Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Damnation denialism


Here’s a narrative we’re all by now familiar with.  Call it Narrative A:

Those who initially downplayed the dangers of COVID-19 were guilty of wishful thinking, as are those who think the crisis can be resolved either easily or soon.  This is what the experts tell us, and we should listen to them.  Even though those most at risk of death from the novel coronavirus are the elderly and those with preexisting medical conditions, this is a large group.  Moreover, many people who won’t die from the virus will still suffer greatly, and even those with mild symptoms or none at all can still infect others.  Draconian measures are called for, even at the risk of massive unemployment, the undoing of people’s retirement plans, and the depletion of their savings.  Better safe than sorry.  To resist these hard truths is to be guilty of “coronavirus denialism.”

This narrative is now widely accepted, and I have nothing to say here in criticism of it.  More to the present point, it seems to be widely accepted by Catholic bishops, who have been moved by it to suspend most public access to churches and to the sacraments.  I have nothing to say here in criticism of that either.

Here’s another narrative that is also familiar, but less widely accepted.  Call it Narrative B:

Those who suppose that few if any people will go to Hell are guilty of wishful thinking.  This is contrary to scripture and 2,000 years of teaching from the popes, the saints, and the Church’s greatest theologians.  They are the experts and we should listen to them.  Even if it turned out that a minority of the human race is damned, this could still be a large number.  Moreover, even those who will end up instead in Purgatory will still suffer greatly, and those who teach errors or live immoral lives out of invincible ignorance might lead others into damnation.  The call for conversion to the Catholic faith and repentance from sin must be urgently pursued, even at the risk of causing grave offence and inviting serious persecution.  To resist these hard truths is to be guilty of “damnation denialism.”

I am well aware that secular readers, universalists, and others will scoff at Narrative B.  But this post is not directed to them.  It is directed to those who claim to accept the teaching of the Catholic Church, such as the bishops.

The question for these Catholics is this: If Narrative A is compelling, how much more compelling should we find Narrative B?  After all, as Christ taught: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).  Since COVID-19 attacks only the body but Hell entails the perpetual suffering of body and soul, shouldn’t damnation be an even more urgent concern than COVID-19?

Yet most Catholics, including most priests and bishops, have for decades now seemed to regard it as far less urgent.  For example, the topic of Hell rarely comes up in contemporary preaching, and when it does the emphasis is not on warning people about it, but rather on reassuring them that probably few souls if any end up there.  How is this any better than reassuring people that the coronavirus will probably be no worse than a bad flu?

From the Gospels onward, the Catholic tradition has clearly emphasized urgent warning about Hell rather than reassurance.  For example, when asked directly whether “few” would be saved, Christ didn’t give a reassuring answer.  On the contrary, he responded:

Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.  When once the householder has risen up and shut the door, you will begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us.’ He will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’… There you will weep and gnash your teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves thrust out(Luke 13: 23-28)

And again:

Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.  (Matthew 7:13-14)

How on earth could any rational person try to square such remarks with the thesis that we have good grounds for “hope” for the salvation of all?  Yet some of the same Catholics who insist on taking with the utmost gravity the medical experts’ most dire predictions about the COVID-19 death toll seem to respond to Christ’s words with a shrug.  Do they take Dr. Anthony Fauci’s expertise more seriously than Christ’s?

This is not even to mention the rest of the testimony of Catholic tradition, from the pessimistic views of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas down to Pope Pius IX’s explicit condemnation of the thesis that “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.”

Of course, many will point to purported counterevidence, such as St. Paul’s observation that God “desires all men to be saved” (I Timothy 2:4).  This, they claim, gives us reason to think that maybe Hell will be empty after all.  This is an exceedingly weak argument.  God also desires all men to avoid sin, but of course, they nevertheless sin all the time.  So how does the fact that God desires all men to be saved make it likely that they will all be saved?  Maybe they’ll mostly be damned, for the same reason they mostly sin – because of their free choices, with which God does not interfere despite their being contrary to what he desires.

Note that it is irrelevant that it could nevertheless in theory turn out that few are damned, just as Narrative A tells us that it is irrelevant that COVID-19 might in theory have fizzled out without draconian measures.  What matters is the realistic possibility of mass damnation, just as what matters is the realistic possibility of mass death from coronavirus.  The accent should be on the worst case scenario, not the best.  So how is straining to find reassuring passages in scripture any more rational than cherry-picking expert medical opinion that supports the reassuring idea that the coronavirus isn’t much worse than the flu?  Why do even many conservative Catholics enthusiastically promote Balthasar’s comforting views, rather than lamenting him as the Dr. Drew of damnation denialism?

Similarly, the Church has always insisted on baptism and conversion to the Catholic faith as crucial to the salvation of the human race.  Just twenty years ago, the declaration Dominus Iesus, issued under Pope St. John Paul II, reaffirmed that, despite the possibility that non-Catholics might receive divine grace:

It is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who [are] in the Church…

Thus, the certainty of the universal salvific will of God does not diminish, but rather increases the duty and urgency of the proclamation of salvation and of conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Of course, the theme goes all the way back to the Great Commission, wherein Christ directed:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28: 19-20)

Yet one almost never hears contemporary churchmen calling for conversion.  On the contrary, they seem to be absolutely terrified of being thought “proselytizers,” and emphasize only “dialogue” and common ground.  If a single lockdown policy urgently imposed on the entire world is the only way soberly to address the COVID-19 situation, why is there no urgency about converting non-Catholics to the one true faith so as to save their souls?  How is betting on “invincible ignorance” to save most of them any safer than betting on summer weather to knock out the coronavirus?

No doubt there will be Catholics reading this inclined to dismiss it all as excessively harsh, paranoid, an overreaction, etc.  But how can they consistently do so if they would condemn those who regard the current COVID-19 lockdown as excessively harsh, paranoid, an overreaction, etc.?  How could someone who really believes what the Catholic Church teaches regard damnation denialism as any more respectable than coronavirus denialism?

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163 comments:

  1. It's a good analogy. The answer might be that our religious leaders need to be more religious and less worldly.

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    1. Wow, soteriology as a plague. No conception of intercession, mercy, or the changes wrought by the Resurrection. Literalism for the harshest moments.
      You could believe this, but you could not reasonably call it good. Nor will it make good men and women of believers, submitting to that terrible ultimatum, consenting to the damnation of others.

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    2. Nor will it make good men and women of believers, submitting to that terrible ultimatum, consenting to the damnation of others.

      This "consenting to the damnation of others" is not what you think it is. In order to love God in the way that makes you apt for heaven, you also have to love justice. The order of the universe is a just order. This implies that moral agents (such as humans and angels) will ultimately be "brought to order" as under justice. For those who have by will chosen to defy their proper ordination to love of God, justice means a punishment that reflects their willful defiance. And that debt of punishment continues for as long as the defiance does. However, our wills are pliable and changeable only in this life; in the next we have nothing by which to make such a change, so defiance will continue permanently.

      Those who love God do not "consent to" the punishment of sinners out of hatred for sinners, but from love of the good, which includes the completion of the moral order in justice. It would be a defect of love to not want the moral order completed, to not want justice to prevail.

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    3. Geekiness and Philosophy: our part would be as with any other sinner, as best we can.

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    4. "Even though those most at risk of death from the *flu* are the elderly and those with preexisting medical conditions, this is a large group. Moreover, many people who won’t die from the virus will still suffer greatly, and even those with mild symptoms or none at all can still infect others. Draconian measures are called for, even at the risk of massive unemployment, the undoing of people’s retirement plans, and the depletion of their savings. Better safe than sorry. To resist these hard truths is to be guilty of 'influenza denialism.'"

      All I did was cut & paste from "Narrative A", then substitute "flu" for "coronavirus." The facts remain just as true. We wring our hands and demand that heaven and earth be moved to prevent death from coronavirus -- how many would similarly advocate, or even tolerate, any such thing to save the elderly or chronically afflicted from death by flu? Have we ever even given this mass mortality a moment's thought?

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  2. One argument for hell/purgatory as being only temporary is that our sins on this earth our temporary. Why should someone who sins for 60 or so years suffer eternal punishment--why not 60 years of purgatory so as to be refined and made ready to be in God's presence?

    I am of the opinion not that everyone goes to heaven automatically, but rather that the opportunity to do so extends into the next life, into purgatory. Otherwise you have people who, because they got caught up in some gang, or just watched too many atheist youtube videos, are eternally cut off because of a few bad choices.

    Again, not saying God drags everyone to heaven right away. What I think is that, because God is so incredibly good, He keeps inviting us in, into the next life, until we finally say yes.

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    1. No one deserves to go to heaven, remember. It's not like you deserve to get it just because you want it.

      Grace is a gift. God has no obligation to give it to you. It's not bad luck to be separated from God. It's what we re destined for.

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    2. I never said any one deserves heaven or that God owes it to us. What I suggested is that God in His goodness just extends the invitation over and over in the next life.

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    3. Interestingly enough, and I am agreeing with what you say, the fact we don't deserve to go to Heaven and God isn't strictly speaking obligated to us yet we can still go there implies that God values us that much and considers us important and worth saving, and wants to enjoy us and our happiness forever.

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    4. Don't kid yourself,

      You can't baptize a dead person.
      By the same token, they don't change their mind once they die, they go by angelic rules once disembodied.
      Ex. ...Pray for us now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
      What's the rush if you still have a chance after?
      If people can't voluntarily leave Purgatory, and people in Hell died rejecting grace. They cannot and will not repent.
      That's why you cannot leave Purgatory until God's justice is satisfied, you have to eat what's let of your debt since you can't do penance anymore.
      A living person, however, who can still merit, can help you by offing penance for you.

      God gives you mercy first. During your life you are free to do as much good or evil you like.
      When you die, then you get the justice, and as much reward or punishment as you merited: until you could merit no longer.

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    5. Just a reminder that even if there are no "second chances" after death, only God knows what goes on in the very last moments of a person's life. A famous story has Saint John Vianney comforting a widow. Her husband had committed suicide and she was afraid he would then be in hell, but the good priest told her that, "between the bridge and the water" there had been contrition. For a God of miracles, a fraction of a second should be enough for a conversation, so to speak.

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  3. (2) There also seems to be a luck component to the traditional view as well. Under this view, millions of people could have avoided hell if they were aborted, since the unborn are blameless. Or if a 10 year old were killed in a car crash before stumbling onto to some dumb atheist youtube clips, they would also have been in heaven.

    So even if a person freely chooses to do evil for 60 years as an adult, they were still unlucky to have survived childhood in the first place, unluckier still that they were influenced by crappy books instead of books like TLS.

    I just feel like God, is His infinite goodness, says to these people "look, you screwed up big time and now you have some work to do." But the work is 60-80 years of refining in purgatory followed by an invitation to repent, not infinite suffering.

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    1. @Anonymous

      One does not go to hell on accident; one goes there by a deliberate and willful choice. God is a gentleman; He will not force you to chose His company.

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    2. In the traditional view, the unbaptized go to hell. This includes the aborted and infants, although they go to the limbus infantum. While it is true the baptized who die before the age of reason are unable to sin, it is also true that they have no opportunity to grow in holiness, thus restricting their own communion with God. God fills all cups to overflowing, but some cups are larger than others, and they get this way through virtuous habit.

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    3. TN I never said God forces people into heaven. What I suggested was that, once in hell/purgatory, people retain their free will and can choose, having realized how awful being apart from God is, to repent and return to Him.

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    4. Re: Anonymous:
      "People retain their free will and can choose, having realized how awful being apart form God is"

      It's my understanding that once we shed our motal coil, our soul is unchangeable. We must choose now. Hell is that torment of realizing how awful being apart from God is.

      CS Lewis has a great quote from his book, "the Great divorce", which I'll paraphrase not having the text handy: When you die someone says "Thy will be done". Either you say it to God, or God says it to you.

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    5. @ Anonymous

      Yes, I know what you said and it is a theological heresy. Those in hell are not lamenting their loss of God, they hate God. They did not chose God in this life and they don't have an opportunity to chose God after death. Death solidifies your choice. Here we live in time and can change course. In eternity, a choice is eternal. There is not a series of one event following upon another. At death, your choice is eternal.

      Purgatory is not an opportunity to change your mind or fix mistakes. Purgatory is the purification from the effects of forgiven sin. For example: suppose I'm an alcoholic for years and I do a lot of damage to my family etc. Then one day I repent and change course. I ask forgiveness from those I've hurt and they forgive me. That's great but it does not magically undo the damage I've done. There is still a lot of work to do to reverse the effects of what I've done. That is what Purgatory is.

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  4. If we think of hell as punishment for actions in this life, then an eternity of torment for one momentary little lie does seem a tad harsh (to us at least; it might be that we are prone to underestimating the severity of sinful action). But if we think of hell as also a response to attitudes formulated in this life and perpetuated into the next, then an eternity of punishment for an eternity of a rebellious nature seems a bit more reasonable.

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    1. A torture view of Hell is unnecessary. Social science of the ancient world points out it was an honor/shame society, and the descriptions of the afterlife for the damned are focused on shame and regret.

      This means that if the only sin you commited in your life was a small lie, you would experience eternal shame for that - but the shame itself would be mild in comparison to other sins. In fact, some have proposed a "milder" vision of Hell on that basis - if we ignore invincible ignorance for a moment, Anne Frank would be experiencing only a smaller amount of shame due to the suffering on earth mitigating and diminishing the shame her sins result in, like living in a poor neighborhood - with Nazis being additionally shamed for eternity by being forced to serve her every desire

      Though considerations such as that each sin is an offense against an infinite God might increase the discomfort of even that shame.

      And even without considerations of sin, one goes to Hell by rejecting God, Who is the source of your happiness. Being in Hell is like a child willingly being on the street - and suffering hunger and thirst without dying.

      In other words, one's being deteriorates without God by it's very nature.

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  5. Regarding Purgatory, the only things that are defined Catholic teaching throughout the ages is that there is purification after death and that our prayers help the dead.

    So it seems clearly possible and perfectly compatible for a Catholic to hold that the suffering in Purgatory isn't necessarily terrible, and it may be equivalent to some of the moderate to milder sufferings here on earth, and for people who only got venial sins on their soul the suffering may only consist of milder discomforts.

    Is that correct?

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  6. An interesting approach to take with Hell is that it isn't physical suffering or torture, but shame. Especially since the ancients lived in an honor and shame society, it's very likely that the "fire" in Hell as described in the Gospels is a metaphor for shame, especially when you consider Hell is also described as dark.

    In fact, if you read Biblical descriptions of Hell or the afterlife the clearest description is not of torture but of shame, even without knowing that the ancient world was shame based.

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    1. James Chastek at "Just Thomism" (linked on the blogroll on the side) had an interesting article which suggested that part of the torment of Hell is that sinners who die learn the horrible Truth, and because they have shed their earthly bodies, are unable to change themselves, and must live out eternity like the Rich man from the parable with Lazarus: Knowing the Truth, and being permanently separated from it.

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    2. I had an afterthought, tangent to this. I cant remember where I heard this, possibly Ven. Fulton Sheen, it goes something like this: After Christ died and descended into Hell for those three days, he preached to the damned souls such that even they have heard the Gospel. Because the afterlife is in eternity, everyone who ever ends up in Hell will hear Christ.

      Two questions on this (perhaps Mr Feser or otherwise another commenter wiser than I can clarify):
      1) Is the Hell im talking about here the Limbo of the Ancients or is this Hell as weve been discussing it here?
      2)if its the latter, are heaven and hell considered "Aeviternal" vs. Eternal, properly conceived? Aeviternity is a new concept to me and I am still refining my understanding.

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    3. The sufferings in hell have already been addressed by St Augustine 16 centuries ago, and his formulation is in the Catechism of the Catholic Church - "The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God". Because hell is not a place or state intended for human beings; Jesus says it is an eternal fire "prepared for the devil and his angels", you will meet evil beings there who will add to your torments, but any other torments are not "the chief suffering".

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  7. I've been curious for awhile -- just what IS the *official* Catholic position on convinced Protestants? It seems pretty hard to pin down and I'm curious since I hear quite different things.

    (By *official,* I mean what the current magisterium of the church, including all councils through VII and prior teach, not what various bishops may say.)

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    1. And I'd be interested in what is the view of the Catholic Church on convinced Orthodox Christians, Eastern and Oriental?

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    2. The fullness of truth subsists in the Catholic Church. Elements of goodness and truth exist outside the Catholic Church, but the fullness of truth subsist in the Catholic Church.

      As such, if a person knowingly rejects the truth, they are morally culpable. If they are innocently ignorant of the truth, they are not morally culpable.

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  8. What justifies the current state of affairs in the Church? Nothing. Israel worshipped the golden calf and so it has always been even up to now.

    The current hierarchy is really, really bad . . . just like always. But, perhaps, the mitigating factor the OP is looking for is the fact that the context is perhaps unique. The modern world is a powerful distraction with its glittering screens; the illusion of material utopia; the powerful--but vacuous--philosophies; the pampering of the body while the soul rots.

    If there is any justification of the "hope-for-all" movement, it's that man's judgement has become so badly confused that only Divine intervention (in the form of suffering) can wake him up; he cannot awaken himself when his anesthetic is around him everywhere.

    Man has always lost his way, but now he has lost his address--GK Chesterton

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  9. This is well timed as I just finished watching "A man for all seasons" and was envious of St. Thomas More's decisiveness at his daughters suitor as a "Heretic".

    I hold two thoughts simultaneously in my mind and I don't find them to be in conflict with each other so far.
    1- I wish for everyone to go to heaven.
    2- Some people do go to Hell.

    I think the only reason this is a problem in modern times is because people want to know WHO has gone before them to either place. The temptation is to say, "So and so is in Heaven, so and so is in Hell."

    As far as I know, the Saints are the only ones we know definitively are with Christ in Heaven. Everyone else is fair game. For others, we can only hope that they made some last minute arrangements for their souls. For ourselves, we must do our utmost to maintain our good standing in the eyes of God via the sacraments.

    Some people can satisfy themselves here that they have done enough wishing well for others and doing the utmost for themselves. Those with an evangelical bent (in the evangelism sense, not the megachurch sense) may find in themselves a sense of urgency to help throw life rafts out into the river styx; and those who are entrusted with the caretaking of souls in their parish or diocese (ALL SOULS, not just Catholic souls) should find themselves absolutely desperate to be fishers of men.

    I saw on the news a Bishop who suspended last rites during the Coronavirus. It smacks of a fear of death unbecoming of a man of faith. And it smacks of an utter disregard for the souls in his care.

    One last thought, by the ever wise Fulton Sheen: He said, when you get to heaven, you will be struck by two things. First, that you are there. Second, that certain others you didn't expect to be there are there.

    My goal is simply to do as much as I can to not be surprised!

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  10. Thank you for the reminder of why Latin theology sucks. Lol

    Hell is real, but it is not what you think it is; the Ukrainian Catholic catechism (Christ - Our Pascha) has a fully-grounded patristic explanation that does not lead to theologically-induced nihilism or neurosis.

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    1. Could you expand on the difference? What is the fully grounded patristic explanation?

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    2. No one in the Ukrainian Catholic Church holds heterodox views? It's just the Latin Church where that happens?

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    3. While you might get the impression from Zach's comment that Christ Our Pascha has a fully developed discussion of the matter, in fact the primary discussion is brief enough to quote here:

      Being unrepentant until death results in the tragic reality of hell. The fire of hell signifies an unrepentant person's inability to accept God's love. "The Word of God is light, which illumines the minds of the faithful; but at the same time, it is also the fire of judgment, which consumes those who...abide in the night-darkness of this life." Hell is not so much the punishment of God as it is the condition voluntarily chosen by the person. It is in this state,

      "the soul shall be found to be outside the order, and connection, and harmony in which it was created by God...Not harmonizing with itself in the purposefulness of its rational movements, it will experience the chastisement and torture that arises from warring with itself, and feel punished by its own disordered condition."

      [Christ - Our Pascha (Edmonton 2016) sect. 251 (p. 90). The quotations are from Origen, On the Principles 2.10.5, and Basil the Great, Homily on the Psalm 114.]

      While C-OP is easily the best modern catechism, I don't really see anything here that suggests a radical difference from common Latin views, even if there is some difference of emphasis. It's very similar in most ways to sections 1033ff. in the much more latinate Catechism of the Catholic Church.

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  11. One problem with this analogy is that with COVID-19 normal, non-expert people can see its effects. TV, newspaper, mobile phones, all are documenting the deaths and showing how worse they are in places where nothing or little was done.

    Conversely, damnation as a whole, and Hell in particular, are at best weakly weakly supported allegations that have, as their two main supporting arguments:

    a) Somewhat unrelated super/preternatural events understood to generate trust in the person doing the allegation;

    b) Philosophical justifications that, in turn, require the acceptance of non-self-evident premises which, by their own turn, are based on "a".

    So, insofar as analogies go, while it certainly works, it's weak, as both cases aren't really comparable.

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    1. Actually, what statistics show is that the coronavirus has a very low death rate per thousand infections - about 1.3 per thousand in the worst cases. Scenario A isn't grounded factually.

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    2. The statistic you refer to is correct, but misleading. What it says is that the coronavirus by itself, absent other illnesses, leads 0.13% of those infected to death. For people who have additional illnesses or some other condition that plays into the virus's strengths, though, its effects are greatly enhanced. As such, depending on demographics, it can reach up to a 15% mortality rate. On average, counting all cases, the mortality rate is currently on the ballpark of 3% to 4%.

      Notice the line of reasoning you presented is similar to that which says AIDS doesn't kill anyone since everyone who ever had AIDS died from some other illness, not of AIDS itself. This is strictly true, but also deeply misleading, since AIDS is characterized precisely by weakening the immune system so much anything else that afflicts the person will kill her.

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    3. The figure I mentioned didn't take into account other diseases. It is just fatalities due to coronavirus as a percentage of those estimated to be positive. This is very low, under one per thousand.

      In Italy there was a well publcised study which showed that only 1% of those who died had no other major illness, but that is another matter. A death rate of 4% of those infected is impossible because reliable estimates coming out of various European countries speak of 20-50% infection rates. A 4% death rate means we should be seeing hundreds of thousands of deaths in each country. The 4% figure was based on the Chinese statistics which were fantasy.

      Why governments insist on something approaching martial law, based purely on these statistics from the PRC is another matter.

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    4. There is some confusion about the death toll of COVID-19 in terms of the population at large since tests aren't widespread and there are people for whom the it shows no symptoms and the mass of the population hasn't been tested as there are not enough kits to test everyone. The 3-4% is still the current value if we take the total number of people who have been actually detected as having COVID-19 and how many among them actually died from it.

      Government are insisting on this number because if they don't take the risk seriously and it turns out to be as bad as the actually gathered numbers suggest, they'll be blamed for allowing the death toll to rise to the millions in name of the vile metal. In contrast, if the illness isn't as bad as the numbers suggests, the risk the economy tanking, which means people getting (relatively) poorer for a while and a few more dying from hunger. This is a no-win situation no matter who's in power, but one defeat is worse than the other, so they're all playing it safe.

      For the record: here in Brazil the public health system is operating near capacity. It's predicted in 9 days intensive care units will be filled by COVID-19 patients. Government is making emergency, war-style medical camps in soccer stadiums with hundreds more ICU beds to try and extend for a few more days the system capacity, but that's about it. Once all the beds are taken, medics will begin denying treatment to the cases with the least likelihood of recover, by which point our death toll due to COVID-19 will begin to rise much faster than it has increased so far.

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    5. I take your point. Is it responsible for governments to continue to take the Chinese statistics seriously, or act on detected infections in the West? We know that only VIPs and sick people are tested, generally. No virologist believes that this represents the true infection rate.

      Given that destruction of the economy is not an option, countries will be forced to adopt the Swedish model anyway, and could have done so without provoking the depression which is now approaching.

      Brazil may not be in a position to prepare large emergency facilities, but I doubt it.

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  12. I am proud to announce that as a result of defending this post, I was banned from the "Fans of David Bentley Hart" FB group today, and labelled a 'vile reactionary' in the process:-)

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  13. Dr Feser,

    Thank you for the article, I agree with its main points. I did have a comment on a particular line however.

    "Maybe they’ll mostly be damned, for the same reason they mostly sin – because of their free choices, with which God does not interfere despite their being contrary to what he desires."

    This line suggests that God does not cause our choices, a common view today. However, this is at odds with the Thomistic view and what I thought your view was based on some of your writings. If God does indeed cause our choices, then the argument from St. Paul's claim for universalism is stronger. Even if God has reason to cause sinful actions (i.e. permit sin), it does not necessarily follow that he has reason to permit final impenitence. Perhaps he does, at least in some cases, but the argument to universalism from St. Paul's claim is stronger if God causes free choices.

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    1. God causes our choices to be free, to be ours. God causes in us the ability to choose either A or B.

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    2. Michael,

      This may be the case. But it is not Aquinas's view and I had thought it was not Dr. Feser's view either based on certain things he has written.

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    3. Tom,

      This is a fascinating topic. As for Feser I think he's quite clearly in the Banezian camp (though I may be wrong) but as for what exactly Aquinas believed there is some debate.

      Consider this quote from Shanley from his paper on whether Aquinas was libertarian or compatibilist; "Aquinas consistently asserts that the divine motion does not determine the will to choose any particular good and he studiously avoids the term praedeterminatio precisely to avoid the overtones of divine determinism. He claims instead that God moves the will so that it acts in accord with it's own nature as a self determining power".

      I was in contact with a catholic philosopher who had produced papers on Aquinas view of freedom and touches on issues of self motion, after bringing up the quite from Shanley she replied; "You seem to be getting at the core of the matter very nicely, and that is exactly what I think Aquinas says:  “some motion from God is necessary for our wills but not in a way that specifies our choices to particular good.”

      So just exactly what Aquinas meant is up for some debate

      To be sure, there are instances where he sounds like a divine determinist. But there are times where he seems to explicitly reject it.

      As I said, controversial

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    4. Callum,

      There is debate as to Aquinas's view, but I tend to agree with the Banezian interpretation that Aquinas thinks God causes our choices.

      Regarding Shanley, it has been a while since I read the paper you reference. However, if I remember correctly, he does not reject the idea that God causes the particular choices we make (or at least he doesn't reject the view that Aquinas thinks along these lines). In the quote you provide, Shanley doesn't say that God doesn't cause us to choose as we do. Only that God doesn't determine it. Matthews Grant has argued that God causing our choices is consistent with them being free in a libertarian sense, viz. not determined. The way he articulates his view though I think is clearer than Shanley (from what I can remember).

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  14. Ed,
    Narrative A is suspect on empirical grounds anyway and is becoming more so by the day. What your argument establishes is that those who accept Balthasar's views on hell should be even more inclined to reject narrative A. Rather than use the highly suspect narrative A (if you disagree with this assessment, please say so) to argue for a theological position, why not rework the argument? Appeal to those who hold a Balthasarian position on hell that they should reject narrative A, which is costing tens of millions of jobs in this country alone which will almost surely result in increased suicides, depression, misery, lives lost to drug addiction etc. that far outweigh the numbers of additional lives lost to Coronavirus (which are significantly inflated anyway; not everyone who dies with Coronavirus dies from Coronavirus but that is how they are being recorded).

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  15. One thing that has bothered me (as a non Christian) is whether this belief in the value of proselytizing/converting makes sense. Suppose that there's person you are trying to convert in order to save his soul. You do it because you believe that your actions will save his soul, or help him save his soul. Then that necessarily means that if you hadn't done so, he wouldn't have saved his soul or he would have less chances. So, if you choose not to perhaps he won't be saved while he may have been saved if you did. Therefore, his salvation depends on someone else. How is this fair? Furthermore, you have all these people who have not come into contact with the Christian let alone Catholic doctrine and may be more likely to end up in hell because of that. Now, you may say that God will take that into account and will judge them by different standards. But then what's the point of having had the revelation of the truth anyways? God can just not do it and judge everyone as he judges those who are not familiar with the Christian doctrine. If you say that being familiar with the Christian doctrine makes it much more likely that you'll be saved, we face the same problem again. Some people, for reasons that lie beyond them are less likely to be saved.

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    1. I believe no one can lose their salvation because of others. You're not gonna be less likely to be saved purely because of the failures of someone else. God in His infinite knowledge is more than capable of judging everyone accordingly.

      "What is the point of proselytizing, then?" I'm inclined to believe that it is a good in itself, insofar as it is good to share the truth and man as a rational animal is directed towards truth. Especially a truth as perfect and sublime as the Incarnation and Redemption. It could also bring about more glory in heaven - the Saints are more glorious than someone who sinned greatly his whole life and was saved in the last moments, for instance.

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    2. I agree with Atno, in that things like prayer and evangelism are simply good things to do. It shows trust and courage, even if God could have brought about the same result without you.

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    3. Doesn't this view make the common sense view of evangelism an illusion? So, you're not actually doing it to save or help save the other person but because it is good for you to do it. But your rational and prima facie reason for doing it should be to increase the fellow human's chances of being saved. Which you seem to agree is not the case, because then his chances would depend on someone else.

      Also, that doesn't answer my second point which is that a lot of people seem to have less chances of being saved and thus avoid hell due to time and place of birth affecting their degree of contact with the right doctrine. If those factors are nullified by God taking them into account, then what is the point of having the doctrine and having to preach and spread it in the first place?

      So, to summarize and perhaps clarify my points, I'd say that it seems that on the one hand there seem to be a lot of factors determining one's chances of going to hell that are not a person's fault which seems unfair. On the other hand, trying to present them as non determining would undermine the importance that they're supposed to have.

      Is there a middle way there that I,i wmy minimal knowledge of theology, haven't considered?

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    4. "Doesn't this view make the common sense view of evangelism an illusion?"

      In a way, yeah. But it's worth pointing out that most people who hold that view also believe that it is God/the Spirit Who converts people, not the preacher, even though God can use people as secondary causes.

      "If those factors are nullified by God taking them into account, then what is the point of having the doctrine and having to preach and spread it in the first place?"

      Did you ignore my answer? Preaching and spreading the truth is a good in itself. Besides the fact that it can lead to others living more virtuous lives, Truth has a value in itself which is not measured simply as an instrument towards anything else. Truth has intrinsic value, and rational animals are directed towards truth, especially sublime truths such as those of the Gospels. Preaching the Gospel is purposeful and good in itself. In addition, it is helpful for those who preach as it increases courage, obedience to God, and perhaps even increases their Glory in Heaven.

      That's my position. I don't think it's problematic at all, though I do recognize that it may seem at odds with the common-sensical understanding at first.

      There's a different reply available, as well: perhaps Molinism could account for all that. God has Middle Knowledge and He would know whether or not someone would have replied favorably to the Gospel had they had the chance to hear it. If you convert someone, you are still responsible for it through secondary causation. But if someone dies without having good chances of being saved and ends up in hell, that's only because God knew that person wouldn't really respond favorably to the Gospel even if they had had the opportunity to hear it anyway.

      I prefer my own view, but Molinism is there as an alternative.

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    5. @ Zeno

      A person who is innocently ignorant of God's will, but who nontheless cooperates with God's grace as best he understands it, may be saved through invincible ignorance. However, such a person is in an undesireable, diminished state. It is an act of charity for another to present the fullness of truth to such a person so that the person may live in the fullness of life rather than a diminished state. Thus the urgency of evangelization is maintained.

      Likewise, the evangelization of a person who is not cooperating with God's grace as best they understand it, may be converted to a different course.

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    6. @Zeno

      I think the solution might be that eternal salvation is not something we are owed, due to what we are. If you, ignorant of the Gospel, were to live a life that was blameless (according to natural law, which can be none by anyone), you might end up in something like Dante's highest level of hell, where you are not being punished, but not being with God. That still leaves a mystery as to why God chose to offer salvation to men in a way that was contingent on other men. But at least we don't have to think of God punishing people who did nothing wrong.

      These are just vague thoughts I'm offering, am not pretending to have a solution!

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    7. No one can be the sufficient cause of someone else's sin and loss of salvation; but one can be a cause moving others to sin (for detailed explanation see Aquinas's Summa th. I-II.75.3). If that seems unfair, well then life's unfair. But there's no question about the fact: life is like that.

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  16. I think the problem is that narrative A is a lot more plausible than narrative B for those who are attracted to something like Balthasar's hopeful universalism.

    The idea that the majority of people go to hell is just unbelievable to me and seems to make God weak and terribly incompetent. You're telling me that THIS is the best scenario an omnipotent, omniscient God who literally wants everyone to be saved could achieve? That God would go as far as becoming a man and being crucified for our sake, and yet that was just to save a minority of people? That makes no sense.

    Theism strictly entails optimism, as Leibniz observed. Doesn't mean that this is the best of all possible worlds, since there is no single best possible world, but it does mean that this is one of the best. How would theism not entail optimism? We're talking about a God who is perfectly good, indeed goodness itself, beauty itself, perfectly wise and omniscient. And omnipotent. Optimism follows straight away. And that includes optimism for people's salvation. Again, we're talking about an omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good God who strongly desires the salvation of all in perfect union with Him. What would that predict? That most people end up eternally separated from Him, or that most people are saved?

    I'm not even arguing for universalism. I don't believe in universalism - I think hell truly is a possibility for very depraved people who might realistically choose it -, just that most people will go to purgatory, not hell. The idea that most go to hell just seems irrational to me.

    It's as if people only believe the traditional "massa damnata" idea because it has been the majority view in history. The majority of saints does give it a very strong authority. But it still seems crazy when you think about it; it just kept being pushed because it kept being pushed in the past. Like a thing feeding itself.

    Quite unsurprising that the Church in her wisdom would come to review the interpretation of such doctrines. It's progress. We shouldn't resist the more rational and hopeful view of eschatology.

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    1. It's possible that most people are damned within a certain time period or group though.

      Many saints lived in times and places where morals were low, and the circumstances made accountability a complex issue. But just because that was true of certain times and places doesn't mean it's true of all.

      And yes - the number of the damned is far from anything like the deposit of faith or morals, so the consensus in things that aren't in that category is more open to change as well.

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    2. Dear Atno,

      Why should we believe that only "very depraved" people choose hell? I can see exceptionally stubborn people choosing Hell over very minor things. (Like in C. S. Lewis' "The Great Divorce".)

      For example, suppose that Dawkins were to die and confront God before the metaphorical gates of heaven. I'm completely convinced that the first thing he would do is convince himself this is all a death illusion and try to convince God of that fact (like the materialists in The Great Divorce). He would probably then start railing about how evil God is, how he caused all this suffering, how terrible his life was, how God never gave enough evidence for himself, etc. He would likely then jump to arguing that, anyway, he lived a good life and followed rationality and therefore that God should let him in and keep out all those nasty theists who were always ruining the world.

      (I have read a conversation online in which the Atheist sincerely argued that if God turned out to exist, it was plausible that this world was a test and that God would say "You Atheists are getting into heaven because you were the only ones rational and honest enough to admit that there was no evidence I existed.")

      He would then probably point to some murder or rapist or what not who sincerely repented and made it into heaven and complain that they ought to be thrown out and that it was intolerable that they were in Heaven and he outside. He would then probably repeat another typical New Atheist meme and declare that Hell must be better since all the theists are in heaven!

      Knowing Dawkins, he would likely next proclaim God to be intolerably evil, declare war on Him on the spot, and demand to be thrown into hell because he won't stand another moment with Him. (There are a surprising number of atheists who have outright declared that they will do at least one of these things and an unhealthy number of books in which God turns out to be evil and is overthrown by our virtuous atheist protagonists.)

      I suspect at no point would he consider that since he was wrong about the whole God thing he MIGHT just be wrong about some other things too. Nor, it stands to reason, would he bother to ask if he could enter heaven.

      I think we have similar problems for anyone else with a besetting sin that they simply refuse to give up -- most people won't react well at all to be told that that premarital sex was not right, that they really MUST forgive their mother, etc. etc. Any one of these things could be made hills on which people refuse to die, even the most ridiculous.

      True, God has powerful tools with which to convince people, but short of forcing them, it seems to me that many simply will not listen even to the most reasonable and good God -- people HATE people who make them feel bad about themselves (I suspect many will unironically say that he is acting "Holier than Thou").

      Hell is the acknowledgement that some people are at core internet trolls. They are the Richard Dawkins of the world, who would not change their minds even if the Second Coming of Jesus occurred on their doorstep. So they are quarantined off for the very good reason that no one can put up with that forever and that they don't want to be around God either. Everyone wins. Even those who will to lose.

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    3. I don't think that the various visions of the saints state that a majority are going to go to hell. I think many, but not a majority. Although of course I don't have an exhaustive list of the saints' writings on the matter, so someone might say it is a majority.

      In terms of salvation history, we might only be at the beginning, and there might be 100,000 years ahead. So what appears to be the case around about us might not be representative of the long-term outcome.

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    4. Jared

      Because here the issue of a rational, consensual, volitional free choice comes up. I can see how extremely depraved and evil people could consciously choose to reject all good, love and truth. These people really could be said to choose an eternity of suffering and separation from God; an irrational choice that is nevertheless made by them in full conscience, just as they choose in this life to perform horrors (like the serial killer who keeps murdering people). But the stubborn new atheist is not like that. He rejects a strawman of God; were he to recognize in God all the good and love in the world, he would, I believe, accept him even on pain of admitting that he had been wrong in life for multiple reasons.

      In fact, a lot of atheists reject God for reasons that, on the surface, are connected to a good moral conscience. For instance, they are angry at how a good God could allow so much suffering and evil in the world, they wish for things to be really better. Or they are (justly) revolted at the idea that God in the OT would command soldiers to kill women and children (because they're ignorant of other interpretations which avoid the moral issues; such as the allegorical view; or even historical views in which God merely tolerated such acts, etc). Point is, they are often rejecting an "evil God", in line with their conscience.

      Of course they are full of sins too. But they're not so terrible as to make me believe that they really would be so depraved as to be likely to freely, consciously reject God as properly understood as the ground of all perfection, good, love, truth, etc. And they don't strike me as so irremediably wicked to the point where they would be beyond the actions and providence of an omnipotent, omniscient God who strongly desires their salvation.

      So I find the idea that these people will be condemned to be frankly unbelievable. I think it's almost crazy, really.

      While I think that some people, a very few, are so terribly wicked that we can say they realistically, most likely, end up in hell, I am a strong believer in quasi-universalism, or at least hopeful quasi-universalism. That is that the vast majority of people will likely be saved (after experiencing purgatory). We should still not presume, especially for ourselves, lest we become indifferent with our sins to the point where we might join those few wicked damned, but we can have good and rational hope for the salvation of the vast majority of people. I also think this follows straight away from theism and Christianity - as I said, theism strictly entails optimism. If there is an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God who loves us and desires the good and salvation of all, there is no way we can avoid some kind of optimism.

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    5. Also, it is worth bringing up Spe Salvi from Benedict XVI:

      "45. This early Jewish idea of an intermediate state includes the view that these souls are not simply in a sort of temporary custody but, as the parable of the rich man illustrates, are already being punished or are experiencing a provisional form of bliss. There is also the idea that this state can involve purification and healing which mature the soul for communion with God. The early Church took up these concepts, and in the Western Church they gradually developed into the doctrine of Purgatory. We do not need to examine here the complex historical paths of this development; it is enough to ask what it actually means. With death, our life-choice becomes definitive—our life stands before the judge. Our choice, which in the course of an entire life takes on a certain shape, can have a variety of forms. There can be people who have totally destroyed their desire for truth and readiness to love, people for whom everything has become a lie, people who have lived for hatred and have suppressed all love within themselves. This is a terrifying thought, but alarming profiles of this type can be seen in certain figures of our own history. In such people all would be beyond remedy and the destruction of good would be irrevocable: this is what we mean by the word Hell[37]. On the other hand there can be people who are utterly pure, completely permeated by God, and thus fully open to their neighbours—people for whom communion with God even now gives direction to their entire being and whose journey towards God only brings to fulfilment what they already are.

      46. Yet we know from experience that neither case is normal in human life. For the great majority of people—we may suppose—there remains in the depths of their being an ultimate interior openness to truth, to love, to God. In the concrete choices of life, however, it is covered over by ever new compromises with evil—much filth covers purity, but the thirst for purity remains and it still constantly re-emerges from all that is base and remains present in the soul. What happens to such individuals when they appear before the Judge? Will all the impurity they have amassed through life suddenly cease to matter? What else might occur? Saint Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, gives us an idea of the differing impact of God's judgement according to each person's particular circumstances. He does this using images which in some way try to express the invisible, without it being possible for us to conceptualize these images—simply because we can neither see into the world beyond death nor do we have any experience of it. Paul begins by saying that Christian life is built upon a common foundation: Jesus Christ. This foundation endures. If we have stood firm on this foundation and built our life upon it, we know that it cannot be taken away from us even in death. Then Paul continues: “Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor 3:12-15). In this text, it is in any case evident that our salvation can take different forms, that some of what is built may be burned down, that in order to be saved we personally have to pass through “fire” so as to become fully open to receiving God and able to take our place at the table of the eternal marriage-feast."

      Some critics say that the pope was actually talking about life and not salvation when he spoke of the majority of people, but that seems very implausible to me. It seems very clearly that he was discussing everything in those paragraphs in the context of salvation. A few people go to heaven, a few to hell, and most to purgatory.

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    6. @Atno,


      While I agree that we should be more optimistic than not, you're missing the fact that people can reject God not just out of moral depravity but simply being unwilling to accept God's demands, moral or not.

      Experience with online atheists often shows they are suppressing their conscience when it comes to arguments about God - I've seen a case of an atheist on youtube not saying a peep about fellow atheists using extremely bad arguments he knows are bad, because he likely didn't want to incur their wrath - even though he did say some things in the discussion that suggested to them they should stop talking about this, but didn't want to ruffle any feathers.

      Some have gone so far as to seem to have killed their conscience in this respect and turned themselves into quasi-salesman (Dawkins for example).

      People also often find the moral demands of Christianity unpalatable, and so they have a certain bias against accepting Christianity - after all, mortal sins if unrepented of can make you end up in Hell.

      Even C. S. Lewis said that people who ask why they should care about Christianity because they are afraid it might be true or don't want to care to change are more likely to reject God than those who innocently don't believe in the faith.

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    7. JoeD,

      I think you are either underestimating theistic optimism, or the inchoate goodness and sense of ordinary immoral people (which includes all of us, pretty much).

      Hell entails eternal separation from God - the source of all Good, Love, Beauty and Truth - and the immense suffering that comes as a consequence. Do you think that most people would consciously, seriously choose that? Consider also that, as I said in another discussion down below, God very likely spares no actions necessary to save a person.

      If God could do something to convince someone to repent and choose Him and avoid hell, He most likely would. So the only way a person could (realistically, following the probability) go to hell is if she really is "unreachable", if there is nothing God could have done or said to bring her to Him. So, do you think this conditional holds true for most ordinary people? I certainly don't, and I think our experience testifies against that (see the passage in Spe Salvi).

      So it follows that the vast majority of people are probably saved. I maintain a probabilistic judgment in favor of quasi-universalism.

      A "reasonable hope" that Balthasar suggests would be even more modest, and follows with even more ease. I honestly think this reasoning is very strong, and is related to what I mean when I say theism strictly entails optimism. So I think that - probably - only very depraved people go to hell.

      It is still fine to hold that and take a prudent view that we should nevertheless insist on evangelization. That is all well and good. And of course, even if few people go to hell, we should always want to minimize the numbers as much as possible.

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    8. 1) "Hell entails eternal separation from God - the source of all Good, Love, Beauty and Truth - and the immense suffering that comes as a consequence. Do you think that most people would consciously, seriously choose that?"


      There are views of Hell that don't have immense suffering, such as the Shame, where those who reject God suffer the shame of all of their sins forever, and though uncomfortable and frustrating, it's not anything like the fire-or-torture view. One such Protestant proponent of the shame view, when asked if Anne Frank burns in Hell since she didn't accept Christ, said that she doesn't burn and the shame she experiences is rather mild.

      Here's a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbIvF4bC9UY

      As for whether or not people would seriously choose Hell even if it does have immense suffering - nobody chooses the to-them-negative-consequences of their actions, rather they choose to reject God due to disliking certain restrictions of morality and aspects of God. And it's this choice for something really bad which nonetheless pleases their will in some way that gets them the negative consequences - so since people clearly can choose something sinful over God, they can choose Hell (separation from the God they don't want to bother with) over God.


      2) "So the only way a person could (realistically, following the probability) go to hell is if she really is "unreachable", if there is nothing God could have done or said to bring her to Him. So, do you think this conditional holds true for most ordinary people? I certainly don't, and I think our experience testifies against that..."


      I do agree that many if not most ordinary people aren't stubbornly opposed to God in such a way as to reject Him, but experience also tells us there are people who are stubbornly biased against God - they don't want to admit they were wrong or to submit to moral demands they dislike, and so are less willing to budge. And though there is certainly the possibility God could budge them out of it, we have to admit that if persisted in enough it stiffens the will more and more against God.

      But I do agree with you in being optimistic and thinking people (even modern ones tarred in vice) have a likely chance of being saved, by a hair at least. I only wouldn't bet on it so confidently - the ability of people to suppress their conscience and bias themselves against what they dislike shouldn't be overestimated.

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    9. Honestly, I find the suggestion that a kid like Anne Frank is in hell to be rather distusting, besides unbelievable. And it doesn't matter if there isn't immense suffering; the prospect of any suffering that is infinitely long, an existence entirely predicated on eternal suffering and no connection with God or anything is just horrifying. The idea that it's reasonably likely an ordinary immoral person would even choose such a thing is entirely unbelievable to me and doesn't seem to avoid any of the problems I mentioned.

      "it's this choice for something really bad which nonetheless pleases their will in some way that gets them the negative consequences - so since people clearly can choose something sinful over God, they can choose Hell (separation from the God they don't want to bother with) over God."

      Right, but when the consequence is eternal separation from God, if there is to be any justice involved then the person can only make that choice if she is very clear on it, and she knows fully well that she will be eternally rejecting God. Once again, not something I can see ordinary people choosing (hence why I in fact make a strong probabilistic judgment and belief, not just a "hope"). I can see how a thoroughly depraved person could consciously make a choice like that that leads to hell, but not an ordinary person.

      And it goes back to what I said about God. I take it as indisputable that God very likely does everything in His power to save every single person, so that if someone ends up in hell it is - in all likelihood - because there was NOTHING that God could've done to convince her to freely choose to repent. Since my experience with people also testifies to me that it's very likely that there is at least one or another way God could convince and save the vast majority of people, I insist, once again, that it is very likely that the vast majority of people will be saved. Which I take again to follow from optimism, which follows from theism.

      The idea that hell is not so bad after all, such that a 12 year old girl killed by nazis might end up there only suffering shame for eternity, doesn't really seem to me to make any difference at all against my argument.

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  17. An excerpt from NT Wrights commentary on Luke's passage concerning the narrow gate;


    "Jesus’ warning in this passage sounds as though it’s every bit as unreasonable as the airline regulation was that night. If you’ve got a confirmed place, surely you ought to be allowed on board no matter where you are in the line. It seems unfair for the householder to let people in up to a certain point and then, when he’s shut the door in the faces of the next people, to protest that he never knew them. But a moment’s thought about the whole sequence of teaching in Luke up to this point will reveal that the warning is very much needed. The question about how many will be saved sends us to the question of ultimate and final salvation. Interestingly, Jesus refuses to answer this question directly; he will not give statistics and figures to satisfy mere human inquisitiveness. What he gives is a stern warning, not least because in the setting of his journey to Jerusalem ‘being saved’ is not simply a matter of ultimate destination after death, but the more immediate and pressing question of the crisis that hangs over the nation. In this setting, his warning is both appropriate and necessary. As he goes about his mission, he is holding open the gate of the kingdom and urging people to enter it. The door isn’t very wide, and it will take energy and commitment to get in; no question of strolling in by chance. One day, and not very long from now, the door will be shut, and it will be too late. God is giving Israel this last chance, through the work of Jesus, but he is the final messenger. If he is refused, there will be no further opportunity. The disciples in Acts urge people in his name to ‘save themselves from this crooked generation’ (Acts 2.40); if they do not respond to Jesus’ call, they will pull down on themselves the judgment that ‘this generation’ has incurred. Those who wait to see what happens later, and who then presume that because they once shared a festive banquet with Jesus they will somehow be all right, will find that there are no promises for those who did not take the chance when it was offered. The promise, and warning, of Jesus is that the very people his contemporaries were eager to fight – the Gentiles from east and west, north and south, who had over the centuries oppressed, bullied and harried them – might at this rate end up in God’s kingdom ahead of them. The strange workings of God’s grace, in which, though some are chosen for particular roles, none is assured of automatic privilege, mean that some who are first will be last, and vice versa. We should be cautious about lifting this passage out and applying it directly to the larger question of eternal salvation. Jesus’ urgent warnings to his own contemporaries were aimed at the particular emergency they then faced. But we should equally beware of assuming that it is irrelevant to such questions. Unless all human life is just a game; unless we are mistaken in our strong sense that our moral and spiritual choices matter; unless, after all, the New Testament as a whole has badly misled us – then it really is possible to stroll past the open gate to the kingdom of God, only to discover later the depth of our mistake."

    Considering the historical context, I'm not sure we can take much about whether many or few are saved in terms of ultimate salvation. Depends on figuring out just what Jesus meant in this passage

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  18. Ed, thanks for the post. It's an interesting analogy, but it would be more clarifying if you had named the bishops/churchmen you had in mind when writing this, those bishops/churchmen you consider analogous to coronavirus deniers (e.g., Dr. Drew.) Who, specifically, do you have in mind?

    I'm guessing most readers will assume you are referring to Bishop Robert Barron, clearly the most prominent advocate of the "dare we hope" position today. However, if that's true, your argument weakens significantly, given that Bishop Barron is emphatically NOT "absolutely terrified of being thought [a] 'proselytizer,' and emphasiz[ing] only 'dialogue' and common ground." Likewise, to suggest someone like Bishop Barron displays "no urgency about converting non-Catholics to the one true faith so as to save their souls" is laughable and demonstrably false. (Again, I'm not saying you're doing this--maybe you didn't have Bishop Barron in mind--but I'm guessing many readers will assume this for the reason above.)

    You also claim "one almost never hears contemporary churchmen calling for conversion." Again, this certainly wouldn't be true of bishops like Bishop Barron, who is among the staunchest advocates of interior conversion. He has written several books on the topic, produced numerous videos, and even released a multi-part film series titled "Conversion". (The same holds for Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II, who were sympathetic to the "dare we hope" view--who could deny they cared deeply about conversion?)

    But maybe I'm misreading all of this, and Bishop Barron wasn't at all in your crosshairs! And if so, I pull back all these criticisms gladly. But in either case, it would be helpful for readers if you had clarified which bishops/churchmen you were targeting. Concrete examples would have helped rather than generally maligning "contemporary churchmen" or "many conservative Catholics."

    Finally, I don't think your term "damnation denialism" is helpful, at least if you're associating that view with the "dare we hope" position. Neither von Balthasar, nor Bishop Barron, nor mainstream advocates of the "dare we hope" view deny the existence of hell or the possibility of damnation. In fact, they explicitly affirm those realities. They think it's possible and perhaps even likely that many people will be damned, but they simply hope and pray that won't be the case. They follow the Catechism's teaching that, "In hope, the Church prays for 'all men to be saved.'" (CCC, 1821). It's a hope, not an expectation, belief, or probabilistic judgment.

    Readers interested in a more nuanced analysis of the "dare we hope" position will find this page helpful: https://wordonfire.org/hope

    (Full disclosure: I work with Bishop Barron in his Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.)

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    1. Hi Brandon,

      I like and admire Bishop Barron very much. Naturally, I disagree with him about Balthasar. But I did not, and would not, accuse him of not caring about evangelization, which (I agree) would be ridiculous. I think he's rather the exception rather than the rule on that, however, don't you think?

      And I explicitly named the person I was comparing to Dr. Drew -- I said it was Balthasar himself. If you follow out the analogy, you'll see that I was not comparing people who promote Balthasar to Dr. Drew. Rather, I was comparing them to people who put too much stock in Dr. Drew's opinion. That's an important difference.

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    2. Brandon,

      I'm sure I remember Bishop Barron offering his own exegesis on Luke's passage concerning the narrow gate, to you have a link?

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    3. I am sympathetic to Brandon's concerns here & I even thought I don't agree with Barron's position I look down my nose at most of his critics as hysterical chuckleheads(more on that later). Which many of them are (not that I think Prof Feser is one of them mind you but Michael Voris better not show his face here).

      (BTW Brandon it's me Jim the Scott from Strange Notions)

      >Why do even many conservative Catholics enthusiastically promote Balthasar’s comforting views, rather than lamenting him as the Dr. Drew of damnation denialism?

      Well Von Balthasar unlike the condemned Universalist Heretics of Old still taught damnation was/is a real possibility for people even if God somehow figures out how to save most if not nearly everybody.

      Imagine 10000 un-supervised 2 year olds playing alone in 10000 kitchens with hot stoves with a pot of scalding water on each of them. It is possible via a combination of improbable dumb luck and divine providence all if not most of the kids might escape being horribly burned & if they are it doesn't change the fact all of them where in real danger.

      In a like manner if God saves all or nearly most by some means via Barron/Balthasar’s scheme that doesn't change the fact Hell was (& presently is) still a real danger.

      Of course I would add this to the equation. If God can save most if not all in some manner under that scheme then there is no reason why he could save all or most and NOT ME. So even if you are attracted to this theory you should not presume and you should still fear Hell.

      Now I look down upon many silly critics of Balthasar’s view because I don't hear them bitching about us Banezian Thomists. We Benezian Thomists believe efficacious grace is irresistible because it never fails to infallibly secure a person's conversion. This superficially resembles the heresy of Calvinism (like Balthasar's view superficially resembles the condemned universalism heresies) which teaches all grace is irresistible. Also past Molinist critics of Thomism one claimed the Banez view contradicts Trent but they are wrong because no Thomist thinks merely sufficient grace is irresistible only efficacious grace and not for the reasons the arch-heretic Calvin believed all grace was irresistible. Trent condemns the view all grace is irresistible.

      So I find the inconsistency offensive. That and I find most Radtrads tedious.

      But Feser is right about promoting the fear of Hell even in the face of pseudo-Universalist speculations of Barron or VonBalthasar.

      When I was in the Navy my last week on the Ship before discharge I called a Security Alert as Messenger of the Watch because I erroneously thought Radio was unlocked and unmanned(turned out somebody was under a machine fixing something). After the alert I tried to apologize to the officer of the watch and he corrected me by saying "The only thing I see you doing wrong Scott is yer Apologizing. It is better to call a Security Alert and be wrong. Then not to call one and be wrong. Carry on! " I never forgot that lesson.

      Cheers all.

      PS. I believe we are not meant to know if the majority are save or a minority are saved. But that is just me.

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    4. It seems to me the Banezians in particular can have some hope that all may be saved as all free choices and the specification of said choices are caused infallibly by God.

      It seems to me that strand of orthodox Catholicism can legitimately hope that God may have mercy on most.

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    5. "Imagine 10000 un-supervised 2 year olds playing alone in 10000 kitchens with hot stoves with a pot of scalding water on each of them. It is possible via a combination of improbable dumb luck and divine providence all if not most of the kids might escape being horribly burned & if they are it doesn't change the fact all of them where in real danger."

      Well actually, it does. *Real* assessments of what is a *real* danger or not must be based on experience of *reality* (not just on abstract consideration of *logical* possibility).

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    6. @Callum

      I am not sure Banezianism as a theological philosophical system can accommodate the pseudo-Universalism views of Barron/VonBalthasar but given Banezianism is just one legitimate Catholic theological theory on the relationship between Grace and Free Will among many then I can tolerate it as possible if it turns out one of the other theories more accommodating to it is true.

      But if someone could reconcile Banez and VonBalthasar I would be interested.

      I still doubt everyone could be saved but I don't see how it is wrong to hope for it?

      If that is wrong then the Fatima prayer is bogus and that can't be true so there you are.....

      @David McPike

      >Well actually, it does. *Real* assessments of what is a *real* danger or not must be based on experience of *reality* (not just on abstract consideration of *logical* possibility).

      So you want me to come up with 10000 specific instances of 10000 individual children being in *real* danger in their individual kitchens?

      Pass! I am not that bored. There is no reason why we can't conceived of all those children being in *real* danger otherwise we must say anybody who as escaped danger was never in real danger by virtue of the fact they escaped it which is absurd.

      Cheers all stay healthy and safe.

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    7. SoY,

      Listen to Feser's thomistic institute talk on the nature of the will, during there was a Q&A concerning the nature of the will and choice after death, how this sits with judgement etc and one listener gives a Balthazarian twist.

      It's some food for thought

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    8. I will try and hunt that down is should be interesting.

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  19. If people want to argue about whether Narrative A is in fact correct (i.e. whether the COVID-19 situation is really as dire as the narrative says) or about whether Narrative B is in fact correct (i.e. about whether many people, if any, are really in danger of damnation), then knock yourself out. I’ll count it as on-topic.

    But I do want to remind you that none of that is relevant to the point of the post. The point of the post is that IF you accept Narrative A, AND you also embrace orthodox Catholic teaching, THEN it is not rational not to accept Narrative B as well.

    Of course, someone might reject Narrative A and/or reject Catholic orthodoxy, and so be untroubled by the conditional. But that’s irrelevant to the point, because it doesn’t show that the conditional itself is false. Any conditional statement “If p and q, then r” can still be true even if p or q were false. Someone might also reject Narrative A and still accept Narrative B anyway. That is also irrelevant to whether the conditional is true.

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    1. "This is what the experts tell us, and we should listen to them." - That's the problematic statement. It comes down to who you take the experts to be. Depending on your conception of that issue, you can accept A and reject B. It's just that in B you think that the relevant experts are telling you something different from the old "undeveloped" doctrine. And the relevant experts are just the most up-to-date experts, like Balthasar and Baron and Benedict XVI and Francis and the generality of bishops of the world. (Barron may be into "evangelization," but his is the gospel of "positive orthodoxy," which to me sounds a lot like semi-orthodoxy, i.e., "silent apostasy," distancing oneself from the "arduous" parts of the gospel, which smacks rather of proximity to sin against faith and hope.)

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    2. If p and q, then r.
      ~r.
      q.
      Therefore ~p.
      The people that you think are mistaken had two positions (rejection of Narrative B and acceptance of traditional catholic teaching) prior to the COVID-19 situation. Those positions should have led them to reject Narrative A. I am glad to report that I have had success in persuading some people that lean toward Balthasarianism that they should reject Narrative A, and this may actually make a positive difference at a community level.
      Latest national update 6.6 million more jobs lost last week and estimated eventual COVID-19 deaths in America revised down from 240,000 to 60,000. Let's help Balthasarians reject Narrative A!

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    3. Hi Tim,

      I assume that you don't mean to say that the people you convinced both:

      (a) initially accepted Narrative A on empirical grounds, but then

      (b) gave it up precisely for the reason that they saw the force of the conditional I've been defending, and decided they'd rather give up Narrative A than accept Narrative B. Despite what they took to be good empirical grounds.

      I assume that that's not what they did, because it seems to me that that would be nuts. I assume you convinced them to give up Narrative A on other, independent grounds, is that right?

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    4. Anyway, even if they did give it up for that reason, that confirms rather than undermines my case. Because in that case, they agree with my conditional (and just draw a nutty inference from it).

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    5. I do agree with your conditional, Ed. In my previous post, I explicitly affirm
      If p and q, then r. I am not sure where they stood on narrative A before hand. The situation was as follows: A cross-school group of people at the university were asked to give input with regard to policy options that essentially either agreed with narrative A or questioned it. The twelve people before I gave my input all opted for the policy that agreed with narrative A. I argued, partly on the grounds of empirical data and partly using theology of hope terminology, for a policy that questioned narrative A and, to my surprise, all my colleagues in the School of Theology that were in the group agreed with me and opted for that policy. The final decision has yet to be made but if I helped persuade APU to adopt a policy that questions narrative A, then I shall have achieved a significant good. There is nothing nutty about that.

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    6. @David above: it is indeed reasonable to ask "who are the experts". In this context, it is mandatory of Catholics that they consider as "experts" the doctrinal teachings of the popes, the unanimous teachings of the Fathers, and the clear meaning of the Bible. Development of doctrine can come in only if there was an ambiguous position in the Bible or in the early Church, which was eventually drawn out by later insight so that the ambiguity was disambiguated, clarity realized, the difficult parts of the Bible harmonized, and the (properly justifiable) concerns of the disputants resolved. That's what development means, and in that cases, later papal teaching (for example) is more reliable than earlier papal teaching. And a unanimity of later Fathers is to be followed rather than a mixed bag of early Fathers.

      But nothing of the sort has taken place on this point of doctrine. The pro-Balthasarians have done nothing to clarify an ambiguity in the Scriptures, they simply demand a preference over one set of passages over another. They have not taken into account the unanimity of later Fathers, and of all the Doctors, on the point. Etc. When it comes to development, this ain't it.

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    7. Hi Tim, just to be clear, what I characterized as "nutty" was, specifically, giving up Narrative A merely because one would otherwise have to accept Narrative B too (and not because of any empirical considerations). In other words, it would be nutty to say "I will adopt 'coronavirus denialism' simply because I will otherwise have to give up 'damnation denialism.'"

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    8. One of my points is that temporally, most people would have had positions on q and r (or the evangelical approximate equivalents thereof) before they have a position on p (Narrative A). And if they strongly reject Narrative B, and don't have as strong and long-held view on Narrative A, they can be persuaded to reject or at least question Narrative A.
      Austria has decided to go back to work beginning April 14th so that is good news.

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    9. Ed,
      My reply at 3:55 was written before I saw your post at 3:51 and not in response to it. Thank you for the clarification regarding "nutty."

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    10. @Tony: I think what you're saying is basically right, but in terms of the dialectical situation at present there's no reason to think that many people will be in a position to recognize that it's right, and therefore be rationally persuaded by the argument; especially if you grant the principle that later popes (esp. Benedict XVI and Francis) are to be preferred to earlier.

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    11. @Tony

      All extreme critics falsely imply Balthasarians want to make it dogma that nobody will end up in Hell where as it seems all they wish to do is merely entertain the hope God will somehow find a way to save everybody & propose scenarios (however implausible but not impossible for God) by which this might happen. Nothing more. Like I said I can hope everybody is saved and given the presuppositions of this view there is no reason why everybody but Moi could be saved ergo I have no choice but to keep holy fear close to my heart for my own soul even as I might entertain this hope.

      If this is wrong the Fatima Prayer is a waste of time to the pseudo Calvinist extremist critics of Balthasarians.

      >Development of doctrine can come in only if there was an ambiguous position in the Bible or in the early Church,

      But nobody is suggesting a Catholic friendly doctrine of Universalism be formulated. This is mere speculation nothing more so development of doctrine doesn't apply. Additionally since we Catholics reject perspicuity of Holy Writ it is question begging as to what is ambiguous or not. Sure John 6 is clear to us but not to the Baptist who thinks "Call no Man Father" or "Don't make a graven image" is clear to him or better yet "All have sinned"(which they use to question Our Lady's sinlessness).

      So baring a formal condemnation of the particulars of Von Balthazar I don't see the problem?

      >And a unanimity of later Fathers is to be followed rather than a mixed bag of early Fathers.

      Truth be told the Fathers unanimously condemned limited atonement and irresistible grace but not in the sense taught by Banez which is the cornerstone of the Traditional Thomistic School. If we can tolerate Banez quasi Calvinism we can tolerate Von Balthazar's pseudo--Universalism.

      They are not even the same since Banez's view is a doctrine (thought not a dogma nor a required belief) involving the mechanics of free will and grace and VonBalthazar is a mere speculation as to a possible(however remote) outcome.

      The real issue is the value of Holy Fear and the necessity of said fear. We must fear Hell 24/7 even if VonBalthazar somehow turned out to be right. For what if my scenario in that case is true? What if everybody BUT oneself is saved?
      That is not good.

      Out of 12 Apostles we plausibly lost 1. Well those are good odds unless you are Judas.

      It is better to think you are Judas and then turn around and repent like Peter than to think oneself Peter and betray like Judas.

      Cheers.

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    12. @SoY: Your comment about "all extreme critics" is only true if that's how you define "all extreme critics," but since there aren't any of those around here, why bring up the straw man?

      You didn't understand my point earlier, so I'll try again here. Knowledge is based on experience. If you are convinced that you are in great danger, every time you get out of bed, that the floor will vanish under your feet, and you fear this 24/7, and thank God it doesn't happen, even though it never does happen, to anybody, and yet you continue to worry that it still might happen to just you, then you are nuts. It's not the case that the danger is real. Rather, you are mistaken in your assessment of the danger, as experience proves. (Mutatis mutandis, then, I hope you now understand the point.)

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    13. @David McPike

      >Your comment about "all extreme critics" is only true if that's how you define "all extreme critics," but since there aren't any of those around here, why bring up the straw man?

      Why do they need to "be here" in order for me to kvetch about them? They exist and I even named one(*coughing* Michael Voris! *coughing*) above who IMHO treats Bishop Barron in a shameful manner. Feser justly bitches about people who don't post here (& good on him BTW). So why can't moi?

      >You didn't understand my point earlier, so I'll try again here. Knowledge is based on experience. If you are convinced that you are in great danger, every time you get out of bed, that the floor will vanish under your feet, and you fear this 24/7, and thank God it doesn't happen, even though it never does happen, to anybody, and yet you continue to worry that it still might happen to just you, then you are nuts.

      Which is an interesting idea but has nothing to do with Hell since I only know Hell exists by trusting divine revelation & NOT by experience. I have thankfully by God Grace so far never been to Hell & I have never had a near death experience where I found myself in Hell. I don't at all know about the danger of Hell apart from divine revelation. Not experience.

      So yer analogy is invalid. If not question begging. My posts address those who already accept the truth of the Catholic Faith and Catholic Presuppositions. If you are here to debate the truth of Catholicism or the existence of Hell I am not interested. There are other apologetics forums for that.

      >it's not the case that the danger is real. Rather, you are mistaken in your assessment of the danger, as experience proves. (Mutatis mutandis, then, I hope you now understand the point.)

      Sorry I don't see it in terms of my analogy? Objectively speaking toddlers alone in rooms with pots of scalding hot water where always in potential danger of being burned even before the first toddler was ever left alone in that situation.

      Toddlers alone in rooms with pots of cold water have no such potential danger.

      The Universalist Heresy proper, denies Hell exists thus under that system there is no danger of Hell not even potentially. OTOH VonBalthazar's pseudo-Universalims still has Hell as a real possibility.

      So I don't get yer point? My apologies. But I wish you a happy Easter none the less. Cheers.

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    14. Happy Easter to you also, Son of Ya'kov.

      Since I do not associate with extreme Banezianism, I do not fear that your initial comment refers to me.

      Another reader here makes a distinction that I think bears well on the "moderate Balthasarian" model you propose (i.e. the proposal - as speculation - that we might licitly hope for the salvation of all): for events that are still future and thus are still open to change by our actions, we can indeed hope for and even pray for all those who are not yet dead. However, for those who are dead and have died in their (mortal) sins, we can no longer hope for their salvation, hope regards what is still to come. We cannot know that any specific person died in the state of mortal sin, but lack of knowledge about what has happened isn't HOPE for what has happened. We can no longer hope for the damned.

      Since we cannot, and indeed must not hope for the salvation of the damned angels, nor deny knowing that there are some in that condition, we are assured that Hell is populated with at least some beings. Given that, it is extraordinarily implausible a reading of the Scriptures to convert all of the warnings about how Christ will separate the saved from the damned at the end into even a "moderate Balthasarian" project, in the face of so many Fathers and Doctors who implicitly or explicitly teach that some men are in Hell, as to even leave room for speculation that God saves all men. I do not say it is impossible, but it is so severely implausible as a way of approaching to Scripture that insisting on doing so may actually come with OTHER errors along the edges. Safer, I think, to accept what so many Fathers and Doctors (and vastly many saints, including those who saw visions of many in Hell) believed, who also had no trouble harmonizing the passages in Scripture that predict some going to Hell with the passages exclaiming God's desire for the good of all.

      David M., you mentioned Balthasar (whose works in support of the speculative position I know of, and Pope Francis, whose off-the-cuff comments sound not only Balthasarian but (sometimes) downright nutty - suggesting God annihilates those who die in sin - but also Benedict. Can you cite the passages you are thinking of from Benedict that are distinctly Balthasarian on this topic? I don't recall any.

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    15. @Tony

      My man! My Home boy!

      Actually these days I would consider myself a Banezian/ex-Molinist largely A) from reading Garrigou-Lagrange and B) learning from him it is not Calvinism with Rosary beads. Banezians believe in free will. They believe sufficient grace is truly sufficient and salvation for one who has received it is somehow a real possibility.

      A short & simplified explanation I gave illustrating the difference on FB "Banezianism confesses God pre-moves the will to conversion in the case of efficacious grace and leaves it a mystery as to how sufficient grace that is not efficacious is truly sufficient. Molinism teaches the will can reject efficacious grace making it merely sufficient but they leave it a mystery as to how efficacious grace can infallibly secure conversion of the will. In short we put the Mystery bookmark in different places."END

      As to VonBalthazar it is my understanding the Councils of the Church have formally taught fallen Angels are in Hell and I don't know of any Neo-Balthazarians who deny this? Nor do I know of any who believe the damned will ever be redeemed? If VonBalthazar taught any of this I wonder then how it made it past the CDF? Especially under Ratzinger who it seems had no problem hammering Hans Kung? I usually go by the judgement of the late Cardinal Dulles who said VonBalthazar's speculations did not contradict the faith & the lack of formal condemnation from the Church doesn't hurt either.

      As to the salvation of all human beings if it is possible and it turns out to be the case then Bible verses that seem to contradict it would have a different explanation. Off the top of my head if I spit ball it I recall Jonah warnings to the people of Nineveh about their impending destruction and it didn't come to pass. Maybe something like that?

      But it matters little to me how you can craft a scenario fitting every text and or every extremely wicked individual in history yer gut tells you should be in Hell somehow getting too Heaven. When I think of Hitler or Stalin or the scumbag who ran his KGB then VonBalthazar seems absurd. But God can and will do what He wants and I won't exclude pseudo-Universalism nor will I profess it. I would hope for it(how can you not?) but I wouldn't bet real money on it.

      The lesson you might learn from it is not to underestimate God's ability to save or the extent of His mercy. But you also need to learn not to presume. Like I said given VonBalthazar's presuppositions & general Catholic ones. There is no reason why God could not save everybody but you and moi.

      Which would suck mostly for you being stuck with a fallen me for all eternity :D (if I fall God forbid I hope they put me with Hitler because that bastard deserves me). So do me a favor and say an additional Rosary to avoid that end. :D

      PS Also Pray for me too. I really don't want to go to Hell. I hear the rootbeer is terrible.

      Cheers and Stay safe and saved.

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    16. @Tony: I'm thinking of Benedict's unreserved endorsement of Balthasar's brilliance in Last Testament and of Spe salve 45 and 46, where he claims that we may suppose that the vast majority of people will go, via purgatory, to heaven, and that in order to go to hell... let's just say, you and I and SoY don't need to worry about it! Here's the relevant quote: "There can be people who have totally destroyed their desire for truth and readiness to love, people for whom everything has become a lie, people who have lived for hatred and have suppressed all love within themselves. This is a terrifying thought, but alarming profiles of this type can be seen in certain figures of our own history. In such people all would be beyond remedy and the destruction of good would be irrevocable [note the subjunctives]: this is what we mean by the word Hell [apparently!]." But again, we may suppose, Benedict quite blandly claims, that the great majority of people are not fit for hell.

      @SoY: I submit it would be better to deal with the actual present criticisms of Balthasar, since you're talking to actual present critics, rather than muddy the waters with "extreme criticisms" which no one here is defending. As for the toddlers who are in danger, again, if it turns out none of them ever get hurt, then you are simply mistaken. If none of them ever gets hurt, then we should conclude they never were in danger. Assessment of real danger can only be done on the basis of real experience. If you refuse in principle to recognize the necessity of learning from experience in assessing what is actually dangerous (or not), then I guess I can't help you. Here's another analogy: Suppose you are at the circus and it's thrilling to watch the dangerous death defying stunts of the high-wire performers. But in reality it's quite safe, because they are using safety equipment, so it's only very rarely anyone gets hurt. You could also think of high-rise window washers or bungee jumpers. You should conclude that while it seems dangerous, in fact it is not. And the same thing would apply to your toddlers, if in fact they never get hurt; and the same thing would apply to the danger of going to hell, if in fact it's very rare for anyone to end up there.

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    17. @David McPike

      Well there is no reason why I can't do both and there is some overlap. For example treating VonBalthazar's view as if it was wholly unequivocal to the traditional heresy of universalism is something I find even regular sober orthodox Catholics do.

      >As for the toddlers who are in danger, again, if it turns out none of them ever get hurt, then you are simply mistaken. If none of them ever gets hurt, then we should conclude they never were in danger.

      Try having their 10000 mums tell that to Social Services and see what happens. ;-). Just saying......:D

      >Assessment of real danger can only be done on the basis of real experience.

      I reject that standard a priori. Common sense tells us Hell is a danger we can only know via faith in divine revelation not experience. At best the only distinction you can make is to say the Children in my example above where in real potential danger even if it turned out they where not in actual danger.

      VonBalthazar of course still taught Hell is a real potential danger to us and going to Hell is a real possibility. This distinguishes him from the heretics of old who taught you can't go to Hell because there is no Hell(at best/worst you might have a Purgatory for All). Well we can have none of that!

      As to yer counter analogy IMHO it will not serve. Salvation is by God's Grace Alone. Our faith and the salutary acts we perform are credited to God not ourselves. The example of the toddlers being saved by Divine Providence & dumb luck(it goes without saying this is cause by Providence) only serves to illustrate how we helpless before the power of the Devil need God to save us from him. Skilled showmen have nothing to do with it and I loath the heresy Pelagianism.

      This point show how the danger of Hell can still be real and how that reconciles with VonBalthazar's pseudo Universalism.

      Sorry my friend yer analogy dinna help at all. But I appreciate the effort.

      Cheers friend.

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    18. SoY: "I reject that standard a priori." In words, but not in fact. No one does in fact. It's just that you're being (wilfully) inconsistent because you are attached to inconsistent propositions. So you reject the incontrovertible methodological principle which would reveal to you your inconsistency. Bad move!

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    19. @David McPike

      Not at all I just recognize using experience to try to figure out if Hell is a danger or not makes about as much sense as trying to observe the Andromeda Galaxy with a Microscope as opposed to a Telescope. In short it is a category mistake on yer part and it would be irrational & incoherent for me to follow it.

      Experience here is the wrong methodological principle to use. We can only know Hell is dangerous by the knowledge imparted by divine revelation alone not experience. Do you doubt it? Well good luck trying to look at Andromeda in the sky with that microscope buddy.

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    20. SoY veh!: You're again missing the point. Your red herrings are really tiresome. The question is about whether something is a real danger or not. You might not know in advance, but you can still say that *if* it turns out no one now living will go to hell, your contention that that there is no one (or hardly anyone) now living who is not in real danger of hell will turn out to be an error. You don't know whether your claim ("we're in real danger of going to hell") is true (or false), but you should recognize it is falsifiable, and under what conditions it would turn out to be falsified. Same goes if it turns out that none of your toddlers ever suffer harm, etc. The question is about what propositions you can consistently embrace. Your contention about the role of divine revelation is irrelevant to anything I said. Of course we have to rely on divine revelation. But the dispute is about what divine revelation tells us and what it implies and what propositions can then be consistently, reasonably embraced in light of the revealed data. You might compare the question "are supernovas dangerous?" You don't need first-hand experience to know that it would be dangerous if you were close to one; but you should also know (or reasonably conjecture) that neither you nor one in the history of the earth has ever been in actual danger from one because there has never been one close enough to put the earth in real danger.

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    21. >SoY veh!: You're again missing the point. Your red herrings are really tiresome.

      Not as tiresome as yer equivocations and category mistakes.

      > The question is about whether something is a real danger or not.

      I said no. Sorry but something is either a real potential danger or a real actual danger. In the example I gave the children where in real potential danger. You have not shown otherwise and human beings can't know apart from a special revelation if they are elect or not.

      >You might not know in advance, but you can still say that *if* it turns out no one now living will go to hell, your contention that that there is no one (or hardly anyone) now living who is not in real danger of hell will turn out to be an error.

      So the elect (regardless if they are all, many or few) are in no danger of Hell? That sounds like Hyper Calvinism not Catholicism. Which is fine if you are "Reformed" but I am orthodox not a heretic. This sounds like a walking talking violation of the Council of Trent if you forgive me.

      >You don't know whether your claim ("we're in real danger of going to hell") is true (or false), but you should recognize it is falsifiable, and under what conditions it would turn out to be falsified.

      No it is a divine mystery whom God has elected and it not subject to science or human reasoning. We are all in danger of Hell according to Holy Writ. This goes for the elect and in the case of the non-elect we know they where given sufficient grace for salvation that was truly sufficient so salvation for them somehow was a real possibility. It is a mystery which means in principle we can never fully understand it.

      Like the Benazian I am I consider the relationship between free will and grace to be a mystery to contemplate not a puzzle to solve.

      >Same goes if it turns out that none of your toddlers ever suffer harm, etc. The question is about what propositions you can consistently embrace.

      It is easy I am making an analogy. You are treating it as an unequivocal description. Hilarity ensues.

      Like I said tell a Social worker "Yeh the woman left her child alone in a room with a pot of boiling water but the kid was in no danger because (s)he never got burned" and see if that child isn't taken to a foster home.

      You make no sense to me.

      >Your contention about the role of divine revelation is irrelevant to anything I said. Of course we have to rely on divine revelation.

      No yer criticism of my analogy is irrelevant to what I said & I suspect at this point you are treating it as an unequivocal description.

      I can make analogies but I am not giving unequivocal examples. I don't role that way. It is very un-thomistic. Go find a follower of Scotus instead.

      > But the dispute is about what divine revelation tells us and what it implies and what propositions can then be consistently, reasonably embraced in light of the revealed data.

      Not really. First even thought I personally favor Banez's School there are other schools of thought. Molina or Augustine and others.....they each have their solutions but also their problems. But we don't know which is correct and we cannot know threw any science.

      > You might compare the question "are supernovas dangerous?" You don't need first-hand experience to know that it would be dangerous if you were close to one; but you should also know (or reasonably conjecture) that neither you nor one in the history of the earth has ever been in actual danger from one because there has never been one close enough to put the earth in real danger.

      If Hell doesn't exist then we are in no danger. If we cannot even in principle go to Hell then it is not a danger. But in principle even the elect could go to Hell. Sorry but the above example is not a proper analogy for Hell in Catholic thought.

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    22. SoY: Here's what you're not grasping/refusing to grasp: "Non autem cognoscitur aliquid secundum quod est in potentia, sed solum secundum quod est actu, ut patet in IX Metaphys., under nec ipsa potentia cognoscitur nisi per actum." (ST I.84.2) -- "But something is not known insofar as it is in potency, but only insofar as it is actual, ..., hence even potency itself is not known except through act." You reason thus: "X exists; therefore in principle(!) X poses a real(!) danger to us." Wrong; that does not follow.

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    23. A text without a context is a pretext. Again with the fallacy of equivocation!

      >"X exists; therefore in principle(!) X poses a real(!) danger to us." Wrong; that does not follow.

      What is X? How does it exist? What are its properties? Does it have dangerous properties? How is it known to us? Are there conditions by which it dangerous properties might harm us? Are we in proximity to those conditions?

      You can't say Zeus is a god and didn't exist till the Titaness Rhea birthed him then turn around and equivocate saying "therefore since YHWH is also a god he too didn't exist till the Titaness Rhea birthed him".

      Yeh Zeus is called a "god" but he is nothing like YHWH who is pure act.

      >(ST I.84.2)

      You are citing Aquinas on Cognition which describes how we understand things internally. How we conceive of them. Yer citation really doesn't address my point that a specific potential danger is a real danger. It is not a real danger in the actual sense of the danger coming to pass but it is real in potency.

      Yer prooftext doesn't refute what I said and adds nothing to it.

      Here is some context for yer pretext.

      The created intellect cannot understand any substance unless it becomes actual by means of some species, which is the likeness of the thing understood, informing it
      Summa Contra Gentiles III, c.51. nr.3.

      I other words I can't know Hell is dangerous to my soul without God telling me via divine revelation. God warns all sinners of this danger even those sinners who are elect. Ergo the potential danger is a real danger.

      It is clear that the species by which the intellect is actualized are not in themselves the intellect’s object, for they are not that which, but that by which it understands.

      In de anima, III, lect. 4, n.78.

      The species is not that which is understood… In the act of understanding, the species function as the thing by which one understands, and not as that which is understood, even as the species of color in the eye is not that which is seen, but that by which we see. And that which is understood is the very intelligible essence of things existing outside the soul, just as things outside the soul are seen by corporeal light.

      SCG II, c.75, nr.7. cf: ST I, 85, 2.

      All yer citation tells me is potencies of things are not the same as those potencies in act. To which I say "duh". 7 year old me is not the same as soon to be 52 year old me but both are really me.

      A potential danger is not the same as an actual one but both are real dangers in their own way.

      >Here's what you're not grasping/refusing to grasp.

      Rather I cannot comprehend yer point? Or maybe you are trolling me? Well if the later it is all in good fun I am sure.

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  20. I cant see how someone can say the conditional is false.

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    1. Dear Callum: Are you speaking specifically of Narrative A when you use the term "the conditional"? Or are you asking how a conditional "if-then" statement can be true if the conditional "if" is false?

      On a different point, I really dislike the phrases "coronavirus denialism" or "climate change denialism" or whatever, because they put these arguments immediately on the level of "Holocaust denialism." The only mindset at that level of importance would be--well--"damnation denialism."

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    2. Hi Craig,

      I don't really like the term "denialism" either. It's usually just a stupid term of abuse rather than serious thought. However, I did think re: damnation, "OK, if you want to talk 'denialism," how about this?" So I was moved precisely by what you say in your last sentence!

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  21. I appreciate you taking the time to comment on such an important matter, but personally I'll trust loving, pastorally experienced ordained bishops - and the love of Jesus Christ whom they serve - more than a philosopher.

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    1. Me: [quotes Christ's own words]

      Anon: "I'll trust Christ rather than you."

      Classic.

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  22. I can't see why, if he desires all to be saved, he would deliberately construct a system in which salvation is so difficult that barely anyone succeeds.

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    1. We are not able to judge "that barely anyone succeeds." Nor are we able to judge that "everyone gets in." Probably the in-between position is most likely.

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    2. Aquinas has the unfortunate view that God does not want all sinners to be saved, since it serves his purposes that they suffer.

      Much of his view is formed by unquestioned medieval assumptions about status, honor, and obligation, as well as a remarkably stingy view of charity (see his discussion of loving one's enemies).

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    3. Or his view could be shaped by Scripture, such as Proverbs 16:4: "The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, Even the wicked for the day of evil."

      Aquinas's view is that it is never right to rejoice at the sufferings of another, but that those in Heaven will rejoice at the attribute of God's perfect justice and judgment, once the saved are able to see and understand it.

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  23. > For example, the topic of Hell rarely comes up in contemporary preaching, and when it does the emphasis is not on warning people about it, but rather on reassuring them that probably few souls if any end up there.

    For many, though, this is out of a concern to safeguard the character of God. St. Thomas thinks that God does not love everyone in such a way to will their salvation, given the fact they have sinned. He reduces God's love for such people to the fact that he keeps them in existence. Of course, an extremely abusive father can be said to love a child though he tortures her because he does not intend to take her life.

    The more modern view (and ancient, especially in the East) is that God's love for us is more than that of the torturer for his victim. We cannot exceed God in charity any more than we can exceed him in knowledge or power. If one person can pray in charity for the salvation of all and desire the damnation of none, it follows that God's love must exceed that ambition in both intensity and power. Of course, free will may remain an obstacle; God does not coerce the will.

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    1. St. Thomas thinks that God does not love everyone in such a way to will their salvation, given the fact they have sinned. He reduces God's love for such people to the fact that he keeps them in existence. Of course, an extremely abusive father can be said to love a child though he tortures her because he does not intend to take her life.

      (1) This is not Aquinas's view at all; his view is that God's love, infinite in itself, is the cause not merely of the existence of sinners but of every good they have, which will always go well beyond bare existence. The passage I suspect you are thinking about (ST 1.20.2ad4)is not "reducing God's love to the fact that he keeps them in existence" but the reverse: the Psalmist says God hates wrongdoers, so the objection is that He can't love them if He hates them. And Aquinas's response is that it's obvious that He loves them, as they wouldn't exist at all if He didn't love them at all. But obviously it also has to be true that the Psalmist is not wrong: there is a sense in which God does hate wrongdoers even if their existence depends on His love.

      (2) Unless you are speaking an extremely bizarre dialect of English, nobody would say an abusive father loves his father simply because he does not intend to take her life; nor would Aquinas say anything construable in this way. For one thing, the daughter's continuing to live does not tell us anything about whether the father loves her or not. It's not the same in the case of God -- if you exist, it can only be because God loves you.

      (3) As Aquinas would point out, your description in the next paragraph confuses two different ways in which one may speak of the intensity of God's love: as in the divine will, in which God loves each and every single creature infinitely by one will and thus in that sense equally, and as in the effects, in which it is obvious and easy to prove that God does not will that every creature have equal good. I'm not convinced that all the modern views make this conflation, and I am very certain that ancient Eastern ones do not.

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    2. I'd actually love to be talked out of this reading of St. Thomas, but I think it's unavoidable. As to the specific passage, I was actually thinking of St. Thomas' passages on reprobation.

      As to point 1, St. Thomas does not think that God loves all sinners so as to will their salvation. (Note I use the word sinner here in light of the distinction between antecedent and consequent will.) Aquinas holds that God has the power to save any person, but that he chooses not to do so. Nevertheless he loves them, because although he gives them bodies specifically suited to enable greater tortures than we could survive in our earthly bodies, nevertheless he maintains them in existence.

      As to point 2, I agree that it is extremely odd to say that a father loves his child in spite of inflicting physical pain that does not serve a disciplinary purpose. Yet that is what Aquinas attribute to the Father. My point here is simply that to say that God "loves" a sinner because he keeps them in existence, yet orders every aspect of that existence to eternal misery for an extraneous end is not love in a particularly robust sense. (Similarly, St. Thomas more or less evacuates the mandate to "love one's enemies" of its force.)

      If you could convince me that Aquinas denies either that i) God could save any sinner he so chooses yet, ii) he chooses not to do so for an ulterior purpose (in part, because seeing the tortures of hell enhances the beatitude of those in heaven), or iii) that the entire existence of the damned is not ordered to eternal, hopeless, misery and torture, I would be quite grateful.

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    3. Allow me to add three points.

      a) The main reason I left Christianity were the teachings on Hell. At first I used to think of them as metaphors, analogies etc. When I realized that no, they're meant as literal, something deep within me screamed "No, absolutely not!", and that's when my belief collapsed altogether.

      b) After years trying to understand how it was possible for Christian theology to hold such a view, I came to realize Christianity teaches two distinct and opposite morals.

      Moral #1, which I came to call "morality for life", as it's the one Christians should strive to practice, teaches you to accept suffering, love your neighbor, love your enemies, do as much charity as possible or even more, to feed the poor etc.

      Moral #2, which I came to call "morality for death", as it's the one the saved look forward to practice once in Heaven, teaches you to seek bliss by avoiding suffering, to be indifferent to your neighbor, to hate your enemies, to do no charity at all, to never share the banquet with the starving etc.

      I realized I love Christianity's morality for life, which I try my best to practice, while I abhor its morality for death.

      Which brings me to the next point.

      c) In Buddhism, which I now practice, also teaches Hell exists. Many Buddhists take this teaching as metaphors, as I did when I was Christian, but many Buddhists do take them literally too. And, similarly to Christian theology, in the later case it's taught those who are in them have opted to be there. So what's the difference?

      Well, the difference is best illustrated by the stories surrounding Bodhisattva (a term with a meaning similar to saint) Ksitigarbha. According them, in a gathering of Bodhisattvas, at one point Ksitigarbha asked the others who, among them, were teaching the damned suffering in Hell. All remained silent, so Ksitigarbha stood and proclaimed what's called his Great Vow:

      "If no one's going to teach the damned, I will, and I won't leave Hell until all those in them have achieved liberation, and it's empty."

      Which he then promptly did, entering Hell to suffer among the damned the same pains they suffer, offering them comfort while teaching them the path out.

      In other words, for Buddhism there's no moral #2. Their moral #1, which is pretty similar to Christianity's, is the sole one, and continues unchanged.

      That tale is what converted me, from and ex-Christian who kept studying religions and had some curiosity in Buddhism, into a Buddhist myself.

      I don't know how Christinity's teaching on Hell affects others nowadays. I can only provide my own personal testimony, although I doubt I'm the only person who went through this. Therefore, for whatever it's worth, there you have it.

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    4. @Thomas Cothran:
      On point 2, the analogy would require that the father is punishing his daughter justly. To your mind it may be the case that his causing her pain is ipso facto abusive. But that's where St Thomas would disagree with you.

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    5. Thomas, I don't really have an interest in what you can be talked in or out of; moving hearts is outside of my abilities. What I am interested in, and which you still have not given, is the basis you have in hand for certain specific claims you make, several of which seem to be clear exaggerations and distortions in a biased direction.

      (1) Nevertheless he loves them, because although he gives them bodies specifically suited to enable greater tortures than we could survive in our earthly bodies, nevertheless he maintains them in existence.

      This is a good example. To take just one obvious point, Aquinas is explicit that the bodies of the damned are of exactly the same species as ours are now, but are incorruptible because everyone who is resurrected has the principle of corruption removed; it follows from this, of course, that any punishment they have does not end from the corruption of their bodies. The aptitude for punishment arises not from the nature of their bodies, which are in themselves impassible, but from their souls, which allow the body to be subject by awareness (intentio) to physical conditions that distress them. It is thus simply false to say that they have the bodies they do "specifically suited to enable greater tortures than we could survive in our earthly bodies". We know that they are not "specifically suited" to this because they have bodies of the same nature as the saints; the only differences are, as Aquinas puts it, overflow from the soul. You also seem to be laboring under the misapprehension that Aquinas thinks the punishment of the damned is primarily physical, whereas he argues explicitly that they are only able to experience punishment because of the state of their souls. The bodies of the damned, like those of the saints, are immune to any purely physical harm: they have perfect bodies that can't be destroyed, maimed, burned, cut, or broken, that are never ill, that are in the prime of life, and that don't have deformities of any kind. Ask anyone with common sense whether that's the kind of body designed specifically to be tortured. But spiritual punishment can upset their souls, which unsettles their bodies, just as spiritual reward for the souls of the saints gives benefits of grace to their bodies. This is very different from the way you keep characterizing it.

      The point originally made with regard to (1), which you have not addressed, is that on Aquinas's view, all good whatsoever derives from divine love; thus the claim that "He reduces God's love for such people to the fact that he keeps them in existence" is false, since they have many goods, both intrinsic and extrinsic, beyond existence.

      As to the analogy, it seems to be entirely a figment of your imagination. Aquinas does not "attribute" to the Father abusive behavior (there is no passage in which Aquinas analogizes the divine love to that of an abusive father); he explicitly identifies a disciplinary end, namely, just punishment of their will to sin, including among other things their hatred and envy of the blessed; the inference from existence to love holds only in the case of God, because only in God's case is love a cause of what is loved; Aquinas explicitly attributes the punishment to justice, not to abuse; and so forth. You seem to be trying to torture Aquinas's actual position, which is inconsistent with the analogy, into the shape of the analogy.

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    6. Brandon:

      Before I defend the details, are we agreed on my core contention that, for St. Thomas Aquinas:

      1. God has the power to save any particular (and therefore every) sinner, but
      2. He chooses not to do so, and
      3. As a result, the damned suffer eternity extreme spiritual, psychological, and physical torture, which
      4. God's grace could have saved them from (see 2)?

      There's a lot in your comment that attributes to me views which I clearly did not say (for instance, that Aquinas uses the analogy of abusive parents). Perhaps if we can get you straight on the core contentions I'm making we can then clear up the derivative points.

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    7. David:

      We could posit, for the sake of argument, that regicide is deserving of torture (given the historical precedent). On that supposition, does the torturer who revives the regicide in order to torture him more love his victim because he nurses him back to health to some degree?

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    8. Thomas: We could suppose, for the sake of argument, that the torturer does not love his victim more (i.e., more than another torturer who just tortures his victim to death). But how do you suppose that supposition would be relevant to the issue here?

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    9. Let's retrace the argument a bit:

      St. Thomas says:

      > To every existing thing, then, God wills some good [because he causes it to be]. Hence, since to love anything is nothing else than to will good to that thing, it is manifest that God loves everything that exists.

      > Nothing prevents one and the same thing being loved under one aspect, while it is hated under another. God loves sinners in so far as they are existing natures; for they have existence and have it from Him. In so far as they are sinners, they have not existence at all, but fall short of it; and this in them is not from God. Hence under this aspect, they are hated by Him.

      Now on this definition of love, A loves B if A wills some good to B. Thus, the rapist who does not murder his victim can be said to love her, as does the abusive parent who wishes merely to injure their child.

      You've added a condition which, to my knowledge, St. Thomas does not: namely, that the suffering inflicted by the "lover" not be unjust. It's not clear to me that this is St. Thomas' view, but it doesn't matter much. For it's also absurd to describe the relationship between the torturer and the tortured as one of love. And if God reprobates the mass of mankind, even on St. Thomas' view, it's pretty clear that his overall relation to mankind may be described as hatred, save for the lucky few.

      Now the picture of God on offer from, say, the Eastern Orthodox, is not similarly malevolent. For the Orthodox, God is maximally loving. Claiming that God is loving because he maintains the existence of those whose suffering he has both engineered and pre-ordained won't cut it. Rather, the only limit on God's love is what is possible, and human freedom may not be coerced.

      Hell on this view is not (as St. Thomas would have it) a torture chamber somewhere under the earth devised by God to inflict physical, psychological, and spiritual harms. Rather, it is the experience of one who has come to find love repellent and yet is given the infinite gift of love.

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    10. A rapist, rapist-murderer, abusive parent, liar, forger, unjust employer, torturer, etc., could indeed all be said, and truly, to love their victims, with qualification, in some respect. Why not? That's not at all absurd, as you claim. Human psychology is more convoluted than you seem to imagine. And what of it? There is presumably injustice in all those cases, and of course qualification of any love present; but necessarily no injustice in the case where God is the responsible party. (Perhaps try a short reply next time. Fewer claims, fewer opportunities for compounding errors.)

      "And if God reprobates the mass of mankind, even on St. Thomas' view, it's pretty clear that his overall relation to mankind may be described as hatred, save for the lucky few." -- More importantly, and more accurately, the overall real relation of mankind to God may be described as hatred, which (ex hypothesi) would be attributable to the free choosing of mankind. And remember, the latter would be a real relation of man to God, whereas God's hatred for sinners is in him only an accidental "Cambridge" relation or property. And the Eastern Orthodox view you refer to seems to be not significantly different.

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    11. Were St. Thomas' position that God is said to predestine the saved and reprobate the damned as a function of the human response to God's grace, there would indeed be little difference between this and the predominate Orthodox view. Yet St. Thomas is completely clear that those who are numbered among the saved are chosen by God, prior to any action, choice, or merit on their part.

      For St. Thomas predestination arises solely from God's eternal election of some, and abandonment of others:

      > ... those to whom He has decided from eternity not to give His grace He is said to have reprobated or to have hated, in accord with what we find in Malachias (1:23) SCG III, 163.

      > It must, however, be observed that the number of the predestined is said to be certain to God, not by reason of His knowledge, because, that is to say, He knows how many will be saved (for in this way the number of drops of rain and the sands of the sea are certain to God); but by reason of His deliberate choice and determination. ST I, q. 23, art 7.

      St. Thomas is not shy about this. He explicitly speaks of the reprobate as being "deserted by grace" and says that "anyone reprobated by God cannot acquire grace ..."

      A glancing familiarity with St. Thomas' passages on predestination and reprobation makes it quite clear that God's certainty of who is saved and who is damned is grounded in God's own decision which is prior to and independent of any choices we might make. I understand the desire to obfuscate what St. Thomas clearly held in an attempt to cover over some of his darker site. But our first obligation is to the truth.

      None of this is an idiosyncratic interpretation on my part. As scholars like Matthew Levering observed, there was a widespread recognition in the period following the Summa Theologiae that St. Thomas "does not say enough to avoid seeming to limit too strictly God’s eternal love for each and every rational creature." Predestination: Biblical and Theological Paths, p. 69.

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    12. Thomas: "For St. Thomas predestination arises solely from God's eternal election of some, and abandonment of others" -- where do you get that from? That's not what your citation says. And I don't care whether your interpretation is idiosyncratic, I care whether it is justifiable. So far it seems clearly not. And of course the reprobate are "deserted by grace" and "anyone reprobated by God cannot acquire grace." Surely you don't want to claim that the Orthodox teach differently? That would be nonsensical, a simple failure to understand the meaning of terms.

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    13. > For St. Thomas predestination arises solely from God's eternal election of some, and abandonment of others" -- where do you get that from? That's not what your citation says.

      David, I'd suggest you read the ST I, q. 23, where St. Thomas addresses this. It is quite clear.

      For example:

      > "why He chooses some for glory, and reprobates others, has no reason, except the divine will."

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  24. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church"
    By ways known to Him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives” (#2283).

    If God provides a means of salutary repentance for those who have taken their lives, surely he does the same for all who die,

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  25. I see that many readers keep responding with variations on the “You’re wrong, because here’s why we may hope that most are saved” shtick. Which completely misses the point. It’s like saying, two months ago, “Here’s why COVID-19 might turn out to be not so bad” and then rolling over and going back to sleep.

    The claim of Narrative A is that if COVID-19 turns out to be less bad than the most dire realistic predicted outcomes, that will be precisely because of the measures taken to forestall such outcomes. And the claim of Narrative B is that if most souls end up saved, that will be precisely because people warned them about damnation and urged repentance and conversion.

    That’s the point. The question, with Narrative B no less than Narrative A, is not what will in fact happen full stop, but rather what will happen if the right actions are not taken. Neither narrative is denying that you may hope for the best, but rather is insisting that you should prepare for the worst, or the best will never happen.

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    1. That's the reason universal salvation presents a particular problem in determining the consensus of mind of the Church. Even theologians who believe in it may make public pronouncements that give the opposite impression or just remain ambiguous on the subject (e.g., Maximus the Confessor). It's a tradition that would have stronger esoteric tendencies than any other I can think of.

      The hope for the best, prepare for the worst approach is, interestingly enough, that of von Balthasar.

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    2. Some ideas relevant to hell may make narrative B too dissimilar to narrative A

      Take the brief discussion at the end of your thomistic institute talk on the will where Balthazar came up. The gist was that upon the first and only choice to be made after death (but before resurrection) God may provide grace so that an hitherto unrepentant soul may have its intellectual failings and disordered desires Mended to the point that they may make an informed choice.

      That's just an example. But those ideas would mean that hope for seemingly unrepentant people coming to be saved would rest on the mercy and Goodness of God as opposed to our own effort in converting the lost and encouraging repentance.

      So whereas a (reasonable) hopeful outcome with Covid-19 necessarily rests on our own efforts and mitigations, the hopeful outcome for most people being saved rests on the work of God.

      That's how I read some responses above anyway.

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    3. @Prof Feser

      I believe yer view can be simplified in the manner I posted above.

      "Till better to call a security alert and be wrong. Then to not call a security alert and be wrong."-Navy standard procedure.

      "It is better to act as if the majority will go to Hell and be wrong vs acting as if the majority or all are saved and be wrong".

      PS. As far as I am concerned one could hope like VonBalthazar and act like St. Pius X . Preach to them all and convert them all. Let God sort them out!

      Cheers guy.

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  26. A quick question for those who are advocating the many/most saved position:

    It seems pretty well affirmed in Scripture that God will eternally damn the legions of angels who fell with Satan (traditionally understood to be 1/3 of them). Why would God do such a thing? Because He doesn't love them?
    And given that this is the case for angels, who are higher creatures and are thus objectively more good than humans, why should we expect to be in a better position than the angels. If anything, we are in a worse position, because there are more ways we can separate ourselves from God given our bodily, temporal natures.

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    1. Someone could question such a traditional idea that "one third" of angels fell. But in any case:

      "Why would God do such a thing? Because He doesn't love them?"
      No; if they fell, it's because they truly, freely chose to rebel against God against all His love and appeals. We don't have experience with angels. But we do have experience with people, and as Benedict XVI points out, in our experience it seems clear that most people hold some love for truth and goodness, however deep it might be, and even if they keep compromising with evil and sin so many times. People who seem really so evil as to have completely and utterly distanced themselves from God in every way seem to be much, much rarer; just like how pure people who are holy and totally filled with the love of God also seem to be much, much rarer.

      "And given that this is the case for angels, who are higher creatures and are thus objectively more good than humans, why should we expect to be in a better position than the angels. If anything, we are in a worse position, because there are more ways we can separate ourselves from God given our bodily, temporal natures."

      Again, I base my argument on experience. And in any case, it seems to me that what you say about angels and men actually *strengthens* the quasi-universalist view, rather than weaken it.
      As Christ said, "to whom much is given, much will be required". If anything, our bodily, fragile natures diminish our culpability. It is not fair to compare the revolt of Lucifer with the sins of man.

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    2. Someone could question such a traditional idea that "one third" of angels fell.

      Even if one rejects the proportion of 1/3, the illustrations of the battle between the heavenly armies and the armies of hell in Revelation (for example) gives pretty good prima facie evidence that a substantial portion of the angels defected. Now, one may not wholly buy into the evidence, but the support that a large number of angels fell is, so far as I can tell, considerably higher than the support that very few fell, such that to take the latter view is not theologically responsible sans some weighty argument in its favor.

      No; if they fell, it's because they truly, freely chose to rebel against God against all His love and appeals.

      I'd agree with this, but that God's love for these angels is still wholly consistent with their defection and damnation seems to suggest that such a thing is also possible for man. And so we'd need something beyond (or at least a deeper analysis of) God's love for His creatures as being sufficient for their salvation.

      We don't have experience with angels. But we do have experience with people, and as Benedict XVI points out, in our experience it seems clear that most people hold some love for truth and goodness, however deep it might be, and even if they keep compromising with evil and sin so many times. People who seem really so evil as to have completely and utterly distanced themselves from God in every way seem to be much, much rarer; just like how pure people who are holy and totally filled with the love of God also seem to be much, much rarer.

      God was many times content to condemn whole peoples as wicked (including His own people!). I'd imagine many an Amorite, Philistine, or idol-worshipping Israelite had some functional notion of truth and good which they had respect for. It wasn't enough to save them from the divine judgment. Indeed, even if man, collectively, was genuinely virtuous in his pursuit of the true and the good, we are simply not capable of being saved through such things except as they are transformed and elevated by sanctifying grace. And the only way we know of attaining such grace is through Baptism and continual avoidance of mortal sin thereafter.
      Now, God could certainly provide other means, and I'm personally inclined to think He does, but the extent to which He does so and the occasions by which one would receive those means have not been revealed to us and are thus relegated to, at best, mere theological speculations. And such speculations are - tying this all back in with Ed's post - extremely dangerous grounds on which to build a practical (and to the extent that even theory is practical, at theoretical) eschatology.


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    3. Part 2:

      Again, I base my argument on experience. And in any case, it seems to me that what you say about angels and men actually *strengthens* the quasi-universalist view, rather than weaken it.
      As Christ said, "to whom much is given, much will be required". If anything, our bodily, fragile natures diminish our culpability. It is not fair to compare the revolt of Lucifer with the sins of man.


      Relative to angels, yes, we have diminished culpability since angels would not be acting out of weakness or ignorance (of a certain kind, at least). So maybe this ends in a draw, we are more capable of sin and inclined to sin such that we do sin more than the angels. Yet perhaps our weakness and ignorance saves some of us.
      Still, though, while the servant who is ignorant of His masters will may receive only a light beating, when it comes to many things, we have, as Romans 1 mentions, the laws of God are largely apparent to us through nature, such that those who, to use Paul's examples, engage in idolatry or sexual impurity, are without excuse. We are not so corrupted that the natural law in some basic form should not be operative in us. And yet for many it really isn't operative. As such, our fragile nature doesn't seem to be sufficient to excuse many who lives outside the natural law.

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    4. Yeesh, sorry for the typos and disjointed sentences.

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    5. I think this kind of response fails to appreciate the difference between God condemning people as wicked here on Earth, and people going to hell. There is no question that free people do terrible things and that God hates all of our sins. But this is on a very, very different level from eternal complete separation from God, forever being in complete misery and suffering with no end whatsoever. Put it differently, God is willing to forgive any sin, except the sin against the Holy Spirit, which is that of Hell - consciously and voluntarily choosing complete and absolute separation from God and all love. God was content to condemn whole peoples as wicked, but He abhors the idea of anyone going to hell, and spares no effort in avoiding the outcome. So the fact that God has made clear His wrath against so many people does not tell me that God is content to condemn many people to hell. It is one thing for God to warn, condemn and punish entire sinful peoples; it is another for God to throw them in hell and forever rupture the connection with His creatures.

      And again, even though the vast majority of people are immoral, it still seems incredible to me that we'd all be so utterly evil as to definitively resist God in an absolute way. As Benedict XVI says, our experience shows that most people still retain an openness to truth and good deep within themselves, even if buried under lots of sin. And for a perfect God who fervently wishes the salvation of people, even a small openness can be enough for His actions.

      You don't have to believe that we can be saved through any means except by a gift of grace. The thing is that the perfect God is likely to insistently offer this gift, and the vast majority of people are likely to accept it at least if their ignorance/weaknesses/fears/blinders are somehow overcome by God.

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    6. To put it in a more concise way, consider the following:

      "If God could have done any actions X which would have prevented a person S from choosing eternal damnation, He would very likely have done any actions X". We could drop the "very likely" but I keep it there for modesty, since it's sufficient for my argument to point out that God very likely takes every single step possible to save any individual soul.

      For instance, imagine a certain sinner goes to hell because he died without repentance. Now consider there's a counterfactual, possible world in which God revealed Himself to this person just before her death and successfully dialogued and convinced him to repent; or another world in which God providentially made sure that the person would meet a good Christian who would influence him, etc.
      In this case, God had means available to Him to convince the sinner to repent and freely bring him to salvation. And God strongly, STRONGLY wants to save that wicked sinner. Would He just "sit by and watch" then? Would He do nothing and just let that person be damned for eternity? That's extremely unlikely. In all probability, God would have taken any one of the available means which would have culminated in that person being saved.
      This is related to how theism strictly entails optimism.

      So we can say that the only realistic, probable way for a person to go to hell is if there are no available means for God to convert and bring that person to Him. Because God is very likely to try everything in His power to save everyone.

      And we know God's power is very, very great. And He is very, very smart, ingenious and capable. Of course, these are all understatements: God is maximally powerful and wise.

      This means that a person only ever (realistically, likely) goes to hell if there really is nothing that God could do to bring that person to repentance and love. And this is where experience comes in: it is unbelievable that this holds true for most people. Do you really think that ordinary sinners really would have no conceivable situation in which they would repent and hold on to the Good and the True? This is not so implausible for some truly depraved and evil people (hence why I think some go to hell), but unbelievable for most people.

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    7. I'm not unsympathetic to this line of argument, but I just don't think it holds water when analyzed. A few points:

      1. Everything God does is ultimately for His own glory, and our salvation is only a proximate end in relation to this ultimate end. As such, I don't buy into the idea that God would save us by literally any means available to Him, since our salvation is not primary. If God's justice is best served by damning a certain set of people, and this brings Him glory greater than what would have happened if He had saved them, then we have an instance of a scenario where despite God's love for those individuals, some other good superseded their salvation.

      2. Surveying the mystics and various apparitions, there is much written about the revelation of souls going to hell, while I hear practically nothing about hell being empty or virtually so. Obviously, such revelations are private and non-binding, but I don't think they are worth nothing either.

      3. Take a look at Paul's list in 1 Corinthians 6 as to who will not inherit the Kingdom of God and apply the "Many-saved" hermeneutic to it. It becomes nearly unintelligible, since the vast majority of the people listed there will, on such a view, inherit the Kingdom of God. Now, one could interpret it in such a way as to say that such people, upon inheriting the Kingdom, would no longer be unjust, but this then seems to nullify what Paul is doing in the context of the passage. He is warning the Corinthians not to act unjustly toward each other as they have been, for the unjust do not inherit the Kingdom. But if they do act unjustly and happen to be saved whereby they are no longer unjust, then the motivation to not act unjustly toward each other seems to collapse.


      Look, I get the desire behind what you are advocating for, and it is something I'd like to be true as well. However, my biggest caution here is that we are trying to reason our way to a "many/most saved" scenario based upon certain theological premises. Speculative theology is perfectly licit, but it is also a couple steps removed from revelation, and revelation seems to strongly suggest, at least prima facie that many are not saved. As such, I think it is safer to trust in what is implied by revelation rather than what can be apparently deduced from theological speculation.

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    8. Ccmnxc,

      1- God does seek His own glory, but it is clear (both from reason and revelation) that God wants the salvation of all, and not just a little bit - but really, really, very strongly desires the salvation of all. I think the proposition I presented there - let's call it P, "if God could have done any actions X which would have prevented a person S from choosing eternal damnation, He would very likely have done any actions X" is undeniable. Denial of this proposition seems to me to make God less than perfect; weak; ignorant in some way, defective. It is painfully obvious to me, and without it I think we even risk making the Cross unintelligible, at least to a certain extent.
      I think denial of proposition P is crazy, so I have no option but to follow the argument I presented. If your response is to bite the bullet and reject P, you're within your epistemic rights. But I cannot follow you there; I think P is undeniable.

      2- Private and non-binding. They do hold some weight, but as I said, the argument to me is way too strong. Optimism is strictly entailed by theism. In any case, I never claimed that hell is "empty", just that very few people end up there. There might also be different ways to interpret these visions, including perhaps taking them as cautionary visions instead of literal peekings into reality;

      3- Scripture is far from clear on these issues. There are strong universalists who argue that the Bible defends universalism. Many brilliant saints and theologians, especially in the East, have never found contradiction between universalism and scripture - and my position of quasi-universalism is much more modest.

      I don't care about whether my position is desirable or not; I don't believe it because I think it is desirable, I really just think it is rationally inescapable. It follows from the nature of God/theism and (as Benedict XVI emphasizes) our experience.

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    9. ccmnxc,

      Just on 2) there are all sorts of visions and apparitions recorded in the world, with varying degrees of evidence. Even if we only include those with as much evidence as those the Christian mystics you are referring to, there are myriad that seem to present, or are interpreted as (not necessarily the same as what they actually included), facts in line with all sorts of belief systems - Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, tribal religions, and those not precisely in line with any organised religion. I think you'd have to pick out only those that express the majority traditional Christian viewpoint of hell and the afterlife, which seems to me to make the attempt circular as evidence for that viewpoint.

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    10. Hi Atno,

      Would you include annihilation into your view? That means for some whom God could not find an opening to change their mind/character, God stops sustaining their existence at some point in their “life after this life”, out of his mercy (instead of having them suffering eternally)?


      Regards,
      johannes hui

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  27. Ed, this may be a little off-topic, but at the same time it's your blog, so it should be appropriate (and if it isn't, sorry):

    It's been a while since you last updated us on your following book projects. I wonder how everything is going. You mentioned you were writing a book on the soul, another on the plausibility of Catholicism... How far along are they? When should we expect to get any of them? Would be nice if you could give us some updates.

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    1. Hi Atno,

      The soul book is in progress, though the progress is slower than I hoped for because I have kept getting distracted by other things. However, I think that before long I will be able to focus most of my attention on it. It will probably take at least until the end of this year, maybe longer.

      The book on Catholicism is actually not quite the next book after that. First there will be a book on sexual morality, then the Catholicism book.

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    2. It's crazy that you've published 6 books in 11 years! (2008-2019) and co published an extra book in that time as well.

      Absolutely crazy speed.

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    3. Speaking of which, Dr. Feser, you mentioned in a blog post last November that you'd be writing up a response to Dr. Oppy's article “On stage one of Feser’s ‘Aristotelian proof’”. Can we get an update on that, or did I just miss it? Thanks, and I look forward to the new books whenever they may come!

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  28. Some of the confusion of this combox might be the result of a lack of distinction between hope and supposing. About this I wish to make two points.

    First, Feser is quite right in arguing that those who suppose that many will be saved are, at best, wishful thinkers; Feser's mountain of theological evidence in this regard is sufficient.


    But this brings me to my second point: There is a certain sense in which Christians are permitted and required to hope for the salvation of every human soul -- at least to the extent that the people in question are still on their earthly journey. Allow me to explain.

    Following St. Thomas's definition of the passion of hope (not the virtue), hope is the desire for a (1) good that is (2) future, (3) possible, and (4) difficult (ST I-II.40.1, co.). I wish to highlight the fact that hope, precisely as a passion, is a desire. What differentiates hope from other desires is its object, identified by the four qualifiers above.

    I submit that it is demanded by the Christian faith (specifically by the theological virtue of charity) that one have the passion of hope, when the object of said hope is the salvation of the soul of each and every human person still living (insofar as they are capable of accepting sanctifying grace or rejecting it); although the intensity and demands of this hope will vary according as the person is more or less remote to oneself.

    I argue in this way chiefly because of the various qualities of hope, the foremost of which is (1) good, namely, the salvation of another's soul. That this good is (2) future, (3) possible, and (4) difficult are similarly appropriately applied to the desire that a Christian ought to have for the salvation of another's soul.

    It would seem, then, that there is a certain limited sense in which Christians are bound to hope for the salvation of all men who are still living. To be sure, this hope does not include universal salvation, which the Church rightly condemns, as it would preclude the second through fourth qualities of hope, as once one has been damned, one's salvation is not in the future, not possible, and (since it is not possible) not difficult (hence it would seem not even to be a good).

    I hope *wink wink* this makes things a bit more clear to everyone. I think it is clear that this limited sense of hope is not contrary to Christ's warning that few will be saved, as this fact is not contrary to the desire for the salvation of those whose salvation hangs in the balance.

    I wish to make dogmatically a final and controversial point: Christian charity and justice demands that each Christian desire damnation for those who die in a state of mortal sin.

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    1. But much of the responses have been to precisely question your first point - whether, on balance, there is a mountain of evidence which makes the supposition that many will be saved wishful thinking.

      Some have raised concerns pertaining to the nature of the will, the nature of God and some have questioned typical passages of scripture.

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  29. A compellingly essay Dr. Feser. I am inclined to agree with you and note with grim observation that our Bishops, from top to bottom, with the odd noticeable exception, are sops to secular society. They are embarrassed by the Faith of our Fathers, and will attempt theological gymnastics to cosy up to anything other than defending the Faith. God help them, they need our prayers.

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  30. What does it mean to "hope that all will be saved"? Does it mean you are inclined to assert the proposition H, "I hope all will be saved," presumably because the theoretical proposition that all will be saved makes you feel good? (Or is asserting proposition H supposed to be performatively efficacious in actually bringing about the salvation of all/most/more??) But if hope is precisely about what is arduous, and it turns out that salvation is easy, then it turns out that hope is an unnecessary and illusory virtue. So does it really make sense to effectively hope that hope is unnecessary, useless, illusory? It certainly makes sense for someone who thinks like this to go Buddhist: I hope it turns out that everything difficult is really an illusion! But then you might just as well hope that the awful injustice of (the Christian doctrine of) hell is just an illusion. Choose your illusion!

    But hope is primarily a practical virtue, it's bearing is on particular arduous acts that are to be done. When hope is brought to bear on a strictly theoretical proposition like H, it's not even really hope (the practical virtue) any more. It's just wishful speculative thinking, which has nothing to do with the theological meaning of hope.

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    1. You can really pray for all men now living that they be saved. Without trying to state anything specific about how our prayers end up affecting anyone else, certainly we believe that no prayer made while in the state of grace has no effect at all. Along similar lines: I think it was St. Martin de Porres ( though I may be mixing him up with someone else) who is attributed with "saving" over a million souls, by his prayers and sacrifices, either preventing them from dying in their sins or by gaining merit for them to leave Purgatory and enter Heaven. One person can have an enormous effect on a great many, even if not on ALL of those now living. I believe that the virtue of hope is not brought to bear on the proposition "All will be saved" but on the possibility that all who have not yet died may be saved, encouraging acts in me and you to aid in saving some (an amorphous, non-determinate, not-yet-limited "some" that may expand indefinitely even to "all not yet dead").

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    2. Honestly, Tony, I don't think I can pray that. I doubt whether St Martin de Porres could have either. Unless I have good reason (and I don't think I do, and I don't think St Martin did) to think that all men now living may well actually all be saved, I can't very well pray both "not my will but Thy will be done" and "may all men now living be saved." The prayer of the just man availeth much, but not to the overturning of the broad outlines of divine providence that have been revealed to us. Your prayer may well affect everyone, even those in hell -- God's mercy extends even there -- but surely not to the specific effect of saving all men now living -- unless that's the unique role assigned to you as an instrument of grace, totally unexpectedly and without any foreshadowing in divine revelation, in the history of divine providence -- in which case have at 'er.

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    3. David, I think we pray for all men who can still be saved, every time we go to Mass, where one of the prayers is for all men.

      I think a distinction would be useful here: there is a kind of good will toward men that is universal, and a kind that is particular. St. Thomas distinguishes them as "benevolence" and "beneficence." The former is good will toward ALL, under a generic mantle, such as "love of men, insofar as they bear the image of God", i.e. covering all men. The latter type is good will as regards particular acts of benefit, assistance, support, etc. We cannot give money to all men, but we can give money to a few. I cannot feed all men, I cannot cloth all men, and I cannot visit all men who are ill. But I can give a meal to a hungry person, and I can visit my neighbor who is ill (well, in normal times). These then are acts of benificence. St. Martin is credited with praying and sacrificing for over a million people as helping them individually, but since nobody actually KNOWS that many, he must have dedicated his prayers and sacrifices in ways that were not "by name", but rather in less specifying ways, such as "the person in Purgatory with the fewest people left to pray for him", or "each person in this city who will die today". In that sense, his prayers could have an actual beneficial effect on many individuals, but it would have been impossible to set out beforehand a specific limit on just how many he would benefit.

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    4. "For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world" -- absolutely! "I pray that all men now living will be saved" -- again, in light of "Thy will be done" I just can't sincerely go there. Can you? I don't think any of the prayers of the mass, taken in context, imply the plausibility of the claim "possibly all men now living will be saved" and many of them (notably from Holy Scripture) imply, indeed clearly indicate, the opposite. It seems presumptuous and misleading to effectively pray in opposition to divine revelation. I think there are many examples of liturgical texts that have been revised and/or mistranslated after Vatican II that tend in this direction (Fr Zuhlsdorf has given many examples over the years).

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  31. Excellent post. I wish you would have also mentioned Christ’s words on bringing the sword to divide Father against son, husband against wife, etc.

    I have found that that quote is really where the rubber hits the road. If 99% of people went to Hell but everyone you ever loved, knew, or even met were in Heaven with you, it would still give you great joy. However, if 99% of people went to Heaven, but everyone you ever loved knew or met went to Hell, wouldn’t that bring great sorrow (ignoring the particulars of sorrow while having the Beatific vision).

    The point is, think of someone you love. Do you want them to go to Hell? Shouldn’t that be enough motivation for you, statistics aside?

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  32. Thank you Edward for bringing up the topic of Narrative B. Finally there is someone seeing its urgency. In particular, “even at the risk of causing grave offence and inviting serious persecution.”

    A few questions to ponder:

    1) If such urgency was pursued years ago, would the pandemic be as bad as it is now?

    2) “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28: 19-20) How does the society, or the community here, emphasizes “obey everything”? There is lot of discussion on “love God vs. reject God”, but doesn’t seem to be much around the topic of “obey EVERYTHING”.

    3) Shouldn’t be some discussion on how everyone demonstrates the “obey everything” part in daily life? What are the challenges for myself? Note, not others! How does everyone overcome these challenges?

    4) Had question 3 been discussed widely as a matter of urgency years ago, “even at the risk of causing grave offence and inviting serious persecution”, how your personal life would be different? Would the world of today be different?

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  33. Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.
    I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy - ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness--that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what--at last--I have found.

    With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

    Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

    This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

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  34. Dr. Feser, do you plan to read and review David Bentley Hart's book That All Shall Be Saved? I think the arguments are airtight and can't be beat. Prove me (and him) wrong. I'd like to know the truth whatever it may be.

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    1. I would be interested in it if, indeed, the arguments are airtight, or even something approaching that.

      Unfortunately, in my experience DBH's work is riddled with arguments that are not airtight, and not all that close to airtight. Maybe, some decade or two back, he commonly worked in very tight arguments, but it's been downhill from that for a long time, and getting worse. So, I would need to see someone claiming, justifiably, that the level of rigor and soundness in this book is a LOT higher than his other recent stuff (including articles attacking Feser and scholasticism) before I would actually pay money to read the book.

      That said, I willingly admit that DbH is a good writer who can engage well, who can turn a phrase, and who can make you think. If he puts all that at the service of really good arguments, (unlike his other recent work), well, great, that would be a step up.

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    2. Interesting. Care to share what you think is not airtight?

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  35. Atheist Penn Jillette has said, "How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?" Google the whole quote.

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  36. Tony, regarding your view "encouraging acts in me and you to aid in saving some (an amorphous, non-determinate, not-yet-limited "some" that may expand indefinitely even to "all not yet dead")", the number of "some" correlates to the amount of acts of me and you. To me this is very urgent!

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  37. TheLonelyProfessorApril 16, 2020 at 6:09 PM

    So, Ed, are you going with libertarian free will, contrary to Aquinas and Augustine; or are you a theological compatibilist, and yet insisting that God "desires" all men avoid sin and be saved, and nevertheless that God's desire can be thwarted by man's free will, which He Himself controls?

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    1. He is neither.

      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2013/01/metaphysical-middle-man.html

      https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2018/03/divine-causality-and-human-freedom.html

      Say it with me "concurrentist rather than occasionalist".

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  38. “Similarly, the Church has always insisted on baptism and conversion to the Catholic faith as crucial to the salvation of the human race. Just twenty years ago, the declaration Dominus Iesus, issued under Pope St. John Paul II, reaffirmed that, despite the possibility that non-Catholics might receive divine grace:

    It is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who [are] in the Church…”

    That has been shelved, and so has the Great Commission - the Church no longer seeks to convert the Jews. This was made explicit in a recentish Church document - in section 40 of this:

    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/relations-jews-docs/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_20151210_ebraismo-nostra-aetate_en.

    “6. The Church’s mandate to evangelize in relation to Judaism

    40. It is easy to understand that the so–called ‘mission to the Jews’ is a very delicate and sensitive matter for Jews because, in their eyes, it involves the very existence of the Jewish people. This question also proves to be awkward for Christians, because for them the universal salvific significance of Jesus Christ and consequently the universal mission of the Church are of fundamental importance. The Church is therefore obliged to view evangelisation to Jews, who believe in the one God, in a different manner from that to people of other religions and world views. In concrete terms this means that the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews. While there is a principled rejection of an institutional Jewish mission, Christians are nonetheless called to bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ also to Jews, although they should do so in a humble and sensitive manner, acknowledging that Jews are bearers of God’s Word, and particularly in view of the great tragedy of the Shoah.

    41. The concept of mission must be presented correctly in dialogue between Jews and Christians. Christian mission has its origin in the sending of Jesus by the Father. He gives his disciples a share in this call in relation to God’s people of Israel (cf. Mt 10:6) and then as the risen Lord with regard to all nations (cf. Mt 28:19). Thus the people of God attains a new dimension through Jesus, who calls his Church from both Jews and Gentiles (cf. Eph 2:11-22) on the basis of faith in Christ and by means of baptism, through which there is incorporation into his Body which is the Church ("Lumen gentium", 14).”

    This picking and choosing by the CC, and its utter lack of honesty and integrity, as well its long-continued proctection of known predators, are two reasons why its self-insistence on its necessity for salvation is impossible for some to take seriously. It does not have a stranglehold on God, even if some RCs think it does.

    Since by these words the CC officially regards itself as irrelevant to the salvation of the Jews, despite the Great Commission, it cannot reasonably complain when others of us conclude that it is irrelevant whether one is Catholic or not. If the Jews are human, and are not evangelised, then the Church has an inescapable duty, laid on it by the Son of God Himself, to evangelise them. The Church has no authority to alter the expressed Will and Command of Christ. “We must obey God rather then men” (St Peter, Acts 5.29) - and Christ has not resigned His Kingship to any man, not even to churchmen.

    God’s grace is given by God - not by the Church. God - not the CC, nor any other creature or group of them - is in every respect the Author of all grace, which comes to creatures through Christ, the One Mediator between God and men. And the Gracious Lovingkindness of God cannot be restrained by Rome, much as she might want to do that. God is the Master of all His gifts - the CC, is not.

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