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:







213 comments:

  1. Maybe Hart would make you an exception to his universalism, Dr. Feser?

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    1. Universalists always make exceptions for non-Universalists!

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    2. Universalists are universal in that.

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  2. I generally like Hart, and I agree with this book he does go off the rails a tad. He is leaning more towards an eastern non-dual orientation which negates the person. There are also many rogue Christian mystics than line up with this view. They dismiss the historical Jesus to privilege a Christ Consciousness the underlies reality. But mind you, even Buddhist and Hindus don't believe everyone will be saved (liberated) in one lifetime - hence reincarnation becomes the means to ultimate salvation by repeated lifetimes of error correction.

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  3. Good review. I think Hart's position is ridiculous (if we accept the Bible as true). That said, a couple critical comments along the lines of consistency:

    "The first concerns consistency. If we say that the punishment Christ threatens is not really everlasting, then we also have to say that the reward he promises – in the same breath, and using the same language – is not everlasting either."

    By the same logic one would twist himself into an orthodox pretzel here: "But of that day or hour no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father" (Mark 13:32). Same breath, same language. And yet the orthodox position is that Christ knew the day of judgment even as man.

    "Hart makes Christ more merciful at the cost of making him incompetent."

    Indeed. Though I think something similar can be said with *orthodox* defenses of other passages (like Mark 13:32 above) which makes Christ orthodox at the cost of making him incompetent / grossly misleading.

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  4. Albinus wrote,

    "the orthodox position is that Christ knew the day of judgment even as man"

    Just out of curiosity, could you provide reference for this Orthodox position? Speaking of "unfalsifiable" position, this sure looks like one.

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  5. Is the denial of eternal punishment related to the denial of capital punishment?

    Dr. Feser has critiqued both positions. I wonder if the same people tend to hold both beliefs, if they are consistent.

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    1. Yes, there is indeed a strong correlation of those who oppose capital punishment and those who argue against an eternal hell.

      However, there is no logical necessity of being "consistent" in opposing both: if a person (correctly) views this life as only a period of testing, with the next life to be the "real deal", he might well be OK with capital punishment and be against an eternal hell. In general, though, a great many opposed to both are effectively befuddled quasi-Christians who are operating more by feeling than by logic, and for them their opposition to both stems from the same sort of feeling: Punishment isn't 'nice'. Capital punishment (with respect to this life) and eternal punishment (with respect to the next life) are kind of "the worst possible" punishments, and thus (sort of) inhabit the same region of extremes.

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    2. I am sympathetic towards universalism (though I'd describe myself as being a quasi-universalist). I might also count as a hopeful universalist, a la Balthasar.

      I am also sympathetic to capital punishment. Though I oppose it in practice (for practical reasons), I tend to agree that it is in principle just and acceptable in certain situations.

      So yeah, there are. But it's pretty rare.

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    3. Nemo,

      I, for one, defend capital punishment.

      My position on eternal punishment is a little more complex. I don't think eternal damnation is rationally defensible as a punishment for everything the Church refers to by "mortal sin". For example, missing Mass on one Sunday without sufficient excuse being something worthy of eternal damnation. That doesn't make a bit of sense. On the other hand, eternal damnation seems less implausible for horrendous crimes like genocide, child rape and torture just for "fun", etc. (and assuming the impossibility of repentance after death).

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    4. Atno,

      Would you you accept that eternal punishment can be in principle just? If not, why not?

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    5. Nemo,

      Yes, I accept that eternal punishment can in principle be just. The reason I am sympathetic towards universalism is not because I think eternal punishment is inherently unjust, but because it is an inherently improbable outcome for a person under theism.
      If God is omnipotent, omniscient, and strongly desires the salvation of everyone, then at least quasi-universalism is a very probable outcome.

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    6. Only if God only chooses to make loving people. If God chooses to also make jerks, then Quasi-Universalism is not plausible. In fact, saying that God will only make people who will ultimately choose Him puts limitations on the love of God. God is so loving that He will even make, out of love, those who will permanently despise him, such as Satan.

      Ultimately you have to deny the convertibility of the transcendentals to be a universalist. If being and goodness are truly convertible, then it turns out that even Satan is better off existing in Hell than not existing at all.

      Hell is in fact a great mercy of God. The permission of Hell is only due to the perfect merciful love of God.

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    7. What does omnipotence have to do with hell/universalism?

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    8. Atno,

      You wrote, "If God is omnipotent, omniscient, and strongly desires the salvation of everyone, then at least quasi-universalism is a very probable outcome."

      I'm not sure I follow you. Wouldn't universalism be more probable than quasi-universalism, using the same logic?

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    9. "If God chooses to also make jerks, then Quasi-Universalism is not plausible."

      Not true at all. Unless you believe that lots and lots of people really are so terribly evil to the point where a maximally resourceful and loving God could have no realistic ways of saving them.

      Really, I think it's plausible that (e.g.) serial killers can be so evil, corrupt, and closed to the Good that there would be no realistic way for God to get them to choose Love and redemption. But think of the vast majority of people who ever lived. Do you think they're like that? I don't find that remotely plausible. I think it's crazy, in fact.

      I can think of sinful people, even very evil people who would probably convert and choose Love if given the appropriate treatment and talk with God. Remember, God is maximally resourceful.

      The only way to avoid quasi-universalism would be to believe either that
      1: God is not very resourceful, or isn't very interested in saving people (which is patently absurd)
      Or
      2: Terribly wicked people (to the point where they would insist on rejecting God with the utmost conviction, totally impervious to any love, redemption, hope, convincing from a maximally resourceful Creator; bent on insisting in eternal separation from the Good such that God has no realistic means available to Him to change their minds) are quite numerous, and are not just a very tiny minority of people.

      I think 2 is also ridiculous. Terribly wicked and irredeemable people are NOT common. If anything, they are very, very rare. As pope Benedict XVI mentions in Spe Salvi, our experience suggests that the vast majority of people conserve at least an inchoate love of God and the good, even if buried under lots of sin and compromises with evil.

      God can save jerks. If God can't save someone, it's not a "jerk", but really a terribly wicked, irredeemable person.
      Looking at our world, God has definitely created far, far, far more redeemable and minimally decent people than complete monsters.

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    10. Don,

      An omnipotent being has more resources to save someone (convert them; convince them; get them to choose redemption, good over evil, etc) than a less powerful being. The more powerful a being is, the more resourceful it is. God is maximally resourceful.

      Nemo,

      Universalism might be supported, but quasi-universalism is more modest, so a priori it is more probable. All it takes for universalism to be false is for 1 single person to be damned. Not so with quasi-universalism. Universalism is more radical and more difficult to defend.

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    11. And to be clear, I accept that hell is better than non-existence, and I accept the convertibility of the transcendentals. Hell could indeed be a product of the mercy of God. None of this is relevant for my argument.

      The thing is that Optimism is strictly entailed by Theism. And considering (for instance) the 8 billion people that are alive today, it is ridiculous to suggest that a maximally resourceful God who seeks the salvation of all would end up with such a sub-par result of, say, just managing to save 70% of people. That's very weak and disappointing for an omnipotent, omniscient God who strongly desires to save everyone.

      The only way to avoid the quasi-universalist argument would be by adopting one of the two theses I mentioned. Both seem irrational and very implausible.

      The transcendentals; the fact that hell could be better than non-existence; etc., none of that solves anything. God is not irrational; He primarily seeks the Optimal, not the Sub-Optimal. And He is maximally resourceful.

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    12. Atno,

      Universalism might be supported, but quasi-universalism is more modest, so a priori it is more probable.

      Your argument for quasi-universalism is based on the nature of God, so I don't see what "modesty" has to do with it.

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    13. The size of hell is in part a result of the power (or lack of power) of God?

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    14. Nemo,

      I'm at a loss. Isn't it clear? Quasi-universalism is a more modest thesis, so its prior probability is higher. Universalism may well be true, but for that to be the case, there must not be any one person in the world - not even the most evil, monstrous, sadistic serial killer and torturer - going to hell. God's power might be so great that He might be able to even bring about scenarios which could lead to this monstrous person realistically repenting and choosing Love over Evil. But is it? If it is, great, but that is a much more radical idea. I happen to think some people really are so terribly wicked and irredeemable that there is no realistic way of saving them - not even for God. I think these people end up in hell. I think they're a very small minority, however.

      Don,

      We could say that. A less resourceful God would be less able to save sinners. So if God were weaker, He would probably not be able to save some sinners. So of course the more resourceful God is, the more capable He is of saving people - and of course, the more capable He is of saving people, the more people are probably saved.

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    15. Atno,

      You seem to be saying that quasi-universalism follows from quasi-ominpotence, i.e., it's not universal because God can't save all. I have to admit I wasn't expecting this.

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    16. Why is the maximal amount of sinners saved not "all" for a maximally resourceful God? (I've never seen resourceful listed as an attribute of God btw.)

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    17. But that's not what I'm saying. There is no such thing as quasi-omnipotence here; there is only omnipotence. But of course, even an omnipotent God cannot create a square circle. And even an omnipotent God might not be able to create a world with such and such goods without some evil (problem of evil). Not even an omnipotent God can force a person to freely love Him - for true love is free, and so it is not entirely up to God. What God can do is provide situations and scenarios in order to convince people, get them to freely love Him and choose Him, etc. How far, in terms of concrete casuistic examples, God's omnipotence actually goes, is beyond our knowledge, but we must stipulate that it is the highest possible degree.

      This is why it's helpful to speak of maximal power instead. God is maximally powerful. With that in mind, I just happen to think it's plausible that there are some people who truly are so evil that not even an omnipotent God could get them to freely change their ways. If I am wront about that, then (at least practical) universalism follows. I can have hope. But quasi-universalism is more modest; in order for God to be able to realistically save 100% of people, He must also be able to save 99% of people. But it might turn out that He might not be able to save 100% of people - what if there really is one person who is truly irredeemable? In this case, quasi-universalism still remains unaffected. Quasi-universalism is intrinsically more probable than universalism.

      That's my point.

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    18. Atno,

      You fail to account for how petty and pig-headed everyday people can be. I am reminded by a story Mother Angelica once told about two people who had not spoken in years over a feud over a commode (a kind of toilet). She commented, “Imagine being in Hell and asking other people why they were there. Murder. Theft. A commode?!”

      If you have social media, I challenge you to gently and lovingly, but candidly post what the Church teaches on human sexuality. See the kind of vitriolic responses you get. Now perhaps many people who respond with such acridity would repent in the presence of the Lord. But I am willing to bet that many would not. In fact that is what the Gospels tend to show, the hard-hearted ness of man.

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    19. Don,

      Resourceful just combines the power and wisdom of God towards potential tasks. A maximally powerful but non-maximally wise being wouldn't be as resourceful as a maximally powerful and maximally wise being. Being powerful makes you more resourceful; being wise makes you more resourceful; and so on.

      Why is it not "all"? Perhaps it is all. If it's "all", then universalism follows, at least practically. I don't think it's "all" because I think it plausible that some people really are so rotten that they are beyond God's resources. Not even a maximally resourceful being could get any realistic scenario in which these terribly wicked souls repent and choose Love. If you think that's implausible, then my argument should instead lead you to conclude that all people will be saved. As it stands, my conclusion is more modest: at least the vast majority of people will probably be saved.

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    20. Atno,

      Thank you for patiently explaining your point. Pardon my slowness.

      "Not even an omnipotent God can force a person to freely love Him - for true love is free,

      Agreed.

      The difference between "eternal punishment" and "quasi-universalism" is how many people will eventually make the free choice not to love God, and you believe not many. Am I understanding you correctly?

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    21. Yeah, pretty much. I believe the vast majority of people are such that, under the right circumstances, they would probably freely choose to love God, embrace good and reject evil. And a maximally resourceful God can realistically bring about those circumstances. So I think it's very probable that (at least) a vast majority of people are eventually saved.

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    22. I believe my position is similar to what pope Benedict XVI has defended in his encyclical Spe Salvi:

      "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[38].

      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."

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    23. Atno,

      There was a world where God created only two people. It turned out that they both rejected God.

      Chesterton writes that Original Sin is "the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved". In the same vein, I think it can be proven that the majority of people would not chose to love God.

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    24. Atno,

      So your definition of a maximally resourceful God is a God who can save all except the "terribly wicked". It seems your quasi-universalism rests on the type of the people you think will be in heaven--which would be all the other wicked people (and good people), just not the terribly wicked. So heaven is basically Canada (joking kinda but not really). Problem is that the message of Jesus isn't "just don't rape and murder."

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    25. I agree about original sin, but not about people consistently rejecting God until the very end. Adam and Eve both rejected God, but they eventually chose Him and were saved again. They are both in heaven now and God was able to bring them to love and choose Him even after their terrible sin. A world with free creatures but no sin is MUCH harder to make than a world with free creatures but no hell, so to speak.

      You really think the majority of people would not choose to love God in any situation? Not even if God revealed Himself to them in a mystical experience (or whatever), talking them through everything? Not even if God set such an intricate sucession of events that could lead them to choose virtue over evil? Remember, God strongly desires to save everyone and is maximally resourceful. I think your view of people is way too bleak and pessimistic.

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    26. Atno,

      You really think the majority of people would not choose to love God in any situation? Not even if God revealed Himself to them in a mystical experience (or whatever), talking them through everything?"

      God has been revealing Himself since the beginning of the world. Since the moment each person is born, every minute and every day of that person's life, not a minute passes without God's grace working in his/her life. How many have become Christ-like? Not many.

      I think your view of people is way too bleak and pessimistic.

      One needs to be an atheist to be truly pessimistic.:) I'm only trying to take the facts into consideration.

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    27. "Problem is that the message of Jesus isn't "just don't rape and murder.""

      Non-sequitur. I am not saying hell is reserved only for such and such sins; or even that most people do not "deserve" hell.

      The thing is that God very strongly desires the salvation of all AND He is a maximally resourceful player in this game. Heavenly Canada follows quite easily.

      If someone is damned, why do you think that is? Of course, they put themselves in that situation of terrible sin. But God is watching it play out. So, do you think (option 1) God wasn't really capable of saving that person and getting them to repent and freely choose Him? Or do you think (option 2) God didn't care much, and just didn't bother to do something that He could have done that would in fact have redeemed and saved that person?

      Option 2 seems ridiculous to me, and turns the Cross into non-sensical mockery. God, being perfectly rational, must necessarily desire the virtue and good for all rational beings; He must strongly, strongly desire the salvation of all. While He hates sin, He went as far as becoming a man and suffering the highest extremes of pain, suffering, emotional stress, torture and death on a Cross all for the sake of saving us, and we're supposed to believe He just "wouldn't bother" to move a finger and get that sinner in a situation in which he repents? He doesn't will our salvation all that much, He's perfectly okay with watching people being damned even when He could set them on the right path?
      That's insane to me, and seems particularly antitethical to Christianity.

      So we have Option 1. God truly wanted to save that person; His infinite mercy wanting to bring that sinner back home like the prodigal son. But alas, there was no way; that sinner was just too immersed in his own evil, selfishness, hatred and iniquity; the sinner just resolutely pushed away God forever and would not hear any of His pleas. There is no scenario in which God successfully gets that person to repent; nothing in God's incredible ingenuity, wisdom, and power that could convince or bring that sinner to accept Love and Good.

      That's the option I take. But I think, if we're to do justice to God's incredible power, wisdom and ingenuity - His maximal resourcefulness -, we must admit that it would be a very, very rare occurrence. Unless people truly are so horrifyingly wicked that lots of people effectively manage to beat God's grace in wrestling with Him; their evil overpower God's resourcefulness. I think this would be a very rare occurrence, given both A) the maximal resourcefulness of God and B) our experience with the majority of people. Like Benedict XVI, I believe it is only very few people who are entirely blocked out to God like that. The vast majority of people have at leaat an inchoate love of God beneath all their filth, which an infinitely resourceful God could successfully bring to the light.

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    28. "God has been revealing Himself since the beginning of the world. Since the moment each person is born, every minute and every day of that person's life, not a minute passes without God's grace working in his/her life. How many have become Christ-like? Not many."

      God can do more, and you know that. He even made it a point to perform miracles to His Apostles. I really do think your view of people is overly bleak and pessimistic. Most people would repent and choose God in the appropriate situations.

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    29. Atno,

      Just like you I believe God saves all who can be saved. But I make no claims about what percentage of people are "terribly wicked". You make claims about such things which you can't possibly know (unless you simply mean people who rape and murder). You also imply being marginally wicked is good enough for heaven. I disagree. I don't see how your position is "modest" at all.

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    30. Atno,

      God can do more, and you know that.

      The question is not what God can do, but what man does freely choose. The fact is that the majority do not freely choose God.

      None of us know for certain what will happen in the end. There is no point arguing that. I'm only saying that, based on what we do know about free will and original sin, eternal punishment is as probable as, if not more probable than, (quasi-)universalism.

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    31. "The question is not what God can do, but what man does freely choose."

      The question is absolutely what God can do. You might have to revisit my argument. The thing is precisely that God is maximally resourceful AND strongly desires the salvation of all.

      Don,

      I never said being "marginally wicked" is "good enough" for heaven. I don't know why you're having such a hard time getting it. The thing is someone can be very, very wicked, but a maximally resourceful God can have ways of bringing that person to redemption - perhaps through giving them a vision of their late mother, the only person who ever loved them, moving them to tears while God reveals the whole story about the universe and how He is pure Goodness and Truth and how He loves that person in every way, all while the Canadian anthem plays in the background, blablabla. God is maximally resourceful and He can find ways for bringing people to REDEMPTION; Paul was not worthy of heaven, he was someone who persecuted and killed Christians, but God was RESOURCEFUL enough to give him a particular experience in the road to Damascus that changed his entire life. I happen to think God has ways of bringing most people to Him so long as they have even a very small dose of love and sincere desire for good and truth, and I happen to think most people - however wicked and sinful they are - still have that tiny bit of light in them that God can make use of. God could turn Saul into Paul; He can also convert most people (I am convinced) except the most wicked men. I find this to be almost obvious; I think it's rather astounding that you'd think differently - what appears to be an extremely bleak and pessimistic view of people. You can have that view, just like I and Benedict XVI can have a different one - and I am very convinced of the view in question. But stop misrepresenting my argument.

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    32. Atno,

      Let's try to reach some consensus before proceeding further, shall we?

      Do you agree that, as it stands now, the majority of people do not freely choose to love God?


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    33. Man, everyone in this discussion but Atno is a sociopath. Catholicism actually makes people evil.

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    34. Atno, you put it very well. If God could save even Paul through a direct revelation to him, why not others? God has literally revealed himself to some but not others according to Christianity. It doesn't make sense. Maybe the truth just is that Christianity in its mainstream tradition just doesn't make sense.

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    35. "The question is not what God can do, but what man does freely choose. The fact is that the majority do not freely choose God."

      What are you talking about? How many people are convinced of God's existence or what he wants and choose otherwise deliberately and purposefully? You'd have to be totally ignorant of human nature to think it many. Only because you have constructed a bizarre and horrendous framework for your thought could you suggest such a thing.

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    36. This raises the question - how many people reject the choice to love God whilst having sufficient knowledge to be culpable for it? Difficult because it raises many more questions but I think its clear most people don't think God exists rather than rejecting a God they know exists.

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    37. It's even a matter of just not thinking God exists, but also how one understands God. What of the Muslim who rejects Christ, for example? Basically none do this who thinks Christianity is true.

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    38. Anonymous,

      If you wish to have a conversation with me, could you give a name so I can tell you apart from all the other "Anonymous"es here? Otherwise, I'd rather not respond to Anonymous comments, as I find it awkward and usually unproductive.

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    39. Callum,

      You wrote, "how many people reject the choice to love God whilst having sufficient knowledge to be culpable for it?"

      Let me put the question a little differently: How many people know what is good, just and noble, and do the opposite? How many people know the moral law and break it?

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    40. The arguments are what matter, not names.

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    41. Nemo, so it is the (moral) law that saves?

      How many of these people truly understand that law and its full import? How many regret it even when they do wrong without this full understanding?

      Certainly some do wrong with the a very strong realization of what they are doing, but many clearly don't. Many who do wrong and realize it or suspect it have regrets.

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    43. Quidam,

      Could you provide some examples of people who break the moral law because they don't understand it?

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    44. Are you serious? The examples are innumerable and everywhere. If homosexual acts are immoral, for example, how many homosexuals today understand that? Hardly any.

      I suppose there's ambiguity in what you mean by understand. Many will have heard that homosexuality is condemned by the Bible or Church (or Koran), but most, or basically all, practicing homosexuals wouldn't truly understand this law, if such it be. They feel nothing wrong in their relationships. Perhaps you are playing on this ambiguity between the narrow sense of truly understanding that something is wrong, and just how and in what ways it is, and having some idea some think it wrong (the some you agree with). But surely the whole point about irrationality and choice is one must truly understand one's choices.

      Even when people are more obviously knowledgeable that they are breaking some kind of at least social law, they often think they are right to do. Hardly anyone doesn't try to excuse their bad actions with some kind of moral justification. Sometimes this is only for social reasons and they don't truly believe it at all, but many times people do believe, at least to the point that it seems to illustrate a conflict in them about what is right and what is wrong.

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    45. Quidam,

      My point about the moral law is that the person must understand the law enough to obey or disobey it, and know it is wrong to disobey. That is the requirement for culpability. People seek to justify their unlawful behaviour precisely because they understand the law, and know they have done wrong in breaking the law.

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    46. Nemo,

      That response which looks at turning from God within the prism of the transcendentals is a good reply imo. Perhaps if I have more time I can engage further, but seeing as our host is a famous thomist I thought I'd leave a link to a great Catholic who works in free will and wrote a paper on the relationship between knowledge and culpability in Aquinas.

      I wonder if this settles the debate one way or another, or leaves it an open question?

      https://www.academia.edu/28309998/_Aquinas_and_the_Epistemic_Condition_for_Moral_Responsibility._Res_Philosophica

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    47. Callum,

      I'm not a Thomist, so I won't get into discussions about his ideas. However, I'm a what Dr. Feser would call "Ur-Platonist". More specifically, as an Augustinian, I feel obligated to respond to Hart's charges.

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  6. Sure Nemo. Here's Pope St Gregory the Great as quoted in Denzinger (link: http://www.clerus.org/bibliaclerusonline/en/dwv.htm ):

    "For, just as we say a day is happy not because the day itself is happy, but because it makes us happy, so the omnipotent Son says He does not know the day which He causes not to be known, not because He himself is ignorant of it, but because He does not permit it to be known at all. Thus also the Father alone is said to know, because the Son (being) consubstantial with Him, on account of His nature, by which He is above the angels, has knowledge of that, of which the angels are unaware. Thus, also, this can be the more precisely understood because the Only-begotten having been incarnate, and made perfect man for us, in His human nature indeed did know the day and the hour of judgment, but nevertheless He did not know this from His human nature."

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    1. Thank you, Albinus.

      Read in context, his position is more understandable: He seems to be saying that Christ knows the hour as God-man, but not as man qua man. In other words, "the Son" in Mark 13;32 refers to his humanity, the Son of Man.

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    2. So I don't follow your last sentence. I think for Gregory "the Son" refers to the Person of the Son, both God and Man. For Gregory, the solution to Mark 13:32 has to do with the way "know" is predicated. The Son knows the day of judgment both qua God (in his divine intellect) and qua man (in his human intellect) but he knows it qua man only because He is God (i.e., he didn't *acquire* this knowledge in a human way, but he *has* it in his human intellect). In the sense that he only knows it because He is God, we can say "He doesn't know" even though He knows it both as God and Man!

      Now to me, that's a huge stretch and a good example of rationalizing an unfalsifiable position but the main reason I brought this up initially of course was that it's an example of an orthodox way of looking at Scripture which requires one to predicate a word asymmetrically within the "very same breath and language". It doesn't seem one could accept this asymmetry (as presumably Feser does) and consistently reject asymmetrical predication of "eternity" vis-a-vis Heaven and Hell (at least not without further argumentation, on pain of special pleading).

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    3. Albinus,

      You wrote, "I think for Gregory "the Son" refers to the Person of the Son, both God and Man"

      I'm not familiar with Gregory at all, so I'm not qualified to judge the veracity of your statement. When I say the Son refers to the Son of Man, I'm only speaking of one possible exegesis of Mark 13:32 that doesn't involve any inconsistency (as far as I can tell), and also seems to be compatible with Gregory's statement you quoted.

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    4. One could note that when Mark's Jesus, who like the Jesus of Matthew and Luke, never says he is divine, refers to the Son of Man he doesn't appear to be referring to himself. He refers to him in the third person. The most simple explanation is that Jesus did not consider himself the Son of Man. If you want to avoid that interpretation, why not avoid the simplest interpretation in the passages about heaven?

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    5. As I understand it, the modern scholarly consensus is that Jesus is referring to Himself as the Son of Man. Scholars debate about whether the Son of Man was recognized as a title in Jesus' time, and whether He was deliberately linking Himself to the Son of Man in Daniel.

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    6. That's definitely not the consensus. Some scholars might claim it but others (like Ehrman) point out that a plain reading of at least some passages seem to show Jesus isn't talking of himself. Where is your information on this consensus? Ehrman, despite his reputation, is pretty middle of the road in the historical-critical scholarly tradition.

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    7. I should say that Mark's Jesus does sometimes seem to be referring to himself as the Son of Man, but at other times the plain reading is otherwise, especially for example, Mark 8:38-9:1, where Jesus refers to himself and his teachings in the first person and then the Son of Man in the third person.

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    8. Anonymous,

      Where is your information on this consensus?

      There was a book published on this very subject: Who is this son of man?': The Latest Scholarship on a Puzzling Expression of the Historical Jesus.

      The editor of that book, the late Prof. Larry Hurtado, posted one of the essays at his blog.

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    9. How does that prove your point about how Mark uses this term and the scholarly consensus on it? It is neither clear what the work is claiming about Mark's Jesus nor how it represents the consensus.

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    10. Anonymous,

      The essay clearly explains why the Son of Man is Jesus' self-reference. If you're not persuaded by scholarly arguments, there is nothing more I can say .

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  7. I think that brief summary of the intellects unchanging end was misleading. If the intellect can only change its focus using sensation and imagination then this seems to entail that the first thing an angel thinks about entails its end. Which seems to undermine the necessary condition of controlling your choice in order for it to be culpable.

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  8. Regarding hell, wouldn't it be better for Christians to not have children? The risk of them going to hell seems just to great. Why take that risk?

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    1. Kierkegaard made the same argument that Christians shouldn't marry.

      Sure, there is risk, but there is also the Great Reward. Why should parents deprive their children the chance to choose for themselves? It is not for them to decide.

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    2. Only if you deny the convertibility of the transcendentals. Objectively speaking, even the damned are better off than the non-existent.

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    3. Dear Scott: It's not often that an answer is nicely put, succinct, and accurate. Good job.

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  9. Regarding the 5th ecumenical Council, I just recently received a book on the Orthodox Church by Bulgakov - a recent influential theologian in that denomination.

    He had this to say on universalism - " it is hitherto been thought that the doctrine of Origen was condemned at the 5th ecumenical Council, but recent historical studies do not permit us to affirm this. As to the doctrines of St. Gregory (of Nyssa), developed much later, and free from Origen's theories on the preexistence of souls, they have never been condemned. Consequently they have the right to be quoted in the church, at least as theological opinions ("theologoumena")

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  10. I keep publishing comments but they won't appear

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  11. I think Hart's argument is quite powerful, but the whole debate stops short of establishing universalism. I think that the biggest problems a defender of hell would face are 1- the rational free will issue (i.e. the Socratic idea that we sin out of ignorance) and 2- the fact that an omnipotent God wants to save all.

    My own position is that we might not be able to be sure of certain universalism. I think hell is a possibility founded in the reality of evil and free will (even though it may be mysterious). I even think it plausible that at least some people will end up in hell. But I think "hopeful universalism" is also a plausible position - it wouldn't surprise me too much to find out that God was able to save everyone.

    The traditional idea that lots and lots and lots of people go to hell - massa damnata - is just unbelievable to me, however. And what's quite infuriating is how lots of people dismiss problems with this idea simply as being "emotionally based" when that's not at all the case. I find the idea to be RATIONALLY absurd, in light of Theism.

    As Leibniz saw, Theism strictly entails Optimism. There is an omnipotent, perfectly good, omniscient, omnibenevolent creator. There is no way one can avoid optimism in this case. Leibniz's mistake was thinking that Optimism meant we lived in the "best possible world" - the problem is that there might not be any one single best possible world. We might always be able to conceive of another world which is marginally better, or at least other possible worlds which are equally good. But this doesn't negate Optimism. This simply means that there is no single best possible world (and we also avoid modal collapse). But God, being perfectly rational, would still never arbitrarily choose to create a world which is considerably worse than another proximate world which is better.

    For instance, let's say God is creating a universe with 2 people, Bob and Sarah. God could actualize a world in which Bob goes to heaven but Sarah ends up in hell. But if God can actualize a world in which BOTH Bob and Sarah are saved (Sarah freely repents from her sin and is saved), then of course God would choose the latter world-configuration instead of the first one.

    (For those who get triggered by talk of possible worlds and such, rest assured that such arguments can be reframed using a different language; this is just a matter of convenience).

    It is really rationally unavoidable to me. There is an omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good God who desires only what is good and wants everyone to be saved. While this might not entail that EVERYONE must be saved (let's grant that), it does strongly predict that far more people will be saved and that we should be optimistic with the prospects of salvation.
    God wants to save everyone. And He is omnipotent and omniscient. The idea that (say) a world in which billions of people go to hell is really the best that an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God could achieve is patently irrational. *I* can think of realistic ways in which God might lead the vast majority of people towards redemption, truth, virtue and goodness, and God is incomparably smarter and more resourceful than I am.

    I think quasi-universalism (almost everyone is saved; or, only very few truly irredeemable people end upnin hell) and hopeful universalism are unavoidable. Universalism, not really. But quasi-universalism does seem unavoidable to me. And it should follow from Optimism, which is strictly entailed by Theism.

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    1. The only way to believe lots and lots of people go to hell would require believing either that 1- there really are lots and lots of people who are so terribly, irredeemably wicked that not even God could find realistic ways of getting them to freely repent and accept good and truth (which I find rationally ridiculous. I do think it a bit plausible that some super evil people might be like that - say, serial killers for instance -, but the common sinner doesn't strike me as being irredeemable and beyond realistic chances with God); or 2- that God doesn't really care that much about saving rational creatures and having them fulfill their natural ends of good, truth, virtue (which I find even more absurd than 1).

      While I do think universalism might be too radical, at least something like quasi-universalism seems to me very probable; at the very least we should be very optimistic about the salvation of souls. *This* might sound uncomfortable or imprudent to some conservatives believera (and I count myself as a conservative), but it is what reason discloses as the most probable outcome, I believe.

      I mean, come on. If we believe there is an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent perfect Creator, Optimism follows pretty easily.

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    2. Atno,

      At issue here I believe is the set of principles to which one gives priority. If we give priority to the words of the Saints and of Scripture and the Tradition under the guidance of the Magisterium trusting that since these are from God we will not be deceived thereby, then the conclusion is clearly that the way is narrow and that few find it, subsequent reasoning (like what you suggest) be dismissed, explained away, or damned. On the other hand, if priority is given to stressing coherence of subsequent reasoning then something like what you suggest follows and the Tradition itself is then explained away. To me, neither solution is satisfactory, and that realization calls into question the whole shebang.

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    3. The Orthodox Church has not officially condemned universalism so for them the tradition is consistent with the above reasoning .

      However, I think you can rationally defend a God that doesn't choose a world that is universalist. The Thomists do this well.

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    4. Albinus,

      It is simply not true that we have to oppose reason to Tradition here. True, most saints and theologians have defended the "narrow gate" idea. But there is a great number of saints and theologians who defended a much larger hope of salvation, especially among the Patristics and among more contemporary (19th - 20th century) Catholic theologians. We can also give a historical explanation for why the narrow gate got so popular - it became especially prevalent during the Middle Ages, more likely as a result of the (misunderstood) idea that larger hopes would be unorthodox. Even the condemnation of Origen has been questioned in recent historiography. It certainly left a mark on the Church, but it was temporary. Point is: I do think the Tradition tends to support the "lots of people go to hell" idea, but I don't think this support is that strong or unquestionable. Especially when we consider the rational arguments for the counter-position. It certainly isn't sufficient to block discussions and plausible theological opinions.

      Callum,

      I was not really defending universalism, but quasi-universalism. I in fact think some people go to hell (though I'm open to hopeful universalism). I just think it's very few people. Some argue whether universalism could be defensible for Catholics, beyond hopeful universalism, but quasi-universalism certainly is defensible. And in fact it seems to have been defended by Pope Benedict XVI in Spe Salvi.

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    5. Atno,

      I hear ya. I just don't think it's plausible that a divinely guided Church would have a Tradition that supports the fewness of the saved if in fact nobody or hardly nobody is damned. Seems ad hoc to explain why God would allow that. Surely God thinks our opinion on the matter is important?

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    6. I must be honest I'm not sure whether universalism of the Balthazarian sort is heretical, heterodox or orthodox in Catholicism thats a job for the systematic theologians.

      I'm actually leaning towards joining the Orthodox Church and wanted to point out most orthodox theologians today will not point to the fifth ecumenical Council as a definitive demonstration that universalism is wrong because of the clear historical questions surrounding it. Its pretty clearly an allowed theological opinion (I'd personally go as far to say that the historical evidence strongly favours it *not* being condemned as such).

      But I did want to point out that I think some thomists can make the case that a world with no universalism is coherent

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    7. A Tradition that supports it to a certain extent and mostly at a specific point in time. MEDIEVAL Tradition is what has led to this view, since, again, it was very different with the Patristics as there are many universalist saints (whose positions were even stronger than mine). But recently the Magisterium (and the building Tradition) have shifted towards a more universalist-friendly view; a larger hope. Some of the greatest contemporary theologians have been sympathetic with the larger hope. Even pope Benedict XVI appears to have defended quasi-universalism in Spe Salvi. So my point is exactly that Tradition's support for the "narrow gate" is not as clear and powerful as it seems at first. Let's assume quasi-universalism is true - would it really be implausible for a divinely guarded Church to have had Tradition being wrong during a certain time period? I don't think it's implausible. For all we know Tradition might continue to move towards quasi-universalism and I don't have any particularly strong intuition about God not allowing mistakes to be prevalent; after all God does want us to cooperate and work towards the truth instead of just passively receiving everything. He maintains the dogmas, and these do not contradict my position.

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    8. I agree with Atno's last point especially. Given that God allows evil for some other Good, there may well be a good reason why God wants these questions to be asked and contemplated. I also think answers to what God would do in these contingent and particular matters rests on intuition.

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    9. Callum,

      Just to clear up some confusion:

      Hopeful universalism is the Balthasarian position. The idea is that everyone might contingently be saved. Going to hell is a real possibility for any person, but it might just so happen that no one will in fact be damned. God might succeed in saving everyone, and we can therefore reasonably hope that everyone will be saved. We don't proclaim it, but we have a reasonable hope for the salvation of all people.

      This is perfectly orthodox and acceptable as a theological opinion for Catholics. Ocasionally you'll hear traditional and conservative Catholics saying that it isn't, but it is. The "mainstream" view is that Balthasar's hopeful universalism is an acceptable theological view. It even seems to be supported in the Catechism.

      Quasi-universalism: some people will probably go to hell, but it's a very small minority. It's likely that the vast majority of people will be saved. Pope Benedict XVI seems to have defended this view in Spe Salvi. I name it quasi-universalism.

      They're not mutually exclusive. Both can be maintained.

      The main argument against hartian-universalism for Catholics would presumably also be the condemnation in the 5th council. Also, Catholics have to think it at least possible for people to be damned, or at least that mortal sin sends people to hell (but one can believe that and still think that God succeeds in getting repentance from all mortal sinners before death, thus achieving a practical, if contingent, universalism).

      In any case, hopeful universalism and quasi-universalism both seem certainly defensible for Catholics.

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    10. Atno,

      If I'm understanding correctly your position entails "the fewness of the saved" being a horrendous error. (You referred to it as "rationally absurd" or worse.) Doesn't it seem that God would have inspired the Church to condemn this rationally absurd error? I can appreciate God letting us "work towards the truth" when it involves further elaboration and clarification but not when it involves Church Fathers, Saints, and approved theologians holding--for centuries--to a theological conclusion that is rationally absurd, all under the Divinely guided Magisterium's watchful eye without the slightest condemnatory comment.

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    11. Is sin a failure on God's part?

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    12. "Doesn't it seem that God would have inspired the Church to condemn this rationally absurd error?" Not much to me, no. I am willing to grant that it lowers the probability of Catholicism being true, but not by a lot. I could see, for instance, God allowing the Magisterium to teach some rationally absurd errors during the Middle Ages for some greater goods - perhaps beyond our ken. It might seem a bit weird, as I've even granted that it might lower the probability of Catholicism a bit, but I don't think it's a big issue. I think it's very minor.

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    13. I am unaware of ANY official Catholic statement about percentages or proportions of people who are damned. As far as I know, all statements about the damned (using such terms as "many") are not definitively meant to compare the number of damned to the number saved. As such, if the number damned over the totality of human history has now reached 1,000 (to pick a round figure), one might refer to that number as "many". That would leave many billions going to heaven eventually. If someone has a doctrinal text that they think MUST be interpreted as saying that the proportion of the damned greatly exceeds that of the saved, I would like to see it.

      Although I sympathize with Atno's position, I wonder whether it finally can hold up well enough. If we suppose that when Christ holds final judgment, it will end up with 1,000 people who are damned because they were hopelessly evil sociopaths out to hurt people just for the sake of hurting them, what does that do to the idea of a good and omnipotent God? If everybody but 1,000 could have been saved, surely God could instead have arranged it that everybody but 900 were saved? Or 800? ... Doesn't the logic force us to arrive finally with at most one person not saved? And if so, then what must we say about the one? Did God hate him so that while He saved 999 truly horrific sinners, He refused to save the last one?

      While I don't think ANY specific hard, absolute numbers are required for Catholic doctrine, I distrust our intuition when it leads us to read the language in the books of the Bible against the seemingly plain meaning, and also against the meaning given them by far the majority of past saints - i.e. by people whose love of God was incredibly pure, far above my own.

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    14. I find that to be a weak point. Say that the total number of the damned is a very small N, in comparison to the number of people who are eventually saved. Couldn't N have been smaller? No, it couldn't. At least not without the world being radically different from what it is. God makes the best of whatever universe He creates, since He desires the perfection and salvation of all creatures, and is omnipotent and omniscient.

      If God could have created a proximate world in which one less person was damned (again; Bob and Sarah being saved instead of just Bob beint saved), God would have done that. Because He's not evil or stupid.

      This is not simply about our intuitions of possible worlds; this is just what results from the fact that God is omnipotent, omniscient (maximally resourceful, we might say) and that He desires the salvation of all (omnibenevolent, we might say). Optimism follows right away. It is strictly entailed by Theism: if there is a maximally resourceful Creator who is perfectly good and benevolent, then OF COURSE whatever world is created will be very good and will be among the best versions of this world that there can be.
      If a 1000 people in our universe are damned, this is because there was no realistic way for God to have made our universe such that one less person among those 1000 was damned.

      In possible worlds semantics we might use the example I gave: the world in which God creates a universe with two people, Bob and Sarah, and Sarah is damned and Bob is saved. If there is a proximate world in which both Bob and Sarah are saved, then, ceteris paribus, God will create that world, NOT the world in which Sarah is damned. Unless God arbitrarily prefers for Sarah to be damned when she could realistically have been saved by some means. But of course, God is not an idiot and He wills the salvation of all.

      Without possible world semantics, we can just consider our universe and think of all possible ways a maximally resourceful, benevolent God could have for saving the highest amount of people. The idea that lots of people would be damned in this case would suggest that God is not very resourceful or not very interested in saving people. There are around 8 billion people alive right now, and there is a maximally resourceful God who strongly, strongly desires to save everyone. Optimism about the numbers follows right away; and we can be sure that whoever ends up damned could not have been realistically saved by a maximally resourceful and benevolent God; He won't arbitrarily (and imperfectly) choose to damn someone He could have realistically saved through some other means.

      Optimism follows from Theism straight away; and quasi-universalism follows, at least.

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    15. Atno,

      You do realize that a lot of your reasoning involves you literally playing God.

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    16. No, I don't realize that. I am simply following the consequences of the existence of a perfect God who strongly wants to save everyone, and who is maximally resourceful at doing so. You have yet to provide a good objection.

      God strongly desires the salvation of all + this God is omnipotent and omniscient, maximally resourceful at bringing the salvation of any person.

      What outcome would this combination suggest? That billions of people go to hell, God having been incapable of saving them (or unwilling)? Or that the vast majority of people will probably be saved? Come on.

      And you wanna tell me that Optimism doesn't follow? That I'm just "playing God" (???)? You might be running away from reason.

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    17. "God strongly desires the salvation of all + this God is omnipotent and omniscient, maximally resourceful at bringing the salvation of any person."

      God is the cause of our salvation. We are the cause of our damnation. That's all that follows. Nothing mathematical follows.

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    18. It sounds like you're running away from the argument, and avoiding the obvious inference.

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    19. Probably due to a religious or emotional commitment, I might add. Not rational argument :)

      "God strongly desires the salvation of all + this God is omnipotent, omniscient, maximally resourceful at bringing the salvation of any person" and you don't think it suggests that most people will be saved. Haha, alright then.

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    20. Why only most? Why not all? What mathematical equation is getting you from omni(x2) and maximal and any to most?

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    21. Wasn't I clear enough? It's not a "mathematical equation" but it's a fairly standard inductive prediction. For all I know, it could very well be all - every single person in history -, I just find that more implausible since I share Benedict XVI's assessment of the moral standard of people (only very few people are truly holy, and only very few people are completely, totally wicked; the vast majority have an inchoate and important drive for God, goodness, truth, even beneath lots of filth and evil, and could be fit for purgatory).

      I think some people are truly irredeemably evil such that not even a maximally resourceful God could get them to love Him in any situation or scenario whatsoever. If you disagree with my assessment, you should instead conclude total universalism. Not the opposite.

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    22. I think some people are truly irredeemably evil such that not even a maximally resourceful God could get them to love Him in any situation or scenario whatsoever.

      Well, the traditional reply to this is that God, being omnipotent, can (a) arrange such a person's early years to prevent those events that caused him to turn so utterly against the good, and/or (b) can reach into a person's soul and grant him such grace-filled enlightenment and desire-for-the-good that he WANTS to turn to God (as, for example, St. Paul). There is nobody whose will is more powerful than God's ability to lead them back to good.

      (Which sounds like I am arguing for universalism, but I am not. I am arguing that denying universalism on the grounds that some people are "irredeemably evil" is not compatible with divine omnipotence in its standard positioning.

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    23. Tony,

      Yeah, there are positions like that, but I think it's untenable. Anyone who ends up in hell goes there because they were truly irredeemable; there were no realistic ways for God to have stopped the sinner. A person who ends up in hell is a person whose evil overpowers the resourcefulness of God, pretty much.

      Otherwise I think we should conclude universalism, since if God *can* get someone to freely repent and choose the good, but doesn't do so, He would be irrational.

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    24. I get that. I said "in its standard positioning" because of just what you say. I think that at least one partial answer must be something along the lines that "the world God intended needed to allow for bad choices and therefore bad outcomes, in order that ... some set of "it is better this way after all" results, such as (for one example) it is better that God allow the manifestation of the distinction of mercy and justice to be displayed in the concrete with some who are saved and some who are damned... This necessarily represents (as I understand it) a "theodicy", about which we can only AT BEST make probable inferences.

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    25. So, GIVEN one or more theodicies about it being "better that..." for this universe, THEN we can say God "couldn't" so overwhelm every evil person's resistance with super-duper extra-intense graces so that they would repent: He couldn't do that AND get the other good things that He intended, about which we can surmise and guess.

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    26. You might notice that I speak of "realistic ways for God to convert a sinner". The "realistic" is to differentiate such ways from what might be thought as possible but non-viable ways - for instance, converting someone at the cost of losing a greater good, if this could be the case.

      I myself don't think there's much (if any) sense in a theodicy that would claim it's better to have 1% damned instead of 0%. I think the salvation of an individual soul is way, way up there in God's list of "priorities", so to speak, so I find this sort of idea bizarre. But for convenience, I bracket these discussions to a certain extent (as well as other thorny issues of whether God could have obligations, etc) because we can still have a strong probabilistic argument in any case. "God very probably strongly desires the salvation of all" and "God very probably has sufficient power, wisdom, ingenuity and resources for saving at least a vast majority of people without losing any greater goods" are sufficient for establishing that, very probably, the vast majority of people will be saved.

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    27. Good placement of them as probable arguments. I find them probable also, and I tend to shy away from people who think they can turn them into certain arguments.

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    28. @Tony

      Is it possible for Catholics to argue that it is actually logically impossible for all to be saved? Not that some particular people will be logically forced to reject God, but the nature of the case is such that it's inevitable that some people will freely reject God?

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    29. Atno,

      God's desire, God's power, God's wisdom, God's ingenuity, God's resources (how anthropomorphic are we going to get here?) are all that account for the probability of the vast majority of people being saved? Very Calvinistic.

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    30. One of the problems with judging the medieval tradition from our vantage point is that the medievals had a much more nuanced view of hell than we do. It included limbo, whose citizens enjoyed natural happiness while lacking the beatific vision.

      In the medieval vision most non-Christians (i.e., the overwhelming majority of the human race) could, at least in principle, end up in limbo. Thus Dante encounters the great pagan philosophers in "hell" but not in torment.

      In this manner one could espouse the opinion that 'most of the human race is hell-bound' without necessarily foreseeing the eternal torment of very many. It seems inevitable that a medieval theologian would espouse this opinion, since the medievals generally took the necessity of baptism very seriously.

      We have basically discarded limbo from our theological vocabulary nowadays, for reasons I don't understand. A consequence of this, though, seems to be a diminished understanding of heaven, as a sort of cosmic barbecue that all nice people deserve to be invited to -- rather than as the unmerited vision of God that is extended by sheer gratuity to His adopted children, principally in virtue of the theological virtues infused into them at baptism.

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    31. Don,

      I don't know why you think it's anthropomorphic to talk of God's wisdom, power, ingenuity and resources. But no, they're not all that account for the probability of people being saved. If you cared enough to read my argument with some attention, you'd realize that it is based not only on God's desire and resources for the salvation of all, but also on a consideration of people's free will and character. That consideration being pope Benedict XVI's understanding that the vast majority of people are neither saints nor monsters, but flawed people with an inchoate love for God who are fit for purgatory. And so, when we consider this in conjunction with God's will and power, we can reach the conclusion - suggested in Spe Salvi - that it's probable that the vast majority of people will be saved.

      But it seems you're bent on misrepresenting everythint I say. You don't really wanna entertain the argument or rationally interact with it, as you've made clear. You just wanna mindlessly lean back on the traditional view, strawman my position in ridiculous ways, and make passive-aggressive comments about it. It's a shame.

      I'm tired of fruitlessly having to clarify and elucidate the same points over and over again, so our interaction ends here.

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  13. Hart thinks his analysis of the will provides a knock down argument for universalism, and it certainly is the most philosophically interesting part of his book. (Bizarrely, he devotes only a single line to analyzing the metaphysics of change. Quite important, given that we need to know if change is even possible absent our material bodies.) But, in the end, it really is a house of cards, for the reasons Feser, very briefly here, spells out. Anyway, FWIW, I really enjoyed Hart's book. If nothing else, he is a great entertainer.

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    1. This, of course, is the, well, heart of the philosophical case against Hart's account of the will:

      "That a choice is irrational does not mean that it is not culpable. Furthermore, if a choice is non-culpable because it is irrational, how can we be culpable for any bad thing that we do (given that bad actions are always contrary to reason)? How can we deserve even finite punishments? And if we can’t, then why do we need a saviour?"

      Of course, Hart deals with none of this.

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    2. This is quite timely because I've been wondering recently about how act and potency applies to angels.

      Ed has a blog post on angels where he says they are not changeable with regard to their substance (as they are incorporeal and so immortal) but changeable in their accidents.

      At one stage, all angels are the same in that none have made their first choice and not one has reached beatitude or damnation. Yet they change change- they can use their intellect and will to form a free judgement. So angels must be capable of change. Even after they have made their fateful choice, Christianity still maintains that these beings act at different times and communicate. So even after their first choice they still act and so change.

      This of course will have implications for how the Thomist explains an unchanging will for angels and humans

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    3. I would comment that Hart undercuts the idea of demons inhabiting Hell for eternity also. For one thing, if making an irrational choice is non-culpable, then when the angels make an irrational choice, that doesn't damn them.

      I wonder if an adequate rejoinder to Hart's theory can be: saying that making an irrational choice cannot merit (eternal) hell and thus the person MUST be allowed to "fix" the error he made and thus merit heaven, is tantamount to saying God allows you to choose between A and B, but if B is irrational (evil), then He (because He is merciful) must necessarily negate your choice for B, and tell you "nope, that choice is irrational, try again." Why would a merciful and loving God allow you to go through with choosing an evil out of insanity, if HE is going to negate it ultimately anyway?

      But since manifestly people do in fact choose evil things, the hypothesis is wrong.

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    4. No, the point is that the evil choice is irrational and an irrational choice isn't free. If I think that a BigMac is healthier than a salad, so I choose the former, my choice is irrational and to that degree unfree. If someone informs that actually a salad is much healthier, that isn't taking away my choice. After all, God literally reveled himself to sinners like Paul, why not to offers?

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    5. Also why would you assume God negates the will in purgatory, say? To reach heaven aren't we to become Saintly through the fires of purgatory? Does this not involve our free will as well? There seems to be a contradiction here: free will, at least in the sense that we can choose to either turn or away from God, is only important in this life. After that it isn't (except the devil, who apparently did have this choice). Yet the entire argument is about the need to for God to respect free will at all times.

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    6. We don't go on making choices anew in purgatory as to what we shall have as our ultimate good. If you are in Purgatory, it's because at your death your will adhered to God as your ultimate good. There is no opportunity to change that in Purgatory, only to refine the will to rid it of lesser defects (which, in effect, make us not love God as perfectly as in us lies). The will changes in Purgatory only to that extent.

      There seems to be a contradiction here: free will, at least in the sense that we can choose to either turn or away from God, is only important in this life.

      "Freedom" and "free will", though extremely closely related, are not identical. To show this, first let me recall that while we have free will in the sense that we can will (as "volition") this or that thing as a final good, i.e. as "what we shall rest in", we have no power (our will is unable) to choose anything under an aspect of evil: our wills are UNfree in that respect - we are ONLY free to will something under an aspect of good. In heaven, not only will we see God, we will see him "face to face" as it were, meaning that He will inhabit our very intellects so that we see Him without mediation or diminution. Under that Vision, we will be UNABLE to perceive or apprehend some other good as better than God, (better: we will see clearly that it is impossible for there to be any better good), hence we will be UNable to will to adhere to anything in preference to God. Thus, while we will experience even greater FREEDOM in heaven, we will not be able to choose to oppose God. In that case, "freedom" refers to the readiness or capacity to choose that which makes us happy: in heaven, we are MOST ready to adhere to God perfectly, which is what most makes us happy.

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    7. So, although we retain our wills in their capacity to choose, there is no room for us to exercise them in such a way as to oppose God: we will still have "free will" but we will be unable to choose evil. In effect, the purpose of our having had a life in which we had such room to choose (true) good or apparent good (i.e. evil) has been served, and there is no more need of that range of opportunity. The loss of such "opportunities" is not an evil: there is no privation in not having to re-make, over and over, the choice to love God when one might fail.

      The period in Purgatory is not to have opportunities to re-make choices as to our final good, but only to rid wills of lesser sorts of defects than the grave defect of choosing something other than God as our final end.

      In Hell, we have no opportunity to re-make decisions about our final end, because once a person has chosen not-God as his final good (during life), it takes grace for him to be able to revoke that decision and make it for God: once a person has fallen into mortal sin and (therefore) the absence of sanctifying grace, only supernatural aid can gain for him the reversal of that (otherwise) permanent loss. That's available in THIS life. As Feser mentioned (all too briefly), in Hell there is no further activity by which the will could undergo a reversal of his volition of an ultimate end.

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  14. Hart plays pretty dirty too. Long sections of his book are paraphrases from Feser's blog, with minor emendations here and there to make Feser's case look weaker than it is, but then left completely unattributed. I mean, honestly, it's just straight up plagiarism.

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    1. That's not only unprofessional, I am surprised that an editor/publisher let it slide past. They can get into hot water as publisher, on the hook for damages. I am not surprised that Hart would quote Feser, but why not attribute the quotes?

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    2. Editors are busy and overworked. If Hart himself doesn't provide references, why would the editor know that it is a paraphrase of somebody else.

      "I am not surprised that Hart would quote Feser, but why not attribute the quotes?"

      Because, like many great entertainers, Hart is a trash human being.

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  15. On a bit of a tangent here, but related to the meaning of “everlasting.”

    In one of Feser's earlier posts, he argued that the early fathers talked about everlasting punishment. In fact, we can't really use to language of the early fathers to establish what scripture means, because those early fathers really just repeat the exact same scriptural terms.

    Otherwise, I pretty much agree with Feser on everything here.

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  16. I'm predicting a dismissive reply that borders on ad hominem from Dr. Hart. This review feels a little bit like one kid throwing a rock at another to try to pick a fight and establish dominance. I was hoping for a substantive engagement with the book, but sadly this is just the sort of thing that will goad Hart into more bloviation about how perfect his argument is and how nobody has even remotely dealt with it. I hope that after a few haymakers there will be a meatier offering for us readers. I'm bracing myself for the usual chest thumping, but hoping something actually interesting happens. Also, I still can't quite make out whether or not Feser and Hart hate each other, or if most of their wars of words are really just intellectual rivalry between men who disagree vehemently but ultimately respect one another.

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    1. I don't think that they actually hate each other, and I think that on a certain level they rather enjoy the thrust-and-parry of the debates. I also suspect that on a different level they each find the other an unsavory opponent, because of what (each perceives) to be unpleasant debate failings in the other distinct from just not agreeing with the other. On that score, I find Hart to be too often disappointingly unable to address the actual specifics of an argument (and not just with Feser). I admit that I haven't read a full book by Hart (just articles), but he has given me no adequate basis to decide to pay him money for that privilege.

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    2. I think Hart really does hate Feser, but only sometimes.

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  17. In addition to the other arguments given against Hart's position, what is really astounding is that it really is the idea that hell doesn't exist because a non-everlasting hell where you are saved at the end is just purgatory. So heaven and purgatory are the only options according to Hart's position.

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  18. Quote"Eastern Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart denies that hell is everlasting. He does not merely claim that we have grounds for hope for the salvation of all. Nor does he hold that the unsaved will be annihilated rather than suffer perpetually. In Hart’s opinion, those positions are insufficiently merciful. He argues that it is impossible that anyone be damned forever, and certain that all will ultimately be saved." END QUOTE

    Yeh that is a bridge too far. I defend Von Balthazar's hope for the salvation of all and I believe it is possible (thought not likely).

    But this forget it.....to Hell with this error.

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  19. It occurred to me recently that the doctrine of eternal damnation establishes the truth of at least one of Christianity's central claims: the existence of Satan. How else but through demonic influence could men have developed the idea that God, who is Love itself, would consign a soul to endless torment?

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  20. Getting beer and popcorn ready.

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  21. While I have my biases on this question, the review is really not shooting straight. What Hart presents is certainly not his own esoteric philosophy but rather that of my own patron Gregory of Nyssa. In the east, at least, he is the "Father of Fathers", so while that is no guarantee of correctness, it certainly provides some weight to the seriousness of Gregory's position. As a footnote, Gregory, also, argues for the soul's continual, indeed, infinite, progression toward God after death). It is also not true that universalism was absent in the early Church, rather it seems to be the Pauline position by default, which is itself cosmic rather than personal.

    Now there are of course arguments that are more specifically developed by Hart, including his line of argument on the rational will (though this seems largely a logical extrapolation from classical Christian understanding of the human person). One argument that is novel to Hart as far as I know is his take on the damned as our actual Saviors: oddly, though, what is unique to Hart seems to be precisely what is ignored.

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  22. Feser, what do you make of the view that while some people might end up in hell, you don't necessarily have to be a Christian in order to be saved. You have argued in the past that there are people who genuinely believe that God doesn't exist-

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2015/10/repressed-knowledge-of-god.html

    Now, just because someone is a genuine atheist doesn't mean their unbelief is non-culpable, but it seems implausible that every single atheist, let alone every single person who isn't Christian, is morally culpable of non-belief. However, Jesus seems to have taught in John 14:6 that one must be a Christian in order to be saved. A response could be that one doesn't need to believe in Christ in order to be saved, they are just saved through Christ's sacrifice, regardless of whether they believe in Christ. However, that interpretation seems ad hoc to me. What do you think?

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    1. Edit: I meant to say "let alone every single person who isn't Christian, is morally culpable FOR THEIR non-belief"

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    2. Eleanore Stump has a good argument for explicitly non Christians reaching beatitude. Check out her interviews on the closer to truth website

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    3. In the story of the sheep and the goats Jesus appears to say that salvation is a matter of your actions, even if you don't realize you are acting in his name. Perhaps these discrepancies in the New Testament's talk of salvation (let alone if we add in the Old Testament) is just that, discrepancy, based on the different theological beliefs of the human authors of the different books.

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  23. Below my rather detailed comments to Feser’s review:

    “Hart claims that if Christianity cannot be reconciled with his universalist position, then we must give up Christianity rather than give up universalism. It’s Hart’s way or the highway.

    Yes, truth is prior to Christianity. Obviously.

    “Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is heresy.”

    Who knows, perhaps those who judge that universalism is a heresy have been deceived. We should not underestimated the strength of the spirits of deception. The doctrine of infernalism provides huge power to a religious organisation, and the temptation of obtaining that power became perhaps too great to resist.

    “The possibility of eternal damnation is taught in Scripture”

    Actually it isn’t.

    “[Hart claims that] when Christ speaks of punishment that is “everlasting”, he really means merely that it will last for an age.”

    Right. The word we find in the original Greek is “aionios”. That word does not necessarily or even usually mean “everlasting”. The primary meaning of that word is “of an age” or “age long” (which may be long, very long, or infinitely long). I invite the reader to open any dictionary of ancient Greek and confirm this with their own eyes. Incidentally if the evangelist wished to transmit the idea of “everlasting” there are common Greek words that mean exactly that. Unfortunately these nuances were lost in the Latin translation which Augustine used. All of that is explained with lots of detail in DBH’s book.

    “But there are several problems with such arguments. The first concerns consistency. If we say that the punishment Christ threatens is not really everlasting, then we also have to say that the reward he promises – in the same breath, and using the same language – is not everlasting either.”

    First the concept of “age long” comports both with limited and infinite duration, so the argument that the same word “aionios” is used in scripture to describe both heaven and hell does not go through. Second and more importantly though, it is true that Christ in the gospels warns us quite dramatically about the hellish implications of sin. But that He “threatens us with punishment” is not what is actually written in scripture; rather it is what some people were moved to read into the text. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition sin is considered to be the symptom of a spiritual illness, Christ is the healer, and the pains of hell are the suffering one undergoes in order to be healed. Which I think is not very unlike the Catholic Church’s idea of the purgatory. Roughly, the idea of universalism is that all unrepentant sinners will go to the purgatory for a limited time before going to heaven.

    “Second, if the doctrine of everlasting punishment is as evil and contrary to the Gospel as Hart claims, why did Christ not make it crystal clear that that was not what he was teaching? Why did he not explicitly say that everyone will be saved, if that is what he meant?”

    I think that’s a reasonable question. First of all it’s not like Christ wrote what we read in scripture – He didn’t write down a single word which I think speaks volumes about the importance He gave to written texts, not to mention that in a memorable passage (grossly mistranslated in the KJV) we read Him making fun of those who expect to find life in scripture. Secondly those who wrote the gospels meant them not as a precisely historical but as a salvific text. So perhaps they felt that for those who meet Christ universal salvation is self-evident anyway, but that those who are spiritually half-blind would probably benefit if some room for doubt were left. I mean even today many people who read texts on universalism misunderstand them so deeply that they ask stupid questions such as “If all will be saved what’s the point in avoiding sin?”

    [continues below]

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    1. [continues from above]

      “Why did it take centuries before any Christian even floated the idea?”

      There is plenty of evidence that most Christians in the first centuries believed in universal salvation. For example the fourth-century Basil of Caesarea (who was an infernalist) lamented that a large majority of his fellow Christians believed that hell was not everlasting, and that all in the end would attain salvation. It’s all in Hart’s book, indeed this bit is in the introduction. I fear Feser either did not really read the book or else refused to investigate seriously anything that did not conform with his preconceptions.

      “Hart makes Christ more merciful at the cost of making him incompetent.”

      We all agree that God desires the salvation of all. The idea that Christ succeeding in realising that divine desire amounts to “incompetence” is clearly absurd. But perhaps I misunderstood the thought expressed here.

      “Hart makes his position unfalsifiable, and thus unverifiable.”

      I don’t understand this argument. That infernalism is not clearly taught in scripture is very well verifiable – hence the debate between serious theologians. From the very beginning the church knew that she must interpret scripture guided by the spirit of truth. Given that different churches and denominations have ended up interpreting scripture so very differently proves that the guidance of the spirit of truth is not always guaranteed. In my mind Christ Himself in the gospels teaches how we are to distinguish the spirit of truth from the spirits of deception, namely by their fruit. And since the greatest possible fruit is to follow Christ’s commandment, the spirits of deception teach doctrines that make it more difficult to us to love God with our heart and love each other like Christ has loved us. I ask the reader to consider which of the two, universalism or infernalism, actually moves them more to follow Christ’s commandment.

      “A line of argument developed by Aquinas holds that it is impossible for the will to change its basic orientation after the death of the body. The reason is that the intellect’s attention can be pulled away from what it judges to be good and worth pursuing only by the senses and imagination, and these go when the body goes.”

      I do not pretend to understand that argument about the relation between the body and the experience of senses and imagination; apparently Thomism is so profound that one must study one’s entire life to understand it properly. Also my understanding is that in the afterlife we shall have a body, so I don’t even understand how Aquinas’s particular argument applies to the issue at hand. What I can say very confidently though is that if God intends to save every one of his creatures it’s not like Aquinas’s philosophy will hinder him.

      “Hart argues that since rational creatures are made to know and love God, any choice against God is irrational. From this he infers that no one is culpable for such a choice and thus cannot be damned. But the inference is fallacious. That a choice is irrational does not mean that it is not culpable.”

      In the Catholic Church’s catechism I read “1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent." Unrepentant mortal sin is the sin which leads to everlasting damnation according to the doctrine of infernalism. But a sin can only be mortal when committed with full knowledge. No irrational choice can be made with full knowledge. So it seems that in order to remain a consistent infernalist one must believe that to choose against God is a rational choice. As it is typically the case, deception leads to absurdity.

      [continues below]

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    2. [continues from above]

      “Furthermore, if a choice is non-culpable because it is irrational, how can we be culpable for any bad thing that we do (given that bad actions are always contrary to reason)? How can we deserve even finite punishments?”

      Nobody “deserves” punishment. Even a cursory reading of the mountain sermon should make that clear. Now according to how the Eastern Orthodox Church interprets the good message, Christ did not incarnate in order to reward some and punish others, but in order to heal everybody. Nevertheless, alas, the Eastern Orthodox church while not insisting does leave open the possibility that Christ will fail to heal everybody”.

      And if we can’t [deserve punishments], then why do we need a saviour?”

      In order to overcome our sinful nature. The way the sheep need a shepherd in order not to get lost.

      “Hart holds that all human beings are parts of Christ’s body in such a way that if even one person is damned forever, then Christ’s body is incomplete, and even his obedience to the Father is incomplete. Hart also holds that the individual self is destined to be “reduced to nothing” so that we can be “free of what separates us from God and neighbour.” What is left he compares to the Hindu notion of Atman. But all of this is hard to distinguish from a pantheism that blasphemously deifies human beings.”

      That’s too complicated to deal in a short comment, but it seems to me that two ideas are here conflated: Hart argues that an essential part of being a person is one’s relationship to other persons, and that therefore our happiness in heaven cannot be perfect if even one neighbour is suffering in hell. As for the second idea of “pantheism that blasphemously deifies human beings” I fail to understand how it relates to Hart’s book. Perhaps it has something to do the Eastern Orthodox idea of creaturely theosis at the eschaton. But I understand that the Catholic Church too teaches the similar idea of divinisation – so I fail to see where “pantheism” and “blasphemy” come in.

      “In his earlier book Atheist Delusions, Hart had argued powerfully that Christianity had liberated mankind. Now he argues that Christianity has for centuries enslaved mankind to a monstrous error, and can be redeemed only by taking on board Hart’s personal theology.”

      Well the two are not exclusive. A surgeon may save an injured soldier’s life and also by mistake leave him a cripple. Luckily the large majority of Christians at least in the Eastern Orthodox and the Catholic churches manage to live with infernalism without letting it spiritually damage them. As Hart observes most people who say they believe in infernalism don’t really – to really believe in infernalism will poison one’s spirit.

      Also it’s not like universalism is “Hart’s personal theology”. There is a long line of ancient and recent theologians who have taught it. Arguably starting with Paul whose epistles clearly and conspicuously lean towards universalism. (It’s kind of funny to observe how infernalists are reduced to arguing that when Paul writes “all” he does not necessarily mean “all”.)

      [continues below]

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    3. [continues from above]

      “He would do so on the authority of his own “conscience”, against which “the authority of a dominant tradition … has no weight whatever.””

      Here’s is the relevant passage from Hart’s book:

      “As I say, for me it is a matter of conscience, which is after all only a name for the natural will’s aboriginal and constant orientation toward the Good when that orientation expresses itself in our conscious motives. As such, conscience must not abide by the rule of the majority. Placed in the balance over against its dictates, the authority of a dominant tradition or of a reigning opinion has no weight whatever.”

      It may happen that one’s conscience and the teaching of one’s church are in conflict. For example, suppose one’s church defends slavery but one’s conscience rebels against it, or suppose one’s church declares the Iraq war unjust but one’s conscience says it is about protecting the safety of one’s family. How should one then choose, whom should one trust more, one’s conscience or one’s church? It’s not an easy question to answer, but we must make a choice and live with the consequences. As I wrote above I would measure the choice by its fruit, for what really matters is how well one follows Christ.

      “What is most striking about all of this is not its heterodoxy, and not the desperation with which it tries to bully the reader into ignoring the overwhelming weight of Christian tradition, but its sheer narcissism. [snip] Even the most pious readers are bound to be less outraged by this poor man than just embarrassed for him.”

      Even if that were true it would be irrelevant. What matters is the truth about God, not the truth about Hart’s character. Hart, for all who know him, has no pretensions to holiness. But that a clever and erudite person like Feser would stoop to name-calling to finish his review of Hart’s book kind of reveals his unease.

      Finally I am kind of disappointed that Feser has not dealt with what I think is Hart’s main argument. Namely that to call “good” a God who will create a world knowing that some of his creatures may end suffering never-ending pain is incoherent, for it does not comport with any intelligible meaning of “good”.

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    4. Dianelos Georgoudis wrote,

      Secondly those who wrote the gospels meant them not as a precisely is historical but as a salvific text

      Is this statement falsifiable? How can anyone tell whether a text historical or not?

      Basil of Caesarea (who was an infernalist) lamented that a large majority of his fellow Christians believed that hell was not everlasting

      Could you provide the exact reference in Basil? I'd like to read it in context.

      I ask the reader to consider which of the two, universalism or infernalism, actually moves them more to follow Christ’s commandment

      As you noted yourself, this doctrine has been debated by theologians/saints on both sides. They all followed Christ's command, as far as we can tell. It doesn't prove anything about the veracity of either doctrine.

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    5. Nemo, I would warn you that Dianelos is a bit of a crank at this blog: he does things like make comments (4 times the length of a comment limit) about a book review that are even longer than the book review. He also does things like attempt to comment about what the Catholic Church teaches, when he has been shown over and over that he is in error about it. (E.G. his silly attempt to parse the Catechism about mortal sin which, as silly as it stands, is better than usual because he at least bothered to make an attempt to look up what the Church says.) It's usually a pretty hopeless task trying to get anywhere, because he is rather unaware of the degree to which his presumptions drive his conclusions in differences between his theology and that of Catholicism.

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    6. Actually Dianelos seems spot on here. The Catholic Church itself recognizes that irrationality can mitigate culpability, which is pretty obvious. Obviously irrationality means not choosing freely to the degree one is irrational. The Catholic Church recognizes this sometimes because even it cannot be so irrational not to do so.

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    7. Nemo writes: “Is this statement falsifiable?”

      The proposition that all reasonable beliefs must be falsifiable belongs to the rather primitive epistemology atheists are likely to use. After all most significant beliefs we hold are not falsifiable, for example “the past exists (the world was not created a few seconds ago)”, “people have minds (are not philosophical zombies”, “to help a child in need is more ethical than to torture them for fun”.

      Nemo writes: “How can anyone tell whether a text historical or not?”

      Well, reason tells us that the purpose of the early church which wrote the gospels – indeed what the “good message” is about – is salvific. Which entails that the purpose of the evangelists was primarily salvific also. The gospels have some historical content also, but in this they are clearly flawed as they disagree with each other in many historical claims. So to the degree that the evangelists wished to write a historically accurate account they did not worry too much about it.

      Nemo writes: “Could you provide the exact reference in Basil? I'd like to read it in context.”

      Sorry, I don’t know (but I will ask around). In any case how probable is it that a scholar of Hart’s stature would make a factually erroneous claim right in the introduction of his book? A claim that anyone knowledgeable in St Basil’s writings would easily refute?

      I wrote: “I ask the reader to consider which of the two, universalism or infernalism, actually moves them more to follow Christ’s commandment”

      Nemo writes: “As you noted yourself, this doctrine has been debated by theologians/saints on both sides. They all followed Christ's command, as far as we can tell.”

      Actually I was asking this to you personally. When Christ spoke about how to distinguish between the spirit of truth and the spirits of deception He was speaking to everybody, not just to the learned theologians :-)

      As for theologians, one can be a learned theologian and an evil person, and one can be a mediocre theologian and a saint. Christ in His new commandment asks us to follow Him in the path of self-sacrificing love, not to study or advance the science of theology.

      In any case the relevant question here is whether all or even most of our learned theologians used Christ’s advice to judge truth but its fruit. I very much doubt it, and the reason for my doubt is precisely the doctrine of infernalism which many great theologians have defended even though it makes it next to impossible to love God with all one’s heart and to love one’s neighbours as oneself. I find that this doctrine inspires horror for God and contempt for our neighbours. Don’t you agree? I really wonder about your sense: Which belief inspires you more to follow Christ’s commandment, infernalism or universalism?

      What I think is evidently the case is that Christ who is the truth will not move people away from Christ’s own salvific commandment.

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    8. Tony writes: “Dianelos is a bit of a crank at this blog”

      I am sorry you should have this opinion about myself. And even feel moved to warn others as if others.

      “He also does things like attempt to comment about what the Catholic Church teaches, when he has been shown over and over that he is in error about it.”

      So educate me. Here are five propositions:

      1. Mortal sin leads to everlasting punishment in hell.

      2. For a sin to be mortal one necessary condition is to have been chosen with full knowledge.

      3. An irrational choice is incompatible with full knowledge.

      4. To choose to sin against God’s will is irrational.

      5. Some people will suffer everlasting punishment in hell.

      These five propositions cannot all be true because the truth of the first four entails the falsity of the fifth. Thus if one wishes to affirm the fifth proposition one must deny the truth of at least one of the previous four. I understand you wish to affirm the fifth proposition, so, I wonder, which of the previous four are you prepared to deny.

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    9. Dianelos,

      You wrote, "The proposition that all reasonable beliefs must be falsifiable belongs to the rather primitive epistemology atheists are likely to use.

      Yes, I have such "primitive epistemology", because I tend to think many beliefs can be falsified either by logic or experience.

      1. "The gospels ... disagree with each other in many historical claims."

      It doesn't follow from this that the Gospels are not historical texts, as we know that many historical texts from the ancient world keep accounts that disagree with one another.

      2. Others have questioned/refuted Hart's interpretation of Basil, including this article at FirstThings.

      3. You haven't addressed my point. Many saints, who are also respected theologians, have defended the doctrine of eternal punishment. Aren't they bearing good fruits?

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    10. Here's Hart's response to Pakaluk.

      https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2020/02/a-pakaluk-of-lies

      Pakaluk's claims of misrepresentation are weak indeed. Even in what he shows, Basil refers to the many having this belief, though he claims they have been misled by the devil. There are other gross misrepresentations of Hart's claims in that review.

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    11. So educate me. Here are five propositions:

      Dianelos, I am afraid that past attempts to educate you have failed so completely that I can have hardly any hope to here. I will make a short response, mainly for the sake of others to perceive that there IS a response to your silly 5-point "difficulty", but not to engender an ongoing debate with you.

      2. For a sin to be mortal one necessary condition is to have been chosen with full knowledge.

      You seem to be using "full knowledge" as meaning something like knowledge of everything in the universe and of God, so that acting against God becomes in itself irrational. That's not what the Catholic Church teaches or have ever taught. "Full knowledge" means, rather, knowledge that the thing chosen is bad. St. Thomas:

      Again, the consequence of loving a thing less is that one chooses to suffer some hurt in its regard, in order to obtain a good that one loves more: as when a man, even knowingly, suffers the loss of a limb, that he may save his life which he loves more. Accordingly when an inordinate will loves some temporal good, e.g. riches or pleasure, more than the order of reason or Divine law, or Divine charity, or some such thing, it follows that it is willing to suffer the loss of some spiritual good, so that it may obtain possession of some temporal good. Now evil is merely the privation of some good; and so a man wishes knowingly a spiritual evil, which is evil simply, whereby he is deprived of a spiritual good, in order to possess a temporal good: wherefore he is said to sin through certain malice or on purpose, because he chooses evil knowingly.

      And this is what the Church teaches. The will is of such a nature as to determine for itself whether it will choose the lesser good over the greater good, even while the lesser is known to be lesser. It is a defect in the will, not in the intellect; if the defect were in the intellect, that lack of knowledge would diminish the culpability.

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    12. All I know is I crack up every time I see Dianelos's avatar/picture

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    13. Nemo, you wrote:

      “I tend to think many beliefs can be falsified either by logic or experience.”

      I agree of course about “many beliefs”. When you asked “Is this statement falsifiable?” I thought you implied that *all* reasonable beliefs must be falsifiable. Which is the kind of primitive epistemology many atheists embrace. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

      “we know that many historical texts from the ancient world keep accounts that disagree with one another.”

      Do you have an example of multiple authors living in the same community writing a few decades from each other historical texts about the same events – and disagreeing so often about the particulars? The evangelists were very smart people; the evidence tells me that they simply did not care about historical accuracy. That was not their goal. Their goal is to save souls, the historical account was only a means.

      “Others have questioned/refuted Hart's interpretation of Basil, including this article at FirstThings.”

      Oh, excellent, so you have the original text you asked above. As you see Basil laments that many (oi polloi – the rabble, the simple-minded masses) around him believed in universal salvation. Which proves that Feser is mistaken in having the impression that universalism did not exist in the early church. Moreover that rabble were native Greek speakers who read the gospels or listened to them in church, which pretty much falsifies the claim that the gospels unambiguously teach infernalism.

      “You haven't addressed my point. Many saints, who are also respected theologians, have defended the doctrine of eternal punishment. Aren't they bearing good fruits?”

      Yes they are. One is free to follow Christ despite embracing some false beliefs, and despite suffering the bad fruit they bear. It’s not an all or nothing thing.

      But I notice you consistently refuse to answer my question, namely which understanding gives better fruit to you by inspiring you to follow Christ’s commandment. But, you know, silence sometimes speaks clearly.

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    14. Tony, you write:

      “You seem to be using "full knowledge" as meaning something like knowledge of everything in the universe and of God, so that acting against God becomes in itself irrational.”

      No, of course not. I think anybody’s plain sense when reading the Cathechism is that “full knowledge” means to actually understand what sin is. Namely the rejection of God’s goodness, a violation of the end for which God has created us, an injury to one’s soul.

      But you beg to disagree. You quote a passage from Aquinas which ends with “wherefore he is said to sin through certain malice or on purpose, because he chooses evil knowingly.” I don’t see anywhere in that passage a mention of “full knowledge”, but I take it you choose to affirm that this passage is relevant.

      Fine, so you affirm that to choose sin having "full knowledge" means to "choose evil knowingly". Problem is, in the human condition there is no such thing as "choosing evil knowingly". As a matter of existential fact those who choose evil mistake the evil for the good. So, for example, the soldiers who worked in Hitler's extermination camps believed they were doing their patriotic duty. Those who steal believe that they are protecting their own interest in an unjust and uncaring world. Those who rape believe it's a good to derive pleasure no matter other peoples' suffering, and that there won't be any negative implications for them anyway. Without exception (outside of psychopathology) the evildoers believe they are being smart and thus doing what is good for them. I think it would be better instead of uncritically reading Aquinas, first open your eyes to the factual reality of how God has made us. For God has made us in his image. And we realise that the human condition is such that to actually wish or desire an evil is never a rational act. Which, incidentally, is a major point David Bentley Hart makes in his book.

      But we need not belabour the point. The CC catechism (which in my judgment is a fine document from which I have learned a lot) does give us some more information about what “full knowledge” means, and I quote: “1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God's law.” But surely many terrible evildoers are atheists and have no knowledge of the concept of sin or of God’s law. Atheists do have a conscience (which you and I agree is God’s law written in the nature of the human soul) but they also believe that their conscience is a cultural artifact, indeed the product of social indoctrination which their free intellect can and should overcome (because it’s good for them). They are obviously not aware that God’s law is written in their souls - how could they, they are not even aware that God exists. In conclusion it is obviously not the case that an atheist has “full knowledge” of sin in any intelligible sense of what the CC catechism says. And I am certain you are not defending a soteriology in which atheists are guaranteed not to go to everlasting suffering in hell because lacking full knowledge they will never commit a mortal sin.

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    15. My own understanding of the big picture is this: The spirit of truth is guiding the CC, not in a way that guarantees that the she will always be right but in a way that protects her from grave error. It is under the guidance of that spirit that the CC has resisted raising infernalism to the status of dogma. Moreover she has resisted affirming with certainty that Christ will fail to fulfill his Father’s desire for all creatures to be saved. (In this context I don’t understand in what sense denying something something the Church has never affirmed can be called a “heresy”.) It is the guidance of that spirit which led to the Church to put the bar of mortal sin (which would justify the horror of never-ending suffering in hell) so very high, that she implicitly denies the actual possibility that this will obtain.

      incidentally my own Eastern Orthodox church also teaches the doctrine of infernalism, so this is not a CC against EOC dispute. If I am right about the work of the spirit of truth then all the great Christian churches will outgrow the doctrinal mistake of infernalism. In the introduction of his book DBH writes of his sense that since the 19th century the tide of opinion in this matter began, if ever so slightly, to turn back to the original understanding of the early church. Observing how conspicuously weak the negative reviews of his book are, and indeed reading the comment section in this page, makes me optimistic. Another great sign is pope Francis’ text in Amoris Laetitia: “297. It is a matter of reaching out to everyone, of needing to help each person find his or her proper way of participating in the ecclesial community and thus to experience being touched by an ‘unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous’ mercy. No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!”

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    16. Dianelos,

      1. Do you have an example of multiple authors living in the same community writing a few decades from each other historical texts about the same events – and disagreeing so often about the particulars

      Xenophon and Plato's accounts of Socrates come to mind.

      Can you provide examples of historical texts that meet all your criteria except that they agree on all particulars?

      The Gospels can be both "salvific" and historical. These are not mutually exclusive characteristics.

      2. Regarding Basil's writing in question, I'd like to get online access to the full text. Until I've read it, I cannot comment on Hart's interpretation of it.

      3. You say those who believe in eternal punishment are bearing bad fruits. What are these bad fruits specifically?

      But I notice you consistently refuse to answer my question, namely which understanding gives better fruit to you by inspiring you to follow Christ’s commandment.

      You're asking me an impossible question: to compare what exists with what doesn't exist.

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    17. Tony,

      I just had a chance to read your exchange with Dianelos, and now understand why you think it is a "hopeless task". The Aquinas' statement you quoted makes sense to me as an Augustinian (non-Catholic), but it seems to have not registered at all with Dianelos.

      People have so completely different perspectives that there seems to be hardly any common ground on which to build a consensus. It does make one wonder whether it is even worth trying...

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    18. Nemo, you write:

      “Xenophon and Plato's accounts of Socrates come to mind.”

      Oh, that’s an interesting example. We know that both Xenophon and Plato knew Socrates directly and knew him well (which in the case of the evangelists is rather doubtful). Even so Xenophon and Plato wrote significantly different accounts of Socrates. Now Plato’s purpose in writing the dialogues was clearly philosophical not historical, to the degree that many think that Socrates in the dialogues speaks Plato’s own mature thought. Which I think is a reasonable interpretation, I mean surely Plato was a great philosopher in his own right who would certainly write down his thought. Xenophon’s purpose in writing his books was more but not exhaustively historical, so his accounts of Socrates are probably more trustworthy. Incidentally there is a third eyewitness who wrote about Socrates, namely comic dramatist Aristophanes, and some believe that his depiction of Socrates may be the most accurate of all. Certainly Socrates was quite a figure – the thought that we shall meet him in the afterlife is kind of delicious.

      Anyway, the example you suggest nicely illustrates that when eyewitnesses write about somebody while having different purposes for their writing then it’s natural that they should depict events of his life quite differently. The apparently historical content of their writing becomes a vehicle for delivering the deeper meaning they desire.

      “Can you provide examples of historical texts that meet all your criteria except that they agree on all particulars?”

      No, but that’s exactly my point: When texts are written not mainly as history we shouldn’t expect historical accuracy or agreement among different writers. If you look up in our discussion you’ll see that this issue popped up when you reacted to my claim that the purpose of the evangelists when writing the gospels was primarily salvific and not the production of a historically precise text. Scholars have tried to derive the “historical Jesus” but given the nature of the texts that’s an exceedingly difficult task. A partial exception concerns the saying of Jesus. At that time it was common for the followers of a wise teacher to memorise their most important saying, so I happen to believe that much of what we read Jesus say in the gospels is accurate (even though in Greek translation). That we should have access to what the incarnation of God actually said is kind of miraculous.

      Now as far as the salvific content of the four gospels go please observe how consistent they are. Had only one of the four gospels survived (any one of them) we would still almost perfectly understand Christ’s message, His commandments, our path to salvation. Which again evidences that the main purpose of the four writers was to produce a salvific text.

      “The Gospels can be both "salvific" and historical. These are not mutually exclusive characteristics.”

      Yes, but the primary purpose of the writer is extremely important when one interprets a text.

      “2. Regarding Basil's writing in question, I'd like to get online access to the full text. Until I've read it, I cannot comment on Hart's interpretation of it.”

      The firsthings article you linked to provides the source of the author’s translation of St Basil’s text: “The scholarly reference is J.P. Migne, Patrologia Graeca, vol. 31, columns 1263–6.” But what I read in that article strikes me as clear enough: Basil laments that so many Christians around him believed in universalism.

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    19. Nemo, you write:

      “3. You say those who believe in eternal punishment are bearing bad fruits. What are these bad fruits specifically?”

      No, I meant that *beliefs* may bear good or bad fruit. In the relevant passage in the gospels Christ advices us how to distinguish between teachings that come from the truth or of deception, and I was applying His advice to the question of whether universalism or infernalism are true. The good or bad fruit a belief produces is how it moves one to follow or not follow Christ’s commandment. But it often happens that one follows Christ despite having some false beliefs, and, conversely, it often happens that one fails to follow Christ even though one has many true beliefs. Beliefs help or hinder, but what really matters in salvation is faith – the deep trust in God which provides the strength to follow Christ. In a memorable passage Christ speaking to His disciples laments “Oh you of little faith”. And it’s not like His disciples didn’t believe in God.

      “You're asking me an impossible question: to compare what exists with what doesn't exist.”

      Beliefs in universalism and hellism exist, so I was asking which belief produce better fruit in your case, which of the two beliefs inspire you to love God with all your heart and your neighbours as yourself.

      It’s a rhetorical question for the answer is obvious: A God who like the good shepherd in Christ’s parable will not allow even one of the sheep to be lost but will go out in the night into the deepest ravine to save this one last sheep entrusted to him - is far more loveable. And the understanding that all our neighbours will in the end repent and that we all will have to work for each others salvation comports far better with Christ’s commandments. Far better. So Christ’s plain advice about how to distinguish truth from deception directly leads us to universalism.

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    20. Nemo, you write:

      “People have so completely different perspectives that there seems to be hardly any common ground on which to build a consensus.”

      Different perspectives (indeed different beliefs and how they affect our very experience of life) are indeed a big problem in communication. But there is always some common ground, namely the human condition. We are all humans made in the image of God. That is our ultimate common ground.

      My argument in the context of Aquinas’s passage quoted by Tony was that *as a matter of existential fact* when we choose evil it is always the case that we mistake it for the good. I even gave several examples of terribly evil deeds to illustrate how even in these cases the evildoers were confusing the evil for the good. (Incidentally in the EO tradition sinfulness in a spiritual illness, a condition in which our soul does not function as it was meant and indeed in which our mind is quite misguided and our will quite weak.) Thus, I argue, Aquinas’s phrase of “choosing evil knowingly” can only be understood as referring to the confused state of mind we often have when doing something that’s wrong. Consider for example a medical doctor addicted to smoking. They lights a cigarette because of its perceived goodness (we can only choose what we perceive as good), while at the same time knowing that it is probably bad for their health - while at the same time probably trusting that they will escape the health implications. This kind of confused state of mind is certainly not what the CC Catechism means by “full knowledge”. Further as I argued the CC Catechism itself clarifies what “full knowledge” means, namely entailing knowledge that one is choosing against God’s law. But then atheists are incapable of mortal sin.

      I think these are good arguments, do you see any error in them? If an atheist does not believe in God and therefore in the existence of God’s law how can they possibly choose with full knowledge that they are disobeying God’s law? I wonder if Tony who is Catholic will provide an answer.

      Finally I’d like to submit that to build consensus is not the only purpose of a discussion. Even without reaching agreement one learns from others, one receives challenges to one’s beliefs, one receives ideas that work as food for further thought.

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    21. Dianelos,

      1. I asked, "“Can you provide examples of historical texts that meet all your criteria except that they agree on all particulars?”

      You responded, "No, but that’s exactly my point: When texts are written not mainly as history we shouldn’t expect historical accuracy or agreement among different writers."

      You missed the point of my question: Should we expect agreement if the texts are primarily meant as historical? If so, could you provide examples? If not, then lack of agreement is no evidence that the texts are not historical.

      2. I asked, “You say those who believe in eternal punishment are bearing bad fruits. What are these bad fruits specifically?”

      You answered, "No, I meant that *beliefs* may bear good or bad fruit."

      Let me rephrase the question: Can you identify any bad fruits produced by theologians (or anybody else) that can be attributed to their belief in the doctrine of eternal punishment?

      Just to clarify my answer to you regarding this: I don't hold the belief that universalism is true, so in my case, it doesn't bear any fruit.

      3. Then you wrote, It’s a rhetorical question for the answer is obvious:

      Indeed. It sounds like your conversation with me is one rhetorical question, and any answer from me is unnecessary, an exercise in futility.

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    22. Nemo, you write:

      “Should we expect agreement if the texts are primarily meant as historical? If so, could you provide examples? If not, then lack of agreement is no evidence that the texts are not historical.”

      Common sense tells me that when two capable people living in the same community and one or two decades apart write a text with the primary purpose of historic accuracy about events that occurred in their community during living memory then indeed they will be quite in agreement. The counterexample you suggested does not work because Plato’s primary purpose was certainly not historical.

      Having said that the idea that the evangelists’ primary purpose was to write a historic text strikes me as preposterous. Of course their primary purpose was salvific – it says so in the title “good message”.

      “Let me rephrase the question: Can you identify any bad fruits produced by theologians (or anybody else) that can be attributed to their belief in the doctrine of eternal punishment?”

      I don’t have such a deep knowledge of what went on in the souls of theologians (or anybody else except myself) to be able to identify specific cases. As I have already written way above there are saints who knew little theology, and fine theologians who were very far from being saints or even making a serious effort to follow Christ’s commandments. Religious beliefs do matter for they can inspire us to follow Christ’s commandment or they can hinder us. But it’s not a black-and-white thing, it’s not like true beliefs guarantee that we will faithfully follow Christ, nor false beliefs that we won’t.

      On the other hand, I do know how the human condition is, and thus I do know that to actually believe that God created the world knowing that he will abandon some of his creatures to suffer never-ending pain in hell makes it *impossible* to love God with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind. But, again, it’s not a black-and-white thing. Hart writes (and I agree) that people do not always actually believe what they say they believe – perhaps their fear of the horror of never-ending suffering in hell pushes them to be hypocrites to others and even to themselves. Also, infernalism may make it impossible to fully follow Christ’s commandment, but very few people who believe in universalism will succeed in any case. Infernalists are surely capable of loving God.

      “Just to clarify my answer to you regarding this: I don't hold the belief that universalism is true, so in my case, it doesn't bear any fruit.”

      Yeah, but I trust you do see that this is irrelevant. When Christ in the gospels tells us how to distinguish between the teachings of the spirit of truth and of a spirit of deception He asks us to consider the fruit the respective teachings would produce in us. It’s not like it makes sense to say “oh I embrace belief A and not belief B, so Christ’s advice about comparing fruits does not concern me”. In our daily lives we consider and reconsider the implications of embracing a new belief or of continuing to hold an old belief. What Christ reveals to us is an objective method for verifying the truth of a religious belief: Does it help us follow Christ’s commandment? Then it comes from the spirit of truth. Does it hinder us from following Christ’s commandment? Then it comes from a spirit of deception.

      Anyway, I feel I am repeating myself, and I think you’ll agree our discussion has entered the phase of diminishing returns. I’d like to thank you for your time.

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    23. Dianelos,

      As i said earlier, I tend to think that many beliefs, including the ones that we've been discussing, can be falsified by either logic or experience.

      What you call "common sense" is an unproven assertion. I've asked you to provide evidence to support your assertions, nothing more nothing less. Repeatedly making the same assertion doesn't make it true. You could have avoided "repeating yourself" by actually answering my specific questions, and I'll do the same. This is one way to have a productive conversation.

      Regarding "common ground", it is difficult to have a productive discussion when people disagree on the basics of epistemology: what is rational and irrational, what is true or false, and, perhaps more importantly, how to determine whether something is true or false.

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  24. I actually disagree with Ed here in thinking that some form of universalism is probably true. But I actually think that Eric Reitan and John Kronen, in their book "God's Final Victory" is more convincing than anything Hart has to say.

    To quote Reitan:

    (a) God, being perfectly loving and wholly good, wants to save all in the sense that, for each created person, God regards their salvation as an end worth achieving should a morally permissible means to that end be available;

    (b) God, being infinitely resourceful (omnipotent and omniscient). has access to a morally permissible means of achieving the salvation of anyone He wants to save.

    (a) seems pretty reasonable, so that leaves (b) which one could deny by invoking free will. But it is not clear why respecting someone's free will is worth that person being cut off eternally. It seems more likely that one person continues to resist over and over until they come to their senses, at which point they accept God's invitation.

    This, to me, makes more sense than the idea that the state one dies in becomes permanent, and souls in the afterlife have no capacity to change their minds. Universalism also solves the problem of eternal punishment vs. finite sin, which I don't think has a good solution otherwise.

    A short summary of their position can be found here: (https://forum.evangelicaluniversalist.com/t/opening-questions-tilling-to-reitan/2798/2)

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    1. Michael writes: "It seems more likely that one person continues to resist over and over until they come to their senses, at which point they accept God's invitation."

      But why would that "seem more likely"? St. Thomas writes somewhere that "sin darkens the intellect." And let's remember Lord Acton's famous dictum. Indeed, we see around us people who -- some starting out slow, some doing it very quickly -- start to go from average behavior to bad behavior to worse; or some start out with an occasionally odd idea, and these grow, along with pride, till that person is no longer the person we knew; some "come out of it" perhaps yet others sink into such misery till one day the person you knew is out of sight. But it is incremental, and clearly our behavior powerfully affects our nature. Our soul forms the body, is the classic Scholastic teaching, but then the body's actions affect the soul, too. One might say that if we don't nurture our nature, our nature will putrefy.

      Consider the angels. We may live in ignorance of our true motives, and not really know ourselves fully in this life, but when God made them, the angels were perfect in being, knowledge, and in absolute control of their wills. In an instant, they knew what they were, what they were made for, and why. Even so, one third of them (according to Rev 12:4, the usual interpretation) fell from Heaven -- obviously at the instigation of one of their number, the greatest of them.

      If they in perfect knowledge could make that Hellish choice, then that choice must lie before us. What is "Judgment Day" except as 1 Cor 13:12 suggests, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."

      To me, Judgment is God revealing to our souls, freed from the bad memory and brain-filtered knowledge that the body inflicts upon us, exactly who we are and what we want. And of course Who He is.

      Many simply won't want Him. They'll not accept His offer. They'll have spent their lives making that choice little by little, but it is real all the same. The Blessed Virgin Mary accepted God's will, on Earth, at the Annunciation; but we'll all have an annunciation and choose who we are, and surely a lifetime lived going against His will shall form us for that day in rejecting Him. Hell will look attractive on that day (i.e., at that eternal moment) to many, even those who thought they knew Him and wanted to serve Him.

      Otherwise for your comment, consider: when one dies, Michael, one enters eternity, a "time" in which there are no days, no nights, nor passing of time as we know it at all. Boethius called it "The Boundless Now." A decision made in eternity is eternal, by definition. There's "no capacity to change their minds" as you put it simply because they're outside of time.

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  25. Re: Universalism (of any sort, mild, strong, nutty, visionary, yoghurty) has a an elephant in the room, well, more like a T-Rex, and that is the cure being overkill for the disease; i.e., damnation is not a question of whether God is too nice, kind, loving, or omnipotent and omniscient, and described as wanting all to be saved (1 Tim 2:4; see also Titus 2:11, and for that matter, Isaiah 45:22); no, it is not a question of that, but a question that exactly because God is omniscient and omnipotent, why go to the trouble to become a human being in order that men should be saved? (John 1:18, 3:16 – famously, and 1 Tim – again – 3:16). If God, as God, has set Himself to see to the salvation of all in the end, why the Incarnation? Yes, yes, I know some argue that all are saved except for a handful, say Hitler, Mao, Stalin, and well, psycho mass murderers and the world’s endless supply of child molesters, heartless pornographers, and even slavers! – Have you not seen the news that England – England, now, today’s England – according to news reports, there’s an estimated 100,000 slaves across UK, 10,000 of the wretches in the City of Leicester alone, but of course all those cruel slavers will be saved, why not? One could go through the daily news and find simply horrific examples of “man’s inhumanity to man”. But if the Lord God Almighty was going to see them saved anyway, why go to the trouble to become a man in the first place, to lower Himself in what the Incarnation would entail in itself, let alone to suffer the Passion and Crucifixion, all of that? That the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the “I Am Who Am” of Moses, would lower Himself to become a human being (the very idea, even today, still outraging Jews and Muslims), that THIS God Who Is God lowered Himself to become a human being for a salvation He WAS GOING TO PROVIDE ANYWAY…well. Obviously, put it that way, it’s like using the Yamato to battle a sampan. Only, of course, on an infinitely greater scale.
    Seen in that light, Universalism makes no sense.

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    1. Even if we accept the literal truth of the incarnation and resurrection, that would hardly alone prove your point. You'd have to have a substitutionary atonement understanding of the resurrection for that. Even that it could be said that Christ's sacrifice in some sense allowed all to be saved.

      Are you a Catholic? The Catholic Church teaches that life begins at conception, yet something like 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Can we hope Christ saves these babies? Or does that make Christ's passion and crucifixion pointless? Perhaps we should go back to Augustine and speculate about unbaptized infants burning in hellfire?

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    2. The argument doesn't work against quasi-universalism.

      Secondly, universalists can believe that salvation comes through the cross, for all.

      Thirdly, most theologians believe that the Incarnation was not required for salvation anyway, I think? At least Aquinas seemed to share the view that God could have simply forgiven everyone without any sacrifice. It was a common position in the middle ages

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    3. Atno,
      I think that you confuse the incarnation with the crucifixion with regards to its necessity for salvation. East and West acknowledge the necessity of the incarnation for salvation. There is less emphasis on the crucifixion in the East and some Church Fathers suggest that salvation could have been achieved by some other means. The West puts more emphasis on the passion and the crucifixion. Aquinas may have a mediating position in which he indicates that it was supremely fitting but perhaps not necessary for Christ to be crucified. One difficulty with the "not necessary" position is that if true, when Jesus is in such anguish that he sweats blood and pleads with his Father to remove the cup (in context signifying crucifixion) from him, his Father could have done so without compromising salvation in the slightest but chose to ignore his beloved son's anguished plea.

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    4. "East and West acknowledge the necessity of the incarnation for salvation. "

      Is it? I'm really not sure of that, but it's been some time since I last studied the matter. I remember arguments to the effect that the Incarnation was convenient, but not strictly necessary. And that Peter Lombard (I think) and maybe even Anselm argued this, and (I think) Aquinas agreed. Maybe you're right and it just refers to the Passion, not the Incarnation. But I'm not sure.

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    5. Thirdly, most theologians believe that the Incarnation was not required for salvation anyway, I think? At least Aquinas seemed to share the view that God could have simply forgiven everyone without any sacrifice.

      I am not sure that's how most theologians would describe it. While it is possible to think of God forgiving sin without any kind of retributive satisfaction for sin, that would constitute an unfitting moral order, and so God "cannot" really will such a thing. Given the need for some kind of satisfaction for sin, it may not have required God to become Incarnate, but (as Athanasius pointed out) the Incarnation does solve an apparent paradox that we have no OTHER solution for: nobody but someone pure could have gained merit for us, and nobody born of Adam in sin could be pure, and God (without being Incarnated) could not undergo suffering. Many theologians suppose that given the Incarnation, either the mere fact of the Incarnation itself could have redeemed us, or at least the least particle of suffering by Christ, who is God, would have been "adequate" for paying for our redemption - and that Christ chose the crucifixion not as "necessary" but as "most fitting". Often the "most fitting" is described not primarily in terms of its redemptive value, but in other terms, such as "revealing God's love most perfectly" or something like that. I tend to doubt how the former (the mere Incarnation itself) would "work" as satisfaction. As to the latter, I would lean more heavily on redemptive acts on the part of the Christ that include his death as necessary for redemptive satisfaction, even if that "necessary" is taken in the sense that ordains the redemption to a fitting satisfaction of the evil of sin.

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    6. Tim Finley and Atno,

      As I understand it, salvation is a question of Theosis, as the Eastern Churches term it, or Divinization, that God became Man so men could have the possibility to take on God's nature. For example:
      •St. Athanasius: "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God." (De inc. 54, 3: PG 25, 192B) and [CCC 460]
      •St. Thomas Aquinas: "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods." (Opusc. 57, 1-4) [CCC 460]

      God’s Incarnation didn’t lower God so much as elevate human nature, in Christ, enabling Theosis" which by grace – not by nature – is our incorporation into Christ, raising us up to participate in His Divinity (as St. Peter teaches in 2 Peter 1.4). Usually described in the Western Church as an Infusion of Grace, our natures are changed. (Protestantism teaches Imputation of Grace: God assigns grace to us but doesn’t actually divinize or change our nature.)

      This is the idea animating both St. Paul and St. John. This teaching is stated in many ways throughout the New Testament. Examples:

      •John 1:12 “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (Obviously, a new creation); and of course the verses in St. John's Gospel, 3rd chapter. First Letter of John 3:1 is a famous example.
      •2 Cor 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (Again, a new creation) 2 Peter 1:4 might well put it best; see also Romans, 6:4, 7:6, 8:14-16, 12:2; Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:8-12.

      The West doesn't emphasize this because of Augustine. He stressed the Crucifixion and Atonement, and this is why the paramount image of Christ in a Catholic church has traditionally been a large crucifix, calling us to contemplate Our Lord's sacrifice for us, whereas in the East, the paramount image is of Christ Pantokrator, Christ in splendor, Ruler of All.

      FWIW.

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    7. "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God."

      God’s Incarnation didn’t lower God so much as elevate human nature, in Christ, enabling Theosis" which by grace – not by nature – is our incorporation into Christ, raising us up to participate in His Divinity

      It is true that both Athanasius and Aquinas taught that God lifted us up to receive "divinization" through the Incarnation. But not in the sense that from the beginning, we needed that Incarnation. Not so:

      e gave them a further gift, and He did not barely create man, as He did all the irrational creatures on the earth, but made them after His own image, giving them a portion even of the power of His own Word; so that having as it were a kind of reflexion of the Word, and being made rational, they might be able to abide ever in blessedness, living the true life which belongs to the saints in paradise. 4. But knowing once more how the will of man could sway to either side, in anticipation He secured the grace given them by a law and by the spot where He placed them. For He brought them into His own garden, and gave them a law: so that, if they kept the grace and remained good, they might still keep the life in paradise without sorrow or pain or care besides having the promise of incorruption in heaven; but that if they transgressed and turned back, and became evil, they might know that they were incurring that corruption in death which was theirs by nature: no longer to live in paradise, but cast out of it from that time forth to die and to abide in death and in corruption.... [Athanasius]

      But because Adam committed Original Sin, they LOST that sanctifying grace which was God's Indwelling presence, which is a participation in His own life, and the promise of life eternal after their period of trial on Earth. Due to that loss the human race needed a restoration of grace to enjoy the participation in God's own Life. But we could not merit that recovery on our own - only one who is pure could do so, and meriting that implied also paying the price of punishment due to sin for us - and so the Son took on the Incarnation to make it possible. Neither Athanasius nor Aquinas taught that the Incarnation was necessary (for us to be divinized) BUT as a result of sin, for in Adam we already had that gift in the Garden.

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  26. And please, let us set St. Paul aside for a moment. “Got wants everyone to be saved” is usually predicated (mainly) on some of his comments, such as 1 Tim 2:4 & Titus 2:11. It is odd that he’s popularly seen as the nutty old codger, the grumpy moralist who wants to take everyone’s fun away, while Our Lord is seen as “Jesus meek and mild, gentle as a child.” Right.

    As a professional writer, I’ve tried to set aside my Catholic upbringing (Trad Catholic upbringing, despite Vat II) and read the Gospels as just narratives. They resemble nothing else in literature so much as news reports or newsy bios. They are full of action, great dialogue, plot twists and turns, yet compare them to the other fiction writing of the time, they just blow everything out of the water (Ovid, Apulieus, Longus, et al). They most resemble the great Ancient histories, but are far, far more “newsy”, their characters more real, their settings “down-to-earth”. Average folks encountering the impossible, the shocking: average folks encountering a wander rabbi raising people from the dead and saying, “Before Abraham was, I am.”

    They’re just astounding. We get too familiar with them, and thus they can lose their novelty and power. But the Jesus depicted in them is anything but “meek and mild” – He’s scarier than heck, actually. Take Matthew 5:29, about plucking out one’s eye if it causes you to sin. That had to (dare I say it?) “raise eyebrows”? Come on, it is an outrageous saying, yet surely, He meant it, or He’s just a nut. But in the next verse He says cut off your right hand, if it, too, causes you to sin. These verses are in the famous Sermon on the Mount, of course, and verse 20 of the same chapter has this: “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

    Of course, one of the all-time classics in this line is Matthew 25, the judgment of the sheep and goats. But that same chapter has the parable of the Ten Virgins and the Parable of the Talents. All these are truly scary. How else are we to read them? (One can go through the Gospels and find many such astounding verses, of course. And they make St. Paul look like the proverbial kindly uncle.) Universalism on one level manifests as a “turning away” from such verses, and on another level, it reveals itself to be a nit-picking, like pointing out in Matthew 5, the first half of verse 19: “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” Ah, okay, so that proves everyone goes to Heaven except some of us will be lower in the hierarchy?

    But all such water-it-down readings make a mishmash of the actual narratives and teachings we have. And they “water down” the dire, terrifying news we’re getting every day, these days. What kind of monsters would should that 8-year-old girl in Atlanta, or any of the many, many others killed and maimed? What about that young mother shot for saying, “All lives matter”? Everywhere, we moderns seem to have gone morally insane. Talking up Universalism in such a society in such moral extremis is, frankly, insulting. If justice is giving something its due, universalism cannot remotely be just.

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    1. Neither Titus nor 1 Timothy are authentic compositions of Paul. They date from decades and decades later and are forgeries.

      Did you notice the numerous discrepancies and contradictions in the gospels? Apparently Jesus and his family both went straight to Jerusalem and to Egypt after he was born. His descent from David (through Joseph!!!) is different in Matthew from that in Luke. What news reports do you watch?

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    2. Have you ever read horizontal correspondence of the gospels? A work that shows the different stories and episodes in the different books? It's hard to think you have. The discrepancies and outright contradictions are myriad.

      Who did the women see when they went to Jesus' tomb?

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    3. What if the 8 year old girl in Atlanta wasn't baptized? At least her murderers only killed her body.

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    4. "Neither Titus nor 1 Timothy are authentic compositions of Paul. They date from decades and decades later and are forgeries." - Anonymous

      And you know that, how?

      Honestly, once one goes into the high weeds of "Higher Criticism," the game's over. No need to look for where the ball might have landed in those weeds. Christianity is a revealed religion, supposedly, so positing that to be true, then regardless of the modern-day mavens and their latest turn-of-the-screw criticism, God ultimately is the author of Scripture and every word of it is true, relevant, and revealed. And the Church has the authority to teach it (unless one wants to make oneself pope, à la Luther, Calvin, and so on).

      If God didn't inspire Scripture, then no one should waste time on it.

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    5. Quite right Mr. Crow. And to the goofy Mr. Anonymous who you were responding to, may I suggest getting your hands on one of Lydia McGrews' books (especially her latest):http://www.lydiamcgrew.com/

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  27. How I miss the often misguided but never weak or enfeebled champions whose roar was “SALVATION BY GRACE!” But they’re gone now and replaced by the mild and cowardly optimists who say there is no grace; in fact, there is no salvation. There is only a shallow and antiseptic “niceness” in saecula saeculorum. But hey! at least we can give them air conditioning.

    “Now, of course, . . . a Catholic does not kill himself because he does not take it for granted that he will deserve heaven in any case, or at all. He does not profess to know exactly what danger he would run; but he does know what loyalty he would violate and what command he would disregard. He actually thinks that a man might be fitter for heaven because he endured like a man; and that a hero could be a martyr to cancer as St. Lawrence or St. Cecilia were martyrs to cauldrons or gridirons. . . . The Catholic has an extremely simple and sensible reason for not cutting his throat in order to fly instantly to Paradise. But he might really raise a question for those who talk as if Paradise were invariably and instantly populated with people who had cut their throats.” G.K. Chesterton

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  28. That book review was solid entertainment, with some substantial objections. I hope Hart responds in kind. I really miss these interactions.Take care everyone!

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    1. This is just classic Feser charm! I just loved every second of it:

      “Hart makes Christ more merciful at the cost of making him incompetent.”

      This is just classic:

      “What is most striking about all of this is not its heterodoxy, and not the desperation with which it tries to bully the reader into ignoring the overwhelming weight of Christian tradition, but its sheer narcissism. . . . Even the most pious readers are bound to be less outraged by this poor man than just embarrassed for him.”

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  29. I find it stunning that, even at places like this blog, universalism is being called a "crank" position by default. In reality, and until it is conclusively proven to be true, the only position here deserving of the title "crank" is infernalism (the notion that hell is necessarily eternal). Logically speaking, just as I know that, if any sort of objective morality exists, then "it is permissible to torture children for fun" is almost certainly a false statement, I know that, if any sort of good God exists, then "God is infinitely good and chose, in the absence of coercion or necessity, to create a world where he knew that certain of his creations would ultimately experience eternal agony" is almost certainly false, as well. That is where the philosophical default lies, and that is putting it mildly. The alleged metaphysical inability of a soul to change its disposition after death is a question that is metaphysically subsequent/subservient to the deeper metaphysical question of how God, who had no need to create and was not forced to create, chose to nevertheless create with the full knowledge that many of his creations would end up in eternal agony and can still be called "infinitely good."

    Furthermore, an irrefutable fact of religious sociology is that infernalist depictions of hell are the main intellectual reasons why people consistently doubt/reject/give up Christianity, even when they're sharp, committed theists thanks in large part to the brilliant exposition of classical philosophers by writers like Feser and Hart. How is this good fruit?

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    1. To be fair, neither position is crank.

      I am a quasi-universalist but I wish there would be more respect among both sides. So-called infernalists can be insufferable at times, sharing terrible arguments and accusing universalists of being unchristian, emotional idiots etc (even though some of the greatest Christian saints and theologians have been universalists); a lot of universalists can also be insufferable, speaking from moral indignation and acting as if infernalists are immoral, and ignoring all the subtleties of arguments for hell, etc.

      Both sides need to learn to debate with more grace.

      This is why I think Hart's book was somewhat disappointing. He makes some good arguments, but the insistence on the extremely polemical tone ended up poisoning the discussion.

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    2. Furthermore, an irrefutable fact of religious sociology is that infernalist depictions of hell are the main intellectual reasons why people consistently doubt/reject/give up Christianity, even when they're sharp, committed theists

      I have, myself, never run into such persons who give up Christianity for intellectually challenging issues. In all the cases I know, the reasons have been complex, but in nearly all of them, there was first an underlying problem of ACTION: they were not living the life of the Gospel (in a serious way), they knew it, and they ultimately gave up on Christianity in order to go on living the way they wanted. They may have had intellectual problems with this or that teaching, but they wouldn't have had such grave intellectual difficulties with the issue had it not been for the other problem.

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    3. Exactly how do you know they wouldn't have had such grave intellectual difficulties with the issue but for their lifestyle? Why should they be expected to live a Christian lifestyle if they are not convinced Christianity is true? Isn't it possible you're putting the cart before the horse?

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    4. Lets be honest here, and putting Christianity aside for the moment, people *generally* believe what they *want* to believe.

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    5. Salaah wrote,

      "if any sort of good God exists, then "God is infinitely good and chose, in the absence of coercion or necessity, to create a world where he knew that certain of his creations would ultimately experience eternal agony" is almost certainly false"

      Conversely, if any sort of Justice exists, then the proposition that God would create a world where the innocent and the wicked are treated alike is certainly false. Hart’s notion of universal salvation, which proposes the same happy ending for Hitler and the victims of the Holocaust, is an outrage to all notions of justice known to men.

      Righteous indignation aside, if I understand him correctly, Hart is not arguing that people will not endure agony -- they may very endure agony for over a billion years, but the agony will eventually end.

      The obvious question then becomes: if punishment is immoral, why does God punish sinners at all? if it is moral, why is it immoral to punish unrepentant sinners for eternity?

      people consistently doubt/reject/give up Christianity... How is this good fruit?

      The fact that many people reject the deity of Jesus doesn't prove that the Christian belief is wrong. In the same vein, just because many people give up Christianity because of certain teaching doesn't mean the latter is not true. After all, people are not the supreme arbiter of Truth, even whey they all agree, not to mention people disagree on these issues.

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  30. Part of me wants universalism to be true. Sure 10,000 years of purgatory sounds rough but that's not too bad considering the promise of eternal life. But I just don't buy it. What's the urgency of converting if all will be saved anyways? I just think there's too much wailing and grinding of teeth in Jesus'parables for hell not to exist.

    On a side note, I know I would be a far worse sinner if I didn't believe in hell.

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  31. How can anyone believe in universalism if you accept that one third of the angels (now demons) who had been face to face with God chose to side with satan and thus were thrown out of heaven by St. Michael and his angels?

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  32. This is where Thomism runs off the rails. Thomists from Banez to Garrigou-Lagrange have attempted to rescue it by means of various sophisms, but to no avail.

    If universalism is not true, then one of the following possibilities must be true for individual X who is not saved, given that for any individual Y who is saved God is the cause of that salvation (a premise no Thomist would deny).

    1) God is prevented from saving X by his actions, or something else about X.
    2) God is prevented from saving X because X's salvation is metaphysically or logically impossible given the particular world X is in (specifically, given the other souls who are saved).
    3) God could have saved X, but failed to do so.

    1) makes God's action metaphysically dependent, and also raises the question of why God couldn't make X different than he is.
    2) makes X not blameworthy for his damnation, for no one can be held accountable for failing to do the impossible.
    3) In this case, again, God's failure to save makes X's salvation metaphysically impossible, and thus X is not blameworthy for his damnation. Unless God's failure to save is subsequent to something about X, in which case we are back at 1).

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    1. In order to emphasize how mysterious and unapproachable is Divine election, the Council of Trent calls predestination "hidden mystery". That predestination is indeed a sublime mystery appears not only from the fact that the depths of the eternal counsel cannot be fathomed, it is even externally visible in the inequality of the Divine choice. [...]. To all these and similar questions the only reasonable reply is the word of St. Augustine (loc. cit., 21): "Inscrutabilia sunt judicia Dei" (the judgments of God are inscrutable).

      https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12378a.htm

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  33. Hi Atno,

    You wrote:

    “ The only way to avoid quasi-universalism would be to believe either that
    1: God is not very resourceful, or isn't very interested in saving people (which is patently absurd)
    Or
    2: Terribly wicked people (to the point where they would insist on rejecting God with the utmost conviction, totally impervious to any love, redemption, hope, convincing from a maximally resourceful Creator; bent on insisting in eternal separation from the Good such that God has no realistic means available to Him to change their minds) are quite numerous, and are not just a very tiny minority of people.”

    Could there be a 3rd option:
    God intended to accept into the New Heavens and the New Earth only those who have been developed into saintly persons through the trials and circumstances in this world (this constitute relatively a minority of humans, the relatively few who walked the Narrow Way to enter the Narrow Way), while the rest (ie the majority, the Many who walked the broad and easy way to enter the Wide Gate to destruction) who are either mediocre or selfish/evil would be either annihilated (for the mediocre) or punished with great suffering (for the evil or overly selfish ones) either forever or for a period of time before annihilation?


    Regards,
    johannes hui

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    1. No, I take that third option to collapse into the first one - that God is not very resourceful or not very interested in saving people. Which I find absurd. It would imply that God doesn't really care all that much about getting people to heaven; he's interested in those that "have been developed into saintly persons", but not very interested in those who have been far more imperfect, sinful, etc. He doesn't care all that much about those, so He won't lift a finger to get them to convert and get to Heaven even if it's a realistic option for Him.

      That's part of option 1, and I find it absurd.

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  34. They've done a collection of articles in an attempt to refute Ed:


    https://sylvestjohn.org/2020/07/15/a-collatio-in-response-to-edward-fesers-review-of-david-bentley-harts-_that-all-shall-be-saved_/

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  35. Hoping for the salvation of all makes sense. God gives sufficient grace to all to be saved. Sufficient grace is truly sufficient ergo salvation is somehow in some mysterious sense really possible for the recipient (even if the grace is not efficacious). God in fact gave this grace to all. Therefore the salvation of all is really possible and if it did happen all the warnings of Hell in Holy Writ would be like Jonah's warnings to Ninevah or whatever.

    I don't have a problem with hoping this happens. Thought I don't think it will happen. But I hope for a lot of things that won't happen. I hope for a cure for autism for my kids. But I doubt it will happen.

    At least with the Von Balthazar pseudo Universalist speculation Hell was still a real possibility and danger. Indeed given its presuppositions one could also believe God might save everybody but you or me so we should never presume.

    I am cool with that. Also I still think all the kvetching done toward that view was overblown and extreme.

    Why? Because it could be worst and Hart has given us worst.

    His view sickens me because I thought he was a Classic Theist. Well he was at one point but what the Hell(pun intended) happened?

    It is "immoral" for God to allow a fallen soul to stay damned for all eternity? Since when is God a Moral Agent in Classic Theism? Is Hart taking about God or some dirty grubby Theistic Personalist "deity" I would nor wipe the shite from me arse and give as an offering too "it".

    The God of Classic Theism is the only True God! The God of Abraham and Aquinas is the Only God! The God who is not a Moral Agent unequivocally compared to a virtuous rational creature is God. The God who is The Moral Law and not a moral agent.
    The God who is a King and NOT his own Subject in His divinity(sans the exception of the Incarnation).

    I don't know what is more offensive to me? The denial of Hell all together or the implicit dirty Theistic Personalism lurking in the back round?

    I hate Theistic Personalism so very much....

    Classic Theistic God help us all and forgive Hart.

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    1. "Classic Theistic God help us all and forgive Hart."

      How in hell a classical theist can make sense of (classical) God forgiving something...

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    2. Classical theism says that God is greater than man and of a different kind than man. Which is undoubtedly true.

      However, God is not contrary to man.


      Ya'Kov, you are asserting the latter, and doing so renders all of theology vacuous. I am greater and of a different kind than a plant, but I am not contrary to a plant -- all the essential attributes of a plant are contained in me. Hart actually takes Davies to task in the book on this "not an ethical agent" point. It is a gross misunderstanding of classical theism.

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    3. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, the amoral picture of God that some have defended based on Davies completely abandons analogical language in favor of equivocal language, and is a metaphysical mess. As Esmond put it, God is different in kind from men, but it is like this through being greater than man; by the very principle of proportionate causality all perfections in man must be present in God. Davies makes it seem as if God is entirely unlike the virtuous, however, which is nonsensical.

      (Also reminder that we need theodicy).

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  36. I read an interesting argument that Hell has to be an original Christian teaching, because the idea of Hell is so abhorrent to us, that if anyone tried to introduce it at a later point, it would be universally rejected.

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  37. This debate has been repeated among many blog sites. I fear that many of you are deeply infected by the heresies of the Enlightenment, Liberalism and the consequent rejection of the universal effects of Original Sin in every person born on earth, the main sin being "non serviam".

    One is surrounded by "nice", "good" people who live polite, civilised lives, many involved in "good works" through their whole lives. Yet, they will not serve. They have deep within their hearts the age-old rebellion against God. Even those who struggle through life in living with God, still have the scars of that rebellion - even the saints themselves.

    At death I can imagine a conversation between Our Lord and one of these "nice" souls. "I have done all these good works and have not committed any great sins". And Our Lord's answer? "You present me with an array of works as excuses, which I have given you the grace to do, and yet I have called you all your life to raise your heart to Me, to pray, to give up your enjoyments at least one day a week for Me, and you have refused Me. And right now you are still resisting the Sacrificial Love of the Cross for love of Me. Go, I do not know you!"

    So, this debate may be the wrong way around: few are chosen, many condemned. "Will I see faith on earth when I return?"

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  38. A few comments on the Catholic Herald article (I could say a lot more, but I will limit myself). "If we say that the punishment Christ threatens is not really everlasting, then we also have to say that the reward he promises – in the same breath, and using the same language – is not everlasting either". You know what, some universalists don't actually have a problem with that. Some universalists believe that the reward promised by Christ is not the ultimate final state of humanity, but rather a prelude, a preliminary, a preparation for it. If both heaven and hell are finite and temporary, then the later may be a detour that some take on the way to the former, with even the former just a journey, a passing, a passage on to something even greater. (I think that, maybe, heaven is in some form of time, and at its end we step out of time altogether and into eternity.)

    "The reason is that the intellect’s attention can be pulled away from what it judges to be good and worth pursuing only by the senses and imagination, and these go when the body goes" – if loss of the senses and imagination causes the will to become fixed, why wouldn't their subsequent restoration at the resurrection of the body cause the will to become unfixed? Also, should we really believe that the dead (whether saved or damned) are lacking in imagination until the bodily ressurection? And are the dead (whether saved or damned) awaiting bodily resurrection blind and deaf? My late grandmother used to tell me that once she died she hoped to be looking down on me from heaven; I don't think she meant that entirely literally – I am sure she didn't think heaven is literally up, that is just a figure of speech; I never asked her, but I guess she probably believed it was somehow beyond this physical universe – but I doubt any Thomist ever told her that she'd be without sensation or imagination either. I think many Christians believe the dead can "see" us, even if not with physical eyes, but a form of sensation nonetheless.

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    1. As I understand the Thomistic view: the human person has a capacity for sense and imagination. In the ordinary working of that capacity, the body and soul cooperate to have a functioning sense or imagination. The eye has to work, and the retina, and the optical nerve, and the optical center of the brain for processing, AND the soul has to apply its faculty for seeing. For imagination, the brain is a necessary part of the normal function. When the person dies, there is no normal pathway available in which the dead person can see, or imagine. However, the faculty of soul remains. Therefore, God can, in the case of a saint (for example) enable the person to still function by using sight and imagination, by supernaturally providing the missing activity normally provided by the body. Thus a person in heaven or purgatory can see and hear and imagine because God sidesteps the lack of a body. The same applies to the person in Hell, I suppose, but I am not sure why God would apply a supernatural aid for them to see or imagine - though I suppose He can.

      There is a second reason a person in Heaven cannot sin, besides the lack of a body: once they have the Beatific Vision, seeing God "face to face", not through created forms and thus limited, but seeing Him as He really is in Himself, the saint then sees in a way that cannot be hidden or not present to the mind that there could not possibly be any better good than God, so it is impossible for the saint to avert his gaze to some other good as if it might be preferable. Once the human will is thus suffused with that which manifestly fulfills human desire in every possible way, there is no way for the human will to stray.

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  39. LOL and now John Milbank has decided to show up and expose how radically "orthodox" he is too:

    https://twitter.com/johnmilbank3/status/1285068967883792385?s=19

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  40. This is the dumbest review I have read of Hart's book. Dianelos Georgoudis hits the nail on the head in the combox. I'm profoundly disappointed in Feser here.

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  41. Hart will respond, and I quote "DBH's response to Feser's review [snip] will be posted on Eclectic Orthodoxy either Tuesday or Wednesday". I really hope some productive discussion may issue. We are all theists and lovers of the truth.

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