.  For in God, he says, the distinction between freedom and necessity collapses, and “creation inevitably follows from who [God] is.”  This is consistent with the thesis that “creation might not have been,” he says, as long as what this means is simply that creation derives from God, albeit of necessity. Yet it is hard to see how this is different from the Trinitarian claim that the Son is of necessity begotten by the Father; and if it isn’t different, then creation is no less divine than the Son is.

End quote.  Fr. Rooney cites the same passage from You Are Gods, which includes other remarks such as:

For God, deliberative liberty – any “could have been otherwise,” any arbitrary decision among opposed possibilities – would be an impossible defect of his freedom.  God does not require the indeterminacy of the possible in order to be freeAnd in the calculus of the infinite, any tension between freedom and necessity simply disappears; there is no problem to be resolved because, in regard to the transcendent and infinite fullness of all Being, the distinction is meaningless.

End quote.  Note that Hart takes what amounts to a compatibilist view of divine freedom.  That is to say, he claims that God’s being free is compatible with his being unable not to create the world.  Now, as Rooney says, this contradicts Christian orthodoxy.  To be sure, the tradition affirms that God is unable positively to will evil, specifically, and that the ability to do so would indeed be a defect in his freedom.  But it also insists that he was nevertheless able not to create this particular world, or indeed any world at all.  For Christian orthodoxy, the claim is not (contra Hart) merely that the world could have failed to exist.  It is that God could have refrained from bringing it into being.  It is a claim not merely about the nature of the creation, but also about the nature of the creator. 

Though Hart couldn’t care less about Catholic doctrine on this subject, it is worth noting that the Church has formally defined this teaching.  The First Vatican Council declares: “If anyone… holds that God did not create by his will free from all necessity, but as necessarily as he necessarily loves himself… let him be anathema.”  Fr. Rooney calls attention to this and other relevant magisterial statements. 

But as Rooney also notes, this is by no means just a matter of current Catholic teaching.  It is the teaching of the tradition, going back to scripture and the Fathers of the Church.  Now, there are numerous passages from scripture and the Fathers that affirm God’s freedom.  Many of these, however, would no doubt be interpreted by Hart in a compatibilist way.  But there are also passages that rule out such an interpretation. 

For example, many divine actions are described in scripture in a manner that implies that God would not have taken them had certain contingent conditions been different, such as his punishment of sinners at the time of Noah and at Sodom and Gomorrah.  Of course, that does not entail that God really went through some reasoning process, as we do, before acting.  The point is that the clear implication of these texts is that people could have acted other than the way they did, and that had they done so, God would have done something other than what he actually did. 

II Maccabees 8:18 says that “almighty God… can by a mere nod destroy not only those who attack us but even the whole world.”  That implies that it is possible for God to refrain from conserving the world in being, and for traditional Christian doctrine his conservation of the world is the fundamental way in which he is its creator.  Matthew 19:26 says that “with God all things are possible,” which would not be true if God were by nature necessitated to create only the things he actually creates.

The Fathers also understand divine freedom in a way that rules out God’s being necessitated to do what he does.  As David Bradshaw notes, Clement of Alexandria says that “God does not do good by necessity, but by choice.”  (Does this conflict with the Christian doctrine that God cannot positively will evil?  No, because we can understand Clement as meaning, not that God could do evil instead of good, but rather that he could refrain from acting at all rather than doing some good action.)  Bradshaw also notes that Basil the Great rejects the idea that God creates “without choice, as the body is the cause of shadow and light the cause of brightness” (where he obviously takes these effects of the body and of light to be necessitated by them); and that Gregory of Nyssa holds that God created “not by any necessity… but because it was fitting.” 

Then there is this passage from Athanasius’s Four Discourses against the Arians, III.61, which contrasts God the Son with the things He creates:

Therefore if He be other than all things, as has been above shown, and through Him the works rather came to be, let not ‘by will’ be applied to Him, or He has similarly come to be as the things consist which through Him come to be.  For Paul, whereas he was not before, became afterwards an Apostle ‘by the will of God;’ and our own calling, as itself once not being, but now taking place afterwards, is preceded by will, and, as Paul himself says again, has been made ‘according to the good pleasure of His will’ (Ephesians 1:5).  And what Moses relates, ‘Let there be light,’ and ‘Let the earth appear,’ and ‘Let Us make man,’ is, I think, according to what has gone before, significant of the will of the Agent.  For things which once were not but happened afterwards from external causes, these the Framer counsels to make; but His own Word begotten from Him by nature, concerning Him He did not counsel beforehand.

End quote.  Athanasius here distinguishes what comes from God “by nature” from what comes from Him “by will.”  The Son proceeds from the Father by nature, whereas created things are made according to the divine will.  Since what proceeds from Him by nature is what proceeds of necessity, the implication is that what comes from God by will does not come from Him of necessity.  Athanasius also says that what comes about by God’s will involves “counsel” (or “deliberation,” as it has also been translated) and to say that something comes about this way implies that there could have been some alternative outcome.

Similarly, in The City of God, Book XI, Chapter 24, Augustine says that “God made what was made not from any necessity, nor for the sake of supplying any want, but solely from His own goodness, i.e., because it was good.”  And Theodoret writes:

The Lord created all things whatsoever He pleased, as Holy Scripture testifies.  He did not, however, will all that it lay in His power to do, but only what seemed to Him to be sufficient.  For it would have been easy for Him to create ten or twenty thousand worlds.  (De curand. graec. affect. 4, quoted in Pohle and Preuss, God: The Author of Nature and the Supernatural, at p. 44)

This implies that there are things that God could do but does not in fact do, which entails that the products of divine power do not follow with necessity. 

Bradshaw argues that even Dionysius the Areopagite can, contrary to what is often thought, be interpreted as holding that God could have refrained from creating (though the exegetical issues are complicated and I leave it to the interested reader to look at Bradshaw’s paper for himself).  Bradshaw thus judges there to be an “apparent unanimity of [patristic] tradition regarding divine choice.”

What became Catholic dogma is, then, well-grounded in Christian tradition, so that Fr. Rooney is, even by Hart’s lights, on solid ground in judging the view that creation follows of necessity from the divine nature to be heretical.  Yet in his brief comment on Fr. Rooney’s essay at Twitter, Hart remarks that “simply screaming ‘heretic’ isn't an argument.”

But Rooney does not “scream,” and he does not merely make an accusation of heresy and leave it at that.  Rather, calmly and at length, he explains why Hart’s position is heretical in the sense of being incompatible with other non-negotiable claims of the Christian faith.  And this is indeed an argument if one’s interlocutor is himself a fellow adherent of that faith.

The reason there is such a category as “heresy” in Christianity, whereas there is no such category in purely philosophical systems, is that Christianity claims to be grounded in special divine revelation.  Anything that purports to be a Christian position must be consistent with that revelation, and the notion of heresy is the notion of that which is not consistent with it.  Now, a Christian theologian who is accused of heresy might, of course, reasonably question whether the charge is just.  He can try to show that his position is, when correctly understood, compatible with Christian revelation.  But what he cannot reasonably do is dismiss considerations of orthodoxy and heresy tout court.  Again, by virtue of calling himself a Christian, he is committed to staying within the bounds of the revelation, and thus avoiding heresy.  And thus he is committed to acknowledging that to accuse a fellow Christian of heresy is indeed an argument.  It may or may not at the end of the day be a good argument, but it is an argument.

As I have complained in a recent exchange with Hart, one of the problems with his recent work is that he is not consistent on this point.  When it suits his interests, he will appeal to orthodox Christian tradition, and claim that his own views are more consistent with it than those of his opponents.  But in other cases, he will dismiss the standard criteria of Christian orthodoxy and appeal instead to merits that his views purportedly exhibit independently of questions of orthodoxy.  As I there argued, Hart’s approach isn’t, at the end of the day, that of a Christian theologian.  Rather, it is that of a theologian who happens to have been influenced by Christian tradition, but whose ultimate criteria are to be found elsewhere.  The considerations raised by Fr. Rooney, and Hart’s failure to take them seriously, reinforce that conclusion.

Related reading:

Hart, hell, and heresy

Scripture and the Fathers contra universalism

Popes, creeds, councils, and catechisms contra universalism

David Bentley Hart’s post-Christian pantheism

Whose pantheism? Which dualism? A Reply to David Bentley Hart


  1. Have any Orthodox bishops condemned his writings? I am not exactly sure how that works, but it would be interesting to know what the Eastern Orthodox think of his position.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Fr. Farley is a parish priest with a writing ministry. He has an opinion like thousands of others - some supportive of DBH, some not. He is not a bishop.

  2. Not that I expect Ed to have seen these while making this post, but shortly before it was posted, DBH said a little more than those brief initial remarks:

    How can what DBH claims to have remarked be so different to the claims made about what he's remarked? Is it that thinking about God is tricky and requires great discipline that trips even careful thinkers? Or is the problem the Eastern/Roman traditions and authorities people approach his work from? We could spend all day guessing, I suppose. And if a reading of DBH is not straightforward, then I guess it's a bit hard to understand the breakdown between author and reader when readers attempting to engage with the arguments are left with an undefined list of "so many issues" they are "so badly confused about".

    1. No, I didn't see that. I'll take a look.

    2. DBH can be difficult to understand, but that's often the result of people's preconceptions. After all, he made his universalism pretty clear back in Atheist Delusions, but because that book was seen as him "defending orthodoxy," people assumed he couldn't possibly mean what was there on the page for all to see.

      To give another example, I read the "Consciousness" section of The Experience of God about 50 times without realizing that Hart wasn't a dualist about mind.

    3. I have to admit, DBH is, as ever, as good a pen at cutting remarks and clever put-downs as we have had for a long, long time:

      It's like watching a puppy trying to chase the moon away with its barking. It's cute.

      In 3 short (it's Twitter, after all) comments, DBH denigrates Rooney some 5 or 6 times. And yet he cannot be bothered to even point in the direction of an actual argument. Someone who actually cares about truth (or about souls) might think to include something that at least indicates where to look for the answers to Rooney's (supposed) mistakes.

      But we know that Hart is more at home with invective than reasoned response, which is work, after all. If Rooney's article really is beneath DBH's notice, should have been beneath his effort to bother responding. Name-calling is a response, but it isn't a worthy one. He's like a toddler on a play-ground upset at someone who took his swing, and is throwing stones at him. It's cute, in a sordid little way.

    4. Hart "cannot be bothered to even point in the direction of an actual argument?" He wrote a whole book about it, and has written numerous articles responding to criticisms of his position. Rooney's article offers nothing new, other than the claim that Hart's position amounts to "heresy," and where has that accusation ever got anyone? Hart can simply reply "Fine, I am a heretic, but I'm still right, so why should I care?" Hart obviously thinks its more important to be right than to be orthodox. That may (as Dr. Feser argues) make him some kind of fake Christian, but it has no bearing whatsoever on whether he's right or wrong.

    5. As I said: if Rooney's essay was so useless as to be beneath him, then DBH should have left it as beneath him, including beneath comment. Saying (3 or 4 times) "you're stupid" is childish bullying, even if you do it in fancier language.

      The book was about more than JUST the issue of permanent punishment in hell, and DBH could have (for example) said things like "pages 112-116 demolish Rooney's argument X", or whatever.

      Rooney's article offers nothing new, other than the claim that Hart's position amounts to "heresy," and where has that accusation ever got anyone?

      Well, no, it DOES offer more than shouting "heresy". It offers support for that assertion from Eastern Fathers and saints, i.e. people that most Orthodox Christians consider to matter in identifying orthodoxy.

      Hart obviously thinks its more important to be right than to be orthodox.

      I dare say you may be right, this is exactly how he thinks of it. And that, ITSELF, constitutes a non-Christian way of thinking about it: due to Christ's promises of protection, a Christian ought to be very worried when he discovers "I think X" but "the orthodox view is not-X", and ought to hold that finding the above implies that very likely that he was wrong to think X is true, because "orthodoxy" has protections in getting at truth that I don't have. Preferring "what-I-think-is-truth that I arrived at against orthodoxy" over "what-orthodoxy-says-is-truth" is not merely "preferring truth over orthodoxy". It constitutes also a position about "my reliability in getting at truth" compared to "the Church's reliability in getting at truth". DBH can hold his view of preferring truth to orthodoxy, and hold to NOT being bothered about such a condition, but then he ought to accept the comment of others that this disqualifies him from being a Christian, instead of going off on multi-page diatribes against them (as he has against Feser on that).

    6. Tony-How can you rent your mind out to others?

    7. I suppose that, as my job consists in thinking about stuff that my employer asks, it constitutes "renting out" my mind. If you are interested in paying a similar price, I can probably make some arrangements for a rental.


  3. Right off the bat Fr. Rooney’s summary is just awful. Hart has never argued that it’s impossible to hell. He clearly affirms in various interviews following the publication of TASBS that it’s possible, indeed likely, that many will go to hell but that they will not remain there eternally. His view makes the fires of hell purgative rather than retributive. Catholic thinkers have to be able to take Hart’s arguments on their own terms rather than trying to square them with foreign pictures of judgement (such as: immediate judgment upon death whereupon one is sent to everlasting joy in heaven or everlasting pain in hell). At this point it’s just sad how many putatively intelligent Catholics cannot even summarize, let alone respond to Hart’s arguments. Even conservative theologians like Larry Chapp recognize this (and his recent interview with Hart is worth watching).

    Propping up willful misreadings of Hart’s argument is really not doing anything good for your brand, Doc. Better luck next time

    1. Oh, stop it. Everybody knows that when people describe Hart as denying the reality of hell, what they mean is that he denies the reality of everlasting punishment. You're trying to manufacture a misrepresentation where none exists.

    2. One wonders if Anon is confusing Hart with Von Balthazar? The later's quasi Universalist speculations do contain the stated belief that Hell and damnation are possible.

      But Hart rejects that view outright. For him Hell is not real at all....

    3. I’m really not so sure that’s the case. There are legions of online Christians - Catholic orthodox, and protestant alike - wrestling with this issue in comboxes all over the Web and I cannot tell you how many people honestly believe that Hart’s argument boils down to: “There’s no punishment. What you do in this life ultimately doesn’t matter. God will love you and save you and have mercy on you and there’s nothing to fear in the afterlife (so don’t worry about evangelizing, either!)”.

      I totally get that you, Dr. phaser, understand hearts position. But Fr. Rooney’s summary, at least as you’ve posted it says “impossible to go to hell”, which is absolutely not what Hart argues. Unless I’m missing something, that’s just a straight-up willful misreading of the text.

    4. "Propping up willful misreadings of Hart’s argument is really not doing anything good for your brand, Doc."

      You must have been taking lessons from Papalinton. Why, if the Catholic Church replies to Hart's position from the Catholic world's understanding of things, then the Catholic Church and Dr. Feser in particular have got to be wrong, and Dr. Feser is even "willfully" misreading poor Hart and setting up props against him (but a little mind reading trick expressing nastiness will go far if you find the right stage … which, unfortunately for your prospects for success, this isn't).

      We are amused.

      What an odd joke!

      A very funny way to supposedly try to make a case.


      Tom Cohoe

    5. Anon,

      Yes, you're missing something. It is very common to use "hell" as a synonym for "eternal punishment." You are correct that sometimes it is not used that way, but, again, it very often is, and that is obviously the way Fr. Rooney means it (not only from his article itself, but from the other things he has said on this issue). The willful misrepresentation seems to me to be on your part, not his. For you seem intent on attributing this uncharitable reading to him, when an alternative reading is easily available.

  4. According to his recent book Tradition and Apocalypse, Hart believes that the only people who can truly be judged as heretics are "in cases of moral departure from the explicit teachings of Christ", which would only include supporters of capital punishment, right-wing Catholic integralists, libertarians, and Trump supporters. "Beyond these obvious examples," Hart argues. "judgement is best withheld."

    In other words, anyone who ventures far from what Hart takes to be Jesus' moral mission (and keep in mind, Hart believes Jesus to have been an anarcho-communist agitator) can be an obvious heretic. For everyone else, it's all up in the air. The criteria for Christian theological orthodoxy in Hart's eyes appears to be left-wing political orthodoxy.

    1. WCB

      Acts 4. The disciples of Jesus are filled with the words of the Lord by the Holy Ghost. Immediately, they adopt communism. Owning all things in common. We are told dogmatically that trinitarianism is true. Jesus is one of the persons of God. And therefor also a communist.

      Seealso Luke 14:33.
      33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

      Jesus a communist? Hart seems to know his Bible.


    2. Just to pick one:

      in cases of moral departure from the explicit teachings of Christ", which would only include supporters of capital punishment,...

      Except that Christ nowhere explicitly forbids capital punishment. Or (of course) Trump support, or integralism, or ...

      When you constitute your own church of 1, you can define orthodoxy any way you want. Satan could be orthodox, on that basis. (But I suppose DBH doesn't believe in the idea of Satan being forever excluded from God's presence. Once you believe in the (ultimate) salvation of all men, angels cannot be far behind.)

  5. "Heresy!" is often a paltry accusation, and this is no exception. It immediately raises the question "Whose heresy? Which orthodoxy?" and given that Hart does not claim to be a member of the Catholic Church nor to be bound to its tradition, I don't see what an accusation of heresy from that quarter is worth. After all, you already (at least if you're consistent) believe him to be a heretic for denying papal infallibilty and a host of other accumulated dogmas. Why should he care that you ALSO think he's a heretic about this?

    One can't instead appeal to some "mere orthodoxy" common to all Christians across confessional boundaries, at least not without stretching that "mere" to meaninglessness. What church council requires us to believe in liberarian free will? Which creed explains what it means for God to choose? If we go beyond that, we're appealing to a vague consensus, not to orthodoxy.

    1. I explicitly said that I realize that Hart would not be swayed by Catholic doctrine, and that is why I emphasized instead what we find in scripture and the Fathers -- which, in other contexts, Hart claims to follow.

    2. WCB

      Universalism was proposed by Origen centuries ago. That was rejected by orthodox Catholics and Origen was posthumously labelled a heretic. Universalism was labelled heresy. The NT speaks of eternal punishment being just that, eternal and that was that. That this seems to contradict claims of the Bible that God is merciful and compassionate is a problem, because eternal punishment is neither still disturbs many.

      The many claims historically those in heaven will see and enjoy the suffering of those in hell is also been historically repulsive to many.


    3. "I explicitly said that I realize that Hart would not be swayed by Catholic doctrine, and that is why I emphasized instead what we find in scripture and the Fathers -- which, in other contexts, Hart claims to follow."

      Yeah, nothing to get het up about, I'd say. Other of your readers however, seem to differ. Vehemently

      Some really do seem to get emotional about this. Perhaps they are picturing a favorite icon like Stalin, or Marx, or even Lyndon Johnson, in Hell; which is an amusing reaction - the indignation that is - but not really helpful.

      Hart has himself shruggingly said, in effect, that if he is a heretic, then, you know, so be it. He has clearly announced his preference for, and commitment to, his own pantheibabble eructations over orthodox doctrine; and he will have it his way - warbling defiance Sinatra style - come Hell or high water. He's got his "precious" and he ain't giving it up. So beautiful, so shiny, so soothing ... so lovingly and long polished.

      Perhaps there is something to be gleaned from the reactions ... after all, the Virgin Mary of the approved apparitions, herself entreats the various visionaries to pray for the poor souls on their way to damnation. "Poor souls": that's an interesting way to look at them. I might not care about their fate, but she does. And I have to admit that according to reports Hell is indeed a hellish place, which once you gain a whiff of it, you would not wish on your own worst enemy ... though on these same reports, the residents of Hell might in fact have wished it for themselves through a rather perverse celebration of their own unbreakable wills.

      And then .. there are those delicate butterflies that swarm to Hart;s defense.

      Wherein we see the kind assertions made which involve the fascinating premise that saying "all men are categorically saved", is not the same in the final logical reduction as saying that "no men can fail to be saved no matter what they do" ... i.e., " cannot not be saved", or something along those lines. There's an important operating distinction there somewhere ... we are assured. Or, at least it's strongly insinuated. Well, if 'Ye are Gods', then I guess all things are possible, including the definitionally not possible.

      Ed ... How do you deal with it? It's enough to make one an old fashioned logical positivist ... almost.

    4. One can't instead appeal to some "mere orthodoxy" common to all Christians across confessional boundaries, at least not without stretching that "mere" to meaninglessness.

      Orthodox Christians, (as well as Catholics), usually place great reliance on the teachings of the Fathers, especially they revere the early Fathers and the Greek Fathers, and they rely on the early Councils. A plausible case of departure from orthodoxy on that basis can be made - by Catholics - against someone who (at least used to) comport himself as an Orthodox Christian. Rooney cites (a) an essay on the Eastern Patristic tradition on God's freedom, and eastern saints John Damascene, and Isaac of Nineveh. Maybe his argument isn't a great one - I have reservations about a couple points, myself - but it's not irrelevant to the orthodoxy of an Orthodox Christian.

    5. That this seems to contradict claims of the Bible that God is merciful and compassionate is a problem, because eternal punishment is neither still disturbs many.

      The pertinent term being: "seems". There were those who thought that "God is one being" and "God is 3 persons" seemed to contradict. And "Christ is God" and "Christ is man" seemed to contradict. But later they were found to not be in conflict. And "Christ is God" and "Mary is Christ's mother" seemed to contradict. And the Church learned to be darn careful about things that SEEM to contradict, but...don't actually contradict.

    6. WCB

      The BIble claims God is merciful, just, compassionate et al. But also claims God arbitrarily chooses who shall be elect, and who shall not. God hardens the hearts of the Jews to not accept Jesus as the messiah. God the great potter arbitrarily chooses who shall be "vessels of wrath" and who shall be "vssels of mercy". God predestines all of this.

      If God arbitrarily makes Jane elect and "vessel of mercy", and creates John as not elect and a "vessel of wrath", is this fair, just, merciful or compassionate?No. The Bible has many serious conceptual problems, contradictions and foolish ideas the Bible cannot be true or a good basis for meaningful dogmas.

      This is a problem for revealed religions. Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Islam, all of them.


    7. @ WCB,

      "This is a problem for revealed religions. Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Islam, all of them."

      You are an image of God but God is not an image of you. Your thoughts are an image of God but God is not an image of your thoughts.

      Your thoughts cannot arrive at what God cannot do because God is not an image of your thoughts, your ideas, or your beliefs. But whatever, of that held in your mind that would be TRULY good, as held in your thoughts, ideas, or beliefs that God should do, God will do, is doing, or has already done in a greater way.

      This we know by revelation of one form or another.

      If your mind is firmly set on a personal belief that God must fit into the image of God that is in your mind then your mind is blocked and until you relieve the block, you will not be able to understand that God is not limited by any thoughts you have about Him.

      Since you denounce revelation, through which we can understand some, but not all, of what God is, does, or will do, you are stuck.

      You have to, as we say, diminish yourself and magnify God. God is the light, not your mind. It at best can only be an agent of God.

      Tom Cohoe

    8. Hey, WCB, why don't you just pick a username already instead of staying Anonymous and signing all your posts like you're writing a paper letter? I can't see any good reason for doing this, except to enable you to pretend to be other people when you want to (by not signing your name). Do you have some better reason?

    9. Hey Cantus at 11.53AM

      Does this apply to Tom Cohoe too?

      Do you have any evidence to support your scurrilous implied allegation agsinst WCB? Thought not.

  6. Here's a passage from Pope John Paul II's Encyclical Redemptor hominis, suggesting that babies have sanctifying grace in their souls when those children still live in the womb. If they do, why baptize them?

    "Accordingly, what is in question here is man in all his truth, in his full magnitude. We are not dealing with the "abstract" man, but the real, "concrete", "historical" man. We are dealing with "each" man, for each one is included in the mystery of the Redemption and with each one Christ has united himself for ever through this mystery. Every man comes into the world through being conceived in his mother's womb and being born of his mother, and precisely on account of the mystery of the Redemption is entrusted to the solicitude of the Church. Her solicitude is about the whole man and is focussed on him in an altogether special manner. The object of her care is man in his unique unrepeatable human reality, which keeps intact the image and likeness of God himself92. The Council points out this very fact when, speaking of that likeness, it recalls that "man is the only creature on earth that God willed for itself"93. Man as "willed" by God, as "chosen" by him from eternity and called, destined for grace and glory-this is "each" man, "the most concrete" man, "the most real"; this is man in all the fullness of the mystery in which he has become a sharer in Jesus Christ, the mystery in which each one of the four thousand million human beings living on our planet has become a sharer from the moment he is conceived beneath the heart of his mother."

    Does his belief imply something like universalism?

    1. No, most certainly not. JPII, like his predecessors, acknowledges that God calls all to holiness, and even orders them toward holiness so that holiness is their only true end. And by constituting the Church to be His agent of grace on Earth, God ordains all to receive the truth and grace from the treasures of the Church. (And all who receive sanctifying grace ARE in fact members of that Church, even if they are not expressly aware of it.) Thus the life of grace constitutes for EVERY man the wholeness and fullness of life, a sharer in Jesus Christ in fact after being, from the moment of first conception, a sharer IN POTENTIA by ordination toward that life, and by Christ's great mission to make disciples of all nations.

      JPII expresses this most clearly in saying as "chosen" by him from eternity and called, destined for grace and glory... The chosing is from all eternity, and is universal in the sense of all being ordered toward the life of grace and toward being sharers in Christ, being "destined" in the sense of being both ordered and CALLED to it, but it unfolds in concrete time with the actions by which one actually adheres to God in grace, and this can fail to occur.

    2. Tony, if I understand your post, I agree with most of what you say in it. Thanks to Dr. Feser, I know what an order is in Wullner's sense of that word. But I doubt that sanctifying grace makes a non-Catholic a member of the Church.

      I doubt that Pope Pius XII and Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton tell us the difference between being a member of the Church and being in the Church as a nonmember of it.

      Pius XII and Fenton say that only Catholics are members of the Church since each member of it must meet four requirements. He must wear the baptismal mark on his soul, profess Catholicism, be willing to submit to the pope and to the Church's other legitimate hierarchy, and not be under full excommunication. By those standards, a Protestant in sanctifying grace is in the Church as a nonmember of it.

      But the dogma that there's salvation in only the Catholic Church is still true because people can be in the Church as nonmembers of it.

      See Mystici Corporis Christi and Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton's book "The Catholic Church and Salvation."

      A non-Catholic is in the Church if there's sanctifying grace in his soul. So he'll die in her if he's in that grace when he does. But his sect doesn't get him to heaven. If he reaches it, he does that despite that sect, not because of it.

      That's why Blessed Pope Pius IX writes:
      "Our Predecessor, Gregory XVI, an “insanity,”2 viz., that “liberty of conscience and worship is each man’s personal right, which ought to be legally proclaimed and asserted in every rightly constituted society; and that a right resides in the citizens to an absolute liberty, which should be restrained by no authority whether ecclesiastical or civil, whereby they may be able openly and publicly to manifest and declare any of their ideas whatever, either by word of mouth, by the press, or in any other way.” But, while they rashly affirm this, they do not think and consider that they are preaching “liberty of perdition;”3 and that “if human arguments are always allowed free room for discussion, there will never be wanting men who will dare to resist truth, and to trust in the flowing speech of human wisdom; whereas we know, from the very teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, how carefully Christian faith and wisdom should avoid this most injurious babbling.”4"

      From what you're telling me, I must have misinterpreted John Paul's quotation from Redemptor Hominis. But his Assisi meetings and Vatican II's religious liberty may make some non-Catholics likely to die outside the Church.
      I quote Pius IX's Quanta Cura because although each non-Catholic at Pope John Paul II's fiirst Assisi meeting in 1986 was possibly in the Church, hi sect

  7. Dr. Feser, I don't comment on things often, but feel compelled to offer a layman's perspective here. I enjoy both your and DBH's writings. I learn from your perspectives. With that said, I can't help but think you and Fr. Rooney (I did read his article) are being a bit obtuse here. Hart does not seem to be arguing that there is some power outside of God which compels God, removing God's free will, to create. Rather, his argument is that God's very *nature* is such that creation naturally follows from just who God is - it is the natural end result of God *being*. He who is Love, Good, etc. is, by virtue of who he is, going to create. It seems as though you and Fr. Rooney are not arguing against Hart's actual argument.

    1. Anon,

      I'm afraid the misunderstanding is on your part. Yes, I'm well aware that that is Hart's position, as is Fr. Rooney. What you seem not to realize is that the tradition holds that God is not necessitated to create the world even by his own nature, let alone anything outside God. I thought I made it quite plain in my post that that is what the issue is.

    2. I spoke with David via his sub-stack, and he conflates pantheism with something called 'process theology' which he rejects. He also denied being a 'panentheist' which he states that "no one can adequately define." So, do you think you maybe misinterpreting David position?

    3. WCB

      This is an old problem Augustine struggled with. God is claimed to be just, but also merciful and compassionate. Eternal punishment in hell is support by God's justice but mercy and compassion would seem to support that eternal torment won't last foever.

      This on of the questions Augustine could not answer other than to claim God was inscrutable. Incomprehensible. People are still puzzling over that to this day.


    4. Thank you for taking the time to respond.

      Would it not be more accurate to say *part of* the tradition makes such a claim?

    5. Dr. Feser,

      This was my question, also. Given your response, I have to ask the following: How does the *real* possibility of God opting not to create make any sense given classical theism's core doctrines of divine immutability and simplicity? It seems these most fundamental commitments logically entail the necessity—in some sense—of creation.

      How exactly do you imagine a simple and unchanging God deciding between creating or not creating? Did God flip a coin? Was God conflicted and then experienced change such that the conflict was resolved? Did the possibility of creation randomly occur in the mind of God, such that it might not have occurred?

    6. If one cannot grasp that saying “Necessity cannot attach to him who is perfect infinite act” is not somehow to say “He who is perfect infinite act is bound by necessity,” then one just isn’t a good philosopher.

      A God who merely chooses to create–as one equally possible exercise of deliberative will among others–is either actualizing a potential beyond his nature (in which case he is not God, but a god only) or he is actualizing some otherwise unrealized potential within himself (in which case, again, he is not God, but a god only).

      Both are quotes from DBH. These both make perfect sense to me and seem to be what a commitment to classical theism entails. So are you abandoning classical theism for process theology or Manichaeism Dr. Feser? Your commitment to "traditional orthodoxy" smacks of blind and stupid fideism if it cannot be rationally justified.

    7. Mr Sutter,
      If some being eternally wills X, this act of willing isn’t going to change. I think we agree on that, or else you wouldn’t really have a problem here. At the same time, just because this is an eternal act of willing doesn’t make it a necessary act of willing. At the very least, it’s far from obvious that God’s eternally willing X is the same as God’s necessarily willing X. You need an argument for that.


    8. @Tanner
      Your second DBH quote is bunk. Turn to the first option he attacks, and ask what it means for a potential to be “beyond” the divine nature. I think his second prong suggests he is using “beyond” to mean “distinct from”. For, to reach his conclusion, this internal, unrealized potency must mean something that truly is part of God, thus undermining several essential attributes.
      If I’m interpreting him correctly, I can’t help but wonder, what’s the problem? It shouldn’t be that God is realizing what could be called an objective potency. I see three possibilities for how that might threaten God’s claims to divinity:
      1. It undermines his aseity
      2. It threatens his immutability
      3. It does away with his simplicity
      But it’s far from clear that realizing an objective potency does any of those things. There’s no reason to suppose that making a choice involves any kind of change on the choosing agent’s part, for example.
      And we can already see why divine aseity goes on unscathed. An “objective potency”, as I’ve dubbed it here, takes it for granted that the possible thing doesn’t actually exist. It’s merely a possibility, for something that isn’t self-existing. Or are we supposed to think that because God is the ultimate ground for modality, that every objective potency is just one of God’s passive potencies? Is there any reason to believe that? I won’t take it just because you want me to.

  8. It's strange how Western converts to the Orthodox Church so often seem to take up its least orthodox strands. Is it all about boredom with sana doctrina? There are pious Orthodox monks who spout theories like everything going to heaven, the devil too. But then, that religion has had no mechanism for establishing what Revelation is since slamming the door a thousand years ago,so such views go on without too much disturbance. Even so, the average cradle follower of Orthodoxy seems little interested in most of the stranger theories - as long as he doesn't start getting "ideas".

    By the way, it's hard to see why Christianity's grounds should be termed revelation of a special kind. Are there there any decisive grounds for this religion apart from those beyond the capabilities of human nature? The revelation that makes Christianity possible is supernatural of itself, with no confusion with what men can to discover through their own potential, which is why the term is universally used without qualification, and perfectly understood and accepted. The addition "special" in connection with the revelation of the faith seems superfluous, and reduces clarity.

    1. Is not the term, special revelation, a distinction from the natural revelation spoken of by Saint Paul, Romans 1,20?

    2. Revelation, properly speaking, is supernatural. Christianity is this Revelation essentially.

      Revelation is not a conversation; it is God speaking to mankind. If what humans are able to establish by reasoning were God speaking, human personhood and autonomous thought would be doubtful as, eventually, would divinity. Our religion is the result of supernatural revelation - it's evident from the first book of the OT.

  9. Am I missing something or does this text (as well as Fr. Rooney) commit a basic mistake in logic? Hart's necessitarianism is not a necessary condition for 1.

    "1. that God could not do otherwise than cause human beings to love him"

    Even assuming universalism requires 1, the "could not do otherwise" clause is a conditional one. That is to say, *if* God creates humans, God cannot do otherwise than cause human beings to love him. This is consistent with there being a possible world in which God does NOT create anything, or creates a universe with no human beings in it. It is only inconsistent with God creating a world with humans and then having said humans not love him/be damned in the end. From the impossibility of people being lost forever, universalists are not arguing that it's impossible that people never have existed in the first place. It should be obvious that it is a conditional on the creation of people - to put it differently, from infernalism and annihilationism being impossible it does not follow that universalism is necessary simpliciter, such that God could not have chosen to not make a universe with humans being all saved.

    For whatever merits necessitarianism might or might not have, it is obviously not a necessary condition for strong universalism.

    1. I am not positive about this, but it is my sense of Rooney's argument is that Hart's necessitarianism would have it that: granted that God DID IN FACT create some world, and in particular he did create a world with humans, then we can thereby know that he necessarily does so. Absent the empirical evidence of a created world with humans, an independent observer could not have KNOWN that God necessarily MUST create a world with humans, but that's a gap in the observer's knowing, not a gap in the necessity of God's so acting.

      Possibly I have misunderstood, or Rooney has misunderstood Hart.

    2. I have read Hart's "That All Shall Be Saved" and as far as I remember nothing in his argument required necessitarianism of any kind.

      Yes, he did argue that it is IMPOSSIBLE for human beings to be damned. And yes, in a way he did argue that it was IMPOSSIBLE for God not to save all the people he had made, given God's moral perfection. But again, both of these propositions are fully compatible with God deciding to not create anything at all, or deciding to create a universe with no people. The only thing that follows from the impossibility of eternal damnation is the impossibility of eternal damnation, not that God absolutely had to create our universe and save everyone, or even had to create (and save) any people.

      Whether Hart actually defends necessitarianism in other works might very well be possible. But it is completely irrelevant for universalism as well as his specific argument.

      Fr. Rooney says "If it is a necessary truth that all will be saved, something makes it so..." but again, when universalists say that it is necessary that God will save everyone, they are speaking of a conditional necessity, I.e. GIVEN that God has created people, it is impossible that he would then fail to save all of them. The universalist is not saying that it is necessary for God to CREATE any world or a specific world and then save everyone; he is just saying it is impossible for God to create people and then have them be lost forever to eternal damnation or annihilation.

  10. Edmund Crispin wrote a humorous crime novel, Holy Disorders published in 1945. Two clerics, soon to be suspected of murder, enter a room in earnest discussion: “…But, my dear Spitshuker, you apparently fail to realise that by taking the universalist view you are, in effect, denying the reality of man’s freedom to choose between good and evil. If we are all to go to heaven anyway, then that choice has no validity. It’s as if one were to say that a guest at a tea-party has freedom to choose between muffins and crumpets when only crumpets are provided.”

    “I hardly think, Garbin, that you have grasped the essential point in all this, if you will forgive my saying so. You would concede, of course, that the Divinity is a god of Love?”

    “Of course, of course. But you haven’t answered—”

    “Well, then. That being so, His aim must be the perfection of every one of His Creation. You will agree that even in the case of the greatest saint, perfection is impossible of attainment in the three-score years and ten which we have at our disposal. I am inclined, therefore, to believe that there must be an intermediate state, a purgatory—”

  11. Sometimes it seems like traditionalists swing to the opposite end of the pendulum: "dare we hope that all non-canonized past the age of reason are damned?"

    1. I admit that I have run into a tiny number of traditionalists who sound like that, but it is very far indeed from the usual character of traditionalists. Only a tiny number, well below 1%.

      I think it would be more fair to locate (among trads) the mean value of the expectation of how many WILL END UP as saved to be something like "less than half", but ONLY on account of biblical references to the "wide" path to hell and the "narrow" path to heaven, on which there are "few". They (most trads) would be happy - even delighted - to find that in spite of the seeming meaning behind such passages, in the final result 98% of all people go to heaven. It would be a pleasant surprise to them, not a horror or an offense or an insult. Therefore, accrediting to them (or suspecting of them) a "hope" for only few saved is entirely out of order.

    2. Therefore, accrediting to them (or suspecting of them) a "hope" for only few saved is entirely out of order.

      It was meant to be an ironical remark, not an accusation. I know nobody hopes most people to be damned. I think.

  12. Why are 1 and 2 being called out as distance possibilities? It seems to me that 1 is just a subset of 2. You can rephrase 2 as “humans were created by God such that we cannot do otherwise than to love God” in which case 1 here is just one of the two possible reasons for 2, either God could have created us otherwise or he couldn’t.

    Since 1 entails 2, what is gained by arguing against 1 specifically? It seems like if you can prove that 2 leads to unacceptable conclusions, then worrying about whether or not God could have created us some other way is irrelevant.

  13. "This implies that there are things that God could do but does not in fact do, which entails that the products of divine power do not follow with necessity."

    How is the notion of 'things that God could do but does not in fact do' intelligible if there is no potency in God?

    1. When the Scholastics deny potency in God, they mean God has no passive potencies. It’s impossible for God to acquire any new perfections. These are distinct from what active potencies, which might also be called causal powers. God has all causal powers —and so is omnipotent—, and therefore is capable of creating all possible beings, not merely those beings that have, do, or will exist in this world.


  14. Have you abandoned classical theism for process theology or Manichaeism Dr. Feser? You might wanna try reading what David wrote and that thing you quoted in Vatican 1 about God creating only as necessarily as he necessarily loves himself about 15 times slowly maybe even out loud until you come to the epiphany that they are precisely saying the same thing.

    1. Tanner, perhaps you should read it a 16th time. Yes, Vatican I is describing exactly the same view as Hart's, but is condemning it. It is not saying that God creates the world as necessarily as he necessarily loves himself, but on the contrary it is saying that anyone who holds such a view is anathema.

      Re: "process theology," etc., I don't know what the hell you are talking about, and neither do you. There is nothing in anything I wrote that remotely implies that, and of course I am no fan of process theology.

  15. Interesting. Would it be fair to see Hart position on the modal status of the creation of the world as similar to Leibniz? Both seem to argue that the creation of the world is not free in the traditional sense because the actual world was the only serious option, other worlds would suck compared with ours.

    By contrast, the traditional view seems like Plantinga one: there is no world that is completely superior to all others, so God did choose these but He could had done diferently while not making a mistake. St. Thomas own view on these matters does fit here.

    Hart does not explicity says it, but there seems to be in him the idea that if God choice is not 100% better than other possible ones them we would have a arbitrary divine action, which is impossible.

    Would this be a fair summary?

    1. WCB

      A world God created without Nazis, Bolsheviks, or Mongols would be a better world than one with Nazis, Bolsheviks or Mongols. We should argue that. Not divert the debate to afoolish issues like a perfect world that does not exist.

      That brings us to the issue of theological fatalism.


    2. Er, what was so bad about the Bolsheviks exactly?

    3. WCB

      What was so bad about Bolsheviks? Doctrinaire communism. Lenin, Stalin, gulags, terror, mass murder. Genocides such as in Ukraine. We could have done without any of that.


    4. "A world God created without Nazis, Bolsheviks, or Mongols would be a better world than one with Nazis, Bolsheviks or Mongols"

      That is compatible with Platinga claim that there is no best of all possible worlds, so it does not help much.

      But dont worry, there will be time to speak of the problem of evil in the future.

    5. Um, isn't the problem with Bolsheviks and Nazis their evil ideologies, not the (mere) existence of the people who put the ideologies into practice? Similarly, how does the existence of Monguls who acted similarly to what God commanded the Israelites to do (i.e. exterminating other tribes) imply a sub-optimal creation. If human suffering is the yardstick, people certainly experience suffering as a manifestation of our being created to be with God, untainted by the effects of sin.

  16. Starting by claiming to follow Jesus more closely, Hart has now ended up rejecting monotheism entirely. Truly, sin darkens the intellect and causes men to make idols to worship instead of God.

  17. This (essay?) begins by speaking of Universalism as based on the notion that it is a “necessary truth” that all will be saved. This appears to be Harts position, however it is certainly not the position of all who consider the question. Von Balthazar was brought up and I believe his position was that it is something we can “reasonably” hope for. This seems a sensible position to me and hardly heretical.

    1. I agree that these two positions are distinct and should be kept apart for the purpose of recognizing whether either one is contrary to what the Church teaches. Von Balthasar's position is much less easy to attack as contrary, or as clearly and explicitly contrary.

      But whether salvation for all it is something that we can "reasonably" hope for is not the same as whether it is clearly and explicitly contrary to what the Church teaches. Some teachings make it imprudent, unwise, or temerarious (rash) to propose, without being definitely opposed to Church teaching, because the Church teaching strongly leans in a certain direction without (yet) being definitive about it. For example, the Holy Office stated over 100 years ago that it MAY NOT safely be taught that Christ in his human intellect did not have the knowledge of those in Beatitude during his period on Earth, nor even that the position be held as debatable or uncertain.

      In addition to the (many) biblical passages that at least point toward the result that some are damned, there are some passages whose import are (and have been taken traditionally as saying) that some are in fact damned, rather than that some may be damned. And whether they have been "traditionally" taught so, versus "Traditionally" taught so, i.e. whether the weight of the apostolic and Fathers teachings' comes down definitively on one side of that, I hesitate to say, but then again perhaps so should everyone else. It may be rash to say (and teach) that all may be saved is a reasonable hope.

      Nevertheless, one may certainly PRAY for all, in the sense of (a) having good will toward all; and (b) asking God to offer his favor to all; so that (c) all who might be saved will indeed be saved. While your benevolence applies to all in that any one might be saved, and thus of any one you hope he be saved, it need not encompass an active hope that every single one be saved. This benevolence (and it's consequent form of prayer) is an appropriate expression of charity, being clearly assimilable to God's antecedent will that all be saved.

    2. @anonymous.

      What does or does not "seem heretical" to you is not the criteria by which something is or is not heretical. The position you are describing is a position that has been condemned by the Church. Pope Pius IX condemened the following proposition in the the Syllabus of Errors: "Good hope at least is to be entertained of the eternal salvation of all those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ" (17). This condemnation draws from a previous encyclical entitled Quanto Conficiamur.

      So the suggestion that there is good reason to hope for the salvation of all men has been condemned by the Church. Balthasar was aware of this and would not have gone so far as to say that we have good reason to hope for the salvation of everyone. To make this assertion is again to affirm what the Church has condemned.

      Where does this leave the position of Balthasar? It leaves him with a hope that is based neither in reason nor in revelation. It leaves him with an irrational hope. That is the problem with the position: it is rooted neither in reason nor revelation.

      In the Tradition, the overwhelming weight of the Church Fathers is against the positions of Gregory of Nyssa and Origen and a couple of clever theologians do not overturn the weight of a broad range of Church Fathers that includes a great number of doctors of the Church.

      It certainly doesn't overturn the words of Christ that "the way is narrow and *few will find it*" (Mt. 7:14). These words are not taken seriously by those in the Balthasar camp. Balthasar's position on this issue was influenced by the reformed theologian Karl Barth. Such theologians have an account of election that has little place for human freedom and secondary causality. They read salvation as though God will save us without us. This is not the Catholic position. The Catholic position is that we need to cooperate with God's grace to be saved.

      So, the Balthasarian position in order to remain orthodox on this point would have to posit that we should hope that everyone in history has, is, and will cooperate with God's grace. Well, we might ask the disciples of Balthasar, what reason do we have for thinking that everyone in the world has, is, and will cooperate with God's grace? Oh, you don't have a good reason to think that? Well why in the world would I hold a position that has no rational basis and is widely rejected by the Church Fathers? Why would I hold a position that is so manifestly contrary to the state of our corrupt society? It don't have to even know about the gulags to see that the suggestion that everyone is cooperating with God's grace is an entirely baseless assertion. I just have to look around me.

    3. The reply above quoting the syllabus of errors and noting Barth's influence on Balthasar is by Michael Copas.

    4. @Micheal Copas. Golly! Yet JP II, Benedict XVI (no mean theologian), Robert Barron to name just 3 seem to think there is something worthy of discussion in Von Balthazar’s position. I think anyone who does not at least hope, and we can haggle about the possibility of that hope, that all are saved have rather missed the entire point of Christianity. It seems unlikely to me that they are unaware of whatever influences VB acquired. Yes I understand that there are levels of hope, but VB does qualify this with “reasonable” and those I mentioned are/were very well aware of it. As for why you should hold a position so contrary to the state of our corrupt society that is up to you.

    5. Good hope at least is to be entertained of the eternal salvation of all those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ

      "not at all in the true Church of Christ". At all.

      What about those who are "in the true Church" in some (qualified) sense and not in the Church in another sense? These, at least, would seem to constitute the very reason Pius added "at all" to the sentence.

      Is it impossible for God to do the following: for each sinner, one hundredth of a second before the point the soul leaves the body, take their faculties up into a confrontation with Him, enlighten them and give them the grace of conversion, and then while they have sanctifying grace and are thus "in the true Church of Christ", die? Each such sinner would die in the true Church. Is there a limit to how many God has the power save this way?

      As I understand it, Pius's named error regards having hope even for those who reject the Church all the way to their death, so that they die in the condition of being wholly and in every sense not members of the Church. It seemingly does not refer to someone who repents of their (earlier) repudiation of the Church, and embraces the Church willingly, regardless of how little time there is between their repenting and their death, (i.e. regardless of whether their conversion could be known by outward signs because there is so little time).

    6. Something worthy of discussion? Well that is nice and imprecise. I think that there is something "worthy of discussion" in Balthasar's position. After all I have entered into discussion about it now haven't I. The question is not whether JPII or BVI thought it "worthy of discussion". The question is whether they held his position finding it to represent the Church's Scripture and Tradition. The answer to this question is an obvious "no" which is why you framed it so imprecisely so that you could, through slight of hand, give the appearance that somehow JPII and BVI are in your little old corner. Now that we have cleared up that your corner is quite a bit more lonely than you would like for the world to think, let's move on to your next inane assertion.

      The suggestion that not holding VB's position is to miss the entire point of Christianity shows a lack of reflection on what you write before you actually place your fingers on the keyboard. You are condemning nearly every saint and doctor of the Church who has spoken on this matter as "missing the point of Christianity" for not holding the idiosyncratic position of a theologian of the 20th century. This 20th century theologian was influenced by both Barth and by an odd (to say the least) relationship with Adrienne von Speyr on the very point we are discussing. It is clear that you are not familiar with these issues, but that should make you more circumspect before condemning the greatest saints and doctors of the Church because they are not disciples of VB. I will address some of the other silly things that you posted when I have a bit more time.

    7. Regarding your assertion that Balthasar qualifies his hope that it must be "reasonable": you first said above that you believed that this was his position. Now you are asserting with confidence that it is his position. You must have done some very rigorous and detailed research in between your tentative comment on October 23rd at 12:14 PM and your response to me on October 24th at 4:01 PM. You must be brilliant beyond measure to have conducted such in depth research in 24 hours to take your tentative suggestion to an unqualified assertion that you know what Balthasar's position is and that it included the caveat that the hope must be reasonable. In light of this lightning fast and detailed research, would you mind sharing one little quote from Balthasar that shows that his position is that the hope must be reasonable in some way and wherein he specifies just what that way is? On the edge of my seat.

      Regarding levels of hope: the issue is not that hope is gradated like the gradation of being. The issue is that VB is speaking about a mere wish using a term that is most prominently used in the tradition to refer to the theological virtue of hope. What VB describes is not this virtue. What he describes is a mere wish and uses languages that is overwhelmingly used in the tradition to refer to a theological virtue that is based on God's promises. Theological hope is based on the word of God and the promise of eternal life to those who persevere to the end. VB's mere wish has no such basis and yet his language misleads those who are not mindful that a linguistic slight of hand is occurring.

    8. Regarding your suggestion that it is up to me why I should hold a position that is contrary to the state of our society and that this is "up to me": Well this is true, but profoundly unhelpful for our discussion. It is "up to you" whether you believe in fairies and goblins. You are "free" to believe in fairies and goblins, but that does not make such a belief rooted in Scripture or Tradition. Nor does it make it reasonable. And choices that are rooted neither in reason nor revelation are baseless. Such "freedom" is really no freedom at all. It is a sheer willfulness to believe whatever I want to believe regardless of reason, evidence, and revelation. That is the point. Authentic freedom is always rooted in reason and/or revelation. In other words, authentic freedom is always rooted in the truth. If I have neither reason nor revelation to support my belief in fairies, then it is unreasonable to do so. If you wish to believe in fairies because they give you warm fuzzy feelings, you are "free" to do so, but that does not make your choice a good choice. It makes it baseless just as your choice to believe that everyone may be going to heaven is baseless.

      This leads to the biggest problem with the position: counterfactuals. As Edward Feser has noted, it is part of the Tradition that rational beings are in hell, namely Satan and His Angels. It is also clear from Scripture that the way is narrow and few will find it. Now some passages of Scripture are difficult to interpret and admit varying interpretations. However, if one's "interpretation" involves denying or ignoring the testimony of Scripture, then this is not really an interpreation so much as a denial of the explicit teaching of Sripture. So if Scripture teaches that the way to eternal life is narrow and few will find it and I say it is broad and everyone will (or might find), then I am denying revelation. Who will or will not be saved is not something you or I could know apart from revelation. However, it is something that God knows and He has revealed to us that "few will find it". It is more than mental gymnastics to interpret this as "everyone will find it", it is a denial of the words of Christ who is in a better position than you or I to tell us whether the road is broad or narrow and whether few or many will find it.

    9. Now to top things off, there is a common and sinful calumny that comes from the recent disciples of VB that those who believe that hell is and will be occupied want people to be in hell. They are like greedy misers counting coins, but instead they are counting the number of souls in hell and delighting in every enumeration of an additional soul. Those who make these calumnious accusations will answer to the judge of the living and the dead whether or not they believe in the final judgement. Uncharitable habits such as these occur again in the writings of David Hart. The convenient thing about being a universalist is that you can ignore Christ’s commandment to love your neighbor in charitable discourse and can look upon everyone who disagrees with you as an idiot. The inconvenient part about being a universalist is that you will answer to the judge of the living and the dead for the damnable consequences of such a lack of charity. In my estimation, the inconvenient part heavily outweighs the convenient part.

      So now to address this calumny. The reason that I care about this issue is the same reason that the popes who condemned positions like what I noted above cared about them. I care about the issue because I care about souls and it is extremely dangerous for people to believe that no one will (or may) ultimately be in hell. It makes Christ's warnings vacuous. I makes the two ways noted in the Didache and the warning abouts life and death in Deuteronomy vacuous. A child that knows his dad will never spank him even though the dad threatens a spanking will at least be tempted to despise his father knowing that he will never make good on his threats. Viewing God as an indulgent of our sins such that He makes threats that will never be realized in any instance is completely absurd. it is for this reason that the position of VB is absurd. As I noted to start with, It is rooted in neither reason nor revelation. There is more to address in your post, but I will again have to save it for when I have the time.

    10. I will address your question (hopefully later today) about the strict logical possibility of the scenario you described.

    11. Okay now to address your scenario. You are asking whether the scenario you describe is possible. Here we have to make a distinction between something being logically possible and something that is actually the case. The scenario you describe is logically possible in the same way that it is logically possible that God could have made unicorns. However, framing it this way and then going on to say that we should hope for this is analagous to suggesting that we should hope for the existence of unicorns.

      The question is not whether it is logically possible in the strict sense. The question is: what from reason or revelation has led you to think that this is in fact the case? After we have all listened to the crickets for a bit, we should be able to move on from this question. Instead we have to put up with folks bending their will to find any figure within the tradition who will agree with their foregone conclusions.

      Their approach is not: what is the weight of Tradition on this question. Their question is: can I find anyone who agrees with me. Their question is not: how do I operate within the stream of Tradition making sense of all of Scripture in light of Tradition and especially in light of the greatest figures in the Tradition (doctors like St. Thomas, St. Augustine, etc.). Rather their approach is: how close can I get to affirming something as close to universalism as possible without actually committing myself to propositions that have been explicitly condemned. This is *NOT* a catholic approach to theology.

      The problem, however, is even greater than what I have described. It is not that they have neither reason nor revelation supporting their position and they choose to believe it anyways. That would be irrational. However something more is occurring. They actually have both Scripture affirming that few will find eternal life and the greatest doctors of the Church understanding that passage in its very obvious sense and they reject this testimony or explain it away. Again, that is *not* a Catholic approach to theology.

      And contrary to the calumnious suggestions otherwise, the concern of those who are speaking out against these trends is "pastoral". Those speaking against these trends (e.g. Ralph Martin in his book Will Many Be Saved? and Edward Feser and Fr. Rooney and the Popes who have repeatedly warned about indifferentism) are motivated precisely out of love for those drawn into indifference over sin because of these dangerous opinions. Hard to get people to suffer the embarrassment of a good confession if they think that everyone is going to heaven regardless. And those who say "well it is possible that everyone is going to heaven" easily move to: most people are in fact going to heaven for otherwise God would be cruel. I have heard *precisely this argument* from a prominent adherent of VB and the comment was quickly deleted after it was posted. The fact that adherents of VB are moving in the direction of thinking that they know that most people are going to heaven should give pause to disciples of VB and to those who fawn over sophistry from the pen of DBH.

    12. Just as a summary to tie a bow on things: the reason that it is not reasonable to hope for the salvation for all is twofold. First, negatively, we have no good reason to think that all will be saved. Second, positively, we have testimony of Scripture as interpreted by the greatest doctors of the Church and the weight of the Church fathers denying the position of Origen. From this weight of this tradition, we find nothing like VB's mere wish given the misnomer "hope" (which is a theological virtue). Where then did VB get his inspiration for this position: again, as I noted above, it was influenced by Barth who had little role for cooperation with grace in his thought. From his foregone position, VB misrepresented the weight of tradition in the reading of the Church Fathers. He did not find something that no other theologian had seen that was actually present in the tradition. He creatively misrepresented the tradition to bend his "research" in the direction of foregone conclusions.

      So, in the spirit of your suggestion above, if you wish to part company with the great saints and doctors noted above in order to keep company with Origen, Barth, and Balthasar: "that is your decision". It is a bad decision, but it is surely yours if you make it.

    13. To state an answer to your question about the possibility of the scenario you laid out above: according to strict logical necessity, there is nothing that precludes the possibility of what you have described. However, this does not make the scenario factual or even remotely plausible.

      More than this, the scenario is *not possible* given the fact that Christ has revealed to us than many will in fact follow the path to destruction. So, yes unicorns are a logical possibility, but no unicorns don't actually exist. Now are you ready to stop hoping that unicorns and fairies might actually exist somewhere?

    14. I just reread your scenario and need to make another caveat. If you are suggesting a scenario where all are given special grace at death that makes possible their conversion before death: yes that is possible. If you are suggesting that such grace is irresistible: no that is not possible as it is heretical. This gets at the options laid out in Fr. Rooney's article noted above.

    15. "What about those who are in the Church in some true sense..."

      If you are presuming this, you are begging the question. You are assuming that everyone will be in the Church in a certain sense at death and this is the very point under discussion.

      "It seemingly does not refer to someone who repents of their (earlier) repudiation of the Church, and embraces the Church willingly, regardless of how little time there is between their repenting and their death, (i.e. regardless of whether their conversion could be known by outward signs because there is so little time)."

      While this is true, it does nothing to support the suggestion that everyone might just end up in heaven. The possibility of conversion prior to death is recognized by those who are not universalists.

    16. Just for clarity's sake: 1. I am not the Anonymous who posted at 4:01pm, I am the Anonymous who posted at 4:44 pm, so: call me "Forty-four".

      2. Also for clarity's sake, I DO NOT believe that Hell is empty, and I do accept the weight of Tradition.

      However, so far as I am aware (and this is of course limited - I have not read most of the Fathers & Doctors), there is no specific biblical passage that tells us in certain and definitive terms that THERE ARE some in Hell. It is, therefore, (so far as I know), remotely, vaguely possible to suggest that the biblical passages that point toward Hell are all to be understood as contingent: e.g. contingent on the sinner(s) not repenting.

      More than this, the scenario is *not possible* given the fact that Christ has revealed to us than many will in fact follow the path to destruction.

      For all those huge numbers on the road to destruction, they will REACH destruction...if they do not repent. Suppose that every single person on Earth (other than Christ and Mary) will be on that road at some point in their lives, and so that road is very, very wide, and heavily populated. But we also know that SOME who are on that road turn around and head the other way - they repent.

      Therefore, not everyone who is on the road to destruction reaches destruction. What if 90% who are on the road right now, repent: the heavy population of the road right now tells us nothing about the ratio of those who end up in hell. What if it's 99%? What if it's 100% who repent?

      Christ will, at the end of time, judge all people. Those who are judged to be goats will go off to final perdition. What if the class of "the goats" happens to have no members - an empty set? The class is still a valid concept, because of the contingent possibility that some might not have repented.

      I repeat: I don't think this what the weight of Tradition is pointing toward. I think that Christ repeatedly pointed out the dangers of Hell because there ARE people going to Hell. But I also recognize a difference between "that's the best sense of the passages" and "that's definitively what the passages mean without any quibble or room for any other sense."

    17. @the most recently posting anonymous.

      I am not sure what you are talking about in stating that there are no Scriptures that teach that people are in hell. Did you not read all of what I wrote above? Christ says, "few will find it" (the narrow road that leads to heaven). So would you have us believe that those making no effort to find and follow the narrow path, will ultimately land themselves precisely on that path without the slightest effort? So, Christ will save them without their willing to be saved? Well, that is contrary to Catholic teaching as Trent taught definitively that we must cooperate with God's grace.

      This includes following the warning of Christ to "make every effort to enter through the narrow gate". Your reading would require that this should be interpreted: "You don't really need to make any effort at all because everyone will (or might) get into heave without being on the path or without trying." Well, as I said above, that is not an "interpretation" it is a rejection of our Lord's words.

      So, yes, we do have revelation that has made clear that "few will find it" (the path to salvation). Again, if you think that they will arrive at their destination by some path other than the narrow path that Christ names, where on earth did you get such wisdom to know more than our Lord how we get to Heaven? Perhaps you have been there and can guide us in this new path that you have in mind. Please tell us about it. Is it broad and easy? That sounds alot nicer than the narrow path. Please tell us more. Does it just include doing whatever we want and then we arrive at heaven? Again, do tell.

    18. @ anonymous

      Regarding salvation being contingent on folks repenting: that is true and you don't have to be a universalist to recognize this. Every orthodox Catholic recognizes this and it is irrelevant to the question of whether or not we have the slightest reason to think that every single soul will repent before death and end up in heaven. We don't have a shred of evidence for that proposition. More than this, we have the clear teaching of Christ that many will not repent as they will follow the broad path that leads to destruction rather than following the narrow path that leads to life. Again, few will find it. Fittingly, the Gospel readings for today cover precisely the points we are discussing. I hope that readers today will try to find a time to go to Mass and hear them!

    19. From "Forty-four"

      Michael says:
      This includes following the warning of Christ to "make every effort to enter through the narrow gate". Your reading would require that this should be interpreted: "You don't really need to make any effort at all because everyone will (or might) get into heave without being on the path or without trying."

      Nope. Not what I am saying - I think there are people in Hell. Nor is it what must be said of those who suggest the possibility that many / most / all accept the grace of repentance just before death. Suppose you are a smoker, and confessor tells you: "give up smoking, or you're going to spend 300 billion years in Purgatory suffering pains 10 times the worst pain you have ever felt so far". The warning is given in the most urgent possible terms: DON'T BE AN IDIOT - the pleasures of a few more years of smoking just aren't worth that amount of suffering! Go the strait and narrow path now, to avoid that horrible period of suffering.

      Again, I don't think that's what Christ meant. The issue isn't simply what's the most reasonable reading, but rather is there ANY room at all for a different reading. Throw in the passages that DO seem to speak of God saving "many". There's undoubtedly tension, at the least.

    20. @ forty four.

      The broad path does not lead temporal suffering. It leads to destruction. In other words it is final. Is purgatory final? Well in your excellent one word response: Nope. It is not. Hell, however, is final.

      Now those who are hell bent (pardon the irony here) on reading into a text whatever tickles their ears: sure they could twist passages that point to the path to hell being broad and many following it and say that this means that everyone is going to end up in purgatory and then heaven. Sure. But reading "destruction" as "temporary suffering" is not an interpretation. It is eisogesis based on a foregone conclusion. Feel free to keep trying.

    21. The broad path does not lead temporal suffering. It leads to destruction. In other words it is final. Is purgatory final? Well in your excellent one word response: Nope. It is not. Hell, however, is final.

      My point was not that the suffering Christ was pointing to is not final. Yes, I agree that Hell, and the suffering of those in Hell, is final, and permanent.

      My point was that being on the road is not final. Some there are who are on the road early, and then get off it early and live saintly lives. Francis and Ignatius are great examples. Others are on the road nearly their whole lives, and get off it only at the last minute. St. Dismas, "the good thief", is an example. Being "on the road" does not logically imply finishing up still on the road, because we have counter-examples. So, the high number of people on the road does not tell us how many stay on the road right through to the end.

    22. That reading would entail not that many follow the road but that all do, save our Lord and the blessed Virgin and the "few" would just be Christ and the blessed Virgin. Again this makes nonsense of the passage and is eisogesis.

  18. I know this question may sound really dumb - or troll - but one thing that I've always couldn't properly understand is how does Our Father listen to our prayers our Creates new souls?

    Because Aristotle thinks that He is thought thinking itself and if He's purely actual but then our prays wouldn't involve some kind of passivity on His part (the fact that we are temporal creatures)? But He is fully actual - and He can't have any passive potency (He can't be thinking all the time 'oh, look at the world I made', or waiting for someone to procreate and then boom soul created because that would involve change, I think.).

    But, on the other side, the Saints always taught a life of prays. And Saint Thomas Aquinas himself prayed a lot throughout his life on earth - and even my favorite one Augustine. So please, can someone explain to me how that works?

    (p.s I participate in this amazing blog for at least a considerable time -since my depression was caused by materialism and Sam Harris buddhist materialist-like bizarre claims that still haunt's me today -, but it is not easy for me to understand a lot of things. So don't think that I'm an average internet degenerated troll trying to ''debunk'' our faith or anything like that. Please.)

    1. WCB

      Soul is problematic. The Pentateuch speaks of soul as breath, a life force, vitalism. Not a soul as modern day Christians imagine that. The Bible is not clear on what a soul is. So Catholic catechisms are rather vague. Where do souls come from? Two hypotheses. God creates them de novo or they are created by Google occasionalism for that. In the end, this attempt failed nd our parents. Since the Bible gives no clues about what a soul is,there is no real answer here. Aristotle in De Anima claims soul is hylomorphic. Form of a substance. Man has the form of intelligence, reason. Which Aristotle claims is eternal, immortal and can exist without a substance, a body. A rather extensive debat on soul and nature of soul took place in the 17nth century with Rene Descartes, Leibnez and other theologians and philossophers. Nobody could prove a soul exists, its nature, or how it interacts with physical matter. Google occasionalsm for mre. That debate faded away with no solution, no answer, no conclusion. This resulting in systemic naturalism. Science became divorced from theology, the Orthodox Catholic scientist and rank atheist scientist did science in the same way.


    2. @Tadeo

      I believe that St. Augustine itself that said that prayer does not change God but rather prepare us to receive His graces. Father Paulo Ricardo(you know him?) Cited this phrase some time ago.

      Both questions are answered by St. Thomas on part I of the Suma Theologica, so you should check the part about Our God atributes. But going fast:

      God does not learn something new or change His mind when we pray, rather His knowledge of this world, including our choices, is know to Him because He knows Himself perfectly and so knows Himself as the efficient(and sustaining) cause of this world, including us and oue prayers.

      He also does not need to stop and create new souls as by starting a new action, for by His one eternal act of the creation of the world not only the world starts to be but He also sustain every single creature by His eternal act. Remember that God is completely outside time and space, so when a human conception happens He does not look at it and say "oh,, better create a soul!", in a way He already did it.

      I know that all this generate several questions, but we do have our boy St. Thomas, so i really recomend studying the ST part about God and His atributes.

      And also but not less important: pray, meu parça, pray. Philosophy is the hand-madden of theology, so aways use our dogmas as the basis for correcting reason when it goes too far..

    3. Tadeo,

      This is a great question that has been considered by great theologians like St. Augustine. The answer lies partly in God's relationship to time. God does not learn things that occur in history. He sees them all in one glance because he is outside time. He is not bound by it, but he is the cause of the existence of all that is bound by time. So in one glance He sees all things and He sees all things in relation to Himself. This pertains to Aristotle's thought thinking self. God knows all things as being caused by Himself. He sees in Himself the cause of all things and sees all things as caused by Him. This entails that all things (such as our prayers) can only be known in the full sense with reference to God who is the cause of our existence while praying and the cause of the very beings about which are prayers are concerned (e.g. our children or parents or friends, etc). This pertains also to His Will because, in seeing all things at once, He does not will things in acts that are temporally distinguished. In the unity of the Divine Will flowing out of the unity of Divine knowledge of all things created, all created things are willed by Him. This unity of the Divine will in the act of creation is an act of Divine Goodness. It is a sharing of HIs goodness with the created order. This is a Trinitarian act because Christ is the Word of God through whom He speaks the world into existence and the Spirit is the love of the Divine Will by which He wills the world from His Goodness. I would like to add more, but cannot due to time, but perhaps later I can do so.

    4. @Michael @Talmid @AnonWCB

      That was incredible, you are amazing guys. Thank you so much for the in-depth answers. That helped a lot.

      I asked that because of the time I've been passing through life in the last 3 years. My life has been a lot miserably. So it's nice to know that - even though it's hard to imagine how in one act - God is listening to my prayers. But I won't lose my faith.

      In case you guys were curious about that it has to do with things that happened before I meet Ed's blog. My life - my family - life has always been pretty harsh. And to worsen all that I have OCD. My grandmother on my father-side died of Alzheimer and I'm afraid that my father would develop that too. My mother lost her job due to an injustice that happened to her during the pandemic and all that bullshit.

      But the worst thing that doesn't seem to go away is the depression and trauma that my OCD contributed to. I was very very influenced by Libet's ''experiment'' back then and unfortunately, I acknowledge a fella named Sam Harris with all that mysticism about 'no self' etc. (that seemed to follow from the experiment's conclusion), and since then that stuck in my head - not because I believed it - even though I had a weak spot for materialism and 'took it for granted' because you know ''science'' mentality that I was influenced to. The problem was (somehow still) the fact that I didn't even know how to defend myself from all that (i.e that the experiment methods were bogus, that the rest doesn't necessarily follow from it). And the implication with all of that in my life was the fact that if that is true, life is simply worse than it seems. There is just pain and suffering. What weighed more than one hundred pounds for me was the fact that I simply love my mom and my family and if there was no free will, no God, and we were somehow unreal because there was no self (nothing that lasts or abides)... I don't need to paint the rest of the picture to see how evil, atrocious, and how I felt and still feel because I have nightmares and traumas with that till nowadays.

      In the midway path between that, I found Ed's blog and began to read it - even emailed him one time. And that gave me hope that there was a God after all and that those things could be false.

      But even so, buddhist claims from Harris traumatized me a lot and due to my OCD, I still suffer from them till today. Deep there, I confess I'm really afraid that something evil like that is possibly true. Because it's an even worse version of materialism with all its adorns.

      Based on what I've learned from Ed's books and posts I tried to read some authors from that and engaged against it for some time (authors like Jay Garfield and Mark Siderits)

      (I will continue)

    5. (Continuation)

      Based on what I've learned from Ed I've tried to fight against that fear of that undesired metaphysics. But my OCD won't let me. The more I've tried to fight and understand things the more they stuck in my head. I could notice btw a lot of gaps and things that I think were wrong with that nefast metaphysics - but I'm incapable to fight on my own and understanding things (you know, philosophy is hard. The fear of misinterpreting them due to a possible fallacy by my part or that they got some "magic argument" that I don't know and could just flip my refutation, etc. ).

      I tried to engage against those arguments from impermanence, they're ontology and etc. by applying the methods of retorsion that Ed taught in the first chapter of Scholastic's Meta. There are a lot of similarities or so I think between Heraclitus and the Buddhists - after all, they both can't live for more than a second. But due to all my trauma and the fact that I felt so uncomfortable just by reading and thinking about it (my symptoms goes from headache, sleepiness, and weakness to fever). And all the other things like "what if they have some argument that I don't know that could prove that I'm wrong'', "what if I'm reading them wrong" (even though I thought I'm somehow not), "what if they have some way to turn around that argument from Aristotle in some way" and all that stuff. But by now the more I try to confront this I'm simply mentally incapable and it's been almost 3 years of living that way. I don't have much more forces. My only hope is that someday some professional philosopher as formidable, careful, and badass as Ed could discuss this thing pointing out not just how it's wrong but that it can't even be right, to begin with, so I can finally put all that pain to rest. Because I'm simply incapable to tackle it by myself.

      So, in all of this, I thank you guys, especially you @Michael, and My fellow countryman @Talmid. Because just knowing that God can hear my prayers - that I believe there IS a God - gives me hope that someday I may overcome all of this - even though my fear and OCD hurts me a lot from the inside and affects my faith.

      Thank you, guys. That really means a lot to me.

    6. Tadeo,

      Thank you for sharing your story. Your presence at this blog makes it a more beautiful place and I am glad to get to talk with you here. May God bless you and grant you peace in Christ.

      Michael Copas

    7. @Tadeo

      I see. Things are pretty difficult. Life is rough to you, my man, and the OCD seems to make things even worse*. These materialist views do have horrendous implications, even if i admit that it never bothered me much(mostly because i never took it too serious).

      You have very dificult problems, but i feel like i can give a feel tips. First of all: don't be afraid of looking for help. After that:

      1. Do a Kant: You have this dificult of fearing that these things might be true. Well, besides theoretical reason there is pratical reason, one can't ignore the pratical implications of a belief when seeing if it is true.

      It is not obvious to you that there is a nobler way to live? That there is in us the possibility of finding meaning on suffering? That you should care about others? Well, materialism can't be true if these are, and even most materialists would admit they can't prove materialism, so...

      2. Grow on the faith: Pray more, know more saints and become a friend to these you like, love Our Lady, go to mass and engage the local parish, stay some time with Our Lord in the eucharist etc. By growing in the faith, evn if little, i found that i take the materialists way less serious.

      *i do not know the disease, but from what you described it seems a bit similar to what i tend to face thanks to my melancholy temperament, except than it is way stronger on your side

    8. (Cont)

      3. Follow Our Lord on suffering: it is very very hard, but just look mentally or to a image of Our crucified Lord, pray for His help. Remember that He became a man a suffered for YOU, not a generic humanity but the real Tadeo, and that He wants to give you the strenght to offer this suffering for yourself and others. Being a Little Christ,, this is the call.
      (I believe that professor Guilherme Freire do talk on the importance of that, good thinker and guy)

      These are the tips i can think of. Notice that they do not deal with especific arguments, for it is clear that your difficult is a lack of confidence, not that the oposition has good arguments. Well, i'am the first to tell you that we can have good reasons to trust someone or something and still need to wrestle with doubt, it is a thing i need to face in other domains of life. But be strong, you are capable!

      Hope that these tips help you and perhaps more people. Know that i and, i'am sure, more folks here will pray to you. Do the same! XD

      Good luck, Tadeo. Que a nossa Mãezinha cuide de ti e lhe ajude a cada dia crescer na santidade!

    9. Tadeo,

      I started a discussion under the open thread on materialism. Would love to talk there if/when you have the time.

    10. Hey @Talmid and @Michael

      Guys, thank you so much for the words. It really means a lot to me. I'm usually alone and with few friends and when people say things to me like you guys said it really means a lot to me - because I know the lack of that and how it really warms our hearts when people care for us. So thank you, thank you so much!

      @Michael, I saw the post that Ed made with an open thread and I will participate! Today was the first day in weeks that I felt a little bit better. I will try somehow engage in the arguments there, because like I said, I'm not worried about materialism per se (even though the existence of atoms and etc. sometimes puzzle me as to why God makes the world that way, you know? Why the micro exists in a way that it 'seems' that things could be "reduced" to them) because of the arguments Ed presented in the prolegomenon of the Scholastics Meta (I only believed materialism in this XXI century sense because I was a foolish boy born in a country that philosophy that is seriously engaging in these points marginally exists - yeah continental philosophy sucks).

      My problem is the worse version of 'materialism' that is the buddhist (because in practice, doesn't matter how they argue, the consequences are basically the same but, surprisingly, worse). In these very difficult (to say the least) 3 years of my life. What really broke me from the inside (based on what I was talking about Libet) is the fact that I (and the person that I love with my life in this world, my mom, who's in fact the only family that I have in practice) could indeed be a substance per accidens (to use the best terminology) - because ALL of these ideologies like reductionism, materialism, and especially buddhism will lead to that no matter how they try to persuade or say otherwise. They will inevitably treat human beings as unreal and aggregates or 'useful fictions' (sometimes I think that it was the devil himself who plunges these ideologies into our mentality).

      If there is one thing in all these 3 years that I do not forget was the pain (the mental pain and depression) that I felt and still feel. In my 24 years of life, nothing EVER hit me like that. And I don't know how people simply swallow materialism or even worse buddhism of these sorts - if they do really love their own kind ones or have any moral principles about persons at all - they should be rejecting it immediately. Because as I said what caused me all that trauma that still scares me today is the possibility of those things (i.e the fact that we are just an aggregate or unreal and live just to suffer). It's simply devilish. Why would anyone want to live in a world like that? You know.

    11. @Talmid

      Thank you for praying for me. Since I'm a little bit better today, I'm beginning to think that it was by the intercession of your prayers to Our Father.

      Muito obrigado, cara, de coração. Que Deus abençoe você e sua família sempre. Só de saber que ainda existem pessoas como você e o @Michael, por exemplo,já me dá esperanças. Obrigado demais, irmão. Que a Nossa Santa Mãe te ilumine também!

    12. @Tadeo

      On the buddhist type of view*: a very important teaching of it is that essences do not exist at all,, there are what we aristotelians call acidents and that is it.

      Of course, you already can see the problem: how exactly can things happen? Why do i touch the cellphone screen and it does not turn into smoke or grow in size? We can answer that both me and the cellphone have natures that organize ua to have certain capacities and limitations, but what can the buddhist do?

      I even read Nagarjuna once and can't remember he adressing that. His work was more negative but his arguments really showed how Aristotle was necessary on India! It does not seems to me that we could have anything happening if we did not have essences, so Aristotle wins again.

      E obrigado! Espero que ajudemos! É ótimo saber que tão pouco da nossa parte faz diferença.

      *there is buddhists that could be called materialists, but the OG sunyata type do not believe in matter at all, or other substance

    13. Tadeo,

      I think you would really enjoy the work of Lawrence Feingold. It is absolutely beautiful and brilliant. I would read his "Faith Comes from What is Heard" and then his book on the Eucharist. I think it will be enormously helpful and provide an increase in hope and peace.

    14. @Talmid

      Hey bro! I said that they are 'materialists' not in the technical sense, but because of the consequences. Because for materialists in the technical sense - if they are to be coherent at all - they should say that people do not exist. But in the buddhist sense, not only people do not exist and there is just suffering but the world is always trying to deceive you. I don't need to canvas it more for you to see how much worse it is. There is simply no happiness at all and no one to see any good of it. It seems that ideology takes all of the best in the world and turn it into misery.

      In the cellphone example, they somehow believe in regularities but, as far as I understand, they are very close to the Humean causality type - or proto-humean. They say that causality is in some sense mind only or something we 'associate' but it's in some sense not really there (I think that's somehow related to why they are nominalists too). If this is coherent at the end of the day (I think that it's not) is another story - and that's what I want to know because something as evil as that CAN'T BE REAL.

      During these years I tried to formulate ways in showing how that can't be true - I will put them in the other post. But man the problem is even if I somehow 'showed' that, I can't prove it to myself. You may think how that's possible but the problem is the OCD - this thing keeps hitting my head 24/7 and it seems that I can't go further. Since you don't have it I can describe that it hits differently. Looks like my arguments are always wrong or that they will have somehow a way to evade it. For people that do not have it, it seems ridiculous, but for me, it hits really hard to the point that doesn't matter how I try to formulate it, and I always forget the rest of the arguments and need to repeat them to myself. It looks like hell because I'm never out of the same place and looks like I learn nothing - just keep suffering.

      I will try to formulate all the points that give me hope that demonic ideology (buddhism) is wrong in the open-topic post. I will try to put my best in there and try to be coherent all the way through. Maybe someone sees the effort I put in all these years trying to save myself from this miserable condition that I am in and hopefully helps me to get rid of that demonic ideology once and for all.

      Please keep praying for me.

  19. WCB, I've emailed with Seventh-day Adventists who believe that a soul is a complete human person with a material body. So they quote Genesis in the KJV because it says Adam became a living soul when God breathed into Adam's nose.

    But other Protestant Bibles say "living being" instead. That alternative phrase suggests that God's breath represents Adam's soul. If it does, it's easy to see that interpretation of the passage supports the Catholic doctrine that a new human person begins when a human sperm fertilizes a human ovum. It also explains why the Catholic Church teaches that deliberate abortion is always murder.

    The Adventist idea that a human soul is a complete human person makes it hard to know why Our Lord says, "My soul is sorrowful, even unto death." Since he has a human nature, he has a human body and a human soul. But if he talked as though he was only a body-soul composite, that would hint that he was only human.

    1. WCB

      The Pentateuch makes no mention of heaven, or hell, immortality, life after death, or immortal souls. The concept of an immortal soul was a concept that developed many centuries later than the Pentateuch. Ancient Egyptians claimed we had three souls. That survived corporeal death. The problem with modern translations is some translations distort the Pentateuch to add concepts absent in the Pentateuch.

      Again, looking at official catechisms about official dogmas about souls yeilds little.The Bible says litle about the concept of soul. By contrast, the ancient Greeks speculated quite a bit on the concept. Trying to trace the development of the concept of the human soul in early Jewish though to early Christian though is a sparse puzzle. I have been meaning to some day to check the Dead Sea Scroll Essene works to see if that had any mentions of Essene theories of human souls.


  20. Vat II prep, Lumen Gentium, and the inside/outside Catholic Church salvation debate.
    Looking at just a few of the contributions, which I see in their comparison together, illuminating:

    1.Fenton's, The Church of Christ;
    2. Zuijdwegdt's, Salvation and the Church
    (scroll down for complete article, as I did not have it in my library);
    3. and de Mattei's, The Second Vatican Council.

    Trying to put a picture together of 1- the clash of theologies (see 1 and 2 above), 2-geo-political considerations (see 3 and 2 above), 3-the timing of both (see 2 and 3 above), to a result which rings down the years to absorb, is quite the combination of admiration for some, and anathema to others.
    (Separately from a Council, I am reminded of the current China foray).

    Interestingly, writer/contributor to, Ratzinger, cf Lumen Gentium Cap I, sec 8.2, just on October 7th sent a letter to the Franciscans

  21. Not only can God destroy the universe by a "head nod", my 12th Grade Religion teacher explained that the whole universe would cease to exist if God had a "lapsis mentis" ie if He were distracted for even an instant.
    And I can think of a logical third possibility. It is that God made the billions and billions of rational creatures capable of freely rejecting Him, but that at the instant of Death all, without exception, had chosen Him or repented. It is just EXTREMELY improbable.

    1. @Tom

      For this scenario to not contradict Catholic teaching, it would entail that every single person *freely* chose God. It could not be determined by any kind of necessity. While this is possible philosophically, it contradicts the words of Christ that few will find the narrow gate and many will follow the wide path that leads to destruction. He of course knows what all will freely choose and He has made clear in this passage what many in fact will choose. In light of Christ's knowledge of these facts, the situation you describe is not just exceedingly improbable. It is impossible. Please see what I write above about the distinction between possible interpretations and eisogesis based on foregone conclusions.

  22. D.A, Carson, (Ph.D Cambridge University), is a highly regarded evangelical New Testament scholar. His book, "How Long, O' Lord," is the best book I have read on evil, suffering, punishment and the goodness of God. This is a review of the book:

  23. Tadeo,
    I don't have OCD, butt I have battled depression and anxiety all my life. I will pray for you.

  24. Revelation limits freedom - God cannot be other than what He reveals - We can be wrong regarding the implications, but there are implications from His revelation, as Creator for instance and as Alpha and Omega for instance, that make freedom a very tricky business; by your reckoning, my choice creates potential in God.