Thursday, January 27, 2022

Hell is not empty

We’ve been talking about Balthasar’s view that we may at least hope that all human beings are saved.  Now, Balthasar was a Catholic theologian who was careful to try to avoid contradicting definitive Church teaching on the subject.  That is why he does not endorse the universalist view that all must and therefore definitely will be saved, which is heretical (as is shown here and here).  But it is also significant that in the title of his famous book on the subject, he is careful to frame his question: “Dare we hope ‘that all men be saved’?”  In other words, he’s asking about whether all human beings might be saved.  He’s not asking whether all creatures with intellect and will, including fallen angels, might be saved.  Indeed, in the book he says, of demonic powers:

Let it be said at the outset that theological hope can by no means apply to this power.  The sphere to which redemption by the Son who became man applies is unequivocally that of mankind[O]ne cannot agree with Barth’s claim that the angels had no freedom of choice and that the myth of a “fall of the angels” is thus to be rejected absolutely[T]he doctrine of a fall of the angels, which is deeply rooted in the whole of Tradition, becomes not only plausible but even, if the satanic is accepted as existent, inescapable. (pp. 113-14)

To be sure, Balthasar then goes on to speculate about whether the concept of “person” would still apply to a fallen angel – on the grounds that persons typically exist in a way that involves relationship with other persons, and those who have permanently opted for evil have thereby locked themselves into a selfishness that prevents a proper relationship with others.  Now, this is pretty woolly metaphysics.  For one thing, persons fixed on evil cannot enter into healthy relationships to other persons, but that doesn’t mean they cannot enter into any relationships at all.  For another thing (and as Balthasar seems not to deny), demons would still retain intellect and will even if they no longer had any relationships even of a defective kind with other persons.  That would suffice to make them persons, certainly on a Thomistic analysis.  Anyway, however we choose to characterize them, Balthasar does not seem to deny that demons are forever lost, so that we cannot hope for their salvation.

The reason, no doubt, is that that too is something required by Catholic orthodoxy.  As the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) teaches:

He will come at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, to render to every person according to his works, both to the reprobate and to the elect.  All of them will rise with their own bodies, which they now wear, so as to receive according to their deserts, whether these be good or bad; for the latter perpetual punishment with the devil, for the former eternal glory with Christ.

Even if you were to argue that this does not entail that there will in fact be any human being who suffers perpetual punishment (as opposed to entailing the mere possibility of this happening), it cannot reasonably be denied that it entails that the devil suffers perpetual punishment.  Similarly, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “there is no repentance for the angels after their fall,” so that the demons’ choice against God is “irrevocable” and their sin “unforgivable” (393).  This teaching is found also in scripture:

Then he will say to those at his left hand, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.(Matthew 25: 41, 45-46)

And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20:10)

So, no Catholic can, consistent with orthodoxy, claim that hell is empty.  At the very least, the fallen angels are in hell and there is no hope whatsoever for their repentance.  Even Balthasar admits this.  At least for the Catholic, this constitutes an absolute boundary beyond which orthodox speculation on the subject of hell cannot go.  It’s not just that it cannot be affirmed that all creatures must and will be saved.  It’s that it must be affirmed that some are damned – the demons, at the very least.

What does this tell us about whether any human beings are damned?  Quite a lot.  For one thing, it undermines the main ground for the Balthasarian hope that at least all human beings might be saved.  The argument is that God wills all human beings to be saved, as is affirmed in passages like 1 Timothy 2:3-4.  If God wills it, then, it is argued, that gives us good grounds to hope that it will happen.  But God also obviously willed that all the angels would be saved, and yet it is certain that some are damned anyway.  So, why would God’s willing that all human beings be saved make it any more likely they will all in fact be saved?  (In Book XXI, Chapter 17 of The City of God, St. Augustine makes the related point that it is absurd to appeal to divine mercy as an argument for the salvation of all human beings, while conceding that the demons are lost forever despite God’s mercy.)

If anything, it is a priori far less likely that all human beings will be saved than that all angels will be.  Angels have far more powerful intellects and wills than we do, and being incorporeal, they lack the passions that can blind the intellect and overwhelm the will.  They cannot fall into the kind and number of errors that lead human beings into sin, and they cannot be distracted from the good by feelings of anger, lust, craving for alcohol or drugs, etc.  So, if even many angels are nevertheless damned, it is a priori extremely improbable at best – and, really, practically impossible – that no human beings are damned. 

That much alone should make any Catholic wary of putting much stock in the suggestion that there is any hope that all human beings will be saved.  But much more can be said.  I noted in my previous post that Bl. Pope Pius IX, in The Syllabus of Errors, condemned the following proposition: “Good hope at least is to be entertained of the eternal salvation of all those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ.”  But what about those who are in it?  Well, Pope Pius II, in 1459, condemned the proposition “that all Christians are to be saved” (cf. Denzinger 717b).  Of the human race in general, the Council of Quiersy in 853 taught that “omnipotent God wishes all men without exception to be saved, although not all will be saved” (cf. Denzinger 318).  Note that the council explicitly says that in fact not all will be saved even though God desires that they be saved. 

Such doctrinal statements are perfectly in line with what scripture clearly teaches, in passages like these:

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

And some one said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”  (Luke 13:23-24)

Many, many more passages could be cited from both scripture and tradition.  The blindingly obvious implication is that some human beings will in fact be damned – indeed, Christ’s own statements, made in response to a direct question about the matter in the case of the passage from Luke’s gospel, imply that most people will be damned. 

And yet Balthasarians tie themselves in logical knots trying to find loopholes in these various statements by which a hope for the salvation of all might squeak through on a technicality.  This is an absolutely bizarre way to do theology.  It’s comparable to a doctor who, looking at the grim statistics on pancreatic cancer, notes that it is nevertheless at least possible to survive it, and then chirpily tells his patients: “We can at least hope that all pancreatic cancer patients will survive!”  After all, if it is possible for some, isn’t it possible for all?

In the case of pancreatic cancer, though survival is possible, a number of things have to go right in order for this to happen, and because it is in most cases highly improbable that they will all go right, there is simply no realistic hope at all that the possibility of survival will be realized in every case.  But the same thing is true with respect to the salvation of souls.  It’s not enough to note that, in the abstract, any particular soul could be saved.  We also have to ask what, specifically, has to happen in order for the salvation of a soul to occur, and how probable it is that it will occur in every single case.  Once we do that, the notion that we can hope for the salvation of all can once again be seen a priori to be laughably unrealistic.

Here’s what the Church says has to go right.  If you are a Catholic guilty of mortal sin, you must repent of it with a firm purpose of avoiding such sin in the future, you must have at least imperfect contrition (that is to say, sorrow for sin because you fear divine punishment or abhor the ugliness of sin), and you must in the case of imperfect contrition actually receive absolution in the sacrament of confession.   If you have not received such absolution, then you can still be saved if you have perfect contrition (that is to say, sorrow for sin out of love of God) and at least the intention to go to confession and receive absolution.  Without meeting these conditions, you cannot be saved.  For example, if you lack perfect contrition, never go to confession, and die, you will not be saved.  If you are outside the visible boundaries of the Church, then you can still be saved, but only if you have perfect contrition and at least an implicit desire for baptism.  If you lack these upon death, you cannot be saved.

Now, there is, of course, more to be said about these criteria, and various qualifications to be made.  For example, what counts as perfect contrition, or as an implicit desire for baptism?  I would argue for a fairly broad interpretation of these concepts.  For instance, I would argue that one might have, through no fault of his own, many false beliefs about the divine nature yet still plausibly be said to have perfect contrition or sorrow for sin out of love for God. 

But by no means does anything go.  For example, a person whose entire live is devoted to making money and partying, and who treats morality and religion as matters of complete indifference or even scorn, can hardly be said to have perfect contrition even if in some banal sense he’s a “nice guy.”  Hence, if he suddenly dies, it is hardly likely that he will be saved.  Is it possible, for some particular person like this, that there is a deeper side to him that the world does not see?  Sure.  Maybe there are recesses of his soul that only God sees, in which perfect contrition is evident, so that his death does not entail his damnation.  But is it remotely likely that every single person who lives like this is really perfectly contrite deep down, and thus might be saved – even though not even all the angels are saved?  The very idea is preposterous.  And here I am talking about immoral lives of just the everyday, ordinary kind.  When we factor in far more morally depraved people (murderers, rapists, drug dealers, etc.) it is even more absurd to suppose that every single one of them might die in a state of perfect contrition.

Scripture itself indicates even of some specific human beings that they are lost.  Revelation 20:10, quoted above, indicates that the beast and false prophet of the last days will be damned.  Jude 7 states that “Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.”  Christ says of Judas that “it would have been better for that man if he had not been born” (Matthew 26:24) and “I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition” (John 17:12). 

Here too some people resort to mental gymnastics to try to get around the clear meaning of these texts.  None of these efforts is credible, and there is no point in even attempting such creative reinterpretations unless one is operating with the background assumption that it is plausible that all might be saved.  Once we see that (for the reasons I’ve been spelling out) this is not plausible, any residual motivation for straining to see in these texts anything but the implication that the people referred to are damned drops away.

All the same, I expect that many will prefer to cling to false hope.  Christ himself could appear to them and say: “Listen very carefully and read my lips: Some people are in hell,” and they would respond: “Lord, you mean that just as a warning that some might go to hell, right?  Or maybe you mean ‘people’ in some unusual sense.  And what exactly does ‘hell’ mean, anyway?  Come to think of it, ‘some,’ ‘are’ and ‘in’ could mean all sorts of things too.  Lord, you sure speak in mysteries, but I trust that some day you’ll reveal to us what all this means.  Anyway, until then we can hope!”

Or perhaps they would accuse Christ of wanting people to go to hell, as theologians and churchmen who warn about hell are routinely accused of doing.  This is as irrational as accusing the doctor who warns of the low survival rate of pancreatic cancer of wanting people to die from it.  No Catholic wants anybody to go to hell; certainly I don’t.  And I submit that those who warn of it are more compassionate, not less, than those who preach false hope.

Related posts:

How to go to hell

Does God damn you?

Why not annihilation?

A Hartless God?

No hell, no heaven

Speaking (what you take to be) hard truths ≠ hatred

Hart, hell, and heresy

No urgency without hell

Scripture and the Fathers contra universalism

Popes, creeds, councils and catechisms contra universalism

Geach on Hell

A fallacy in Balthasar


  1. So for the Catholic church I cannot be forgiven for mortal sin unless I go to confession? (Obviously I see the qualification for people who die without opportunity of confession etc).

    1. You could also make what we call a perfect act of contrition and that would absolve you of mortal sin. That is where you choose or aspire by grace to be sorry not so much because of God's just punishment but out of love for the God you offended.

      Here is the difference by way of analogy. A man gets caught cheating in the act by his wife. He is sorry in one of two ways. The imperfect way her yelling at him and beating him with a frying pan and he is sorry because of the pain this will cause him.
      vs The perfect way. He looks directly into his wife's eyes when she catches him and sees the hurt and humiliation she feels and knows he caused it and regrets doing that and is sorry he hurt his wife.

      So if ye sin and ye are not Catholic. Make a perfect act of contrition. I am sorry Oh God not so much because of your just punishment but because of my love for thee.

      Carry on.

    2. You would still have to intend to get yourself to confession. You can't think, "I don't need to go to confession, I'll have perfect contrition." If someone is deliberately avoiding confession, that's a sign that they probably aren't sufficiently contrite.

    3. Yes thanks.

      But for *catholics* perfect contrition by itself only works if there's no opportunity to go to confession right?

      So you cannot make an act of perfect contrition and then wait for your yearly confession (for example).

    4. "But for *catholics* perfect contrition by itself only works if there's no opportunity to go to confession right?

      "So you cannot make an act of perfect contrition and then wait for your yearly confession (for example)."

      I certainly wouldn't want to bet my soul in the possibility that I could wait till my yearly confession. But waiting till my weekly Saturday confession might be OK. (What I'd be most worried about, though, is the possibility that my contrition wasn't as perfect as I flattered myself that it was. For that reason, I'd want to get to confession as soon as possible just as a prudent fail-safe measure.)

    5. SpergBurglar I was modelling that for non-Catholic for whom it would never occur to go to confession.

      Cheers bro.

    6. @Seamus

      Contrition is an act of the will. You are making the mistake of equating feeling sorry with being sorry. Even idiots who never repent feel some guilt over their actions.

      You must ask for the Grace to make a perfect act of contrition and then you make a perfect act of contrition.

      cheers guy.

    7. Seamus makes a good point. For the Catholic, in order for the intention of perfect contrition to be adequate, it must include at least implicitly an intention to confess the sin, and to do so as soon as reasonably available. This "reasonably" leaves room for ordinary daily activities, and precludes leaving it for many months, since none of us have schedules so chock-full of daily duties as to leave no room for confession more frequently than once in many months.

      And because we tend to fool ourselves about our own motives for things (and because our own motives are very often mixed), it is extremely difficult to be justifiably confident that your contrition was sufficient for that forgiveness.

      So, as Fr. Z says: go to confession.

    8. Even non-Catholics can, under grave circumstances, receive absolution by a Catholic priest. See 1401 of the Catechism.

    9. @Anon from 9:55 AM

      "1401 When, in the Ordinary's judgment, a grave necessity arises, Catholic ministers may give the sacraments of Eucharist, Penance, and Anointing of the Sick to other Christians not in full communion with the Catholic Church, who ask for them of their own will, provided they give evidence of holding the Catholic faith regarding these sacraments and possess the required dispositions."

      This seems to suppose that the person is baptized, for we are talking about a christian, though. Aren't most protestants technically part of the Church because of their baptism being a functional one?

  2. Interesting distinction you make there boss. I would say it is possible all humans might be saved but I dinny think it is plausible. I still don't see why I can't hope unless it is shown to me specific persons are in Hell? Grace makes all salvation possible and I would never underestimate it. Thought I would also caution against presuming on it.

    >All the same, I expect that many will prefer to cling to false hope. Christ himself could appear to them and say: “Listen very carefully and read my lips: Some people are in hell,” and they would respond:

    Well if you want to quibble Benedict XIV taught private revelations are not infallible. If what you described above happened would it not be a private revelation?

    Now if the Church formally defines their are in fact human beings right now in Hell then Von Balthazar's speculation will go the way of Aquinas teaching on the immaculate conception post Pius IX.

    I will still hope for the salvation of all. It is not gonna happen but I will hope.

    1. Hi Son of Yakov,

      It isn't absolutely impossible that I will become a football star, despite having zero interest in or talent for that and despite being in, shall we say, not the best physical shape for it. Does that give me grounds for hope? Should I go on and on about how there is at least hope that I will become a football star? Maybe even write a book about it? ("Dare We Hope That Feser Becomes a Football Star?")

      Of course not. The mere abstract possibility is so extremely thin that the "hope" is vacuous. So too for all sorts of other things -- the abstract possibility that God will grant me the power of levitation so that I can save money on gasoline, the abstract possibility that there is $1,000,000 in cash hidden under my floorboards, etc. In some sense these things are not impossible, but that gives no grounds whatsoever for hope that they will happen. Indeed, I would say it is psychologically impossible, for a normal mind, anyway, to find grounds for hope in these things.

      In the same way, the bare abstract possibility of all human beings being saved does not by itself give any grounds at all for actual hope that they will be. The difference is this. God has not given us positive evidence that I will not become a football star, or grant me the power of levitation, or put $1,000,000 under my floorboards. But there is (as I note in the post) positive evidence from scripture, tradition, and what the Church teaches about the preconditions of salvation, that not all human beings are saved.

    2. So we agree there is an abstract remote possibility God will somehow save everybody so I can have an abstract remote hope?

      Reminds me of the ugly guy who asks out the supermodel and she rebuffs him saying "not unless you where the last man on Earth and I was struck blind and brain damaged". He replies with a gleam in his eyes "So you saying there is a chance? NICE!" :D

      Works for me. No seriously. If ye concede a remote abstract hope I will take it. Why not?

      Hope is hope however seemingly futile.

      Cheers boss.

    3. Does hope means just a possibility?
      Hope should be something more active,

    4. So we agree there is an abstract remote possibility God will somehow save everybody so I can have an abstract remote hope?

      What you seem to be describing is a wish, not a hope. As in, we can wish that all men were saved (in a sense that we cannot wish that square circles were real) even though we know that they aren't.

      Hope implies not just a logical possibility, but an active possibility.

    5. I think your definition of "hope" is "wishful thinking," and not something meant by Christian hope.

    6. "Dare We Hope That Feser Becomes a Football Star?"

      Sold. Instant best-seller. Critics rave: "Thought-provoking and inspiring!"

  3. All the time, I get people who think that Christianity is immoral because it teaches that people outside of the Church are likely to go to Hell if they don't have an implicit desire for Baptism. They consider this "fearmongering." How do you argue against this?

    1. They consider this "fearmongering." How do you argue against this?

      What's there to argue against? It's just a silly ad hominem.

    2. Professor Feser,

      It's a very common obstacle when I try to do apologetics online. I get people who claim that Christianity is evil for positing that people who do not follow the commands of Christ and are part of the Church will go to Hell. Once you hit that wall, they will not budge. I find that the people who do this most often are one of two types. The first says "There are good people in all religions" and argue that (for instance) a morally-upstanding Buddhist shouldn't go to Hell for believing the wrong things. They are generally people who see all religions as equally valid paths to salvation. The second says "Christ is the way to salvation, so you don't have to be a part of the Church to get to Heaven. You just need to believe in Jesus." They are usually non-denominational Protestants of one kind or another. Both groups oppose the idea that people can go to Hell for believing something that isn't Church orthodoxy. They honestly seem to think that one can believe in anything and make it into Heaven so long as they're a "good person."

      I ask this in good faith, as it's really difficult to talk to people like this. Many of these people are otherwise open to honest dialogue, but the very idea that they could go to Hell for believing something heterodox makes them squirm. How do you get past this wall?

    3. I wouldn't say that Christianity is evil, but I'm critical of the way it attempts to persuade people of its authority. The doctrine of heaven and hell (carrot & stick) is not based on rational arguments or empirical evidence, but is an example of the fallacy of "appeal to consequences".

      I consider myself a classical theist, largely thanks to Prof. Feser's writings, but I can't reconcile it with traditional Christian doctrine. For me there is a yawning gulf between them. But, that would be going too far off-topic.

    4. Mr. Geocon,

      I do not think there is a way to get past this wall using rational apologetics. I think Ed does a fantastic job of laying out the argument for the natural law basis for Catholicism, and I think that I am not alone in having been convinced of basics like the existence of God, the immateriality of the intellect/existence of the human soul, objective natures, final causality, moderate realism, and moral realism derived from the foregoing. However, I think Catholicism itself admits that the rational intellect can only get that far. What makes one person accept that the specific, REVEALED claims of one faith are true? There is no arguing for the Trinity, for Christ's two-fold nature, for a resolution to God's foreknowledge and human moral responsibility, for the need for the sacraments, and so on, using pure natural reason. I think your issues with defending the doctrine of Hell fall into that category. It is easy enough to rationally defend the notion that an omnibenevolent God maintains a Hell in some sense, but I do not think it is rationally arguable that the conditions for avoiding Hell require, specifically, the desire for the Catholic sacrament of baptism and absolution from a priest in cases of imperfect contrition.
      Here is where the apologeticist from every religion or sect has to throw up his hands and say, God gives the grace that leads to the true church (i.e. mine), there is no reasoning one's way into accepting things only known through revelation.

    5. I would wonder the origins of the moral standard your interlocutor is applying that allows him to judge a Christian teaching immoral. I would think it evil for a God to create a cosmos in which He says we have free will, and everything in our life appears as if our wills are free, and then, for one who freely chooses "not God" on the last day, He says "well, you're not THAT free."

    6. One thing it may be possible to do is CLARIFY the claimed teaching that "(all) unbaptized people go to hell" or "everyone not visibly a member of the Roman Catholic Church goes to hell." That isn't actually what the Church teaches. In fact, the Church explicitly teaches that the sacraments are the ordinary channels of grace, but that these do not bind God to not giving grace outside the ordinary channels: He can sanctify someone without the benefit of an outward baptism, and who would remain not visibly a member of the Church.

      The most carefully nuanced declaration of the Church on this is, roughly: one who recognizes that the Catholic Church is the one church founded by God for salvation, and wills to remain outside of it, is not saved. In a fully Catholic country where the necessary data to make a judgment about whether the Catholic Church is the one Church founded by God is easily available, in such conditions one who either (a) knows the necessary information and still refuses to join, or (b) refuses to LOOK at information about God and His revealed religion enough to discover what can be known readily enough, are both condemned by their choice - the one by a direct action, the other a willing omission. The sloppy, old style "those who are not baptized Catholic are condemned" was only ever a loose approximation or 'rule of thumb' for some kinds of situations and not universally valid.

      All the same, I think that Geocon's comment harbors a separate issue as well: the notion that "harping on Hell" is (always) fearmongering, because (in their view) Hell either doesn't really exist at all, or only the absolute worst among us (Hitlers and Stalins), not for most people. These are likely to be underlying attitudes, not explicitly held propositions. The antidote to this attitude may not be argumentation, per se. It may require other kinds of address, perhaps something that enlarges the moral imagination so that the person can encompass (as a feeling or intuition) that a universe with justice just plain needs a residence for unremitting evil. Perhaps a novel or a play or songs or epic poetry. Or they need your prayers and sacrifice, not your debate. You can't reach everyone with a true proposition, no matter how well stated.

    7. Another thing to consider is that these guys from the first type seems to have a non-cristian concept of being a good person. The average guy today seems to think that a good person is someone who does not kill, does not act egoistic, does not let injustice prevails etc, being a good person is just acting good because it is good, a sort of kantism.

      But that is not the christian view at all, a good person is not just someone who do good acts but someone who loves God completely and is in a good relationship with Him, for that is a truly healthy human. To be sure it does include good acts, one can't love someone and trashs what the beloved loves, but a fullfiled person is actually someone who is a temple of the Holy Spirit, good acts are a consequence of that.

      I don't know how well it would go on real life to defend that, but it is a necessary step. I suppose that starting, say, with a example of a person who acts well for bad reasons would be helpful, don't know.

  4. "Or perhaps they would accuse Christ of wanting people to go to hell, as theologians and churchmen who warn about hell are routinely accused of doing. This is as irrational as accusing the doctor who warns of the low survival rate of pancreatic cancer of wanting people to die from it. No Catholic wants anybody to go to hell; certainly I don’t. And I submit that those who warn of it are more compassionate, not less, than those who preach false hope."

    I certainly agree that if a place of eternal physical torment exists called "Hell", Christians are doing the world a HUGE favor by warning us of it. But if Hell is nothing more than eternal separation from the Christian god, most non-Christians, theists and non-theists, would say, "So what!". Christians can claim that such separation from their god would be more painful than being burned alive or some other physical punishment, but how would they know this??

    If Christians/Catholics truly want all unbelievers to be saved, wouldn't it be a good start to be clear about what exactly occurs in Hell and where it is? All this vague philosophical talk about what it may or may not be certainly looks to this unbeliever as though you don't have very good evidence for the existence of this place (or state of mind).

    1. Gary,

      Your comments here and in the previous post all amount to the "But you didn't prove everything in this one post!" type, which (no offense) I have long considered the single most uninteresting type of comment possible.

      This post and the previous one are devoted to one fairly narrow issue, which is whether views like Balthasar's are reasonable given what Balthasarians and their critics have in common, viz. the general background Catholic premises about the conditions of salvation.

      Of course, not everyone shares those premises. So, shouldn't Catholics say something in defense of them to those who don't? Of course, and I and lots of other people have done so elsewhere (e.g. I have much more to say about hell in the posts listed above under "Related posts"). But that is not what this particular post happens to be about. So just repeating "Where is hell? Where is hell?" over and over as if it were some badass retort is really rather silly.

    2. If you would kindly point me to a specific post in which you tell us where you believe Hell is located, I will leave this post and direct my comments there. Thanks.

    3. Gary,

      We need to draw a distinction here between the condition of the damned after death but before the resurrection of the body, and their condition after the resurrection of the body at the last judgment.

      After death but before the resurrection of the body, the souls of the damned -- precisely because they are separated from the body -- are not in the material world. Hence they are not in any particular location in space, so that to ask where they are located is a category mistake.

      After the resurrection of the body at the last judgment, the bodies of the damned will be restored to them, and thus it would make sense in that context to ask there they are located -- the answer being that they will be located somewhere in the material world as it will exist in a transformed state after the last judgment. But that hasn't happened yet.

      Hence to ask where hell is now, before the last judgment, is a question that rests upon false assumptions about the current condition of the damned.

    4. Very interesting. I did not know that was the Catholic position on Hell. So would you say that the souls of the damned are in another dimension at this point in time? Does fire exist in this other dimension or will people only experience the pain of fire after the Judgment, when their bodies have been reunited with their souls?

      And if the souls of the damned are not in a material place, but in another dimension, would the same hold true for deceased believers? Are the "saints" existing in a non-material "heaven" now but will exist in a material heaven after the Judgment?


    5. Immaterial things don't have a location, except for anywhere that they might "acting" on. Angelic beings are wherever they are having an effect on. I suppose you could imply the same for those in Purgatory & Heaven who pray for us. This is where we reach the limit of our understanding, because we can't really imagine what it would be like to be an immaterial soul without a body.

    6. So, at this moment, there is no hell, since there hasn't been any last judgment yet.
      So, I gather there is no hell, yet hell is not empty.
      Makes perfect Sense.

    7. Gary,

      A few analogies help me understand immaterial things:
      1. Human thoughts, dreams, imaginings - where do they take place? Where are they located? Not "in another dimension" - not anywhere!
      2. In open-world RPG games, or Second Life, or some kind of virtual world, the events are also not taking place "anywhere." (This is less useful, because admittedly the virtual world is illusory and sustained by at least two rational minds interpreting simultaneous moving pictures, but I think it still helps grasp the concept of unlocated immateriality).

    8. Souls of the damned are not in "another dimension" enough of the Star Trek crap....

      Like all religious fundamentalist you have a pseudo materialist/physicalist mindset.

      If there is a truth behind yer view Gary it is disembodied soul are existing wholly other than how we exist.

    9. "Immaterial things don't have a location"

      What evidence do you have for this claim or is this something you believe by blind faith?

    10. Concepts such as "justice", "equality", and "fairness" are immaterial. Are you suggesting that Hell, Heaven, and Purgatory are similar?

    11. How do Catholics/Christians know that an immaterial Hell exists now or that a material Hell will exist in the future??? Is there evidence that over circa 110,000,000,000 human souls (the estimated number of human beings who have lived and died), exist, at this very moment, in “non-space”, awaiting a judgment day, after which they will be consigned to a material heaven or a material hell? Of course not. There is NO evidence for this claim whatsoever. This is all conjecture! It is all conjecture based on blind faith in an ancient middle eastern religious text and the testimony of the early “Church”, whose members consisted primarily of “unlearned” (scientifically ignorant) peasants and fishermen, by their own admission.

      And, please don’t appeal to the evidence for a creator god for your belief in non-material places of doom and eternal bliss. Evidence for a creator god, which I freely admit may exist, does not in any way infer that the creator god is an immaterial being (spirit/ghost) . For all we know, the creator god, at this very moment, is working in a laboratory at the NIH.

      So if Dr. Feser is right, that Hell (and Heaven) do not exist materially in this universe; and “Yakov” is right that Hell does not exist in an alternative reality (in another dimension), then Hell only exists as an immaterial concept in the minds of those who believe in it! And if a place of eternal torment only exists in your mind (imagination), my dear Catholic philosophers, why are you teaching this concept to little children?

    12. @Gary to my eyes you are breathlessly recounting the typical arguments of teenagers which I remember well. That Christianity was invented by fishermen and herdsmen (jobs that are low status, thus bad according to the worldly view), that God is a ghost like out of Ghostbusters, and maybe places like hell are just imagined instead of real. This is not very compelling stuff now that I'm twice as old as when I was reading about it.
      What you need here is the humility to start from the basics such as properly understanding God and exploring the basis for each Christian claim instead of assuming the basis isn't real and an idea of gods who are powerful ghosts or men instead of the one true ground of being which is God.
      You also must abandon, at least in your exploration, ideas of empiricism, materialism, and other notions embraced by atheists. Rather than dispassionately confirming ideas of religion are false, they exist for the purpose of feeling validated in one's non-belief. I've seen new such crude philosophies be invented in my lifetime, also for the purpose of building a levee against the hurricane Katrina of realizing the truth of God in the mind of an atheist or other kind of non-believer. That sort of desperation, and perception of being ruinous to oneself to realize he needs to become a Christian, is the sort of thing that leads to the state of Hell after death. And so hell can already be seen in what one can see of the psychological states of non-believers. All elements of the faith can be justified rationally, but you have to be willing to take that journey instead of assuming at the start that the journey can't be taken. Assumptions like that are part of what God will judge people for.

    13. As I have previously stated, I am more than willing to admit that evidence for a creator god may exist. A "hard" atheist would never make such an admission. I respect evidence, whether it supports my worldview or not.

      But there is no evidence for Hell. None whatsoever. Christians can't even agree upon what it is. Dr. Feser insists that Hell is not empty, but then turns around and says it does not yet exist.

      Debating abstract philosophical concepts such as the existence of absolute morality is one thing. Debating whether little children should be taught that if they do not obey the teachings of their parents' religion they will suffer eternal torment in a place or state of mind which you cannot prove exists is quite another.

    14. ut then turns around and says it does not yet exist.

      I said no such thing. Of course I think it exists, since I think that some people have been damned. What I said is that it is only after the resurrection that these people will get their bodies back, in which case it will be intelligible to ask for some spatial location of those bodies. Until then, hell exists as an unalterably miserable condition of their souls.

      You keep conceptualizing hell as some location in current time and space for which we should be able to give coordinates, directions via Google maps, or whatever. But that's just a hang-up of your own, and has nothing to do with Catholic doctrine or Scholastic theology.

      As to proving that hell exists, again, it is silly to ask me to do everything in one post. But if you're looking for something analogous to satellite imagery or the like, you're barking up the wrong tree.

      The proper procedure is twofold. First, there are purely philosophical arguments that establish (1) the immaterial nature of the intellect and (2) its survival of the death of the body. Then it is argued that (3) the orientation of the person either toward or away from God gets locked in at death, given that (4) this basic orientation is alterable only while the intellect is still associated with matter. Then it is argued that (5) this evil orientation both entails some degree of suffering all on its own, but also (6) that God (whose existence, will, etc. are argued for via yet other philosophical arguments) will inflict punitive suffering on the evildoer as well, for as long as it is unrepentant (which will be forever).

      The second sort of argument is from divine revelation, which begins with general arguments for the claim that God really has given a special revelation through scripture, tradition, and the magisterium of the Church, and that part of what is contained in this revelation is the teaching that some are damned.

      I have addressed various aspects of this overall case in various places, and in part in some of the earlier posts linked to at the end of this one.

      Naturally, this is not the sort of stuff that it is reasonable to expect me to repeat every time I write on the topic of hell, and it is obviously not possible to present it all in a combox response. But the arguments are all there, some of them in things I have written but also in things lots of other people have written. You should not assume that, just because you are unfamiliar with them or because other people are not inclined to write all this stuff up for you in a combox exchange, that the arguments don't exist.

    15. Your philosophical arguments in support of the belief that (1) the intellect is immaterial in nature and that (2) the intellect continues to exist after the body is dead are hotly contested. You do admit that, right? There is no consensus on this issue among biologists, other scientists, or philosophers. Contested evidence is weak evidence.

      (3) Your claim that the orientation of a person either toward or away from God gets locked in at death has no scientific support whatsoever. Now you are purely in the realm of theology. Weak evidence.

      (4) Ditto for your claim that this basic orientation is alterable only while the intellect is still associated with matter. Pure theological/philosophical speculation. Weak evidence.

      And (5) and (6) are even more extreme theological speculation. Christians themselves don't agree on these issues. Liberal Protestant Christians say you and the magisterium are absolutely wrong about Christian Scriptures teaching that God inflicts suffering on human beings. You may disagree, but again, contested evidence is weak evidence.

      "The second sort of argument is from divine revelation, which begins with general arguments for the claim that God really has given a special revelation through scripture, tradition, and the magisterium of the Church, and that part of what is contained in this revelation is the teaching that some are damned."

      The authorship of the Gospels and Acts are hotly contested. Even the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops rejects the traditional authorship of the Gospels and they even question the eyewitness/associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels and Acts. How good of evidence is contested eyewitness testimony from 2,000 years ago?? Once again, weak evidence.

      The early Church, in particular the apostles (the magisterium), consisted primarily of Galilean peasants, whom the Bible itself states were "unlearned". Why do Catholics put so much blind faith in the testimony of these ancient, superstitious people? How is blind faith in the magisterium any more intelligent than the Protestant's blind faith in the inerrancy of an ancient book??

      So while you and your readers engage in sophisticated philosophical debates, children in Catholic Sunday School and catechism classes are being taught that if they do not adhere to the teachings of their parent's religion, they will suffer unspeakable eternal punishment in "Hell". How can you justify the fear-based indoctrination of children with such very weak evidence?

    16. "But there is no evidence for Hell. None whatsoever."

      Just out of idle curiosity: What would you consider as "evidence for Hell"?

      Do you think that there could in principle be any such evidence if there were in fact a Hell? What would it be?

      Pretending for a moment that there were a Hell: what would be the nature of the evidence which could reveal that?

      Supposing that you did not assume there was a Hell, and that you had never even heard of it; but that some people started talking to you about it being a state of existence which some human minds, or a personality that persisted in existence after death, went to after the body died. Can you think of any kind of evidence that could be provided you that you might consider?

      Let's suppose that there were no Heaven and no Hell and no creator as we hear of them from the Bible and the Christian religion.

      But suppose that you were informed that it had been discovered that (similarly to what many "spiritualists used to fancy) bitter personalities in this life survived as a psychologically tormented energy forever in a heretofore undiscovered plane?

      Would you find this as impossible to believe as a religiously reported Hell?

      Atheists ( and you specify you are not one) often seem to protest that the idea of Hell is impossible not only because there is no "place for it" in our present understating of reality, but because the idea is too repugnant, and by virtue of that somehow apparently impossible.

      Do you rule out space aliens completely? Do you rule out with 100% certainty that they might capture you and keep you trapped semi-alive but immobile like a bug in amber for a million years?

      Luckily you are not making such a silly argument that such things are in principle unthinkable. Because, well, you know ... spiders. LOL

    17. The concept of "Hell" is not unique to Judaism and Christianity. It is an ancient concept in many religions, including those of Egypt, Greece, and in eastern religions such as Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, and Buddhism. Here is a description of Hell in the Buddhist tradition:

      "Several texts in the Pali Sutta-pitaka describe the Buddhist Naraka. The Devaduta Sutta (Majjhima Nikaya 130), for example, goes into considerable detail. It describes a succession of torments in which a person experiences the results of his own karma. This is gruesome stuff; the "wrongdoer" is pierced with hot irons, sliced with axes and burned with fire. He passes through a forest of thorns and then a forest with swords for leaves. His mouth is pried open and hot metal is poured into him. But he cannot die until the karma he created is exhausted.

      As time went on, descriptions of the several hells grew more elaborate. Mahayana sutras name several hells and hundreds of sub-hells. Most often, though, in Mahayana one hears of eight hot or fire hells and eight cold or ice hells. The ice hells are above the hot hells. The ice hells are described as frozen, desolate plains or mountains where people must dwell naked."

      If you study the concept in Hell in the eastern religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, you will notice that modern theologians in many of these religions have toned down the horrific qualities of Hell and trended away from a physical location to a painful state of mind.

      Why? I believe there is a simple answer: To make this ancient superstition more palatable to modern, educated people. If you claim Hell (or Heaven) exists in a location, then you are going to be asked to prove this location exists. If you claim that Hell is a state of mind, no one can disprove that claim. And that is why clever Christian philosophers like Dr. Feser have concocted a bullet proof concept of Hell, a concept no early Church Father taught: Hell is (currently) not in a specific physical location. Hell is a painful state of consciousness. Try to disprove that, you stupid atheists!

    18. "Contested evidence is weak evidence."

      Seeing how pretty much everyone thinks that the absolutely lack of consensus on things like politics do not mean that there are no better positions, that view seems pretty bad on the popularity contest...

    19. Gary. Your concept of a “physical hell” is wrapped up in cartesian nominalism, which you are certainly not alone in assuming. Once nominalism won the battles in the universities 700 years ago, you were left with an uncomfortable divide between consciousness/intellect/experience on one side, and the ‘things in the world’ on the other. Descartes consolidated this division of reality as material and immaterial, and Galileo consolidated an approach where you ignore one reality (the immaterial), and focus on the quantitive abstraction of the other. Of course this latter approach of limiting reality to that which can be abstracted as quantity was very successful, mostly advanced by people who were themselves confident that this material world was one aspect of reality. However as nominalism became more and more of a default assumed ontology, especially after the reformation, even philosophers have continued the collapse of reality into ‘pure surface’, what Plato called the shadows on the cave wall.

      So we have arrived at a world where scientism, the idea that the quantitive abstraction of what our physical instruments can currently measure, can be reasonably considered as a full description of reality. It’s a patently absurd position, as we have now demonstrated by the fact that all of these ‘material things’ only have any physical properties at all in relation to other ‘material things’. At the quantum level you can avoid this conclusion by making bizarrely absurd assumptions that the universe splits into trillions of new universes every trillionth of a second, but even Relativity should be enough to show that physical properties are not the foundation of reality.

      It’s because of this descent into nominalism and the limiting of reality to how things represent as materiality that you have the church still using philosophers like Aquinas, from a time when science was primitive. The church has remained very interested in any new insights science can give us, but the wider ontological and epistemological assumptions that have developed along with it are like a closing of the spiritual eyes. Rather than a unifying vision of reality, you are left with one drained of meaning and telos, with the remaining tip of the iceberg arbitrarily divided into “physics”, “biology”, “psychology”, “maths” etc. All of these ways of seeing suddenly have no roots, except maybe in maths where the most successful mathematicians find it difficult to ascribe the entities they discover as being human creations.

      Anyway, excuse my rambling but it’s difficult to address all the assumptions you’re burdened with when you talk of “evidence” etc. You assume reality is a certain way, one in which the very intelligibility of the universe (that you rely on for your argument) has no basis. You then want to transpose your assumed criteria for what is real onto those with an ontology that has a wider view of what is real, where the intellect and will are not just delusions created by a biological computer.

    20. @Simon

      You do realize that the educated "scholars" of every religion and cult on the planet can use complex philosophical theories to rationalize the supernatural claims in THEIR holy books too? If one is allowed to appeal to philosophical theories, no supernatural claim can be debunked. And that is why so many Christian apologists, Catholic and Protestant, obtain degrees in philosophy!

      I do not deny that Professor Feser's belief in a state of painful consciousness for the spirits of the majority of deceased human beings may be true. What I reject is its probability. Supernatural beliefs have been disproved by science, one after another. I put my money on science, not religion, not philosophy, to be correct, MUCH more often than not. So when science demonstrates that billions of spirits are suffering in a non-material state of consciousness, I will believe it. Until then, it is remains a superstition, regardless of how sophisticated and complex its believers try to make it.

    21. Hi Gary

      It’s not so much about complex theories, it’s about what we can reasonably infer about reality. The way that you associate such things with “supernatural” is a product of this modern mindset, where there are either fairies or scientific fact, and you chose which to accept. In this mindset god is an old man or spirit in the sky, which is very different from the ‘ground of being’, and so you can’t avoid some level of philosophy for us even to be talking about the same thing. And yes, eastern religions can give more insight into the nature of consciousness in some ways, but we believe we have good reason to accept a top down revelation of the bigger picture, which is a different thing.

      Many (if not most) of the people who have made a genuine advance in our scientific understanding of the universe accepted this wider context to reality. The scientific process is a great way to keep the process honest, but it doesn’t develop our understanding. That comes from intuition, imagination and will, none of which science has the first clue about.

      So yes, all kinds of crackpot beliefs can be defended with philosophy, and yes, you can avoid that by assuming an ontology of scientism. However there is then no good reason to think that your worldview contains anything but a point in time picture of how nature behaves, and very little if any understanding of what nature is, what substrate it emerges from, or what it all means. Eventually we may get a “Theory of Everything” that would be an equation of particles and forces, but that would not explain very much at all. If you’re happy waiting for that then that’s your choice, but having once been an atheist and having learnt much from buddhism before becoming catholic, I can see how wrong I was in assuming science was the only valid way of establishing the truth of something.

  5. "And yet Balthasarians tie themselves in logical knots trying to find loopholes in these various statements by which a hope for the salvation of all might squeak through on a technicality. This is an absolutely bizarre way to do theology. It’s comparable to a doctor who, looking at the grim statistics on pancreatic cancer, notes that it is nevertheless at least possible to survive it, and then chirpily tells his patients: “We can at least hope that all pancreatic cancer patients will survive!” After all, if it is possible for some, isn’t it possible for all?"

  6. Prof. Feser,

    Here (and elsewhere) your handling of church documents and scripture makes no mention of the original Latin or Greek respectively, and (hence) makes no attempt to explore the possible meanings of the relevant words.

    The Fourth Lateran Council states: “for the latter perpetual punishment [poenam perpetuam] with the devil, for the former eternal glory [gloriam sempiternam] with Christ.” The Latin adjective perpetua can have one of several different meanings. On one of its meanings, something is perpetua if it has no definite terminus; nevertheless, it can be ended by intervention. For example, a priest’s dismissal from the clerical state can be a ‘perpetual’ penalty; nevertheless, it can be ended at any time by the Pope. On another of its meanings, something is perpetua if it never ends, e.g. the ‘perpetual’ virginity of Mary. Context determines meaning. Perhaps the Fourth Lateran Council’s use of perpetua does mean never ending. No doubt, you think so. But are you certain? Can you offer an argument that would end all reasonable disagreement?

    The Gospel of Matthew states: “Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal [aionion] fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’” The Greek adjective aionios can have one of several different meanings. On one of its meanings, something is aionios if it lasts for an indefinitely long but not unending period of time (an aion or ‘age’). On another of its meanings, something is aionios if it is never ending. Context determines meaning. Perhaps the author or Matthew’s use of aionios does mean never ending. No doubt, you think so. But are you certain? Can you offer an argument that would end all reasonable disagreement?

    You might be persuaded by Augustine’s argument in the City of God that, (1) in the same context, the author of Matthew speaks both of an aeonial punishment and aeonial life; (2) because they are in the same context, both uses of aionios must have the same meaning; (3) the latter must mean everlasting; (4) therefore, so too must the former. But it’s possible to raise an objection to Augustine’s reasoning, an objection that is not obviously false. Consider a similar construction: ‘Those who do not clean the cafeteria will receive an after-school punishment; those who do clean the cafeteria will receive an after-school reward.’ What if the after-school punishment is cleaning the cafeteria? And if so, is it impossible that, after the punished do clean the cafeteria, they too will receive the after-school reward? Likewise, isn’t it possible that, after the unrighteous serve the aeonial punishment of becoming righteous, they too will receive aeonial life?

    Finally, you play a bit fast with some other passages of scripture. Nothing in Matthew 7 or Luke 13 logically entails eternal damnation.

    1. Both perpetua and aionios are like the English word 'always'; like 'always' they can be modulated by context to indicate various kinds of qualified versions. This is not relevant, however, until you can point out what in the context modulates them.

      But it’s possible to raise an objection to Augustine’s reasoning, an objection that is not obviously false.

      No, the objection is obviously false, since the construction is not in fact logically similar; 'after-school' indicates some point during an interval while 'aionios' indicates the entire interval -- and this is true even if you assume a qualified meaning for 'aionios', since qualifications just change the kind of interval under discussion, not the fact that it indicates the whole interval.

      Finally, you play a bit fast with some other passages of scripture. Nothing in Matthew 7 or Luke 13 logically entails eternal damnation.

      As they have often been historically interpreted, they do; you need to establish that that interpretation is incorrect if you are going to try to make claims like this.

    2. I would be cautious of the "age" rendering favored by Hart and Ramelli.

      As Heleen Keizer mentioned in her critical review of one of Ramelli's books: "To interpret aion in Classical, Hellenistic, and Biblical Greek as "age" in the sense of historical epoch or period is to give the word an "anachronistic" meaning."

      And Keizer is hardly an unsympathetic audience for this view.

    3. @anonymous.

      Your criteria that Dr. Feser expound these texts in Greek and Latin while at the same time making tight and clear philosophical arguments is ridiculous. I read Hebrew, Greek, and Latin and there is *nothing* implausible about Dr. Feser's reading of these texts. Perhaps I might suggest to you that you have no business referring to the Greek texts of Matthew and Luke until you understand the Aramaic behind Matthew's Greek rendering of Christ's words. Perhaps I suggest that you also need to know the Hebrew Old Testament word for eternal (olam or holam) and its semantic range before you pontificate about how New Testament Greek words used by those who are deeply shaped by the Old Testament. Would that be enough to get you to stop with the non-sense of suggesting that Dr. Feser's exegesis needs to be definitive in order to make a philosophical argument. The question is whether his reading is more plausible that the remote possibilities you are suggesting. Once it is framed that way, it is clear that your suggested rendering of these Greek and Latin words are grossly implausible and Dr. Feser's reading is immensely plausible. (This can be done by use of a good Greek concordance of the NT and LXX and a good Hebrew concordance of the Masoretic text of the Old Testament that will show that the vast majority of uses of the relevant Greek and Hebrew terms point toward something that is without end--and in some cases without a beginning as well.)

      The suggestion that someone making tight, clear, and rigorous philosophical argumentation needs also to attend to the technicalities of exegesis in a blog post is ridiculous. Part of the reason that few people today actually make important arguments is that they get lost in (post)modern, fabricated web of hermeneutical questions so that they never even able to so much as crawl in making progress in metaphysical questions. Thankfully there are several first rate philosophers today who are avoiding that trap and actually making important metaphysical arguments. It is a pity that they have to put up with ridiculous suggestions like yours in the process.

    4. I think you are misreading Keizer (or perhaps misunderstanding me). In the passage you cite, she is objecting to the understanding of ‘age’ “in the sense of historical epoch or [historical] period.” Examples of the latter are our own ‘Middle Ages’ and Tolkien’s ‘the Third Age,’ i.e. with ‘age’ understood as a part or segment of a temporal whole. And her criticism is directed at Ramelli and Konstan, not Hart. But that criticism shouldn’t be read as a criticism of ‘different ages’ per se. In Life, Time, Eternity, she says that different ages—taken to be different temporal wholes—can be distinguished from each other: Nowhere in the Hebrew Bible is any (distinct) ’olam set against another—as will happen later, notably in the New Testament” (p. 147)

      Hart does not give criticized meaning to any New Testament uses aionios. And I did not have such a use in mind when I spoke of “an indefinitely long but not unending period of time” (although I can see how what I wrote could reasonably be interpreted that way). I was there thinking of an age as a whole period of time, e.g. the whole of years to which the year 2022 belongs. But I actually prefer a different meaning for aionios, one which I included in the addendum to my original comment: ‘of or pertaining to an aion’ (an ‘age’ in the sense of a temporal whole). This is similar to Hart’s translation of ‘age’ as ‘in the age’ (I don’t have my copy of his translation handy, but I think that’s how he does it).

      Anonymous Universalist

    5. @Brandon

      What if no context modulates them? For example, what if a passage says simply that a punishment is aionios? How are we to choose? Aren’t we forced to admit that such a use of aionios is and must remain ambiguous?

      I think you are missing what about the example I intended to be analogous. The relevant feature of ‘after-school’ in my example isn’t that it is a part of a larger temporal whole but rather that it is one temporal period following another. Both of the latter were meant to be analogues for whole temporal periods: this age and the age to come respectively.

      I don’t need to establish directly that the traditional interpretation of Matthew 7 or Luke 13 are mistaken. I need to establish that they could be. And then I need to point out that other passages—say, Romans 5:18-19—are plainly incompatible with the traditional interpretation of Matthew 7 and Luke 13, thereby resolving the ambiguity (assuming, as I do, that all of scripture should be read coherently).

      Anonymous Universalist

    6. @Michael Copas,

      Might I suggest that you cool your polemical jets? It has led to an uncharitable caricature of my comments.

      Feser is citing passages as clear evidence for his view. I don’t think it’s ridiculous to say that they’re less-than-clear by calling the translation into question.

      I never said that there was something implausible about his reading. I admit his reading is a possible reading. But it’s not the only possible reading.

      I know some scholars think there is an Aramaic original behind our Greek version of Matthew. Is that your point? If not, why would I need to know the Aramaic? Is the Greek version not scripture?

      I am familiar with ’olam and its semantic range, and that for the Septuagint authors and likely the New Testament authors too, aion and aionios are stand-ins for ’olam.

      Feser isn’t here making an exclusively philosophical argument. Indeed, in this post he’s relying almost exclusively on ancient texts.

      Anonymous Universalist


    7. @anonymous universalist

      You might suggest anything you like. Whether those suggestions are reasonable is another question. Not liking it when someone shows that your suggestions are absurd does not demonstrate that they are uncharitable. Nor does calling an accurate representation a caricature make that representation a caricature.

      Of course Feser is making an argument that appeals to ancient texts. The question is whether he needs anything more than a good translation and the immediate context to do this. Your suggestion that he does need something more than this is absurd as lexicography itself depends on how individuals understand particular words in particular contexts. He does not need to "do a word study" on aion or 'olam in order to offer a reading of a particular text from the New Testament (which was your silly suggestion). If you don't enjoy having your arguments reduced to absurdity, the best way to avoid this is to stop making absurd arguments.

      If you object to a rendering of a particular word in a particular context, you might do everyone the favor of making an argument as to why the verses should be rendered in a particular way and why this rendering is better than the rendering offered by Feser. Until you are willing to take the time to do that, simply noting that a word has a broad semantic range across a wide range of texts from various times and cultures does nothing to undermine the reading that Dr. Feser has offered.

  7. There is also a simple problem here. HvB first advances his notion of "hope" as theological. But the theological virtue of hope is a grace by which we expect to attain what God has promised.

    But if God has not promised that all will men be saved, it is not a proper object of theological hope. At best it can be a merely human hope--as in, "I hope it doesn't rain today"--that is, more like a wish.

    But this "hope" is then argued to be a duty, but it is hard to see how "wishing" for something to happen which at best has not been revealed, and at worst seems positively to contradict the traditional understanding what has been revealed, can be a moral obligation.

    I have found when debating this point, however, that the squishy imprecision of HvB's use of "hope" is considered more a feature than a bug to his admirers. It provides a built-in motte & bailey fallacy, always there and handy when you need it.

  8. My previous comment is missing an important sentence: "On another of its meanings, something is aionios if it is of or pertaining to an aion. On yet another of its meanings, something is aionios if it is never ending . . ."

  9. I greatly respect Professor Feser as a philosopher, but in important topics such as exegesis and biblical interpretation, I consider that there are people much more prepared in disciplines such as history, anthropology, translation of ancient texts, study of religions who can give us a more objective perspective and accurate on these kinds of topics .
    I deeply admire your work as a critical thinker and out of respect for your work I prefer to be critical with your statements, thank you Professor Feser

    1. Anonymous,

      You aren't really doing exegesis correctly if you think that referring to possible ambiguous meanings in the original Greek is a good enough argument.

      The problem is that, from the Catholic paradigm, the ultimate authority in interpreting a given Sacred Text is not what some individual who happens to know Greek reading the text looking for ambiguities but the Church herself, and the Church's dogma leaves no room for ambiguities.

    2. And yet, the church as authoritative interpreter could only close such readings off with an infallible interpretation (ex cathedra or via ecumenical council), and there presently is no such interpretation. And citing previous councils that ambiguously use the expressions at issue would just beg the question.

    3. Anonymous,

      The Church herself says how to interpret her councils through the consensus of her greatest minds. To use them the way you are, you are like the sophist in Edward Feser's second-to-last paragraph. Fortescue's exegetical principle applies to the reading of councils too: if they've been interpreted as saying the Infernalist position by all the major commentators on them for centuries afterward, the burden is on you to show that these interpretations are wrong.

    4. @Mister Geocon

      I think you are mistaking my aim(s). Concerning the traditional magisterial readings of the relevant passages from the ecumenical councils and scripture, my question is: could they be wrong? That is, in the future, could the church come to teach that the relevant passages are consistent with universalism? I think the answer is Yes. If you disagree, I would appreciate hearing your reasons.

      I tend to think that the church will eventually ‘come around’. Revelation cannot be in opposition to reason. And I think reason is squarely on the side of universalism.

      Anonymous Universalist

    5. Anonymous,

      I've already gave you my answer. The interpretations you give are ambiguous between universalism and infernalism at best and were read for over a thousand years after as teaching the infernalist position. Given that the Magisterium of the Church is infallible, we can assume that your interpretation is not what it had in mind. To prove this wrong, you'd have to show that the position of the Church for the thousand-odd years after the council was universalism or that modernism is true.

    6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    7. @Michael Copas

      My extended strategy would be to (1) point to the ambiguity of aionios in the relevant NT passages (e.g. Matthew 25); (2) point to NT passages that unambiguously proclaim universal salvation (e.g. Romans 5:18-19); (3) point out that those passages make the translation of aionios in the relevant NT passages contradict those that unambiguously proclaim universal salvation; (4) in the interest of a coherent reading, reject the translation of aionios as eternal.

      Anonymous Universalist

    8. Mister Geocon makes an important point above. Noting that a particular Greek word has a broad semantic range does nothing to argue that one rendering is better than another. Anonymous has given us no reason to think that any rendering other than what Dr. Feser has offered is a better rendering. He has no rendering that is more plausible and has simply noted that other renderings of the word in various contexts are possible. We have no reason to think that those renderings apply to the texts that Dr. Feser has noted. What reason does anonymous universalist have for taking this approach? We will wait in vain for an answer because he is not looking for the most plausible reading. He is looking for any way possible to arrive at his foregone universalist conclusion even if this means appealing to wildly implausible readings.

    9. @Michael Copas,

      My answer is given directly about your bluster. You're a poor interlocutor, so cheers.

      Anonymous Universalist

    10. @anonymous universalist:

      A "poor" interlocutor? I don't see what my financial situation has to do with our discussion.

      Regarding your strategy: I have noted in two other places below your habit of taking texts that were perfectly clear to the Church Father's and Doctors of the Church, calling them ambiguous because you don't like what they say, and then proceeding to project your own muddled thinking onto the texts to "clarify" the "ambiguity".

    11. Regarding your answer to my "bluster": somehow in your "direct" answer, you have failed to disclose how you would render the verses quoted by Feser differently. What translation other than eternal would you give them? Go on and give the world your expert opinion on this. Or are we going to have to wait for wild horses to drag it out of you?

      So far you your translation would be "anything but eternal". Well if the translation eternal does not give you warm feelings, perhaps you might render it "doggy" or "pony" something like that. We are on the edge of our seats waiting to be enlightened.

    12. For the sake of abusing the corpse of the horse...It is not clear to me what you mean to suggest by the word "cheers". Would you like for us to go have a drink together? Well, I am not even sure we live in the same part of the country. Do you wish to drink to my health? If so, Thank you. Or perhaps this is you leaving the bar for better company. If that is your meaning, then "cheers".

      So far the primary source of ambiguity under this post is coming from your keyboard and not from Sacred Scripture or the Church Father's or Magisterial documents. So in the interest of eliminating ambiguity (which you obviously have a keen interest in), you might take the following strategy: 1. Stop typing, 2. Start thinking. This strategy has the benefit of being simpler than the other strategy you proposed.

  10. To the other anonymous and his reference to the meaning of aiōnios, I would highly recommend reading everything by SF at the blog SEMITICA. It is precisely on point. (I'd include a link, but I'm not sure the linking policy.)

    I would also recommend reading the treatment of this by Dr Pusey in "What is of Faith as to Everlasting Punishment?" The book is 100y old, but the debate is hardly new.

    More critically, I think trying to lean on multivalence of particular Greek words in an attempt to find out what the Gospel "really means" in contradiction to what the Church has traditionally understood it to mean is a fool's errand. Here I would point to Feser's recent posts on Geach and modernism, as the same issues apply.

  11. I will take a look at those. I'll recommend in turn Keizer's Life Time and Eternity: A Study of Aion in Greek Literature and Philosophy, the Septuagint and Philo.

    1. Keizer's dissertation has a fairly glaring methodological problem. She writes in her introduction: "The starting-point for interpreting aion has been its first attested meaning “lifetime, life”. I have considered it a sound procedure to stick to this meaning as long as there is no compelling reason to do otherwise." The suggestion that the earliest use of a particular word in a particular culture should be the default understanding of that term over numerous centuries in multiple cultures is ludicrous. The earliest uses of "kosmos" in Greek culture included references to jewelry. Should we then think that St. John is likely referring to jewelry in the Gospel of John when he uses the word "kosmos"? Should this be our default reading? The suggestion is absurd and in the same way the suggestion that "lifetime" should be our default reading of AION in the LXX or the New Testament is likewise absurd. By her method, Keizer has cooked the books in order to arrive at a foregone conclusion in the same way that anonymous universalist will read universalism into every biblical text, church father, and Magisterial document because he or she is hell bent on making texts say just what he wants them to say. The renowned NT scholar N.T. Wright once referred to such an approach as "making the text dance a jig." (Wright is British and a clever writer as well as an exceptional scholar).

    2. @Michael Copas

      That is a significant misrepresentation of Keizer's view. For this present discussion, the only relevant chapters of her book are those on the Septuagint. Her view is basically that all of the occurrences of aion and aionios in the LXX are stand-ins for 'olam. And, she takes the latter, and it's Greek representatives, to mean primarily (of or pertaining to) a whole unit of time of indefinite, possibly unending, length.

      As Hart has repeatedly shown, Wright's translations make the text dance indeed.

      Anonymous Universalist

    3. @anonymous

      I actually quote Keizer and that is a misrepresentation? That suggestion is amusing but difficult to take seriously. The only relevant chapters are not simply on the LXX because she bases her understanding of Eion in the LXX based on her misunderstanding of 'olam in the Masoretic text. In her account of 'olam in the MT, she recognizes that particular texts use 'olam to refer to an unending duration of time.

      As an example she writes regarding Genesis 6:23, “So at its second occurrence we find olam measured against a restricted duration of time, notably of days and years.” (123). Against a restricted duration, olam is without restriction on temporal duration. Thus, eternal is a good English rendering. She appeals to her pseudo principle about first occurences and yet fails to note the unending duration of time present in early occurrences.

      She writes,

      “For establishing the meaning of ‘olam, the first three instances of the word in the Torah already offer us a lot. From text [1] we learn that ‘olam bears relation to life, from text [2] that it has to do with time, and from [1], [2], and [3] that it is projected both forward into the future and backwards into the past.

      Text [1] teaches us that ‘olam in principle is inherent to ‘life’—life in its truest sense, i.e., free from death. However, in the condition of man and the world as we know them, there is no deathless life but only life passed on from generation to generation that may amount to ‘olam.” (147)

      This last sentence is a whopping case of eisogesis. There is no single text and certainly no collection of texts that support the ridiculous inference that after the fall the biblical authors started to believe that eternal refers only to a limited duration of human generations that ends when human life on earth ends. The illogic of her statement is palpable. She suggests that they reasoned as follows: “Now that we die, there is no such thing as eternal life. There is only a succession of generations. Let’s call this eternity.”

      Likewise, the conclusion of her analysis of various other texts in the OT simply reads into those texts a limited duration of time rather than an unlimited duration. She writes, "“We now come to the following definition: ‘olam is time constituting the (temporal) horizon of created life (men) in the created world.” (148) In other words, her sweeping conclusion regarding a general OT use of 'olam denies the very use that was noted above in Genesis 6:3 which contrasts a limited duration with the unending duration of 'olam. Her cumbersome definition suggests that eternity has a limited duration associated with creation and this suggestion flies in the face of the very texts that Keizer examined.

      So, your sweeping and unsupported assertions notwithstanding, nothing I have said misrepresents Keizer's view. Her novel reading of the OT misrepresents the OT, but I have not misrepresented her. Her novel view stands against a long history of Christian readers of the Old Testament and the New Testament and particularly against the vast majority of the Church Fathers. That most of the Church Fathers do not side with Origen should give any sane reader of the bible pause in suggesting that the word aion is inherently ambiguous.

      It was not ambiguous to St. Jerome. Nor was aeternus ambiguous to St. Augustine or St. Thomas. The words and their terms were clear to them rather than ambiguous. I understand that they are ambiguous to *you*, but that does not mean that they were ambiguous those whose heads are clearer than yours about these questions.

      So just because your thinking is muddled about the meaning of aion or ‘olam does not mean that the rest of us have to pretend like our heads are muddled about these things. Eternal is the best rendering of these words and the concept of eternity was more clearly grasped by St. Augustine and St. Thomas than by you or Keizer (or is this distinction redundant? Perhaps you are promoting your dissertation under the “ambiguity” of the word “anonymous”).

    4. @anonymous

      There is also another methodological problem in Keisers thesis. Keiser does not adequately distinguish between a word and a concept. That this is a general problem in biblical theology has been noted by James Barr and it reflects that exegetes generally have little to no training in philosophy and it negatively effects their exegesis. At the least, doctoral level exegetes should have a course in logic but this is not required in prominent doctoral programs in NT or OT studies and the ineptitude in logic shows up in dissertations like Keizers. As an example, she starts by examining various occurences of 'olam and einon and makes a judgement about the meaning of the words in those various contexts and then tries to make a sweeping assessment at the end of her treatment as though the various uses might be sythesized into some super concept. That super concept is then read back into particular texts in dizzying circular fashion. If she and other exegetes instead made the basic distinction between word and concept, she would recognize that the same word can point to distinct concepts that cannot be sythesized. For example, imagine that I wrote a book and used the word "bat" to refer to: 1. a stick in the game of baseball, 2. a fanged flying animal, and 3. the thing that my wife does with her eyes when she is interested in flirting. Now imagine that someone did a "word study" of my use of the word "bat" and tried to synthesize these disparate concepts. The result would, of course, be a non sensical mess. And of course that is precisely the result of Keizer's attempt to arrive at a meta-concept for all the occurences of Aion--it is a non-sensical mess. Of course, anonymous universalist can comfort himself by simply referencing the work and referring to it as "definitive" in a very formal and professional voice. This seems like the sort of thing that would make anonymous universalist a happy camper based on what I have seen (example: the broad suggestion that Wright has been roundly refuted by Mr. David Bentley Hart. If Hart has pointed out some errors of NT Wright that are relevant to our discussion, why don't you take the trouble to get specific and avoid your habit of making sweeping and unsupported assertions.

  12. I have seen what is essentially the opposite opinion to this post I don't remember if there was an explicit statement of said opinion in this video:
    But it was certainly implicit in it. I.E. that people who believe any damnation at all. Do so because of some urge to "Violence" or "elitism". My own experience is that people who believe that some are damned do so because they fear losing people who could be saved or simply they fear abrogating the command of God. While it seems to me that the majority of people who hold the position that all shall be saved, now not all, and I cannot see every recess of the soul, but they are of an opinion of having a preconception of what mercy is, that they picked up from the secular world, and they start willy-nilly applying it to God; Without pausing to see what tradition says about God. And unfortunately this is not a true mercy but a mercy laden with the false virtue of inclusion, equality, and diversity. E.g. "Can you imagine how the saved would feel if people are left out of heaven", "We're all sinners anyway", "Hell is a medieval invention designed in an unenlightened time" "How do we account for the diversity of religions that God wills"

    All of which I've actually heard, ... , ok maybe not the last one. But it seems a topic where more learning could be focused with a view toward orthodoxy and not flashy new theories that claim to throw out old ones, as if the 20th century produced such great thinkers that no one else is needed except maybe as a lens toward 20th century thought and philosophies.

  13. While I am interested in linguistically parsing the magisterial teachings on hell, I must confess that I find the theological arguments in favor of universalism to be so compelling that it has lead me to rethink, not my Catholicism, but my understanding of the magisterium. But I have only just begun my scriptural, historical, and theological investigation of infallibility, etc.

    To identify which Anonymous I am, I will sign off as Anonymous Universalist

    1. You are in the same position as pretty much every heretic in Church history: that is, you rationally came to some understanding of doctrine, applied it to the Church, and found the Church wanting. So you have to go and demand that either the Church change or schism. However, that is not the way to approach divine revelation. We do not approach it the same way we approach a scientific question. We only know God through Jesus, Jesus through the Apostles, the Apostles through their successors, the Catholic Church. And if you look at the broad strokes of history honestly, the consistent Catholic position has not been universalist.

    2. Your rethinking of the magisterium is a rethinking of your catholicism. Regarding these compelling arguments for universalism: they sound so profound and deep. Would you mind sharing them with the rest of us so that we can enter the profundity of these arguments you have uncovered?

  14. Theology is based on divine revelation. The idea that a theological argument is both "compelling" and subversive of Catholic doctrine is not compatible with a Catholic understanding of the faith...

    More over, it is self-defeating. It implies there was some sort of revelation, but it was misunderstood by the vast majority of Christians until now. But if that's the case, why believe the revelation itself came down intact? And why is it just now being understood? And why have any confidence there is any revelation at all?

    The problem here is the same Augustine posed to the Manicheans, which is that the Scriptures themselves are known and vouched through the magisterium of the Church. They cannot also be the basis for repudiating the magisterium without it amounting to a self-refutation: "But if you read thence some passage clearly in favor of Manichæus, I will believe neither them nor you: not them, for they lied to me about you; nor you, for you quote to me that Scripture which I had believed on the authority of those liars."

    1. @Anon 1/27 at 8:59PM

      Suppose (per impossibile) it could be demonstrated that the Catholic doctrinal understanding of God (as well as the traditional Catholic theological understanding of human freedom) is logically incompatible with the Catholic doctrinal (assuming it is doctrinal) understanding of Hell. Then what? Which one should be jettisoned? What’s more, what revisions would be required to our understanding of Catholic doctrine?

      I think your questions in the second paragraph could have all been asked at the beginning of the 4th century. The canon was not finalized. A significant number of Christians believed (what would later be identified as) heresy concerning such weighty matters as the divinity of Jesus. I’m envisioning something similar but on a longer timeline. And why should the length of the process be a concern?

      Anonymous Universalist

    2. The "(per impossible)" and the "demonstrated" cannot be entertained together. You CAN entertain the possibility that the implicit, not-yet-spelled-out, common Christian grasp of Scripture passage X turns out to be not-easily-squared with some new definitively declared dogma D. Then the (formerly) not-yet-spelled-out Christian grasp of X would undergo a clarification, such as a dis-ambiguation which would say, roughly,

      What most of us used to think about X was an undifferentiated mess. Now that we know D definitively, we are forced to make new distinctions that we had not yet come to grips with, which makes our former undifferentiated mess untenable. Under these new distinctions, we can see that ONE SPECIFIED way to understand X is incompatible with the whole truth, and therefore we reject that one specified way in order to adopt a different specified way to understand X."

      If two definitive propositions are required to be held, and it SEEMS like they are incompatible, the proper Catholic attitude is that they must be compatible in some way I cannot yet see, and I await further enlightenment. This attitude can be viewed historically by people who held that "Christ is God" and "Christ is man" before the "Christ has two natures" method of reconciling them was developed.

      The fact of the matter is that any attempt to claim "It is 'demonstrated' that the two propositions are incompatible" would have been wrong, (as we know now) but some people might well have imagined they had a good proof that they are incompatible. It pays to be extremely cautious about claims that "N is logically (or metaphysically) incompatible with M," because it is extremely difficult to be utterly sure of all of the presuppositions going into the issue.

    3. Anonymous,

      The two aren't even comparable. You're asking for nothing less than a complete reversal of what has been the Church's clear teaching for over a thousand years. You've not addressed that bit.

  15. How do we understand Christ's "victory" in light of this discussion? If Satan's goal is to take as much of God's good creation down with him as he can, how does any claim he makes not count as a "win" for him against God? One can imagine a gleeful Satan saying, in the end, pointing to all the damned, "I still got all these!" So, in a sense, he wins. This is the universalist point that confounds me the most. Is Christ's victory total, or does Satan still get his own too? How does that work?

    1. Why should one think of Christ's victory in terms of the number of the lost versus the saved? Does any NT author or Church Father speak of Christ's victory as having saved so many and only lost so many souls? Who decided on framing the question this way? And even if Satan gloats in the manner you described, why does God care what Satan says?

    2. Well, Satan and his angels and the damned will one day bend the knee and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

    3. This points to why universalism never goes away, even though, as Feser shows, there's no real scriptural or patristic basis for it.

      The fact that people still go to hell for eternity seems to suggest that Christ's victory was less than total and that God is not entirely good.

      Arguments that God is good despite eternal damnation and that Christ's victory is not diminished by eternal damnation have never been particularly persuasive. They usually amount to variations of: "God's ways are not our ways" and "it's all a deep mystery beyond human comprehension". These responses don't satisfy, hence, arguments in favor of universalism will not go away.

    4. Jack,

      1. Your characterization of infernalism is a caricature. It certainly doesn't reflect Professor Feser's explanation of Hell.

      2. The fact that something isn't "persuasive" does not make it any less correct. An argument is only wrong if its premises are false or form is invalid.

    5. At least on a augustinian-thomist view of predestination the damned were not really supposed to be saved anyway, so Satan is really just a instrument of God, nothing more.

      The dialogue would go like this:

      Satan: Okay, you got me, but look at these precious humans that are here too!

      God: You see, these were supposed to be there. My plan needed the elect and also the damned so both my mercy and my justice could shine.

      Satan: Are you saying that it does not bother you that i got all these?

      God: Not at all, i decided that you were to be the principal means to their damnation. Thanks for doing what i wanted.

      Satan: REEEE!

    6. Mister Geocon has rightly noted that the denial that something is persuasive tells us nothing about the strength or weakness of an argument. It simply tells us that those who don't want to accept the testimony of Scripture and Tradition will refuse to accept that testimony. They are not persuaded because they don't want to be and not because there is a lack of good reasons--or revealed testimonies--to persuade them.

  16. Does the fact that Satan and his followers rebelled in heaven mean that even mortal souls who are saved still retain their free will and could themselves rebel in heaven and switch to hell?

    1. @jmchugh:

      "Does the fact that Satan and his followers rebelled in heaven mean that even mortal souls who are saved still retain their free will and could themselves rebel in heaven and switch to hell?"

      No, since it is the assurance of Divine Revelation that the blessed in Heaven are and remain blessed forever. Furthermore, the Saints in Heaven do retain their Free Will; what they do not have (and no one has, so they are not special in this regard) is the power to concurrently will contradictory things, namely, to will God and not-God. But since they do will God, and forever do so, ergo they cannot and do not will not-God.

    2. @jmchugh

      Tradition teaches prior to the War in Heaven the angels had the angelic version of sanctifying grace. They did not yet possess the Beatific Vision. If they had the vision they could not have rebelled.

      The good angels where rewarded with the beatific vision the bad angels where given Hell.

    3. The angels before they fell were not "in Heaven" in the sense of the Blessed: they did not have the Beatific Vision, nor confirmation of everlasting happiness. The angels who did not rebel and instead loved God then were admitted to the Beatific Vision and confirmation of everlasting happiness.

      In the condition of the Beatific Vision, one not only "sees God face to face", one sees (with perfect clarity) that not only is God the best of all, that not only is there no better, there couldn't even theoretically SEEM to be any better, while seeing God face to face. Since it is impossible for there to even seem to be something "better" to choose than God (in that condition), one could never be tempted to turn away from him. Thus the condition of the Beatific Vision confirms one in the blessed state and confirms to the person THAT they will be blessed forever, (which is necessary for the fullness of joy). And does so without damaging free will, rather with the most perfect fulfillment of free will - choosing always what will make me most perfectly happy.

  17. How could fallen angels be harmed ? They're immaterial thus they have no capacity to suffer. How could hell affect them ? It seems very problematic.

    1. Have you ever heard of spiritual anguish? I can easily imagine demons being frustrated to the point of pain if they rebelled and lost eternal glory and replaced it with eternal shame.

    2. Passions are inconceivable without embodiment.
      Perhaps William James will it explain better than me :
      'If we fancy some strong emotion, and then try to abstract from our consciousness of it all the feelings of its characteristic bodily symptoms, we find we have nothing left behind, no “mind-stuff” out of which the emotion can be constituted, and that a cold and neutral state of intellectual perception is all that remains.'
      Can one fancy the state of rage and picture no ebullition of it in the chest, no flushing of the face, no dilatation of the nostrils, no clenching of the teeth, no impulse to vigorous action, but in their stead limp muscles, calm breathing, and a placid face? The present writer, for one, certainly cannot. The rage is as completely evaporated as the sensation of its so-called manifestations, and the only thing that can possibly be supposed to take its place is some cold-blooded and dispassionate judicial sentence, confined entirely to the intellectual realm, to the effect that a certain person or persons merit chastisement for their sins. In like manner of grief: what would it be without its tears, its sobs, its suffocation of the heart, its pang in the breast-bone? A feelingless cognition that certain circumstances are deplorable, and nothing more. Every passion in turn tells the same story. A purely disembodied human emotion is a nonentity.

    3. I am sure that it will just as well apply to spiritual anguish.
      So given that fallen angels are those'pure intellects' what could possibly motivate them to be hostile toward us. Why does Satan want my doom ? The above examples put forward by James may just as easily concern seven deadly sins.
      So I ask again how could pure intellect be affected by hell ?
      By the way I've read Milton and Dante and I don't think that either of them avoid the problem I've mentioned. Their devils are still passionate beings.

    4. William James had a couple interesting ideas, but imagining angels as computers is going to give a more distorted view of the world not less. If you deny that angels feel joy about worshipping God then you are not far off from gnosticism. Seriously, the seraphim are said to burn with Love for God or for themselves, if they are demons (if there are demon seraphim) and you're telling me that they can't experience anything except what amounts to bits. I find that implausible.

    5. One will never go very far when imaginating these higher things because imagination does not even apply there, the best we can do when imaginating something immaterial is getting something subhuman, like your example.

      But there are some parallels here and there with real life that perhaps can help. Think for instance on some situation where your emotions were mostly concentrated on wanting something that you knew were bad, so you fighted against your emotional side using reason and will, not uncommon on a christitan life, i guess. On that situation, you find your emotional side going on a completely diferent way that were you actually got, but there is no denying that your good choice was motivated as possible. Maybe this can be helpful?

    6. Nothing to do with gnosticism. All I am saying is this : passions are impossible without embodiment. If you will abstract all bodily symptoms of a passion there will be nothing left. Just a cold intellectual perception.

    7. And if William James had a few interesting ideas then this one is undoubtedly one of those.

    8. emotion != passion. For a speculative treatment of soul emotions we can imagine something like heart-mind:,the%20center%20of%20human%20cognition.&text=For%20these%20reasons%2C%20it%20is,refer%20to%20long%2Dterm%20goals.

      clearly this is an operation (or perhaps an organ?) of the soul. For, its activity consists in self-consciousness. Something that no body abstracted from the soul, i.e. dead, or an animal has. Yet is also what we would call emotional.

    9. Maybe, but only for embodied consciousness.

  18. @Anonymous (one of them):

    "One can imagine a gleeful Satan saying, in the end, pointing to all the damned, "I still got all these!" So, in a sense, he wins. This is the universalist point that confounds me the most. Is Christ's victory total, or does Satan still get his own too? How does that work?"

    One can imagine a gleeful Satan saying, in the end, pointing to himself "Ha you never got *me*!"; maybe even sticking his tongue out?

    One can focus on where the argument fails, but to make my post short, unless you are prepared to deny that Satan's perdition is irrevocable this argument does not work for obvious reasons. And good luck with denying that Satan's perdition, along with all the fallen angels, is not irrevocable -- it is at any rate, definitive teaching of the Catholic Church.

  19. Hi Ed,

    I've got a question for you. You wrote:

    "...Christ’s own statements, made in response to a direct question about the matter in the case of the passage from Luke’s gospel, imply that most people will be damned."

    Let's suppose you're right. Now imagine you're preaching to a group of young American adults, for whom the most common religious affiliation is "None," and one of them asks you: "If what you say is true, then it's highly likely that some people in my own family will be damned - perhaps my own parents, or my future spouse, or one of my children. Why would I want to even consider joining a religion like that?"

    You might respond: "Well, I would have thought the reason was obvious. If you willfully ignore the Church's claims, you'll be damned, too. So, if you want to be happy and if you don't want to be perpetually miserable, you'd better listen up."

    But the young man (let's assume it is a man) is dissatisfied with this response, and replies: "You've missed my point. If I join your religion, then what I'm doing in the process is publicly announcing that my future happiness doesn't depend on that of any other human being - not even those near and dear to me, since any or all of them might be damned. Emotionally speaking, I'm divorcing myself from the entire human race, and from my own family. But I'm not made like that, on the inside. My family is part of who I am. I don't want to live in a future world where they are not."

    You respond: "You're being sentimental, by putting your family first. Focus on your own salvation, and let God look after your family. Above all, you should love your Maker. And don't worry about how you'll be happy in Heaven without your family. God can erase any emotional pain you might suffer on that count."

    The young man responds: "That's precisely what worries me. If I accept your religion, I'm putting my own happiness first and my solidarity with my family second. A good person would not do that. As for loving your Maker first, I would answer that any Being Who asks me to do such a thing is unworthy of my love. In short: I could only accept your religion by forgoing my own humanity and becoming hard-hearted, and that's the one thing I won't do."

    You say: "But if anyone in your family is damned, it will only be because their will is fixated on evil."

    He answers: "I don't know what most people are like on the inside. But I believe I can know that my own mother and father are not evil people, and I'm far surer of that than the claims of any religion. What you're asking me to do is forego my faith in those whom I know and love best, for the sake of some religious dogma. That's intellectual idolatry. If I did that, I'd be displaying warped judgement, as well as hardheartedness."

    How would you respond? Here in Japan, where I live, the question remains an acute one. It was this issue, more than any other, which the Japanese most objected to, when St. Francis Xavier preached to them in the 16th century. Thoughts?

    1. "Whoever does not hate his father and mother cannot be my disciple". This cannot be abrogated for the sake of conversion of souls: And of the pharisees he says "they move heaven and earth to make one convert and make him twice as much a son of hell as themselves."

      However from my understanding of societies influenced by Confucianism, societal dignity is very important and by extension familial dignity. So, being influenced by Confucianism myself; I try not to think about it as being divorced by my family, but rather being adopted into a new and more powerful honorable, and dignified family: the family of God!

    2. One cannot be fully a member of two rival families, right? If one is a member of two rival kingdoms, does that not make you a spy for one or the other?

    3. The good of society and the good of other persons are an effect and image of the inner life of the triune God.

      Furthermore, the Church already teaches and the scripture assures us there are and will be a great multitude of people in heaven from every tribe, race, nation, etc. - not that God, the creator of every good thing (including all other persons), wouldn't himself alone be more than sufficient for us, as in him we would perceive and comprehend all other good things that he has created.

      Should a man's best friend die, he will often look after that friend's family (spouse, offspring) for the sake of his friend. Thus we love our neighbors, countrymen and country the more perfectly when we love our Creator and love them in our creator.

      If your friends, your family and your nation are worthy of great love and loyalty and deserve your gratitude, then the God who made them and gave us such good things - including the great good of one another - should be loved and served with fidelity and gratitude all the more. And if you really love your friends, family and nation, then the best thing you can do for them is to share our Creator's love with them and invite them into his sure and certain friendship, which can suffer no deprivation or defect nor be taken from anyone except by their own fault and free choice, and to pray for your society for their eternal salvation, redemption and happiness.

    4. To pick out just one of the (many) ugly and bone-headed "arguments" tendered by this young man:

      "That's precisely what worries me. If I accept your religion, I'm putting my own happiness first and my solidarity with my family second. A good person would not do that.

      He argues as if his family MUST remain opposed to Catholicism, and so his choice to become Catholic MUST mean eternal division between him and them. But that's idiotic.

      If Catholicism is true, the young man embracing Catholicism provides by far the most probable path by which he can help his family ALSO, eventually, choose to join him in Catholicism, and (hopefully) also be saved. His example of joyful humility, kindness, charity and sober industriousness may impress them. His sacrifices on their behalf, and incessant prayers for them, may win for them the grace of conversion. It worked for St. Monica (and others).

      If Catholicism is true, and he rejects it to "stay with his family", he condemns himself to a Hell in which he not only perpetually hates God and his own bad choices, he also hates them on whose account he made idiotically bad choices. That's the kind of "staying together" he chooses: in Hell, nobody says "well, at least we have each other here." It isn't a consolation to have each other, it's painful.

    5. I have to say that I haven't found the above responses terribly helpful, so far. Here's why.

      1. The whole point of my hypothetical was to illustrate the undesirability of embracing Christianity, for America's "Nones." Quoting the harsh words of Christ ("Whoever does not hate his father and mother cannot be my disciple"), assuming he said those words, does nothing to help your case; rather, the reverse.

      2. To say that I'll gain another family in Heaven is no consolation, either. My identity as an individual is defined by the family I already belong to. If I'm willing to ditch them for another, heavenly family, then that simply shows that I don't understand the concept of "family" - namely, the people you are connected to by ties of blood (or adoption), and whom you stick by, no matter what.

      3. I agree that if each and every member of your family is worthy of love, then the God Who created them all is worthy of far greater love. However, I would add: any individual who asks me to stop loving my family members at some future time (e.g. when they've been judged and damned), when I know from my own personal experience of having grown up with them that they are lovable individuals in their own right, cannot be the true God. Hence a Millennial might say: Christianity must be a false revelation.

      4. What the example of St. Monica overlooks is that St. Augustine converted as a young man (he was 31). When you have family members who are far more charitable than you are, but who don't believe in God, and who are now elderly or middle-aged, then it's realistic to assume that they probably won't convert. Then you have to confront the question: am I prepared to let go of these people, who are far better than I, and stop loving them?

      5. Finally, what's overlooked by many Christians is that in the Parable of the Last Judgement (Matthew 25:31-46), it isn't non-Christians who are sent to Hell, but those who fail to feed the hungry and succor the needy. Charitable people are saved, even though they do not even recognize Christ: "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?" It is these people, regardless of their state of belief, who are saved. Or as the Epistle of James puts it: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."

      We also have to recognize that the Gospels were written down decades after Jesus died. How faithfully they transmit his opinions on the percentage of people who are damned is open to question. Quoting the words of Matthew 7:13-14 hardly settles the matter.

      My two cents. Cheers.

    6. Dude! We don't know who specifically is in Hell as Catholics(maybe Judas but I never met the jammy wee bastard)! Unlike most of our poor Evangelical and Fundamentalist separated brethren we believe it is possible for non-Christians to be saved by extra-ordinary grace.

      Unlike me poor wife who in her youth was an Ex-Catholic Evangelical(she has long since recovered from that) who thought her wee Catholic father MUST be in Hell because he never "accepted Jesus as Savior" according to their warmed over variation on Luther's error scheme. She dinny think that anymore in the arms of the True Church.

      Holy Writ is not clear which is why we need Church and Tradition to interpret it. So try to teach correctly and not stupidly.
      Yes Matthew 7:13-14 hardly settles the matter because Martin Luther was a ponce!

      Why is this hard fur ye?

      Anybody who goes to Hell well it is their own fault. I don't know who among my dead love ones is in Hell or Heaven. I won't know till I am dead. I suspect many I thought would make it didn't and many I thought would go to the hot place didn't. That will surprise me and my last surprise will be that an old grouch like moi was saved.

      As Ronda Chervin once wrote when we get to the other side and it is revealed to us who among our social circle and family was saved or damned in regards to the damned we will in a state of extreme charity see it was for the best and that the condemned brought it on themselves and willed their own dark fate. It will not diminish our happiness. Which is why it is likely it is not known to us in this life.

      Why is this hard?

    7. Because, as St Paul said, "We see through a glass darkly."

    8. If you're proposal is that Jesus is to "harsh" for you. Or your willing to drop large parts of the gospel to fit you're view of morality: "We also have to recognize that the Gospels were written down decades after Jesus died." Then there's nothing I can do for you: "Blessed is he who does not take offense at me"

    9. Son of Ya'Kov,

      I'll let this be my last comment. One thing I do know about the Catholic Church: it teaches that supernatural faith is a gift of God, bestowed at baptism, and that no-one can ever be excused for falling away from the Catholic faith - especially when they've had a solid Catholic upbringing and a good Catholic education. If they die without returning to the faith, they are damned. No excuses, no exceptions. Check it out here:

      Another thing the Church is quite clear about is that atheists and agnostics cannot be saved, unless they come to believe in God before they die. (Invincibly ignorant non-Christians can be saved, but only if they believe in a God who answers the prayers of those who call on His name.)

      Perhaps one day, some theologians will come to take a more compassionate view, but that's a long way in the future, if it ever happens.

      You write about members of your family who became Protestants for a while. I have family members who have fallen away from the Catholic faith and who are now agnostics or atheists. But here's the thing: by any fair measure, they are better people than I am. They're certainly more charitable, and they are not bitter against the Church, either. They just don't buy its teachings, that's all. I simply cannot believe that these people whom I dearly love will be damned, and that I, with all my character flaws (and they are many), will somehow scrape into purgatory if I'm lucky enough to see a priest just before I die. That's absurd. Kindly refrain from telling me that I don't know what hidden flaws my own family members may have, rendering them worthy of damnation. I think I know my own kith and kin, thank you. And I'm far surer of their fundamental goodness than I am of any alleged supernatural revelation.

      I hope and pray that the Church will eventually take a more enlightened view of salvation, but in the meantime, I have to say that its present position constitutes an immense stumbling block to people who would otherwise be prepared to listen to its teachings. Cheers.


      Microsoft has a free spelling and grammar checker. I'm just saying. (I'm fallible too, but making four spelling errors in your first two lines is not a good way to start a comment.) I'll leave it there.

    10. @Vincent Torley

      You are seriously killing me VJ. Yer an educated man with a PhD how do you not know yer faith? Everything you just posted is seriously wrong or incomplete. Ye asked fur it. I am going the full Scottish!!!

      > One thing I do know about the Catholic Church: it teaches that supernatural faith is a gift of God, bestowed at baptism, and that no-one can ever be excused for falling away from the Catholic faith

      Oh really? What does the Ecumenical Council Vatican II say?

      “Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it” (CCC here quotes The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, “Lumen Gentium,” 14, from the documents of Vatican II).

      Nothing in that text specifies it only applies to separated Christians and general theists.

      Baptism gives supernatural grace and faith so that between the ages of zero and about maybe seven you are before God a Catholic. Even if ye where validly baptized by a Lutheran. The sacraments of the Protestants and schismatics are valid but they naturally still belong to the Catholic Church. As adults we have to make an act of faith to persist in faith and grow in it. This presupposes you must be given proper formation and taught proper knowledge.

      I hate to break it to you buddy but invincible ignorance can be applied to persons who are ex-Catholics or even formal Catholics. There is a distinction in ancient theology between formal heretics and material ones. It is possible for people to grow up culturally Catholic and not know the Catholic Church is the true Church.

      >Perhaps one day, some theologians will come to take a more compassionate view, but that's a long way in the future, if it ever happens.

      Hello? It happened in the 1960's. Yer late to the party. I blame you once living in Australia. You people are so remote on the bottom of the wee planet. Yer like "Vatican whatnow?". It happened in the teachings of Pius IX. It happened in the teachings of Alexander VIII in his formal condemnation of the Jansenist heresy that taught only Catholics get saving grace.

      >Another thing the Church is quite clear about is that atheists and agnostics cannot be saved, unless they come to believe in God before they die. (Invincibly ignorant non-Christians can be saved, but only if they believe in a God who answers the prayers of those who call on His name.)

      Yer worse off than yer family members mate. Yer channeling Jansenism here not Catholicism. Pope Alexander VIII condemned the proposition only Catholics get saving Grace and non Catholics unqualified do not.

      Invincible ignorance applies to ALL NON-CATHOLICS no exceptions. Of course as one Trad I know correctly told me. Invincible Ignorance does not itself save. It merely means God will not hold the sin of not joining the Church against you(but yer other sins are fair game). An invincibly ignorant person still has to receive and live according to the Extra-Ordinary Grace and Light God in His Mercy might give them to be saved.

    11. Part II

      The reason why Feeneyite heretics (whom you also could be channeling here) deny Baptism by Desire(as taught by Trent) is because it allows all Non-Catholics, including Atheists a potential foot in the door. Since it allows for persons who are NOT formally part of the Church by the sacrament of Baptism to be saved by extra-ordinary grace. That is against Fr Feeney hyper restrictive view and renders it null.

      >I simply cannot believe that these people whom I dearly love will be damned,

      If I was yer relative knowing what I know I would be more worried about you right now then them. How VJ did you wind up confusing Jansenism and Feeneyite heresy with Catholic doctrine?

      Sorry buddy but ALL INVINCIBLY IGNORANT persons who follow the Extra-Ordinary grace God might give them will be saved as will persons who desire water baptism explicitly or implicitly will be saved. That includes Atheists.
      Pope Francis isn't the first Pope to say it is possible for Atheists to be saved.

      So basically VJ as per usual. Yer wrong.

      > I think I know my own kith and kin, thank you.

      In principle not as perfectly as God does. It is the sin of pride to deny that. But maybe yer invincibly ignorant? Well you are Australian so yeh.....not everybody can be Scottish. Ah well....

      Think about what you have done young man and no more Feeney/Jansenist nonsense from now on.

    12. @Vincent Torley I apologize: I have had difficulties with grammar and versions of "to", "your", and "their" all my life.

    13. Invincibly Ignorant Atheists cannot be saved? What Bulls***.

      Mr. Conte bring the pain to the Torley heresy!

      Pope Pius XII dinny agrees with ya VJ! He is hardly a modernist nor "tainted by Vatican II" now idnee?

      Pope Pius XII: “Above all, the state of grace is absolutely necessary at the moment of death without it salvation and supernatural happiness — the beatific vision of God — are impossible. An act of love is sufficient for the adult to obtain sanctifying grace and to supply the lack of baptism….” [Address to Midwives, 29 October 1951, n. 21a.]

      "An atheist who love his neighbor selflessly, in full cooperation with grace interiorly, enters the state of grace by an implicit baptism of desire. This love of neighbor might show itself in any of the ways suggested by Jesus in the Beatitudes (Mt 5) or in the parable of the returning King (Mt 25).END QUOTE.

    14. @Son of Ya'Kov: "As Ronda Chervin once wrote when we get to the other side and it is revealed to us who among our social circle and family was saved or damned in regards to the damned we will in a state of extreme charity see it was for the best and that the condemned brought it on themselves and willed their own dark fate."

      Well, mate, if we can stand each other half a crown for a pint, maybe somewhere - in Plotinus' repository of souls? - "ci facciamo due risate" (we can have a couple of laughs).

      Rock on, F

    15. @Vincent Torley: hey, dude, at this point, why not just take the step across the waters? No reason to affirm as certitudes that which we cannot say are certitudes... and if some propositions are promulgated as certitudes, and we can't say they are such, then we should withhold assent from those systems of propositions, should we not?
      We only get one life. The hour of moral choice draws near at every moment - it is always the hour. I invite you to choose life with its uncertainties, just life, and work from there.

    16. Vincent,

      My wife grew up in Japan and is in many ways still culturally very Japanese, so I am sympathetic to these concerns. I also think that the Socratic dialogue you created to frame the issue is helpful as it takes those who are not familiar with Japanese culture and thought more deeply into the sort of obstacles that people face when sharing the Christian faith. That is also something that I am familiar with as my wife's parents are Protestant missionaries in Japan.

      In response to the initial dialogue you posted: In order to make progress with someone who was willing to dialogue with you, I think you would have to get them to examine their premises more deeply. I think you would have to examine with them fundamental concepts like "love" and the concept of a gradation of goods. Starting with the latter, you might ask them if commitment to one's family is a supreme good that is trumped by nothing else. If one's family is part of the Japanese mafia and involved in something particularly nefarious like child abduction, would it be wrong to deny the requests of your family elders that you participate in the family business? Of course not. Now the family you have described is not like this, but that is beside the point. The point is that there is a right or wrong that supercedes even one's commitment to one's family and one must do what is right even if one's family is not committed to doing what is right. In the situation with a family in the mafia committing child abduction, leaving the family business would actually honor your family by setting an example for them that we should not do wrong.

      Now this example would have the help that you may have the broader support of the Japanese people and in this way you would not bring shame on yourself. Let's say however that the culture itself supported some form of wrongdoing. This is not difficult to imagine as there was wrongdoing at a cultural level in the form of anti-semitism in Germany under the third Reich. Here to do what is right, you would have to oppose not only your family but also your broader culture. You might be shamed for doing what is right, but this would not mean that you should not do what is right and find ways to support those who are being wrongly persecuted. So these examples make clear that doing what your family wants/expects you to do and doing what your culture wants/expects you to do are not supreme goods that it is impossible to supercede. As the examples show, our commitment to doing what is right is a higher good than doing what my family wants or expects.

      Now this also relates to what it means to love and honor your family. Is it love simply to do what they want or expect you to do? If I have an elder family member who is addicted to drugs or alcohol and they expect me to pretend like they don't have a drug or alcohol problem is my compliance with their desires an act of love? Clearly not, because to love someone is to will what is good for them and addiction to alcohol and drugs is good for no one. So I must make efforts against their expectations and desires to get them to stop using drugs and alcohol. That would be an act of true love.

    17. Vincent (continued),

      In a similar vein, if they love me they will want what is good for me. So then the question becomes: what is good for human beings as such? In other words, if the highest good for human beings is not pleasing your family, then what is the highest good? The answers above suggest that virtue is a higher good than even pleasing one's family and this answer was given by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle as the highest natural good. So, there is a natural good that supercedes my commitment to my family. This should lead us to examine the virtues and ask what they include. What does it mean to "do what is right"? Does this not entail following the truth? And if Catholicism is true, would this not entail that God is the Supreme Good for which we were created? Would it not entail that happiness is found in Him? And would loving someone truly (the Catholic sense of "charity") not entail willing those around me to know Him for their own good?

      I think that this sort of tack could be effective with someone who was culturally Japanese, if they were willing to listen and hang in there in the discussion and to genuinely examine their premises. Now if their fundamental premise were: commitment to my family is the supreme good and I won't listen to anything to the contrary, then I don't think you have much chance at making progress in discussion with them. If, however, they were open to examine this premise more deeply, I think you could in fact make progress.

    18. @Ficino

      >"As I said before, your appeal to mystery in matters of philosophy sets off alarm bells."

      >"I invite you to choose life with its uncertainties, just life, and work from there."

      One man's uncertainty is another man's mystery.

    19. Vincent,

      I also wanted to respond to the five points you made in the post on January 29th. I regret that you did not find the responses helpful and I regret that some of the responses were contentious as it seems to me that you are wrestling with these questions in good faith and open to responses that might resolve some of the problems.

      Regarding your first point, I recognize that quoting the words of Christ may not be the place to start with someone in the situation you described. Although Jesus’ words are not harsh, they would in fact seem harsh to someone with the mindset you described. Rather I think you could engage with them in a dialogue about their premises regarding family as a supreme good and show them over time that this premise is false. Once they actually had faith that Christ was who He said He was, that would be an opportunity to introduce His broader teachings as those teaching would no longer have to overcome the obstacles of bad premises to soak into their soul.

      Regarding your second point, it seems that the mindset you are describing is partially your own. It is clear that you love your family and are nobly committed to them. That love is something that the Church regards as a profound good. I think that there just needs to be a deeper examination regarding what is involved in sticking by them. If they do wrong, does sticking by them entail that I should do wrong as well? Clearly not. Sticking by them would however entail communicating that I continue to love them even when they have done wrong just as they (hopefully) love me even when I do wrong. If their wrongdoing results in criminal prosecution, it may mean visiting them in jail after they have done wrong. However, it does not mean that I have to go to jail with them to love them. Even if my whole family does wrong and ends up in jail, should I regard “sticking by them” as joining the whole crew in their wrongdoing so that we can go to jail together? Clearly not. I could still honor them and love them without joining them in wrongdoing.

      Also regarding your second point, you do not ditch your natural family when you become Catholic. You ditch wrong doing and commit to avoid it even if your family gets involved in it. You do not lose your natural family when you become Catholic. You simply recognize that every single good in that family is a gift from God who has given you such a beautiful family (it sounds to me like you have a beautiful family and a beautiful love for them given your description of them and your commitment to them). It is an occasion to thank God for the gift of that family.

      Regarding your third point: It seems that you hold two premises that are incoherent. 1. You believe that your family consists entirely of good, honest people who are doing the best by their lights. 2. You believe that some of them, according to Church teaching, are going to hell. I can see how this would be a problem to hold both of these premises together. However, you are right to think that one of them *must* be incorrect. Let us take the first premise for granted. It clearly does not fit with the second premise. However, the second premise *is not true* if the first premise is true. If your family is doing the best by their lights, then they are acting in good faith based on what they know to be true. They are doing their best and that act of doing their best is a faithful response to the grace that God has given to them. Such people are *not* going to hell according to Church teaching (This is taught in Lumen Gentium and I can expound it if you have interest).

    20. Vincent (5 points continued)

      The reason for this? Because God is perfectly just and knows precisely what is in the heart of each and every person. He knows our souls in a way deeper than we know our own and certainly deeper than we know the souls of those around us. It is this last point that I think should cause you to at least consider the first premise as objectively as you can. I don’t mean that you should look for faults in your family members, but I do think you should first try to determine principles of right and wrong and then seek to apply them both to yourself and to those you love in a consistent way. Otherwise, we can see those who are closest to us with rose colored glasses as though they never do wrong when in fact they may have faults that are significant.

      Regarding your fourth point: my grandfather converted to the Catholic faith on his deathbed. He had a long and hard life struggling with alcoholism and emphasema. His wife faithfully prayed for him for decades. At the end of his life, God granted her request and he was baptized, professed the creed as best he could, and entered into eternal happiness. I would not lose hope for those who are older whom you love. Just pray for them and love them with the help of God’s grace and maintain hope for them. You could take their authentic virtue as a sign that they are doing the best by their lights or at least to hope that they are doing so based on all that is apparent to you. In the meantime, you could also encourage them toward greater virtue by your example and what you say. Although you mentioned that you regard them as better people than you, I don’t think this means that you have nothing to offer them. If you can offer them some means for their own progress in virtue, that is an act of love.

      Regarding your fifth point, I have nothing to disagree with here. However, I will offer a nuance that I think is important. Although the parable makes clear that charity or love is the supreme measure of those who are in communion with God, it is important to note that there is a relationship between faith and love. Authentic love is rooted in authentic faith. That is the teaching of the counsel of Trent. The reason for this is that to love someone is to will their good and to love them in an ultimate sense is to will their ultimate or supreme good. Faith is what enables us to know what this good is so that we are able to love people for the sake of God and for the sake of their union with Him and eternal happiness with Him. This does not mean that the faith must be explicit. There are people who through no fault of their own, do not know about the blessed Trinity and the Catholic faith. To the extent that these people do the best by their lights and will the best as they know it for those around them, they are acting according to grace and will be saved. This does not mean that explicit faith is unimportant. If it is hard to follow the narrow path with explicit faith and the sacraments, how much more so with only implicit faith and a lack of the sacraments? The key is that love is the supreme law of the Church as Jesus teaches and as you remind us, but that love should not set against truth as though they were enemies.

    21. Vincent (final on 5 points),

      As a final note, you mention on a couple of occasions in this post you had doubt regarding the authenticity of particular texts in the Gospel of Matthew that you find difficult. Yet, you are willing to quote Mt 25 as an important teaching for all to consider. I would encourage reconsidering this approach as it involves applying skepticism in an ad hoc way to texts that you currently find difficult. The skepticism of much of gospel scholarship in the 20th century stemmed from the form criticism of Rudolf Bultmann and Martin Dibelius. However, the form critical assumptions of Bultmann and Dibelius have been widely criticized and abandoned. Among other problems, Bultmann was using the analogue of German folklore as a means to examine the Gospels. This analogue was of course ridiculous and it is sad to say that it took Gospel scholars a bit of time to recognize this. Birger Girhardson and his students were important in this regard and so was the work of Kenneth Baily, N.T. Wright, and James Dunn.

      Perhaps most important, however, was the work of Richard Bauckham a Cambridge scholar who made a very detailed argument that the Gospels were in fact eyewitness testimony just as the early Church believed. Bauckham and Dale Allison have roundly criticized form criticism and the traditional criteria of authenticity. Current Gospel studies currently take more seriously the role of an informal, but controlled oral tradition in the transmission of texts (this informal, controlled distinction is a contribution of Kenneth Baily who examined how Arabic cultures passed on eyewitness testimony over time). There is also a great deal of work being done in memory studies that is contributing to a much more sober assessment of the Gospel authors ability to remember large swaths of the teachings of Jesus over long periods of time.

      Along with this, Craig Keener has shown that the genre of the Gospels are closer to ancient Greco-Roman biographies than any other genre of ancient literature. He also makes clear that such biographies were concerned to relay facts accurately. So there is good reason to accept the Gospels as reliable testimony rather than accepting some and rejecting other testimony in an ad hoc way because some of the teachings make you uncomfortable given your current assumptions. If we are willing to examine our assumptions more deeply, we may just find that our assumptions are actually the problems and not the teachings of the Gospels. (May just find is a coy way of saying: "we certainly will find")

    22. Along with this, Craig Keener has shown that the genre of the Gospels are closer to ancient Greco-Roman biographies than any other genre of ancient literature. He also makes clear that such biographies were concerned to relay facts accurately.

      Although it is true that Keener helped move the yardstick away from "Gospels are like German myths" to "like Greek biographies", Dr. Lydia McGrew has since moved the yardstick even farther than Keener did: not only did the authors intend to report eyewitness testimony, they did not feel free and easy to make up sayings and speeches, and certainly not whole events, to "fill in" plot lines, themes, or theological concepts. See:
      The Mask and the Mirror and

      The Eye of the Beholder

      Also, through undesigned coincidences she shows that there is a large body of details in the Gospel accounts which strongly supports confidence that these accounts are from eyewitnesses to the actual details.

  20. "Or perhaps they would accuse Christ of wanting people to go to hell, as theologians and churchmen who warn about hell are routinely accused of doing. This is as irrational as accusing the doctor who warns of the low survival rate of pancreatic cancer of wanting people to die from it."

    I don't think this analogy works.

    A doctor who warns of the low survival rate of pancreatic cancer didn't create pancreatic cancer, or human bodies, much less had any input on how they work, and thus any input in their particular weakness towards pancreatic cancer. He would get rid of pancreatic cancer itself if he could, and of all cancers in general for that matter. He would also, if possible, make human bodies work much better than they do, so that they wouldn't be afflicted by any illnesses, and if they still were, that no illness was so destructive anymore. Thus, when the doctor warns patients and family members of the low survival rate of pancreatic cancer, he's stating facts upon which he has little to no control over.

    Christ, being, according Christian doctrine, God Himself, has, in contrast, full, absolute power and total control over all aspects of what He's warning about, so He's not at all in the same position as the doctor.

    The analogy would work if, rather than comparing Christ to the doctor, it compared priests and theologians to the doctor, as these are all in a similar situation of warning others about something they have no control over.

    1. Can you imagine being in eternal union with someone who hates you with all their heart and wants to frustrate everything you do? Have you ever broken up a friendship, possibly even though they were in general nice to you? Yes? Well then stop implicitly accusing Christ of being unmerciful. As it is not only judging God, but judging God by human standards, and not only that but judging God by hypocritical human standards.

    2. That analogy stands and serves its purpose. For evil has no positive nature; all of what we call evil is a sort of a lack of good (and this does not entail all sorts of lack of good are evil). As such, evil is caused by our sin, that is to say; not directly by God, but by our own actions, and yet as per the Gospel, it is undone or remedied or dealt with by and thru God. Not only is this being very similar to how pancreatic cancer is not caused by a doctor who cures the patient afflicted of it, but even more than said doctor, God is the direct provider and originator of health and life in the first place.

    3. My previous reply put in another way; the very sun that gives life can blind you if you do not give heed to the precautions given to you intuitively and explicitely. Or just as with the knife which you can hunt and make food with and grow healthly as a result, it can also hurt and kill you if you use it in certain ways. Neither the creator of the sun nor that of the knife can be blamed if you don't give heed to the corresponding precautions and instructions and hurt yourself as a result, much less so if they themselves are the ones that are giving you those precautions and instructions.

    4. @Bill:

      a) "Can you imagine being in eternal union with someone who hates you with all their heart and wants to frustrate everything you do?"

      There's a level of begging the question in this. According Dr. Feser's articles, or at least how I read them, God structured reality, designing souls, bodies and everything else, in such a very that everything of good there ever was in someone who becomes damned is removed from them, so that the being thus transformed develops pure, unbridled, unceasing hate towards God.

      God could presumably have designed reality in a different way. He could have made things such that the disembodied person kept the mix of good and bad traits unchanged, rather than devolving into only the bad ones. Or he could have made things such that the evil aspects of the disembodied person were the ones that got destroyed, producing the maximization of the few good ones they had. Or any other combination of factors.

      As such, using the actualization that needn't be of potential hate as a counterpoint doesn't seem to me to work, at least by itself, without additional supporting arguments for this specific path being the only one God could have taken.

      b) "Have you ever broken up a friendship, possibly even though they were in general nice to you? Yes?"

      Yes, I once did. I did many bad things in my life, and all of those hurt my soul. But I don't really see how this relates to that. Could you please elaborate?

  21. Today is the feast day of Thomas Aquinas. Why aren't we talking about him? Just saying...

    1. Kinda late but here it is: Aquinas is based. Not only his philosophy was pretty helpful in getting on catholicism but my first confession was on his feast day!

      Thanks St. Thomas! Please pray that we thomists become at the same time good thinkers and good saints like you!

  22. "Some people are in hell"

    Once again, Dr. Feser exhibits his ignorance of universalism. Most universalists don't deny the reality of hell. Hence, they needn't deny that people are in it or even that the majority go there. They rather deny its eternality. "But that contradicts scripture." Not necessarily, since the Greek is ambiguous, as an earlier comment ignored by Dr. Feser shows. "But that contradicts magisterial teachings." This is really what it comes down to. However, the ending of Trent Pomplun's review of DBH's book on universalism indicates that the Latin used in various Catholic conciliar documents is just as ambiguous as the Greek of the NT on this issue. The viability of universalism within Catholicism is far from being closed. But if it is, then so much the worse for Catholicism. Eastern Orthodoxy beckons.

    1. I almost missed this post by anonymous universalist because he did not use his usual sign off. I think he wants us to think that there are more people writing under the name of anonymous who are just as confused as he is. It reminds me of the SNL skit "the ambiguosly gay duo", but he (or she if Keizer herself) is posting as the "ambiguously anonymous duo".

      In response to the sad repetition that the Greek is ambiguous: this is just false and AU is just hoping that no one else posting here had at least a semester of Greek in order to call his/her bluff. Anonymous Universalist/Keizer holds a strange, idiosyncratic, and muddled view on this point that I have critiqued above. Once again just because Anonymous Universalist is muddled on this point does not mean that the rest of us have to pretend to be. We join the clarity of the vast majority of Church Fathers, Saints, Doctors of the Church, and the Church's Magisterial documents.

      But don't make the mistake of sharing any of those documents with anonymous universalist. She will just call them "ambiguous" and then suggest that we all wait for the day when the Church comes around to seeing these issues in the same muddled way she does.

    2. Regarding your criticism of Feser for not taking the time to respond to your inane posts: One thinker/writer defending truth can only give so much heresy and non-sense a red ass by paddling it with sound and valid arguments. He then kindly leaves some work for the rest of us to do. Because of his kindness, I had the opportunity to show that your arguments are ridiculous and to give those arguments and the accompanying heresy the red ass it deserved. I think that if Dr. Feser were a super-hero, he should have this as a sort of theme. Edward Feser- giving heresy a red ass!

    3. I was looking through old posts from Feser's blog last night and I realized that he had already responded to Anonymous Universalists comments under this post about 6 months ago. Talk about prescient. The post is entitled "An Exegetical Principle from Fortescue." I am pleased to report that Fortescue and Feser (and all sane exegetes) expound the exegetical principles that I have observed above. That anonymous universalist has ignored these principles places AU outside the category of "sane exegetes". We can of course still hope that sanity is restored to AU's exegetical process. In all seriousness, that would be a worthy prayer for prayerful readers of this blog.

      Also, I have reconsidered the superhero theme for Feser as it is too ambiguous. Instead, I think it should be Edward Feser- Giving Heretics the Spanking they Deserve!

  23. As usual I agree with most of the article, with a couple of caveats. The first is that fallen angels presumably have LESS chance of reconciliation than humans, as they have rejected god in a very different way from humans. I think god’s mercy is focussed on contrition which is both a change of mind (the meaning of repent), and a realisation of the error(s). I don’t see how the great intellect of angels would make this MORE likely. I guess it’s possible but seems unlikely to me.

    The second is that we need to be careful talking about eternity, such as eternal punishment, as we are not very good at dealing with such things. Presumably this means eternity going forwards only, as how can it contain someone before they are born? I suspect that only god is eternal, everything created has some temporality except in terms of it being united in him. Even essence itself seems to unfold over time, shaped by the eternal ideas. Purgatory too appears to have some form of temporality. So to me the “eternal suffering” is a way of saying “unending”, as in it carries on and on with no hope of ending, and so very different from the timelessness of absolute eternity. In this context the “second death” is important and I don’t know why it is missed from these conversations. The suffering of being aware of god but without god has no end in that there is an unreachable chasm between these souls and god. The stain of sin open to all is simply too dark to be able approach god without the robe of the lambs blood. However god does indeed bring it to an end. After the unending torment in death, death itself is destroyed - along with all those souls that are not united in god’s presence. So “eternal suffering” and a “second death” can both be true. Usually when we think there is a contradiction in scripture, it’s because we don’t understand it correctly.

    1. "The second is that we need to be careful talking about eternity" -proceeds to speculate wildly about eternity in a comment on an internet blog.

    2. @simon Thanks for your openness to feedback I was worried it was too harsh.

    3. It’s always tricky inferring and interpreting from what we consider solid and a priori, and being clear on what is speculation. Even more so when most people you talk to think you’re absurd in taking one of your epistemic bases as a priori, be it revelation, reason, experience or scientific.

    4. PS: I’m happy for harsh feedback, but I’ll head it off on the use of “a priori” knowledge by admitting I’m using the term incorrectly. The idea of scripture (let alone direct scientific evidence) being a priori ‘self evident truths’ is probably an unhelpful redefinition of the term…. I should have said my solid epistemic bases within different ways of knowing.

    5. @simon I knew what you meant. While it may be that the things you described may not have been the things thought of by Kant, when he coined the term; They are still things that are possible to learn about a priori. I.e. learned without the absolute necessity of empirical or sensuous perception.

      -Sorry if that's confusing tldr; I thought your use of a priori was fine.

    6. Pious speculation:

      1. the Blessed in heaven, by being united with God and having the Beatific Vision, will enjoy "eternity" in a sense by being grafted into God's own vision of all being, which is timeless. Thus the blessed will, in a sense, participate in eternity. Not of their own natures (as God does), but through God.

      The condemned, by not being united with God, will not experience eternity "by participation". They will, in addition, have their souls and bodies re-united at the end of this world, and thus be able to experience "part after part" temporally. However, there will be no particular POINT to each part (of time) being one after another, as there will be no new developments to speak of.

      The "death" spoken of for the condemned is, primarily, the death of the soul, by which is meant not its cessation from BEING, but its cessation from its proper living state i.e. its union with God under the condition of sanctifying grace, which is a participation in God's own life. (Thus God was able to tell Adam, in warning, that he would die ON THE DAY he ate of the forbidden fruit, even though he lived 900 years after.) The spiritual death of the condemned in hell is permanent, unending, and has no cessation. It may be CALLED "eternal" but only in the negative sense that it has no end: it does have a beginning. It isn't properly "eternal" but merely infinite on one side. Yet the use of "eternal" for it as a metaphor isn't wholly bad, as the term does convey the sense of unendingness.

      3. One may propose that there is a second sort of death experienced in hell: that the body and soul, being wracked by disorders incompatible with normal life, is (always, unendingly) in a state in which (normally) they would undergo natural death: but supernaturally they do not have the soul leave the body, rather the two are (forced to?) remain united even though the soul and body are at such odds with each other that death (in normal conditions) would occur. That experience could legitimately be called "unending death" without either being completely improper, nor implying any sort of (proper) application of the term "eternal".

      4. We don't know in detail what Hell is like. Not all has been revealed. We should be cautious about how much we can say of it.

    7. Hi Tony. I think that’s good speculation on the time aspect of it. There is another way to see some of it if you think about reality as primarily spirit, and the physical body as an extension of this. Yes we were formed in dust, like seeds, but it’s our spirit breathed essence that exists in this primary sense (and of course this is driven from god’s nature, despite the incarnation). Hildegard of Bingen is great at depicting this reality.

      What you then see is a quite different meaning of life and death in the deeper biblical accounts. When Adam at the apple, the death was spiritual death. The body remained alive, but the spirit made choices that were not aligned with telos, with the divine idea of man. From this perspective, whether or not the body lives or dies is secondary. If the spirit is alive, it’s aligned to god, attracted to god’s presence, and the natural joy and ‘rightness’ that comes from god. If the spirit is dead, it is naturally repelled by the goodness of god, and so is empty of joy, empty of rightness.

      From this perspective, heaven and hell don’t really need much further speculation, and the with body or not with body is purely about how clearly we see the spiritual reality (as in, with the body we only see the spiritual through a glass, darkly).

  24. What do we know for certain about the TORMENTS of Hell? Certainly, they’re infinite in DURATION. But, what does The Church say about the intensity of the torment? I know that the WORST pain is the eternal separation from God, and the resulting psychological hopelessness & anguish for all eternity. But, do we know exactly what the corporeal torments involve? Some seem hesitant to admit that it’s real, corporal fire; hotter than any temperature of our ordinary experience. I’ve heard Father Ripperger describe additional things about the senses being tortured, e.g. the intense pain from the pressure and heat, the loss of bodily movement, the loss of control over one’s bowels, etc.

    It makes me reflect on the torment from somewhat “ordinary” human experience; e.g. a bad fever and flu, accidentally burning oneself on the stove, bouts of depression, etc. The intensity of these things seems to make the prospect of Hell absolutely terrifying (and, perhaps that’s partially the “point” of these experiences). I can’t imagine 10 seconds being fully engulfed in flames, let alone eternity. But, I’m also a mere human being. Perhaps these things aren’t for us to have full knowledge about in this life. It reminds me of St. Paul’s words in Romans 9. God is GOD, and the complexity of this life and the universe go well beyond what we can fathom.

    I think meditating on Hell is a sobering reminder that we’re called to sanctification in the small, ordinary events of our daily life (and according to our state in life). We’re not called to “save society” as Dr. Roberto de Mattei recently said rather beautifully. We’re called to save our souls, and to glorify God.

    1. Yes. Save souls. That's what we are called to do.

  25. Is Roman Joe still around? Haven't seen any posts from him in a while.

    1. What where we talking about? I wanted to get back to you on it but trolls and my new labtop dad gave me distracted me. Dad is always giving me his hand me down computers. Which is lovely. I nuked the Windows 10 crap which was so slow and put Umbuntu linux on it. It runs like a dream.

      Cheers man.

    2. @Son of Ya'Kov: we were talking about the relation between God as first mover/cause and the will of rational creatures.

    3. Ah yes. Well God is a Un-caused Cause of Causes. When we call Him a first mover we do not mean it chronologically since Scholasticism for purposes of argument can presuppose creation never had a formal beginning. It is only about what God can create here and now.

      I think the burden of proof is on the skeptic to prove God cannot move causes both natural and voluntary. And just as by moving natural causes He does not prevent their acts being natural, so by moving voluntary causes He does not deprive their actions of being voluntary: but rather is He the cause of this very thing in them; for He operates in each thing according to its own nature.

      In terms of God moving acts of the will to supernatural faith those of us in the Banez school of thought champion Pre-motion. While Molinists prefer Concurrentism. Thought Prof Feser has written about Concurrentism.

      Myself I am partial to either view at the moment. Thought I might lean toward premotion.

      God causing the will to freely convert & make a saving act of faith by giving it efficacious grace is merely tell us how the elect person is saved.

      But what is unexplained is how it is truly sufficient. But I don't think it can be proven to not be truly sufficient.

      You once wrote"I'll also note that your sentence, "Nobody can say what a free will is in essence," debars you from your earlier statement that the nature of the will is to act freely. You can't say what a thing's nature is without knowing its essence."

      I disagree. I cannot know God's essence but I can know something about God. I cannot know how to make a being with free will. I cannot program an AI with free will. I cannot like Anakin Skywalker make a C3PO.

      But I can know I am the true cause of my own choices even if God is causing the reality of my power of free will.

      That is why I must appeal to mystery. Now here is the thing. You cannot argue for free will if you presuppose materialism or physical ism. I sometimes wonder if that is at the bottom of yer objection to the idea God can cause us to will freely? Yer thinking about it in purely mechanistic terms.

      I think it is a mystery because a world without free will leads to greater incoherence and clear contradiction.

    4. @Son of Ya'kov: hey, I have no patience with Catholic fundies, just as you have no patience with atheist Gnus. But I value the privilege of dialogue with someone who wants to try to follow the argument where it leads.

      I have much with which to disagree in what you wrote. But that is the good part - that we try to push toward understanding the truth better.

      1. temporality in God's being first mover is not germane to what I wrote, as far as I can see. I was talking about series of causes ordered hierarchically per se. Temporality isn't at issue.

      2. I think you are wrong about the locus of burden of proof. According to Doughlas Walton, one who asserts a claim, whether it be a positive OR negative claim, must shoulder a burden of proof of the claim. One who expresses doubt about the claim, whether the claim be P or not-P, must shoulder the weaker burden of doubt. That is, the doubter must give some reason for doubting. I have tried to do that. I have not asserted that God CANNOT move causes voluntary and involuntary. I have only said that that Thomism does not give cogent reasons for thinking this claim true, and I gave in turn reasons for not accepting this claim.
      E.g. this claim rests on further premises that the rational creature has free will and that the rational creature's decisions are contingent, i.e. creature is open to choose A or not-A. I've argued that these positions contradict other parts of the Thomistic system. Therefore, we have rational basis for doubt.
      3. I must press you on your claim that you can know things about God without knowing God's essence. Ditto knowing things about the rational creature's will without knowing the essence of the will. Why should we accept this? If I don't know the essence of "bee," I'm not justified in saying that this flying insect is a bee and not, say, a yellowjacket wasp. You are raising one of what I think are the major dodges of "God talk," that things can be asserted as truths about God when the speaker admits s/he does not know the essence about which s/he speaks. Are there other things, the essence of which we do not know, about which nevertheless we can propound statements as truths known with certitude?
      4. You can know you are the true cause of your own choices even if God is causing the reality of your power of free will. OK, if God doesn't cause your act of free will in any particular case, then God is causing the reality of your free will only in some hands-off, deist sense. Yer cain't have a God that is first cause of every effect in reality AND is not first cause of every effect in reality. You have to surrender something or else just be inconsistent. Are you, Jim, first cause of some effect in reality, autonomously from God? How does this not make you a second god?
      5. As I said before, your appeal to mystery in matters of philosophy sets off alarm bells.
      6. Do I believe in free will if I am a naturalist? I don't say materialist, because so far I admit the existence of abstract objects. At this point, I only go with Aristotle, that the moral choices of us rational creatures are ἐφ' ἡμῖν, in our own power. Property dualism, AFAIK, gives us what we need.

    5. Ah something very last. I freely admit when arguing with Ficino I am sometimes punching above my weight class.

      (metaphorically of course. I would never punch Ficino he is a good egg. I like him.).

      >I have only said that that Thomism does not give cogent reasons for thinking this claim true, and I gave in turn reasons for not accepting this claim.

      The thing is as One Thomist said to a Molinist. The relationship between divine sovereignty and free will is a mystery to contemplate not a puzzle to solve. So with that in mind I think the burden is to show God cannot cause the reality of free will in principle. I don't think the Thomist view is something you can prove directly only indirectly via the authority of Holy Writ and Church. So for me I need a good reason to believe God cannot cause free will or be the cause of freedom in wills or the first cause of true secondary causes the later are true causes in their own right. Fire burns the wood not God who causes the existence of the wood and fire and for them to act according to the nature He gave them.

      > I've argued that these positions contradict other parts of the Thomistic system. Therefore, we have rational basis for doubt.

      Only if we presuppose a materialist or mechanistic frame work as far as I can tell. Or if we make univocal comparisons between deity and creatures. Rational Creatures being made in the likeness of God must have some free will (otherwise how are they in that image?) thought it is dependent on God to cause it to be and God must opp-orate it according to that nature. I am not seeing the contradiction?

      >I must press you on your claim that you can know things about God without knowing God's essence. Ditto knowing things about the rational creature's will without knowing the essence of the will. Why should we accept this?

      If God's essence is not unknowable then how is it God by definition in the Classic Sense? God can only be known imperfectly by creatures. God cannot be know univocally.

      I can rationally conclude the First Cause is Pure act but I canny explain what it is only want it does.

      >You can know you are the true cause of your own choices even if God is causing the reality of your power of free will. OK, if God doesn't cause your act of free will in any particular case, then God is causing the reality of your free will only in some hands-off, deist sense.

      I don't understand your objection? Are we presupposing divine occationalism here or is God the first cause of true secondary causes? Also are secondary causes real causes or not opp-orating according to their nature?

      >As I said before, your appeal to mystery in matters of philosophy sets off alarm bells.

      There must be mystery and the biggest mystery is anything is explainable at all.

      >Do I believe in free will if I am a naturalist?

      To be fair I reject the Volunteerist definition of free will so it could be there is an equivocation problem?

      >At this point, I only go with Aristotle..

      But I have to go with how Aquinas developed him.

    6. Ps maybe we should drag Oderberg into this?

      Premotion is paper number 57.

    7. "We should begin by
      disabusing ourselves of the notion that predetermining motion destroys the
      contingency of created being, any more than the determinism of secondary
      causation, if it obtains, destroys contingency. That B follows from A necessarily by
      some exceptionless law of nature does not entail that B itself is necessary. The same
      applies to the created human will. Even if—we should deny—secondary causal
      determinism were true of all created being, this would be compatible with the
      contingency of human acts. Divine physical premotionism—which we should
      accept—is also compatible with the contingency of human acts."David Oderberg.

      I have to follow my own advise and get good.


    8. I have read this Ficino maybe we need to visit it?

      'Divine Premotion', International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 79

    9. @Son of Ya'Kov, thanks for the links. I don't know whether I can get to them today.
      Just as a quickie:
      1. re yours about mystery: surely we can't formulate a self-contradictory description of an effect and then say that God causes that effect as so described. It's not clear to me, as I've said, that the conjunction of "God is the first cause of A" and "Fred is a secondary cause of A as an act of free will" does not entail a contradiction. So far the Thomist strategy I've seen relies on introducing non-univocal senses of "cause". On that heading we find ourselves back in other discussions we've had.
      2. the example of fire burning wood is not apposite, since fire does not have free will.
      We need to establish that secondary causes can produce the effect by their own act of liberum arbitrium, when said effect comes at the terminus of a series of causes ordered hierarchically per se and moved and controlled at every step by the first cause.
      3. "Rational creatures being made in the likeness of God must have some free will (otherwise...)" etc.: here as I've observed before you're deducing "free will" from the way you're defining rational creature. Fine, but then you have to give up other claims about God's sovereignty/providence/being first mover of every per se causal series etc. If your whole edifice can't stand without non-univocal senses of terms, then skeptics are well within their rights to withhold assent, since analogical predication re divine attributes "begs" its own legitimacy. Aquinas defends analogical predication most of the time I've seen by saying that without it, we could not speak about God. Begs the question when the question gets down to God's existence.
      4. re knowing God's essence: maybe A-T claims to know so many things, even by apophasis, that it comes close to claiming to know something of God's essence. If not, what does A-T know except how God terms are used in language?
      5. what I said about deism boils down just to the observation that Thomism is NOT deistic in its conception of how human willed actions relate to God's causality. Thomism needs to say that God is the first cause of any effect (we know that "non-being" isn't included among "effects"), not that God, to use a metaphor, gives agents free will and then sits back and lets them decide whatever they want.

      OK, later bro

    10. I'd like to offer a side note on the question about free will.

      As I see it, there's a hidden premise in every logical syllogism, inherent to their very nature. Fundamentally, every syllogism always involves a kind of "absolute determinism" in that, absent fallacies or bad faith, every conclusion follows necessarily and invariably and unavoidably from its two (or more) premises.

      This tight connection between premises and conclusions makes syllogistic chains of reasoning extremely powerful, but that very power rises a risk. See, if we look at those chains and ask, from them, were freedom is, we cannot find it in them. Rather, all that observing syllogistic chains qua chains can show is that conclusions are *determined* by their premises, which in turn, when each of those premises is itself a conclusion from previous premises, also come *determined* by those previous premises, and so on and so forth, all the way back to the very first axioms.

      As such, when we then abstract from this observation that everything that can be said about anything is fully determined by something else, we incur in a petitio principii, as we're actually merely restating that hidden premise present in every single individual syllogism and, by extension, and much more strongly, in any chain of syllogisms.

      The only way to avoid that mistake is to affirm free will as an axiom, then include it as a premise in any syllogism dealing with free will. If we do that then we can reason syllogistically about free willed decisions, acts, and events without issue, as those conclusions, fully determined by their premises as they are, will themselves include the existence of free will as an element that comes *coupled with* the determinism of the syllogism itself.

      Doing that entails no contradiction, while trying to derive or deduce the existence, or even the mere possibility, of free will, from syllogisms that don't already include is as an axiomatic premise most definitely doesn't work, only resulting in that very petitio principii that argues only determinism exists.

  26. Well someone pull out the popcorn and call the babysitter. This is going to take some reading.

  27. Ron Conte speculates that the few on the straight road are the ones who go straight to Heaven, while many if not most go to Purgatory first. But billions of humans are still in Hell, he thinks.

    1. His opinion is as good as Prof Feser's which is as good as mine till the Holy Church moved by the Holy Spirit as willed by Divine Providence steps in to sort it out.

  28. If someone says that people who beat their wife will eventually go to prision and I beat my wife then it's undertandable that I get mad when I hear that.

  29. Somewhat like a dissenting opinion that later becomes the basis for a landmark reversal, the following remark by JPII (and others like it) could be the seeds of a doctrinal development that changed how we read the ambiguous earlier magisterial claims:

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

    Anonymous Universalist

    1. I am noticing a pattern here. Anonymous universalist takes texts that are perfectly clear to the Church Fathers, Saints, and doctors of the Church, calls them "ambiguous", and then proceeds to suggest that the Church might some day "clarify" the "ambiguity" in a way that favors his own muddled thinking on the matter.

  30. Each time I hear about thoughts from “unenlightened ancients,” I want to ask what scientists will think of 21st-century science when they study it 3,000 years from now. They may believe that our science is absurd as many atheists think the Bible is now. Maybe some 21st-century skeptics are chronological snobs?

  31. Two questions:

    1. If existence is better than non-existence, why does Jesus says that Judas would be better off had he not been born?

    2. If most people go to hell, isn't it immoral to have children? I mean, you are bringing someone into existence who --most probably than not-- will end up suffering eternally.

    1. In answer to 1), I sometimes wonder if we should draw the distinction between never having been born and never having been conceived.

      Perhaps if Judas has died before birth, as so many immortal souls have done throughout history, his fate might have been better?

  32. From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

    "Where is hell? Some were of opinion that hell is everywhere, that the damned are at liberty to roam about in the entire universe, but that they carry their punishment with them. The adherents of this doctrine were called Ubiquists, or Ubiquitarians; among them were, e.g., Johann Brenz, a Swabian, a Protestant theologian of the sixteenth century. However, that opinion is universally and deservedly rejected; for it is more in keeping with their state of punishment that the damned be limited in their movements and confined to a definite place. Moreover, if hell is a real fire, it cannot be everywhere, especially after the consummation of the world, when heaven and earth shall have been made anew. As to its locality all kinds of conjectures have been made; it has been suggested that hell is situated on some far island of the sea, or at the two poles of the earth; Swinden, an Englishman of the eighteenth century, fancied it was in the sun; some assigned it to the moon, others to Mars; others placed it beyond the confines of the universe [Wiest, "Instit. theol.", VI (1789), 869]. The Bible seems to indicate that hell is within the earth, for it describes hell as an abyss to which the wicked descend. We even read of the earth opening and of the wicked sinking down into hell (Numbers 16:31 sqq.; Psalm 54:16; Isaiah 5:14; Ezekiel 26:20; Philippians 2:10, etc.). Is this merely a metaphor to illustrate the state of separation from God? Although God is omnipresent, He is said to dwell in heaven, because the light and grandeur of the stars and the firmament are the brightest manifestations of His infinite splendour. But the damned are utterly estranged from God; hence their abode is said to be as remote as possible from his dwelling, far from heaven above and its light, and consequently hidden away in the dark abysses of the earth. However, no cogent reason has been advanced for accepting a metaphorical interpretation in preference to the most natural meaning of the words of Scripture. Hence theologians generally accept the opinion that hell is really within the earth. The Church has decided nothing on this subject; hence we may say hell is a definite place; but where it is, we do not know. St. Chrysostom reminds us: "We must not ask where hell is, but how we are to escape it" (In Rom., hom. xxxi, n. 5, in P.G., LX, 674). St. Augustine says: "It is my opinion that the nature of hell-fire and the location of hell are known to no man unless the Holy Ghost made it known to him by a special revelation", (City of God XX.16). Elsewhere he expresses the opinion that hell is under the earth (Retract., II, xxiv, n. 2 in P.L., XXXII, 640). St. Gregory the Great wrote: "I do not dare to decide this question. Some thought hell is somewhere on earth; others believe it is under the earth" (Dial., IV, xlii, in P.L., LXXVII, 400; cf. Patuzzi, "De sede inferni", 1763; Gretser, "De subterraneis animarum receptaculis", 1595)."


    1. Gary has it escaped yer notice the tone of that entire text is speculative? Yer giving us a history of speculations Catholics have of Hell but none of this involves what is required of Catholics to believe. Also you are shoehorning the ideas you had a fundamentalist into the discussion. Ideas Catholics are not required to believe. Catholics have had a host of opinions over the centuries that turned out to be wrong. We move on.

      >The Church has decided nothing on this subject;

      That settles it for us Catholics. You are an Ex-Baptist turned Skeptical Agnostic. You think in terms like a Protestant of general consensus of theologians since that is all yer kind has as a Magisterial Authority or Church Authority. It is because you lot hold to the error of "Bible Only" and private interpretation. Which is literally anathema to us (& BTW to our Eastern Orthodox Brethren).

      So please stop pretending we are like yer former religion. We are not. Disbelieve our religion all ye like. I dinny care. But at least have the curtsy to disagree with our actual religion and not what you want our religion to be to make yer contra-Fundamentalist polemics not non-starter objections. Which they still are laddie.

  33. The above Catholic source says that Hell is a real place, not a non-material state of consciousness as Edward Feser claims.

    If one reads the writings of the earliest Church Fathers, there is ZERO indication that any of them believed that the souls of the damned suffer torment in a non-material state of consciousness. The early Church Fathers clearly believed in a real, literal place, with real, literal fire. Here is a link to a list of comments on the subject of Hell from multiple early Church Fathers:

    I believe that Professor Feser has invented a modernist's version of Hell, and all for one simple reason: to avoid being forced to provide evidence that a material Hell actually exists, as early Christians believed and taught! Hell is a tall tale, my Catholic friends. Ancient peoples of many different religions believed in an underworld. Early Judaism had no concept of an afterlife. After their exposure to eastern religions in Babylon and Persia and their occupation by the Greeks, Jews adapted this pagan afterlife belief into Judaism, from which early Christians formulated their own version. It is a tall, tall tale.

    Hell does not exist except in the minds of superstitious, gullible people. PLEASE stop teaching little children this nonsense.

    1. "The above Catholic source says that Hell is a real place, not a non-material state of consciousness as Edward Feser claims."

      No. It says the Catholic doctrine has never defined wether hell is on a material place, spiritual state, etc... And then shows some Church Father's thoughts on the issue. You have to understand that the Church's teachings are only those defined specifically as such, not the thoughts of theologians.

      "I believe that Professor Feser has invented a modernist's version of Hell"
      Well, he isn't the first one to speak of Hell as a state.

    2. I see one of the Anon posters beat me to the punch? I might as well join the fray.

      >The above Catholic source says that Hell is a real place, not a non-material state of consciousness as Edward Feser claims.

      No the text you cite is clearly speculative in tone and gives us a list of the speculations Catholics have and opinions they have had about the "location" of Hell over the course of time.

      They all say "The Church has decided nothing on this subject." That is our standard. We are Catholics not Baptists. Get that threw yer 'ed.

      At best Catholics are permitted to believe Hell is a place(the nature of which we do not know? Is it a literal place? An analogous place? Equivocal?) we know not where but it dinny says we are required to believe that.

      >If one reads the writings of the earliest Church Fathers, there is ZERO indication that any of them believed that the souls of the damned suffer torment in a non-material state of consciousness.

      Yer provided list of proof texts of the Fathers is incomplete. Where are the Eastern Fathers? Where is St Gregory of Nyssa? Or Origen who was early and not cited and who CLEARLY said Hell was spiritual pain only?

      What about St Maximos the Confessor? Who was cited by Aquinas many times in his work and is accepted by both Catholics and Orthodox?

      QUOTE"The ages of the flesh, in which we now live … are characterized by doing; but the ages which will belong to the Spirit, after this present life, will be transformed into ages of undergoing. (Quest. Thal. 22: PG 90: 320- C7-13.)

      Being in the spirit is a state not a literal place. Just saying... Ye simply dinny know what ye are talking about son.

      >I believe that Professor Feser has invented a modernist's version of Hell..

      I believe you are just a dishonest troll. The list you provide is not complete. St Maximos Hello? Do I have to get out my copy of the Philokalia to beat you with it?

      CCC1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire." The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

      >Hell does not exist except in the minds of superstitious, gullible people. PLEASE stop teaching little children this nonsense.

      Evidence please? Yer own sources are incomplete and contradict yer claims as I pointed out. Clearly not all the Fathers believed Hell was a literal "Place" and not a state.

      I think you are troll. Cut it out. Being a dishonest pest will not make us Atheists. If anything it will make us more contemptuous of them. Though I will still respect the Atheist philosophers as worthy foes. Yer kind nor so much mate......

    3. Gary has never read St Maximos the Confessor. Nor St Gregory of Nyssa....he proof texts like the Fundamentalist he once was but he doesn't argue rationally like a Catholic.

      Ficino vs Gary. Ex Catholic vs Ex Baptist.

      Note Ficino's skepticism is more challenging and intellectually respectable. Gary's not so much....

    4. Catholic Encyclopedia: "However, no cogent reason has been advanced for accepting a metaphorical interpretation [for Hell] in preference to the most natural meaning of the words of Scripture. Hence theologians generally accept the opinion that hell is really within the earth. The Church has decided nothing on this subject; hence we may say hell is a definite place; but where it is, we do not know."

      So you are saying that Catholic theologians are wrong about Hell? What else are they wrong about?? My goodness. I'm sure Protestants would love to hear that. But you believe that a minority of Catholic philosophers, like Edward Feser, are right? Says who?? Get ten philosophers together and you will get eleven opinions!

      But not only do most Catholic theologians believe in a literal hell, with a specific location, *probably* inside the earth, but so did the overwhelming majority of early Church Fathers! Dr. Feser represents a minority view among Catholics. Why has he taken this minority view, that Hell is (currently) only a state of consciousness? Answer: It shuts up those pesky atheists who demand to see actual evidence for a literal Hell. No atheist can disprove that billions of "souls" (ghosts) exist in an immaterial state of consciousness! Very clever.

    5. Gary I hate to break this too you but Catholicism does have within it persons with contradictory points of view on non dogmatic doctrinal matters that have not been formally settled by the Holy Church which we can differ with each other on. We have that liberty and open mindedness baked into our religion since the beginning.

      For example Thomists like myself and Molinists on the relationship between Free Will and Divine Sovereignty. Different schools of thought within Catholicism exist.

      You heard the old maxium "One essential things unity. On doubtful thing liberty and in all things Charity." Well because we Catholics have a Church to settle the matter we can KNOW objectively what is an essential thing and what is a matter of opinion even it it is popular opinion.

      >But not only do most Catholic theologians believe in a literal hell, with a specific location, *probably* inside the earth,

      I am skeptical of that claim and some theologians have found fault with the early CE which is why we revise it. OTOH if I took it at face value then so what? The majority of Marian theologians say Our Lady died before being resurrected by Christ then assumed into Heaven. They are called Dormitionists. But there is a minority who believe Mary was Rapture'ed straight into Heaven without dying. They are called Immortalists. Are you claiming Catholics really believe Mary died because of the opinion of the majority of theologians? Well maybe that is how you wee fundie Baptists do it but not Catholics. Pope Pius XII said differently as Pope St Gregory the Great did on Hell.

      >Dr. Feser represents a minority view among Catholics.

      So what? He is allowed. Catholics CAN be Young Earth Creationists like those at the Kolbe Institute or Theistic Evolutionist like moi or even Old Earth Creationists.

      > ​Why has he taken this minority view, that Hell is (currently) only a state of consciousness? Answer: It shuts up those pesky atheists who demand to see actual evidence for a literal Hell.

      In other words "Boo hoo! No fair! Ye are not fundamentalists!" Cry me a river Gnu! That is what I have been trying to tell ya buddy but you insist on looking stupid in spite of my best efforts on your behalf to make you a better Atheist.

      You see if you refute an opinion that is not Catholic dogma. Even a popular opinion you DON'T automatically refute Catholicism. Just one particular of opinion held by Catholics.

      This is why yer polemics up till now have been shite and are so even if it turns out there is no god.

      So think about yer stupid approach and get good scrub!

      I got a ruler and I am prepared to go all Sister Mary Thomas on yer knuckles mate!

    6. I have never said that it is wrong for Catholics, including Professor Feser, to hold minority positions within Catholic teaching. Knock yourselves out! Just stop terrorizing children with your unproven theories that if they grow up to reject their parent's religion, they will suffer eternal punishment in some form of "Hell".

      It is wrong. Period.

      Drop the Hell superstition and keep the good of Catholic teaching (concern for the poor, the disabled, forgiving your enemies, etc.).

    7. "Dr. Feser represents a minority view among Catholics. Why has he taken this minority view, that Hell is (currently) only a state of consciousness? "

      Because a good enough reading of the New Testament clearly affirms that the dead have no body before the general ressurrection, they only have their souls, and Ed philosophical reasoning strongly suggests, at least for him, that souls are not on especifical locations.

      You join:

      1. The deads are bodyless souls today.

      2. Souls can't be at a specific place.


      3. The deads can't be at specifical places today.

      Dr. Feser literally explained his reasoning to you before, how is your memory?

      To suggests that his real reasoning is the one you atribute to him you at minimum needs to prove that what you are saying is so much of a common objection that Dr. Feser was forced to change his view of hell.

      Unless you can provide real and peer-reviewed evidence that the Professor was pestered before by several other atheists with this objection them we are free to point at the screen and laugh. Even if you could show the evidence, it at most would make your opinion perhaps right, for your psyco-analysis is unfalsifiable.

    8. Cont.

      Almost forgot:

      "No atheist can disprove that billions of "souls" (ghosts) exist in an immaterial state of consciousness!"

      They actually could in principle. All you gotta do is to show inconsistences on dualists,idealists, pantheists etc worldviews. In fact, there is several arguments made by materialists over the centuries trying to do that.

      They just suck, like materialism.

    9. Gary you are just being a Troll and a Jerk at this point. That I could forgive.

      But basically you suck at rational argument so a to make you a totally useless non-believer.

      >Just stop terrorizing children with your unproven theories that if they grow up to reject their parent's religion, they will suffer eternal punishment in some form of "Hell".

      You stop terrorizing children with yer unproven beliefs of oblivion and a soul swallowing nothingness at death. I happen to know for a fact many children raised atheist have that fear.

  34. Gary yer full of wee shite.

    You wrote:
    "I have never said that it is wrong for Catholics, including Professor Feser, to hold minority positions within Catholic teaching. "

    But before ye wrote:
    "I believe that Professor Feser has invented a modernist's version of Hell, and all for one simple reason: to avoid being forced to provide evidence that a material Hell actually exists, as early Christians believed and taught!"

    Do ye realize "Modernism" is a wee heresy formally condemned by Pope St Pius X? By accusing him of that ye are effectively accusing him of wrong.
    Ye back peddle and ya wee fib. It is nor a good look laddie.

    You are a bad skeptic. Ye are nor rational and yer arguments are minging wee nonsense.

    Enough already! Trolling is nor gonna convince us to adopt yer wee skepticism fundamentalist religion.
    Go Evangelize to people who give a rat's behind.

  35. My final comment: The Emperor's tailors told the masses they were too ignorant to understand the concept of invisible clothing. Their sophisticated-sounding, complex theories of invisible thread convinced the masses that the tailors must be correct. But a child saw the truth. The sophisticated theories were pure BS.

    -(holy) ghosts and virgins do not produce children
    -human beings cannot walk on water
    -brain dead corpses cannot be reanimated
    -Hell and Heaven are no more real than Never Neverland.

    Abandon your (sophisticated) superstitions, my Catholic friends. Truth matters.

    1. If our faith is false, then why should we abandon it in piecemeal? Why ought we continue to (for instance) care for the poor and disabled or forgive our enemies?

    2. Prof. Justin Barrett, professor of psychology and program chair for PhD in Psychological Science at the Department of Doctoral Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary, one of the founders of the field of cognitive science of religion, argues that children are naturally religious.

    3. Ah the Courtier's quaint.

      Ye can tell Gary is an ex-fundamentalist. Here he is giving us a sort of reverse altar call. If we except his uncritical philosophically unsophisticated kneejerk skepticism as our lord and personal savior we will be saved from the sin of superstition, philosophy and sophistication. Children will no longer fear Hell. They will merely fear "the dying of the light" at the end of life and the yawning void of non-existence devouring all they once where. Somehow that is better for "reasons"?
      So there ye have it.:D

      Here is an oldie but a goody from Senior Feser on the Courtier's reply.

      Peace out.

    4. I just love these so-called skeptics that quick alternate between saying that non-falsifiable things can't be know to be true or false and saying that several beliefs they don't like are completely false.

      The mechanism that triggers the change? How close they are to someone who will ask for arguments.

    5. (holy) ghosts and virgins do not produce children
      -human beings cannot walk on water
      -brain dead corpses cannot be reanimated
      -Hell and Heaven are no more real than Never Neverland.

      Since that was Gary's last comment he won't respond to this, but thinking that these items somehow disprove Christianity on any level is profoundly ignorant. They are completely useless if decoupled from the assumption that there is no God.

    6. Mr Geocon

      "If our faith is false, then why should we abandon it in piecemeal? Why ought we continue to (for instance) care for the poor and disabled or forgive our enemies?"

      Maybe because you truly care for the poor and disabled and about your enemies, and not merely because you want a reward or fear some kind of punishment?

    7. Walter,

      You wrote that we "ought to care" because "you truly care for the poor and disabled and about your enemies." That's a non-answer if I've ever heard of one.

      I'll ask again: Why ought we to care about the poor and the disabled, love our enemies, etc. if Christianity, the theological basis for these ethics, is false?

    8. Me Geocon

      We 'ought' to Care about our fellow human beings because that's what it means to be a human beings. It's more complex than that,but to explain in full detail would take too long. I suggest if you are truly interested in this, you should read what nontheistic
      ethicists have to say about it.

      I supposed I could have made this a lot easier for me by simply calling it a mystery. That seems to satisfy most Thomists when they are unable to explain things, but that doesn't satisfy me.

      BTW, Christianity is not the basis for these ethics. They existed long before Christianity

    9. The materialism and atheism Gary is propagating lacks the metaphysics to make sense of truth, so what does he mean when he says "truth matters"? No God, no Truth. This proposition is reasonably supported. We can also see in practice as the culture becomes more secular, the very idea of truth has been discarded into absurdities. All that remains is equally valid subjective preferences and perspectives.

  36. "My final comment:"

    Thank God for small mercies.

  37. Sometime I wonder.
    We spend time trying to figure out how many people will end up or not in hell (probably many because of the original sin), while actually our concern should be if each one of us will end up in hell, which has a very high degree of possibility when we see how lukewarm we are in our striving for our real, actual personal conversion.