Friday, July 31, 2020

Scripture and the Fathers contra universalism

A rhetorical game that universalists like to play is to suggest that in the early Church there was from the beginning a robust universalist tradition running alongside the standard teaching that some are damned forever, and that the latter view simply became dominant at some point and pushed aside the former.  Indeed, they claim, this non-universalist view is rooted in only a handful of scriptural passages, in illustration of which they will quote two or three of the best-known texts explicitly threatening everlasting punishment.  They will then claim that there is, by contrast, a mountain of scriptural passages implying universalism.  Origen, on this narrative, was simply giving expression to what was already clearly there in the tradition, indeed what was perhaps the dominant tendency in the New Testament itself.  This is standard David Bentley Hart shtick, both in his book That All Shall Be Saved and in earlier work.

Friday, July 24, 2020

No urgency without hell

A common argument in defense of the eternity of hell is that without it, there would be no urgency to repent or to convince others to repent.  Call this the “argument from urgency.”  One objection to the argument is that it makes true virtue impossible, since it transforms morality into a matter of outward obedience out of fear, rather than inward transformation out of sincere love of God.  Another is that it adds a cynical scare tactic to the moral teaching of Christ, the beauty of which is sufficient to lead us to repentance when it is properly presented.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Hart, hell, and heresy

Well, yikes, as the kids say.  Hell hath no fury like David Bentley Hart with his pride hurt.  At Eclectic Orthodoxy, he creates quite the rhetorical spectacle replying to my review of his book That All Shall Be Saved.  In response, I’ll say only a little about the invective and focus mainly on the substance.  Since there’s almost none there, that will save lots of time.  And since Catholic Herald gave me only 1200 words to address the enormous pile of sophistries that is his book, I would in any case like to take this opportunity to expand on some of the points I could make in only a cursory way in the review.

Monday, July 20, 2020

The experts have no one to blame but themselves

The Week’s Damon Linker frets about the state of the “American character,” citing an emergency physician’s wife he knows whose friends ignore her frantic pleas on Facebook to take COVID-19 more seriously.  The Hill reports that the “experts” are exasperated that people aren’t responding to their warnings about the virus with sufficient urgency. 

Well, of course they aren’t, because so many experts, journalists, and politicians have, on this subject, proven themselves to be completely full of it. 

Computer campus

As you know, academic life has largely gone online this year.  My own classes at Pasadena City College this fall will be entirely online.

The Thomistic Institute has also adapted to the circumstances with its series of online Quarantine Lectures.  I will be giving one of them this Thursday, July 23, on the topic “The Metaphysics of the Will.”  Details here.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Plato predicted woke tyranny

What we are seeing around us today may well turn out to be a transition from decadent democratic egalitarianism to tyranny, as Plato described the process in The Republic.  I spell it out in a new essay at The American Mind

Monday, July 13, 2020

Review of Hart

My review of David Bentley Hart’s That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation appears in the latest issue of Catholic Herald.  You can read it online here.  (It’s behind a paywall, but when you click on the link you will see instructions telling you how to register for free access.) 

Here are some earlier posts that explore in greater detail some of the issues raised in the review:

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Other minds and modern philosophy

The “problem of other minds” goes like this.  I have direct access to my own thoughts and experiences, but not to yours.  I can perceive only your body and behavior.  So how do I know you really have any thoughts and experiences?  Maybe you merely behave as if you had them, but in reality you are a “zombie” in the philosophy of mind sense, devoid of conscious awareness.  And maybe this is true of everyone other than me.  How do I know that any minds at all exist other than my own?

Saturday, July 4, 2020

The virtue of patriotism

Patriotism involves a special love for and reverence toward one’s own country.  These days it is often dismissed as sentimental, unsophisticated, or even bigoted.  In fact it is a moral virtue and its absence is a vice.  Aquinas explains the basic reason:

A man becomes a debtor to others in diverse ways in accord with the diverse types of their excellence and the diverse benefits that he receives from them.  In both these regards, God occupies the highest place, since He is the most excellent of all and the first principle of both our being and our governance.  But in second place, the principles of our being and governance are our parents and our country, by whom and in which we are born and governed.  And so, after God, a man is especially indebted to his parents and to his country.  Hence, just as [the virtue of] religion involves venerating God, so, at the second level, [the virtue of] piety involves venerating one’s parents and country.  Now the veneration of one’s parents includes venerating all of one’s blood relatives... On the other hand, the veneration of one’s country includes the veneration of one’s fellow citizens and of all the friends of one’s country.  (Summa Theologiae II-II.101.1, Freddoso translation)