Thursday, March 31, 2022

Hart’s post-Christian pantheism

Well, kids, it’s that time again.  David Bentley Hart’s new book You Are Gods: On Nature and Supernature is now out.  So is my review, “David Bentley Hart’s Post-Christian Pantheism,” which you can read at Public Discourse.  As you will see, the title of my essay is not invective, but pretty much just a straightforward description of what’s in the book.

125 comments:

  1. Whatever else you might want to say about him, David Bentley Hart is a great entertainer. Except in his fiction.

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  2. Now I know why all men are saved. They save themselves. Because they are God. Thank you Hart for getting to the heart of the matter these last two books.

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  3. Well now.

    I'll have to share this with my friends.

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  4. Thanks for this review, Ed. As a lay person who is has no formal philosophical training and theologically clumsy, your take on it gives me confidence to read and learn from the book and help evaluate potential conflicts with Catholic tradition nurturing me.

    I find the metaphysics of deification/theosis/"partakers of the divine nature" extremely interesting and suspect there is much practical/evangelical value in clear, orthodox thinking and preaching about it. I've been excited for David's book for this reason and because, as you note, Ed, his learning is vast and it is always learning when reading him. So, if you're around David, thank you for your part of the conversation.

    Can you or anyone else suggest work from Lawrence Feingold, Steven A. Long, and Reinhard Hütter? I enjoyed "Called to be Children of God" by Fr David Meconi and Carl E Olson but want something with a little more metaphysical/ontological detail.

    Finally, Ed, I remember when reading about your conversion that deification/theosis was an important factor. I'd be curious to hear more.

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    1. On the book suggestion front, Dr. Feingold's "The Natural Desire to See God According to St. Thomas and His Interpreters" is considered perhaps the definitive work on this subject. He's also very adept at writing in a clear, comprehensible way.

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    2. Anonymous beat me to it; Feingold's The Natural Desire to See God is excellent. Steven A. Long has written several articles that push back against De Lubac and the Nouvelle Theologie, including "On the Natural Knowledge of the Real Distinction of Essence and Existence" in the first issue of Nova et Vetera 1 (2003), "Obediential Potency, Human Knowledge, and the Natural Desire for God" in International Philosophical Quarterly (1997), and "Pruning the Vine of La Nouvelle Theologie in the Garden of Thomism: Regarding the Thomistic Corrective to 'La Nouvelle Theologie." He has probably written a book on the subject but I don't know which one Ed is referring to.

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    3. Tim, Great sources, thanks for sharing.

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  5. A perfect example of how one can quickly wander off the reservation if not restrained by the Magisterium

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  6. Wow. He's on some train. Next stops, the Cosmic Christ and the Golden Dawn.

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  7. Sounds we should start having a countdown to Hart's apostasy...and praying for his soul.

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    1. Countdown to Apostasy by Steely David.

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    2. David,

      How about now? This is From Dr. Feser's review:

      For in reality, he judges, Christianity is “only one limited trajectory within history’s universal narrative of divine incarnation and creaturely deification, superior in some ways to alternative trajectories, vastly inferior in many others” (emphasis added).

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    3. "How about now?"

      Either way, the man needs prayer.

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  8. St. Thomas pray for us while we endure the firestorm of Hart's soon to come responses...

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  9. The problem with pantheism is that it is atheism. If God and the universe are the same, then how is that different from just assuming the universe is all that there is? You just relabeled the universe "God" and did nothing else.

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    1. I think that's right. I suppose one could counter that for the atheist there is nothing but the universe, whereas for the pantheist there is nothing but God. But if God is everywhere and in everything (which is an appealing notion for those with a collective mentality) it means He must be constantly evolving, and therefore not perfect and changeless. In other words, not God.

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    2. @Infinite Growth:

      You nailed it. "The problem with pantheism is that it is atheism".

      And now, let's take this statement to its logical conclusion: "the problem for atheism is then that atheism = pantheism". What does this mean for the so called "materialist"?
      - It means that atheism, as such, DOES NOT EXIST.
      - It means that the "materialist" is not a non-believer in God, but that the "materialist" has a different conception of God (than that which the Christian has for example)
      - It means that for the "materialist", "God" (the generative power of life) is simply an uncaring and indifferent one, and then he calls its deity "matter" (because "materialists" are lame, gullible pagans). "Matter" "explodes in the Big Bang" (maybe it had a bad day?) and "matter" "reveals itself in the evolutionary process" and "matter" "has always been".

      So "atheism", per se, does not exist. All human cultures have an idea of God. But...

      The devil is in the details. :)

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    3. Unless pantheism entails attributing strictly divine properties to the universe.

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    4. @Median Joe:

      I think that's right. I suppose one could counter that for the atheist there is nothing but the universe, whereas for the pantheist there is nothing but God.

      They're both the same regarding their essence: they both *ARE*. They both are *Being Itself*/ existence. The god of atheists ("matter") is just indifferent, "he" does not give a damn about them. That's why they are bitter creatures. They are the product of an "uncaring womb" and that makes them go crazy.

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    5. God to Moses: 'I AM WHO AM'
      "Matter" to Darwin: 'I AM WHO EVOLVES'

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    6. What always struck me about the pantheistic description of the universe, i.e. in Ed's article (quoting DBH):

      Only the God who is always already human can become human. Only a humanity that is always already divine can become God. . . . God is all that is. Whatever is not God exists as becoming divine, and as such is God in the mode of what is other than God.

      is this: WHAT is the POINT of God inducing / "creating" that which is described as "the 'mode' of what is other than God"? God is perfect and all-sufficient unto himself. He cannot possibly GAIN by inducing some "it" that has a "mode" of other-than-Himself merely so that it can re-discover that "it" is really just Himself at the end. There is (can could not possibly be) any reason for this, other than God playing with himself (and yes, I do mean that in its nasty sense - though metaphorically - which is why it is absurd). No God worthy of the name would ever stoop to the nonsense of the "created" world if their description of the world is right.

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    7. Tony

      Was God playing with himself when he begat the Son? After all, the Son is also just Himself at the end.
      Under panentheism the 'reason' for this is simply that that is what God is. Creation is in God but God also transcends creation.

      I am not defending Hart here, nor am I defending panentheism, but I think you should first get a grasp at what some view entails before you call it nonsense.

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    8. @Walter Van den Acker:

      Was God playing with himself when he begat the Son? After all, the Son is also just Himself at the end.

      Was "Matter" playing with itself when it begat the human brain via evolution to "understand itself"? Because the human brain is matter, and the human brain studies matter. Which leads to the absurd conclusion that "matter studies/understands itself". After all, matter is just itself at the beginning of the evolutionary process and at the end. It has just changed "form".

      Even if you are not a materialist (which you suspiciously seem to be but maybe I'm wrong), you have pointed to a severe flaw in the materialist worldview.

      Do we agree that materialism is an absurd philosophy (a residue of paganism)?

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    9. Was God playing with himself when he begat the Son? After all, the Son is also just Himself at the end.

      Walter, I don't think they are parallel. God generates the Son eternally via his own eternal act of knowing himself perfectly. The Son is eternal in the very same way as the Father. The point, though, of the "created world" is (as I understand it) that it is NOT eternal in the same way God (or, the "part of God under the MODE of God") is eternal, for the world (or "the part of God under the MODE of not-God") undergoes changes. That's the point of the world, to undergo change, isn't it? At least until it ceases to be under the not-God mode?

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    10. Tony

      My point is not that they are parallel, but rather that a superficial understanding of a position may lead to hasty (and wrong) conclusions.
      Panentheism is not something DB Hart pulled out of his sleeve, it is, in fact, a position held by people of many religions, including Christians and it is older than classical theism.
      Under panentheism, it's not merely the point of the world to undergo change, it's the point of reality to undergo change, so the "mode of not-God" is a necessary aspect of God.
      BTW, there is nothing nasty about playing with yourself. In the case of classical theism, however, God plays with things that are not himself. And that is nasty.

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    12. Under panentheism, it's not merely the point of the world to undergo change, it's the point of reality to undergo change, so the "mode of not-God" is a necessary aspect of God.

      Right, so the God / not-God complex undergoes change, which EITHER means that they are not yet perfect, and need change to become perfect, or they ARE perfect, and change into less-than-perfect. Either one implies a standard of "the good" that is higher than God.

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    13. Tony


      You are looking at this through the eyes of Thomism.
      On panentheism, change has nothing to do with being imperfect or becoming perfect.
      The whole God/not-God complex is perfect and change is a necessary aspect of it.

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    14. @Walter Van den Acker:

      My point is not that they are parallel, but rather that a superficial understanding of a position may lead to hasty (and wrong) conclusions.

      There's a boy out there named Walter whom with you should share this piece of advice regarding his "understanding" of Thomism. You would be doing him a favor.

      Creation is in God but God also transcends creation.

      This is a vague distinction that barely makes sense. And if there is evil in creation (and it certainly there is), then there is evil in God, and therefore God can not be perfect goodness. This dualism is illogical.

      It's akin to the nonsense of the materialist religion. "Everything" that exists is matter, but matter is both morally indifferent (when outside of the human brain) and moral (when inside the human brain); lacking intelligence (when outside of the human brain) and being intelligent (when inside the human brain); lacking free will (when outside of the human brain) but having free will (when inside the human brain), etc. That's an untenable dualism. Matter is a pagan god that does not stand logical scrutiny. No wonder that the world has become so stupid (and materialists call themselves "enlightened". Profesor Feser has given materialism the proper description: The Last Superstition ).

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  10. A few stray morning thoughts:
    . After reading about his litany of invective, it made me speculate...
    Do some folks imagine that vituperative expression lends more certitude to their argument? Or render it more persuasive?
    . It made me think about the danger of absolutizing one concept without balance from the whole of the Christian patrimony. It leads one to cast off any of the latter that gets in the way of one's "sacred" idea, eventually leading one outside the fold, where the wolves lie in wait

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  11. I think 'panentheism' would be a better term for what Hart believes.

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    1. Either panentheism or qualified monism. Bentley Hart doesn't simply identify God and the universe as being two ways of referring to the same reality.

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    2. Walter,

      Perhaps even better would be 'panenthusiesm', which includes the "US" as being above and beyond creation, ontologically distinct from the "us" of creation, and is epistemologically more inclusive.

      Tom Cohoe

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  12. Dr. Feser,
    After having recently sat through an almost hour long interview with Hart (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHwt6Cf45uU) in which he, seconded by John Milbank, haughtily espouses a series of heretical claims and engages in an unreasoned attack on Aquinas and the tradition that derives from him, I was hoping for and pleased to find your devastating review of his book. While the interview itself is worth watching, since it reveals the fulsome arrogance of this man, which seemingly has no constraints, the essential point, which you underscore in your review, is Hart’s absurd but dangerous attempt to make what is orthodox in the Christian tradition heterodox and what has always been heterodox, orthodox. While you hit him hard, Hart, an open enemy of the Catholic faith, deserves precisely the treatment that you offer in your review and more, given the vituperation that spews from his mouth.

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    1. @Vito B.Caiati, indeed! I had a hearty laugh at this line from Feser:

      Clearly, Hart knows a lot of words, but he may want to double-check the meaning of “disinterested.”

      It's hilarious to see people claim to be disinterested when it's obvious that they are "all in" lock, stock and barrel.

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  13. When DBH decided to jump the shark, he didn't stop halfway.

    More seriously, Universalism is the polestar of his thought, and it seems he has found Hinduism a better fit than Christian tradition.

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    1. 1) I'm not so sure he ever jumped the shark. He seems pretty consistent on a worlview that may be called something, for lack of a better term "Academic Utopian" kind of view. I think one may find things even in such writings as "Atheist Delusions", a reason I was always lukewarm to that book. On that I would nitpick that this isn't BECAUSE of his universalism, rather the universalism is an outgrowth of his utopian/neoplatonic/Idealism epistemology and temperment.

      2) unrelated: Feser offers my favorite criticisms to read on Hart, which is kind of unfortunate (because I'm Orthodox) as some of the Thomist stuff is a bit outside my interests. Still good to read it, and I suppose on this topic esspecially, he is going to have to take the full Thomist position

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    2. I meant "jump the shark" from Christian orthodoxy (capital-O or lower-case, either way). I went back and read Feser's review of the previous book and now I think that the shark might have been jumped several years ago.

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  14. I have a semi-relevant question: How do we hold together the idea that we need the grace of infused faith to believe some of the higher mysteries of Christianity and yet also see that some people seem to hold to, say, the Incarnation, by human faith but not divine faith (as when Catholics assent to the Incarnation and Paschal Mystery but reject the authority of the Church to define doctrine on matters of, e.g. sexuality).

    If such mysteries can be held by merely human faith, what does it mean to say we need infused faith to elevate us to believe these higher mysteries?

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    1. Just because God is giving you His grace doesn't mean you can refuse to cooperate with it or be ignorant of parts of God's revelation.

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    2. I'm not sure this really gets at my question, which is largely a conceptual one. If I were to boil it down, it's basically: Setting aside whether it is salvific, is merely human faith in the central mysteries of Christianity even possible? If not, why does it seem like there are so many people who do have such merely human faith? If it is possible, why do we say we need the grace of infused faith to elevate our intellect so as to believe these mysteries?

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    3. People can accept pretty much anything as a matter of opinion, and merely human faith is really just opinion with a will to trust it. But mere opinion doesn't elevate the intellect at all; that requires a virtue. There is no virtue of merely human faith, because it requires trust in another; there can be a virtue of divine faith, because we receive through the grace that infuses faith the one in whom we trust. Merely human faith doesn't unite us to God; divine faith does. And divine faith, precisely as a union of the intellect to God, puts us in a state able to receive yet other, even greater things: the virtue of charity, the gifts of the Spirit, the knowledge that will eventually replace it, which we receive and can only properly understand from the mysteries with which divine faith is concerned. The mere willed opinion of human faith doesn't do any of these things. In all matters we believe as a preparation to understand what we believe; merely human faith in divine mysteries can't prepare us to understand divine mysteries themselves (although it can prepare us for things like understanding how the words are used). But divine faith does precisely this, and therefore is more properly called 'belief'.

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    4. Non-Catholics can also have divine faith, which is brought about by the action of grace that of course can reach those outside the visible boundaries of the Church. Catholic theologians even before Vatican II have recognized this. They are held inculpable ignorant in regard to the other mysteries of the faith.

      There's a theological controversy as to what is the bare minimum to be believed in terms of what is necessary for salvation. Some theologians hold that it is enough that someone believe in God who rewards and punishes, while others believe that the mysteries of the Holy Trinity, Incarnation, and Redemption need to be explicitly assented to. But whatever the case, this to is brought about by the movement of grace.

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    5. Brandon that was helpful, so thank you.

      M, I'd tend to agree, though I think the salvation question is a separate one from the question of the mere ability to have human faith in whatever relevant mysteries are required for salvation.

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    6. Faith is one... The formal aspect leads to the material and efficient aspects in relation to one's capacity, vis-a-vis brain power or a lack of learning (the maiores/minores distinction). Serious errors in natural law held as principles rather than as prescriptive judgments (creating sin or vice) would exclude faith.

      Someone who believes an Article of faith but without accepting the minimal amount of material faith vis-a-vis invincible ignorance does so not with the infused virtue of faith but with some natural preference.

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  15. The trajectory that DBH is on is a reminder to all Christians of the dangers of intellectual hubris.

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  16. Permit me to make a distinction.

    1. Man is not directed toward the beatific vision by nature.
    2. Man cannot attain the beatific vision by natural means.

    If (1) is false, but (2) is true, then it looks as if Man has the desire for the beatific vision by nature, but simply lacks the means by nature to satisfy that desire. So the supernatural here can be said to be in the divine intervention needed to assist nature in attaining this end.

    If, however, both are true, then I am left wondering what good the beatific vision is. If Man has no desire for the beatific vision by nature, then why should he desire it? And what's more, how could he receive it if he lacks the potential to receive it by nature? And why create Man without the desire if the intent was to bring men to the beatific vision?

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    1. @ Oktavian Zamoyski, Ed addresses this in his rebuttal.

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    2. You can't want something if you have know conception of it.

      Man desires to know God, but he cannot obtain a full understanding of Him in this life. Furthermore, man is marred by Original Sin, meaning that, even if there was a way to know God fully in this life, we would be unable to obtain it.

      With the knowledge of Divine Revelation, man can know of life after death. And with the gift of Divine Grace, man obtains the means to achieve that end. However, the supernatural end and means build upon what is already there - man's desire to see God.

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    3. Mister Geocon,

      "Man desires to know God, but he cannot obtain a full understanding of Him in this life."

      The question isn't what is practically feasible in this life, but what is entailed by human nature as such (I intentionally avoided discussion of original sin because it is irrelevant). So even if we grant that we cannot know God in this life in full proportion to our desires as determined by human nature, and even if that can only occur in practice in the next life, we still haven't accounted for the beatific vision. By nature, we do not seek to know God completely according to the Thomistic view, right? If the only problem is that I cannot know God fully in this life because of limitations in this life, then it is easy to understand how divine action can make up for our inability (just as grace can restore us to natural perfection). But that's not what's being said.

      What I was asking earlier is why should Man desire the beatific vision at all if what is proscribed by nature suffices? Is it like wanting to eat a tastier meal even if something blander suffices? Why should the tastier meal appeal to us unless we have the capacity to appreciate it? And to respond to your first sentence, why should having a concept of the beatific vision awaken a desire for it? How can we desire what is not in our nature to desire? Know won't do that. I think that's why obediential potency is introduced. Ed writes that "our curiosity about what it is like to be a bat does not entail a sense of deprivation or loss in the way that, say, a missing limb would". If that is the case, then the beatific vision appears to be something like curiosity, the satisfaction of which is something that might enhance life, but something you could ultimately live without, without the sense of loss.

      W.r.t. the computer peripheral, the infinite ways in which a computer can be extended is ultimately a reflection of the infinite ends Man can have for it, and so in this way, the beatific vision would seem to be like what God wills to extend men with. What is unclear to me is the status of these infinite ends Man can have. It seems Man does not need to have them all satisfied to be happy, even if their satisfaction can enhance life. Is that what the beatific vision is like?

      "With the knowledge of Divine Revelation, man can know of life after death."

      I do not think this discussion has anything to do with revelation per se. Besides, immortality of the soul (if that's what you mean), knownable by unaided reason, because it is a necessary consequence of having an immaterial soul, implies that it is our nature to be immortal. Perhaps by "life after death" you mean the resurrection of the body and everylasting happiness, but then either that is something we desire by nature, or it is not. If it is, then that's because it is a natural end. If it isn't, then it seems gratuitous like the beatific vision.

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    4. Oktavian,

      Human beings, by our nature, want to know God and worship Him. If God manifests Himself to us and says He wants to be worshipped in a certain way, who are we to say "Sorry, but I think that this purely natural way of knowing you suffices." Does that make sense even from a natural law perspective?

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    5. St. Thomas says:

      I answer that, It is impossible for any created good to constitute man's happiness. For happiness is the perfect good, which lulls the appetite altogether; else it would not be the last end, if something yet remained to be desired. Now the object of the will, i.e. of man's appetite, is the universal good; just as the object of the intellect is the universal true. Hence it is evident that naught can lull man's will, save the universal good. This is to be found, not in any creature, but in God alone; because every creature has goodness by participation. Wherefore God alone can satisfy the will of man, according to the words of Psalm 102:5: "Who satisfieth thy desire with good things." Therefore God alone constitutes man's happiness.

      Thomas does not here specify that the knowing (of the universal true) and loving (of the universal good) for man is specifically under the mode of knowing and loving of the Beatific Vision. He is indeterminate here. So one could argue whether he means the knowing of the BV and the love of heavenly union, or what is possible here on Earth.

      Now, Thomas also says Since the will follows the apprehension of the intellect or reason; just as it happens that where there is no real distinction, there may be a distinction according to the consideration of reason; so does it happen that one and the same thing is desired in one way, and not desired in another.

      So, man with natural reason unaided by grace can desire to know God. He can, further, apprehend the notional possibility of apprehending God’s own essence, for he can know that God himself does know his own essence. What he cannot know, through reason unaided, is whether there is some way for God to elevate man to that apprehension, nor whether God wills it. Man can, at most, show up errors in arguments that purport to show that man’s reason cannot be so elevated. But he cannot demonstrate the positive.

      Now, I argue, man can be said to “incline” toward something in two ways. One is desire-proper, i.e. an actual desire that does, or at least may, lead to action toward that thing. The other is a hypothetical desire – a WISH – that could turn into an active desire only with an addition of an apprehension of possibility. Man can see birds fly, and can wish to be able to fly like a bird. But without any apprehension of a possibility of being able to grow wings, a man cannot have an actual desire to fly like that. So not flying is not a failure to achieve (an active) desire. So, without man apprehending a possibility of seeing God in His own essence, man cannot actively desire it. But he can wish for it. He can quasi-desire it in the sense that IF IT WERE possible, he would actively desire it.

      But what, then, is the desire for the true and the good that IS what man desires under his natural powers? The problem with settling the issue is that man cannot in this life attain even the "maximum natural good" that can be apprehended naturally: No matter how much of “the good” he attains in this life, there is no such attainment that lulls the appetite altogether. There is, in this life, no contemplation of God that makes him wholly sated as to knowledge. So, he can indeed apprehend that IF there is such a state of satiety, it can only occur beyond this life, for it cannot occur in this life. And yet, without revelation, he cannot say what will happen in that afterlife that will in fact suffice to lull the appetite.

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    6. Therefore, we have this oddball situation that man by his natural reason cannot be sated in this life, and he can know this, but without the grace of revelation he cannot actively desire a what that would sate his desires. I distinguish, however: a revelation by God providing knowledge of a state in the next life, of a state of satisfied knowing the universal true, is knowledge of FACTS other than what he can achieve by reason alone, but it is not, per se, supernatural knowledge: his intellect does not need to be elevated in powers in order to grasp the new fact. Such a truth is of a natural mode, available to him merely with more information.

      One of my first great teachers was an old-style Jesuit (one of the good old cadre) who taught Thomism, (and who, by the way, was also named Thomas Aquinas). He drove home this odd situation for man: man’s own nature cannot be fully satisfied with any other end than the Beatific Vision. I am not here talking of some super-added end beyond what his nature requires to “lull the appetite”. But at the same time, man cannot attain the BV without supernatural grace elevating his intellect and will. Nor can he have hope in being received into that state without grace, for hope is, also, a supernatural virtue resting on grace. So, man is the one creature on Earth that cannot attain his end through his natural powers, and cannot even strive for that end appropriately through his natural powers. His natural powers are not adequate to his natural end. God designed man intending to “finish him” by the addition of supernatural grace, so as to elevate his powers for the attainment of his end.

      But this design was, effectively, placing in man’s soul a God-shaped hole that can only be completed by the indwelling presence of God Himself. Hence the notion of a man created in a “perfect state of nature” who is both without sin and without grace is a factual AND providential non-starter: no actual human person ever WAS made that way, and (in God’s intention) no human being EVER WOULD be made that way. To be without that completing divine indwelling is to be contrary to “the design”. But the added piece that is missing is not “natural” to man as belonging to his nature, because God the transcendent cannot by nature belong to any created nature.

      This is why St. Thomas later says:
      I answer that, Imperfect happiness that can be had in this life, can be acquired by man by his natural powers, in the same way as virtue, in whose operation it consists: on this point we shall speak further on (I-II:63. But man's perfect Happiness, as stated above (I-II:3:8), consists in the vision of the Divine Essence. Now the vision of God's Essence surpasses the nature not only of man, but also of every creature, as was shown in I:12:4. For the natural knowledge of every creature is in keeping with the mode of his substance: thus it is said of the intelligence (De Causis; Prop. viii) that "it knows things that are above it, and things that are below it, according to the mode of its substance." But every knowledge that is according to the mode of created substance, falls short of the vision of the Divine Essence, which infinitely surpasses all created substance. Consequently neither man, nor any creature, can attain final Happiness by his natural powers.

      Reply to Objection 1. Just as nature does not fail man in necessaries, although it has not provided him with weapons and clothing, as it provided other animals, because it gave him reason and hands, with which he is able to get these things for himself; so neither did it fail man in things necessary, although it gave him not the wherewithal to attain Happiness: since this it could not do. But it did give him free-will, with which he can turn to God, that He may make him happy. "For what we do by means of our friends, is done, in a sense, by ourselves" (Ethic. iii, 3)

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    7. Consequently, I don’t see a problem with positing that man must have grace to attain the Beatific Vision, but still that state is the only proper end that could “lull the appetite” and bring him to a state of rest, of fulfillment as such. Hence:
      (a) Man, having one nature, has one proper end. It is the BV.
      (b) Man, under the natural light of reason alone, cannot actively desire the BV, because he cannot apprehend its possibility, but he can wish for it.
      (c) Man has an “end in a sense”, being that end that could be achieved, and can be apprehended as possible, under the natural light of reason and natural powers, but even so, that man perceives such end does not in itself lull the appetite and is not his proper end. Therefore,
      (d) Man has a sufficiency under natural powers to allow him to turn to God to make up what is lacking in his natural powers.

      DBH seems to latch on to the fact that man’s end is a supernatural seeing and loving God, and infers that man’s “nature” is, therefore, divine. But Thomas corrects this: it is only necessary that man’s powers be able to be elevated by grace, which is what Feser is saying is an “obediential potency” for elevation. What I correct here is Feser’s comment The first is that the Thomist view entails, not the transformation of human beings by grace, but their replacement. If we are not by nature oriented toward the beatific vision, then…, since (as it seems to me) St. Thomas clearly DOES say we that ARE by nature oriented toward the BV.

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    8. @Tony,

      I'd just disagree that our nature can't actually be properly fulfilled without the Beatific Vision- that proposition seems to take away the gratuity of the BV as a good. One could say that some knowledge of God is something we can't achieve with our own nature and require God's help, but to say something so far above us such as the Beatific Vision is what our nature strictly needs for fulfillment just seems to reduce all things to God creating creaturs to be proportionately dependent upon Him. Which by itself isn't bad, but if it's applied to everything may be questionable.

      Keep in mind though that Christ said He'll give us life abundantly - maybe implying one can have life but not needing it in the abundance God promises us? Besides, it's clear God will also give us certain things in Heaven which are additions, even with the BV in mind, which we don't strictly need but are still nice to have.

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    9. "man’s own nature cannot be fully satisfied with any other end than the Beatific Vision. I am not here talking of some super-added end beyond what his nature requires to “lull the appetite”. But at the same time, man cannot attain the BV without supernatural grace elevating his intellect and will. Nor can he have hope in being received into that state without grace, for hope is, also, a supernatural virtue resting on grace. So, man is the one creature on Earth that cannot attain his end through his natural powers, and cannot even strive for that end appropriately through his natural powers. His natural powers are not adequate to his natural end. God designed man intending to “finish him” by the addition of supernatural grace, so as to elevate his powers for the attainment of his end." - This is absolutely the correct reading of Aquinas. And as such Feser's analogies of a laptop and knowing what it is like to be a bat are not good one. Nature is never something that is just there - natura pura - upon which grace supervenes but is itself and imago dei with a capac dei.

      Furthermore, the characterization of Hart as a pantheist is probably quite wrong. I am sure a few passages of the book can be taken that way in isolation, but other reviewers have pointed to passages that are clearly not pantheistic. Heck, go read Aquinas' commentary on the Divine Names. But we must remember the doctrine of participation and analogy - our language starts breaking down. God and creatures can never be two in the way two extrinsic objects are two and Lagrange (I think) even says that after God creates there are more beings but not more Being.

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    10. just seems to reduce all things to God creating creaturs to be proportionately dependent upon Him. Which by itself isn't bad, but if it's applied to everything may be questionable.

      Joe, first off, I think that Aquinas's thesis only would apply to rational beings - humans and angels. Because it depends pretty strictly on the orientation to the universal true, and only beings with reason can apprehend universals.

      And this is consistent with what Thomas says about the angels also needing grace to enter into the BV. And also that they were created in a state of grace (as was mankind originally created).

      As to whether Aquinas's thesis (which, I claim, is indeed that the BV is the natural end of man) is TRUE, I ask you: leaving aside for the moment all the kinds of goods that are ephemeral in human life, and looking only at knowledge: can you conceive of a contemplation of God and "the true", under the natural power of reason and natural empirical evidence only, that will complete man's mind so that he has no further desire with respect to knowing (what is possible to the natural intellect) the true things of God? I think not. For example, in that apprehension, we will decidedly NOT grasp all that can be apprehended (naturally) about God's goodness from what He has done in the created order, because a great deal of His design within that order will be left unknown: there will be whole vast realms of His intention within divine Providence regarding creation that we will not have. And it is, frankly, inconceivable that we would acquire ALL of the possible natural knowledge of Providence through any natural process of study, during any finite time: there would always be more about nature (and therefore about Providence) that could still be learned. So, while one might posit some kind of a theoretical "totality of all possible natural knowledge of God", it could not be achieved in any finite lifetime. Further, even taking in the totality of all such knowledge that could be achieved from examining natural causes in the world, there would still be MORE truth knowable about Providence, that cannot be established by natural means, but could be understood if God simply revealed more information, but did nothing to elevate your powers.

      This is why I argued, above, that man can conceive a kind of knowing even without raising to the level of the BV, that cannot be satisfied by his natural powers unaided. Thus, his intellect cannot be wholly satisfied, with nothing (natural) left to desire, by his natural powers.

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    11. Moreover, man is a creature that can project forward into the future and anticipate the enjoyment or loss of the good. I think Thomas says elsewhere that one of the necessary ingredients for truly complete joy in possessing the end, a creature like man has to anticipate its continuation (or, at least, not anticipate any loss). Even ignoring death itself as a loss of the good, man in this life cannot be 100% confident that he will persist in retaining the goods he has, because this life always allows for loss of goods (see: Job). Even aside from material goods being lost, a man can (a) lose his mind, and (b) lose his virtue by inordinate acts. Thus, even Adam and Eve were not confirmed in virtue and the good, so Garden of Eden conditions did not provide certainty in retaining the good. Thus man cannot (in this life) achieve true rest in the good he has, for he knows that it can be lost. Thus his desire for the good - even with respect to the good he HAS - will be not perfectly satisfied and at rest. The appetite will be lulled only in the present sense, and not by anticipation as well.

      So again, man cannot apprehend achieving total satisfaction of the natural desires through what is available through natural power.

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    12. @Oktavian Zamoyski:

      W.r.t. the computer peripheral, the infinite ways in which a computer can be extended is ultimately a reflection of the infinite ends Man can have for it, and so in this way, the beatific vision would seem to be like what God wills to extend men with.

      The materialist religion has its own Apocalypsis (massive extinction of our species due to "climate change") and eschaton (after the extinction, some few chosen will have their minds/souls "uploaded to a computer":) So they will be living in the iCloud forever. (Where they are going to plug the device and who is going to do the maintenance, that's a mystery which will be only unveiled by revelation).

      The flaw with their after-apocalypsis scenario is that their goddess "matter" will keep inexorably directing itself to its heat death (its final cause). So these materialist religious people have a thirst for life(God), which is the source of being, but they want a material deity, which is incongruent. In their beatific vision they will meet Steve Jobs face to face.

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    13. Interesting discussion. Tony position reminds of a Aristotle quote that St. Thomas used in another context. I think that it was "what we can do with the help of our friends is in a sense on our capacity".

      Men by itself can't be totally satisfacted by any created goods, even the eartly contemplation that Aristotle defended, and can't by itself reach the BV, but God would not create men only to ignore this deep desire, so the idea of a state of pure nature is just a useful fiction, really.

      I think that it was Voegelin that defended that, unlike his teacher, Aristotle just gave up on having a perfect political community and settled with what he saw around him. Perhaps a similar thing happened on this theme, Plato sure was not happy woth less that a sort of BV.

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    14. @Tony,
      "(b) Man, under the natural light of reason alone, cannot actively desire the BV, because he cannot apprehend its possibility, but he can wish for it."

      Does this mean that man can sense the hole in his nature, but doesn't really know what would fill that hole until God reveals Himself to man? "Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee?" Man experiences the hole in his nature and wishes it to be filled without knowing how it might be filled?

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    15. @ David T.

      "Man experiences the hole in his nature and wishes it to be filled without knowing how it might be filled?"

      We know that God is, but not the particularities which come through grace just as we know what food is and that we need it but the particularities are on the menu which we know only partly.

      Tom Cohoe

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    16. Right, I think David and Tom both expressed it, though in different terms. Through natural reason, we know God as the cause of effects we know. We have an entirely natural desire to know God in this causality, and to know Him as perfectly as He can be known as the cause of creation - and this desire we can see and access and examine, because it is ENTIRELY natural to our natures and powers (even though the absolutely perfect fulfillment of it cannot be achieved in this life). But at the same time, I think we have a further indistinct sense of the "something else" that is beyond such knowing God from His effects, and in a general way we can know OF it, but we cannot describe its outline or color or any other specifics. It seems to me, also, that often enough the poets have this sense driving their efforts: Aeschylus, for example, seems at times to have regarded something of a approach to the divine that is not entirely captured in the wholly natural. Even if he could not describe it in detail. How do you describe a color that is utterly different from the colors we know, a sound that you sense with your heart instead of your ears, a truth that has you instead of you grasping it?

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  17. Re: my earlier question, note to self: read the linked article before posting!

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  18. I suppose that in some sense, David Bentley Hart, has already achieved the beatific vision ... merely by contemplating his own image. Though, maybe, as through a glass darkly. Or maybe not as though through a glass darkly, depending on how one resolves this nature/super-nature business. Maybe there is nothing hidden from him, and he has a direct and very personal intuition and experience of God-ness.

    His doctrine certainly puts a new and exciting theological spin on the proverbs, "Know Thyself!", and " To Thine Own Self be True!", and no doubt to half a dozen others which would come to mind with a moment's reflection.

    However inasmuch as I have a very limited interest in theology myself, I'm probably not the party most properly vested in commenting further this issue.

    As regards the various countowns proposed however: after having read that Hart responded to N.T. Wright's review of his Bible translation in something like 24 hours, it might be amusing to speculate where and when Hart's rebuttal to Feser's review will appear.

    Perhaps he will decide to wrong-foot everyone and to not respond at all; or, to delay for some period and then respond graciously, without rancor, or vitriol. That might be the most god-like way to behave, if you think about it.

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  19. There used to be a commenter in this blog named Rank Sophist (ended up becoming Eastern Orthodox last I heard). He was quite the Hart fan...I wonder how he'd tackle Feser's objections here.

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  20. If there is no natural desire to know God completely, what is happening to, e.g., Protestants (in the view of Catholics)? Catholics get the super-added grace that leads to salvation (if I am understanding the practical consequences of Ed's view), but no one else does...or does everyone receive some amount of superadded grace, but the variety of responses is due to varying levels of perversity (so, a really depraved person denies the grace fully and becomes a debauched nihilist; another, less depraved person gets a little more of the dose, and becomes a high church Anglican)?
    It seems to me that DBH's goal is to avoid any view that requires God to offer special grace to those who are saved (which is hand-in-glove with his universalism). Every conservative denomination has to answer: how does a person come to believe that your denomination is the right one? Most say: "the grace of God leads the elect to pick the right one; everyone else lacks the special grace (and oh well!)." I thought the Catholic answer to this question was that the rational intellect can grasp the truth of the Catholic faith, but a perverse will can distract one from appreciating the truth of the doctrine and keep one in error. Can anyone clarify?

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    1. I thought the Catholic answer to this question was that the rational intellect can grasp the truth of the Catholic faith, but a perverse will can distract one from appreciating the truth of the doctrine and keep one in error.

      I will try to clarify, but I might make an error or two. According to Catholicism, the intellect unaided by sanctifying grace (i.e. through the natural light of reason) can:
      (a) grasp the INVALIDITY of arguments claiming that Christianity is false (because all such arguments are wrong, and can be discovered to be wrong on one ground or other); and
      (b) can see the reasonableness of evidences advanced FOR Christianity, evidence which indicate that the Christian religion is the one true religion and is revealed by God (this entails rational estimation of the evidences of miracles, prophecy, etc).

      But (c) the above do not amount to a mathematically rigorous proof that Christianity is the one true religion founded by God and revealed in and through Jesus Christ.

      Therefore, a person can (through natural reason alone) hold an opinion that Christianity is true, but will not hold FAITH that it is so. For faith in God and in the Church and in Jesus Christ would represent a belief adhered to unreservedly, and natural reason (unaided) cannot present you with evidence sufficient for unreserved assent to Christianity.

      I have a few friends who became Catholics after being, first, "none of the above." As a practical matter, some of these, after working their way through the theses in all directions, and discarding one religion after another because many of them don't stack up (have irreconcilable problems), winnowed it down to a very few possibles. Then studying not just the theory but the specific evidences for the claims of divine revelation, they just found what Christianity had to show overwhelmed them. And, according to one such friend, when they examined the various Christian groups, it was almost immediately obvious that the Catholic Church was the Church founded by Christ. My sense is that when you have seen with great effort that Christianity may be the true religion, and then start looking at the miracles that stack up (not just, but often by the missionaries preaching its truth), and match that to the life of holiness lived by those missionaries - who often die penniless, alone, tortured in order to testify to the Truth - i.e. the fact that they live out lives of superhuman goodness that gains them nothing in THIS life, there can be in there a moment of what is not merely an offer of grace, but more, a push, or a pull, a force urging you to willingly believe - without reserve.

      The grace of faith does not urge you to "become Catholic and not Protestant" any more than it urges you to "become Protestant and not Catholic" in a formalistic sense - for after all, the grace of faith existed for 1400 years before Protestantism. It is urging you to believe God, and believe in Jesus, and believe in His Church. That Church is one Church. Catholicism says that once one has the grace of faith, and learns to discern its urgings, one can discover that Catholic Church is the one Church, and his faith will (at that point) be discovered to have been, all along, faith in that Church. One who was raised Protestant (i.e. was Protestant and not Catholic through no fault of his own) can also come to discover this, by (in effect) dropping off one or more erroneous elements of (human) belief that depart from the one faith handed on by Christ.

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  21. Reading the review buttressed three conclusions I have reached about Hart - especially after reading his vicious review of McClymond's book on Universalism on Kimel's blog last go-round:

    1) His eagerness to substitute his erudition, which is exceptional, for actual argument. Nassim Taleb, another heterodox Orthodox figure, has this same habit.

    2) His theology - his metaphysics really - clearly is on a trajectory to make him an Orthodox John Hick if he's not there already. It sounds less like anything Christian than it does some sort of Trinitarian NeoPlatonism. While it would be presumptuous to venture anything about the man's soul, what he believes about God and ultimate reality is not what the church, Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox, historically affirms (as he apparently thinks such formulations are post-hoc fictions anyway).

    3) Why is someone who's come to such sanguine conclusions about Universal Salvation so angry, at least when he writes? You'd think someone who believes in the co-inherence of souls might be more magnanimous.

    Coda: While I'm not Catholic, Feser helped get me reading some Aquinas, and thinking about Nature and Grace. If there is some justice in the Catholic charge that in Protestantism Grace swallows up Nature one must wonder if Hart is an instance of it going in the other direction. Nature swallowing up Grace.

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    1. His eagerness to substitute his erudition, which is exceptional, for actual argument.

      This has always been a weakness of his, and it's something I've noticed even when I've been in agreement with him. E.g. much of The Experience of God is beautifully written but frustratingly lacking in actual argument. It seems he's almost always content to merely hint and gesture at how he might flesh out the substance of an argument if required without actually doing so.

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    2. I have noticed that in some of the articles he has written.

      I fear that this is a very common tendency in various strains of the Church, and is quite visible in those who are more strenuous about wanting some conclusion to be true than in wanting to discover what IS true by evidence satisfactory for the mind - a triumph of will over intellect. A rather infamous example is, sadly, Pope Francis's re-doing paragraph 2267 of the Catechism, in which he relies entirely on hand-waving (hints and gestures at how it might be fleshed out, as you say):

      here is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person...a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions...

      However, not only does Francis not bother to even attempt to flesh out what, exactly, that increased awareness or new understanding are OF in the concrete, he doesn't even bother to reference any prior work or author who might have done so. (For the very good reason that nobody HAS done so - he has written a blank check on some future development that he hopes might occur.) Magical hand-waving.

      In someone like DBH, I suspect it is mostly a bit of laziness rather than a true lack of mental capacity to go through the effort to actually lay out the steps. After all: writing invective is FUN! Stuffy, precise arguments (and locating the best version of your opponents' arguments to de-fang) is boring. I wonder whether an editor might mention something like "the argument is a bit thin in this section."

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  22. DBH seems similar to people like Jung and Steiner, very intelligent and spiritually aware, but also influenced by malign forces. Those who think they see all, in effect judge god. They decide that it wouldn’t be fair to create people that end up separated from god, so judge that a good god would not do such a thing - despite that god stating it very clearly as a fact many times.

    They see some wisdom in the eastern search for perception to perceive itself directly, and assume that this experience of transcendence is an experience of god. This is because they only see the horizontal, a flat reality where god can only be an aggregate of surface. Clearly the eastern experience of transcendence is a unity of surface, very different from the mystical experience of theosis.

    All forms of monism are ultimately physicalism or pantheism, in Christianity there is a duality, which is between creator and created. In monism there can be nothing, for all matter is relational as both relativity and QM have proven. So nothing has existence unless in relation to something absolute, something ‘other’. Only by becoming aligned to that ‘other’ in more than just being can you succeed in the purpose for which the whole universe was created. Those who do not, will not be saved. That is the choice god put before us right from the start (eg https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy%2030%3A15-20&version=NIV&interface=amp ), and the fact clever people put their head in the sands and build their towers on their own great learning rather than god’s simple message shows that they are not really Christian.

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    1. But to the Vaishnavites or some other theological tradition, you may on equal basis be regarded as judging God, by having rejected their sect and its doctrines. You don't really get to play this kind of game if you're committed to principles grounding a critical evaluation of religious traditions and their relative merits. All you are effectively expressing is a bias for your preferred tradition.
      And that you think there is something called "the eastern experience of transcendence" speaks volumes.
      ~mscott

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    2. Critical and comparative comparisons of religions is not faith of any kind, not Hinduism, not Buddhism, not Christianity. It’s the proverbial cutting up the goose that laid the golden egg. I became interested in Buddhism and Hinduism a long time before Christianity, and spent several years practicing under a teacher of the Nyingma Longchen Nying-Thig order of Tibetan Buddhism, so I know something of their practices and ‘beliefs’. When I became a Christian, and more when I started going to mass and adoration, it was something very different. Sadly we’ve lost most of the interior practice - certainly in the protestant world but also for many Catholics - and so eastern religions tend to be more adept at knowing self. However Christianity is very different from all of these. It’s not about freeing yourself from karma, it’s about taking up the cross on which all karma was placed. It’s not about leaders and founders that died surrounded by people revering their sainthood, but one that died with spit in his face, and jeers in his ears. Any form of transcendence before death is purely optional. You don’t overcome through pure attention, that takes you to the formless root of perception. You overcome through Him, with Him, in Him, and the result in this world is often spit in your face, and jeers in your ears.

      I have nothing against the other religions, but religion is a personal reality. DBH claims to be a Christian, and whilst I share his appreciation of both eastern religions and christian neoplatonism, part of being a Christian is accepting that Christ was and is the unique incarnation of the very ground of being. There is no room for relativism, Jesus was either a crazy megalomaniac, or he was substantially different from the founders of all other faiths. You have to chose, as relativity and QM have shown, there really is no objective perspective. Reality is formed from the engagement, so chose your path of engagement wisely.

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    3. Reality is formed from the engagement, so chose your path of engagement wisely.

      Be careful Simon Adams, that you don't channel yourself into a Narcissist version of Christianity. Then you would be worse off than if you remained a Buddhist.

      Not all Narcissists are egomaniacs. The baseline value for Narcissist is not ego but rather ignorance. Luke Skywalker is a little ego Narcissist, and so was George W. Bush. All Narcissists are obsessed with centers of attention and bignes. So ignorant farm boy wandering off into the big city looking up at them skyscrapers would be the baseline archetype for Narcissist.

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    4. Thanks for the reply. If you have nothing against other religions, and see so little merit in comparative studies, whence the comparisons and obvious opinion of Christian superiority (to the point, though perhaps I misunderstand your use, of placing 'belief' in scare quotes when describing Tibetan Buddhism?)
      And if your idea of faith excludes the possibility of this kind discourse, I don't see the motive behind anything you wrote. How does one even decide to become Christian, aside from perhaps a pure road to Damascus moment? We're in the world we're actually in, with competing worldviews and claims, I don't feel we get to pretend we're beyond it.
      I don't buy that there's no room for relativism, any more than I buy the false dichotomy of either 'lord or liar' which hearkens back to C.S. Lewis, which omits the obvious alternative that our knowledge of Jesus is indirect and reflective of developing traditions around him. You may not agree with this alternative, but to pretend that it's not there is no viable strategy.
      Now, what I had actually criticized was your 'judging God' remark, which still stands as far as I can tell. If the charge of judging God only falls to views which are not yours by definition, I don't see how I believe that you've nothing against other religions. The same still stands with regard to the generalizations about "the East" -- which contains dozens of notable and diverse mystical and metaphysical traditions. I'm sorry but the attempted reduction does not fly for me, and Christianity is not the only dualistic school in the world.
      Note that none of this has anything to do with whether Christianity is actually wrong or right, or even the best tradition of all. You are of course welcome to that viewpoint. But I also believe in being aware of one's biases and not intentionally placing double standards or projecting one's expectations as deficiencies on other traditions just so. There are, of course, unique things about Christianity. It would be startling if there weren't.
      Thanks for the response. I hope my tone isn't too combative, but as it is as you note that 'objectivity' can never be purely attained, I am bound to express some reactivity.
      ~mscott

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    5. @infinite_growth. I don’t believe that I personally have narcissistic traits, but then of course a narcissist would say that. I’m no fan at all of the testosterone faith of US evangelicals, maybe it’s just too big a cultural divide for me. I can maybe see a type of narcissism there. However if I act as if Christ is special, ‘better than all the rest’, then yes, this is the Christian faith.

      However I think you missed my point about engagement. There are some things you only know in the ‘knowing’, and never in the ‘knowing about’. Much of modern theological studies in university don’t seem to understand this.

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    6. Hi Mscott

      Your tone is absolutely fine - our lives are very short and if we are not kind to people in need but direct with people we disagree with, then we’re just wasting time. You are of course correct that generalising all the ‘religions of the east’ is close to impossible, and it’s probably unwise of me to lump them all together. Equally there are some parallels with Christianity in many, with Lao Tzu’s ‘way’, Zen masters using the sermon on the mount in teaching etc.

      You can of course have your ‘third option’ with CS Lewis. You can assume that Jesus was just blagging it, claiming things that he believed but didn’t know. You can assume that all the apostles made stuff up to help the ‘cause’ of their friend, then convinced others like Iranneus and Polycarp that it was all true, then went to their deaths rather than deny it was true. You can believe anything you want. For me truth is an ideal that each of us as individuals should strive for. In science that is done by disbelief. For the bigger questions it’s about using all the tools you have been given as a person. I believe I have good reason to believe that Christ is the unique incarnation of the creator of the universe. That the others in history who have made similar claims or have had similar attributes applied are very different things. I don’t stop anyone following any other path, but I would be a fraud to myself and my experience if I didn’t share my confidence in an absolute truth just because my understanding of it is necessarily limited.

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    7. PS (@Mscott): I do think you’ve misunderstood my point about “judging god”. This is purely based on what happens when you dig into why people are Universalists. For some it is just a hope, which then gets reinforced by assuming, say, that when Paul wrote his letters, the audience was all of mankind, rather than just a specific community. However for most, and I include DBH and Aidan Kimel etc, it always seems to come down to them choosing to believe this over the idea that God would give people freedom to not at least aim for the highest good, and would therefore end up in a state of suffering that eventually becomes irreversible. They have to ignore so much of the scripture they claim to believe in, simply because of their own idea of what a good god is.

      When a person lost in their own sin turns to god with a contrite heart, and says, “Lord, I am just a weak (wo)man, help me”, there is joy and rejoicing in heaven. The universalists don’t understand their own scripture, because they judge god.

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  23. Putting aside Hart's thesis...and going back to De Lubac. To clarify for some, De Lubac did not think he was contradicting St. Thomas but that the classic commentators had misinterpreted St. Thomas. Dr. Feingold in his text argued that the classic commentators had interpreted Thomas correctly and that De Lubac's position was problematic vis a vis Thomas. It appears to me that many if not most thought Dr. Feingold's argument was successful. Importantly Dr. Feingold himself noted in footnote 2 of Chapter 15: "It must be borne in mind that my criticism of de Lubac's positions does not mean to imply any unorthodox intention on de Lubac's part, for it is clear that his intention was always to think with the Church. Secondly, I do not mean to imply any global criticism of de Lubac's other theological views, which I respect. The question under dispute is limited to the concrete issue of the interpretation of the natural desire to see God." Both Duns Scotus and Bellarmine also held to a view similar to de Lubac. The majority of commentators on St. Thomas did not.

    Finally, there was an interesting book called Nature and Grace: A New Approach to Thomistic Ressourcement by Andrew Dean Swafford which gives a excellent summary of the debate (and assesses Dr. Feingold as succeeding with a caveat and also positively assesses Stephen Long's contribution). He then turns to his primary thesis which is that the 19th century theologian Matthias Scheeben could potentially serve as a bridge between the two positions. Great book.

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  24. I wonder why Hart, despite his purported disinterestedness, is so passionate about all that or any other theological issue in the first place. I mean, no matter who's right or wrong, it doesn't really matter cause everyone will be saved no matter what they believe, choose or do.

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    1. Being fair to Hart, he seems to find the idea of hell absolutely horrible, one of the worse that got conceived, and there are a lot of people who, thanks to scruple problems, do suffer a lot thanks to the idea. So he probably sees taking the idea down as a way of helping these people having better lifes. Kinda like how we tend to try to convert people not only because we fear they get damned, but also because of how sheer awesome the life with Our Lord has.

      I personally i'am not bothered by hell for some time, but i can see how someone who is and who sees people suffering by it would be motivated to act.

      Now, why name-call thomism when it is, and will sadly remains, way less influential that hell, that is harder to get.

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  25. to quote just one passage from Ed's review:

    "This tradition, Hart declares, is “infamous,” “sordid,” “diseased,” “grotesque,” “depressingly sterile,” “morbidly barren, impoverished, and unattractive,” evocative of the “thin, acrid waters of Wormwood,” a “damned monster,” “veiled . . . behind a curtain of . . . sickly puce,” in need of someone to “drive a stake through its heart and cut off its head,” and worthy of being “permanently laid to rest, in the deepest, dankest, and most dismal of theology’s unvisited crypts,” amounting to “among the most defective understandings of Christianity imaginable—in many ways the diametric opposite of everything the Christian story has to say about reality.”

    One thing we can know for sure is that David has a lot of malice in his Hart when it comes to attacking Thomism.

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  26. Interesting article as usual. On Vedanta, however, I would be curious to have Feser's opinion on this article: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/1810/303491/Dissertation%20complete.pdf which demonstrates, in a very convincing way I think, that Sankara's position is much closer to Aquinas' than one might think.

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  27. I think that Professor Feser's critiques of Hart are very insightful and to the point. I agree with most of it.However I would take issue with the very last statement and I am not sure of it's just polemical.
    "And it is striking how dramatically it confirms the fears of Pius XII, Garrigou-Lagrange, and other mid-twentieth-century Catholic thinkers about where the novel theological developments they resisted were leading. "
    I don't mean to make an argument from authority but it just seems worth noting that two of the most theologically and philosophically accomplished popes, Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI elevated figures like Henri De Lubac to the heights of theological stardom. Pope John Paul II fondly remembers his council meetings with Lubac in COTH and even elevated him to the status of Cardinal out of nothing but reverence for his Theological Merits. Pope Benedict XVI (JP ii's Chief Doctrinal Officer) talks very fondly of Lubac throughout "The Last Testament". Also worth noting, that he mentioned he had "wanted out of Classical Thomism" in that interview. Pope Benedict XVI also gives Lubac the honor of being mentioned in Spe Salvi.
    Ofcourse one should and forcefully argue for one's postion. But to accuse Lubac's Nouvelle Theologiae of ultimately leading to Hart's Post Christian Patheism is a grave charge indeed. And if true, would make Pope JPII and Pope Benedict XVI complicit in it at the very least. And would require a scathing criticism of them as well. Given their stature, one's arguments have to be very strong.Prof Feser also *seems* to validate Pius' censoring of Lubac. I don't know what to think about that. Thomas Aquinas was also censored by the magisterium. So it seems rather ironic that his subsequent followers are validating the censorship or prior censorship of those who are put forth ideas which are very much within what is considered legitimately open to discussion by the magisterium (With regards to only Lubac's work and other genuine catholic theologians not Harts terrible ideas in any way, shape or form.) and the very best and most qualified within that magisterium as mentioned above.But then again Prof Feser is an intellectual giant so at the end of the day it is his discretion and he did say the stakes are. I am but a Random Norm making a Random Comment on a Random Blog.



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    1. Norm-You stole my thunder. I was going to comment on de Lubac and JP II's history together. But you put it better than I could have.

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    2. Ofcourse one should and forcefully argue for one's postion. But to accuse Lubac's Nouvelle Theologiae of ultimately leading to Hart's Post Christian Patheism is a grave charge indeed. And if true, would make Pope JPII and Pope Benedict XVI complicit in it at the very least. And would require a scathing criticism of them as well.

      Have you not been paying attention to the last fifty years of Church history? All sorts of heresies have been allowed to fester; I don't see any particular reason why pantheism should be any different.

      -- The original Mr. X

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    3. Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI elevated figures like Henri De Lubac to the heights of theological stardom. Pope John Paul II fondly remembers his council meetings with Lubac in COTH and even elevated him to the status of Cardinal out of nothing but reverence for his Theological Merits. Pope Benedict XVI (JP ii's Chief Doctrinal Officer) talks very fondly of Lubac throughout "The Last Testament". Also worth noting, that he mentioned he had "wanted out of Classical Thomism" in that interview. ...
      But to accuse Lubac's Nouvelle Theologiae of ultimately leading to Hart's Post Christian Patheism is a grave charge indeed. And if true, would make Pope JPII and Pope Benedict XVI complicit in it at the very least.


      I have immense respect for both of these popes, but one has to admit that they have some very significant lapses in perception and judgment that they are responsible for. To point out just one which is easily seen: they appointed not only as bishops but as CARDINALS a large number of men who have no business being cardinals. Cdl Marx, for example. And McCarrick, for pity's sake! There are at least a dozen more who are almost certainly criminals or heretics or both. Some of these men have not been hiding their behavior and heterodox thinking, it's out there to see in plain view.

      In spite of their having known of probably even more problems in the episcopate than have come out to public view, they took no steps to reform the method by which bishops are selected. This is an even more urgent crisis than that of the mass, but neither pope bothered to address it.

      Thirdly, both of these popes, in spite of knowledge of rampant sexual deviancy in many if not most seminaries, in spite of Church law and tradition requiring (not suggesting) that seminaries teach using the principles and methods of Thomas Aquinas, took no visible steps to reform the seminaries with respect to bad moral and theological formation.

      Benedict's playing with the Nouvelle Theologie schtick is well known and needs no proof here. It only needs to be stated that it is NOT an established fact that that school of thought is wholly orthodox and sound, it is an intensely disputed question. The fact that the kind of thinking has a "school" (meaning it has enough adherents to count as a recognized movement) does not establish that it is orthodox or sound. As such, the "very grave charge" of Lubac leading to Hart is merely one part of the larger question, is Lubac or Nouvelle Theologie right? If not, then people like Benedict playing with it have a vastly more important charge to answer for than whether Lubac leads to Hart.

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    4. First of all, from the fact that Walter Kasper and Reinhard Marx were made cardinals by John Paul II and Benedict XVI respectively, it is quite clear that becoming cardinal does not say anything about someone's orthodoxy.
      Having said that, it is most clear that de Lubac's views do not lead in any way to Hart's panentheism. Whereas de Lubac’s position may very well be incorrect, it cannot be accused of denying or blurring the Creator-creature distinction, on the grounds that being naturally ordered to a supernatural end is proper only to that which is divine by nature. Because “ordered to” has two possible meanings: “able to attain” and “in need of”, and de Lubac meant ONLY the second whenever he spoke of human nature being ordered to the supernatural.

      This quote from de Lubac makes this point evident:

      “Between nature as it exists and the supernatural for which God destines it, the distance is as great, the difference is as radical, as that between non-being and being: for to pass from one to the other is not merely to pass into ‘more being,’ but to pass into a different type of being. It is a crossing by grace of an impassable barrier. … In short, for Christians created nature is no kind of divine seed. . . . The longing that surges from this ‘depth’ of the soul is a longing ‘born of a lack’ and not arising from ‘the beginnings of possession.’” (The Mystery of the Supernatural, pp. 83-84)

      The issue being debated is whether a rational nature that has been given the capacity and suitability ("the obediential potency") to be raised by God to participation in the divine life and subsequent attainment of the Beatific Vision (in short "the supernatural"), has as a result a rigorous necessity for the supernatural in order to achieve true happiness.

      It is critical to note that true happiness is not the same as ultimate happiness. Nobody discusses that the Beatific Vision is the only possible ultimate happiness. What is in question is whether a created rational being can be truly happy in an everlasting state consistent with his nature as created, contingent being, i.e. an unending transit from potency to act, an unending development.

      IMV, the best demonstration that such state of "everlasting natural happiness" is a valid theoretical possibility comes from Spanish theologian and longtime professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University Juan Alfaro (1914-1993), whose concept of "obediential potency" is a kind of "via media" between the "absolute desire" of de Lubac and the mere "non repugnance" of Cajetan and Garrigou-Lagrange.

      The good news is that his key work on the subject is online:

      Alfaro 1957. "Trascendencia e inmanencia de lo sobrenatural". Gregorianum Vol. 38, p. 5-50.

      http://books.google.com/books?id=XsnS9PibDQIC

      The bad news (i.e. for most readers of this blog) is that he wrote in Spanish. BTW, the word "creaturalidad" in that work, meaning "creatureness", has been coined by Alfaro. Don't look it up in a dictionary.

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    5. Dear Tony
      Hi.
      I appreciate your response.
      Yes I would grant that they were some administrative lapses on their behalf.
      But I am personally willing to give them to benefit of the doubt and I do believe that St Pope John Paul II is a Saint. So I may be biased, but
      It seems to me with regards to reforms and the like, that all this sad and horrific cases of deviance were caused not due to loop holes in the system but because the existing regulations were not be being implemented strictly. So I'd say the only reform that is required is reinforcing the current regulations that already exist so then it becomes a question of what more then can be done to reinforce it. And with regards to that, care must also be taken to see that one doesn't go overboard like advocating for breaking the seal of confession which is seen in some places. That's my brief take on that.
      More to the point though,one's administrative capabilities are very different from their theological and philosophical acumen and learning and experience and knowledge. And the point is that both the popes weren't only appreciative of Lubac but also *extremely* familiar with his work and both had great reverence for orthodoxy. That should be enough to make one stop and wonder if the issue is more complex then it seems. Then the rest can be debated and hopefully there will a solution.
      So any criticism should include the popes as well. And the thomists at the time should have probably picked the brains of those two popes when they had the chance. Attacking and cheering on the censorship of Lubac and his followers is all well and good. But it seems like no Thomist at the time had the guts to walk up to JP II or Benedict XVI and be like "Ehh...Err...So what do you think about censoring Lubac and his elk."
      Granted that being a Cardinal doesn't signify orthodoxy but the point was that De Lubac was appointed as a Cardinal specifically for his Theological Acumen. Apart from that there are lot of first hand accounts of JP ii's reverence for Lubac, He even bowed to him in the name of the pope. And both the Popes were hard on deviations from orthodoxy. Pope Benedict XVI made a name for himself on that model.
      So it makes it even more hard to believe that they could be so appreciative of someone whose views are worthy of censoring according to some Thomists. There are other Thomists who are just as firm in their criticisms but are still willing to stop short of approving the censorship of their opponents.
      @Johannes
      Thanks for your insightful points.

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  28. Common themes noted in Hart as of late:

    1) a strong tenency towards monism/neoplatonism
    2) The wishing to negate a certain view of Tradition
    3) Ax to grand against Thomists
    4) Calling America a "non Xtian country" (and here is even referring to Catholic and Orthodox)
    5) A drive towards what one might call "Christian Tradition as Radicalism which being Apocolyptic"
    6) "True" Socialism
    7) a rexamination of what people think gnosticism is

    Theory as of now: DBH has a "schtick" where he acts incredulous on dealing with his "lessors" who normally wouldn't warrant his attention to "true ideas and scholarship". But in the end he is essentially a topical twitter warrior who is going after his pet peeves and internet battles, perhaps brought on by the human all to human Trump Deregment Syndrom one would find among the culture customs and traditions of the hipster class in the ivory towers, particularly in the humanities and lit departments.

    If this is correct it is at least comforting to know that hipster theologizing and spirtuality will almost always tend in the same direction and it will cornor itself whether it be in the guise of any form of CHristianity or a general broad attack on culture and politics.

    Either way I think his main targets right now are conservative American Catholics and Evangelicals converting to Orthodoxy, and generally just pandering, preening, and parading to the collegiate Hipsterati Internationale class that has been so animated for the past few years. On a more serious level I think Hart is very much a man with a "project" I think his project is to move Xtianity forward with a form of Indian Philosophy Christianity. Which add that to a bearded dude stuffed in an ivory tower who loves socialism, "radicalism", allegory, obscure language, and invective adds to the academic cliche list.

    I expect his next few books and articles to be focused on be things like tradition, history, and gnosticism. Explaining why Hegelians are not gnostic. Americans not being Christian / American Christianity which will be a robust critique of mostly Orthodox and Catholics in America. Socialism. He may get cheeky enough to write why intellectuals are really the only people who kind of matter in politics, ethics, and religion.

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  29. DBH is a professional and prolific writer. To stay viable and marketable in our in our media-saturated world, you have to push the envelope. And he (along with many others) does that very well.

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    1. The job of a philosopher or a theologian is not to be ‘viable and marketable’, nor to ‘push the envelope’, but to discover the truth as best he can, and tell it. In effect, you are accusing Hart of prostituting himself.

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  30. Fr. Herbert McCabe was a far far lefty but he never abandoned Classical Theism...Geez!

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  31. Seth Hart has recently offered a critique, which you might be interested in:

    https://jesusandtheancientpaths.com/2022/04/01/critique-of-fesers-review-of-you-are-gods/?fbclid=IwAR3_H7qJl-CuSO3UHH4qIg1RcBP_zBU3EGEECNOvRqB-CsBKWvKriuLz0vE

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    1. Seth's got one quite good point: Feser's use of the laptop illustration was indeed rather far from ideal, precisely because the laptop does not have a true form nor intrinsic teleology. However, in in his criticism of this, Seth goes on to make mistakes about the matter: if the laptop did not initially have a way to plug in a mouse, and you opened up its case to add in such functionality, it does NOT follow that this would make it "a different laptop". If it were running the same COPY of the same operating system under the same license, using the same hard drive and RAM, with all the same software and files, and the only difference is an addition of a new kind of interface device, it is a piss-poor effort to claim that would make it a "different laptop".

      He also misunderstands Feser's argument from Nagel's bat, I think. It's not that Feser doesn't think it belongs to man's nature to desire to know God's essence in some sense - he DOES think that. It's that (according to Feser) it does not belong to man's nature to desire to know God's essence in the particular manner of the BV, i.e. "face to face" knowledge, rather than the knowledge of the First Cause that comes through the effects in the world. The latter IS a knowledge of God's nature (that we are inclined to by our nature), just not the kind that Hart says IS what we desire by nature, the BV. I don't happen to quite agree with Feser on this, but Seth gets the argument wrong.

      I read through his account of the issue of God's being related to nature as form is to matter three times, and either I don't understand his position at all, or he (again) gets it wrong. I am willing to admit maybe I don't understand it, but it seems that he really doesn't get created forms informing matter very well. Ultimately, maybe there is some "fourth way" between the eastern notion of the world being "part" of God (yes, I recognize the room for different senses of "part", hence the quotation marks), and the western materialistic view of matter being "all there is", and the Aristotelian-Thomist dualism that says that substances are a union of form and matter, (with Thomas's point that a substance achieves its end by being as God-like as its nature allows), but ... I doubt it will solve the dispute. The Thomistic view isn't that natural things become united in being with God when they become as God-like as their natures allow: their act is DISTINCT act, not on in number with God's act, but like TO God's act in form. That's what "form" does for Thomas: same in kind, different in number. The Catholic position is that we retain our individual being, substance, and reality when we are perfect: we will be LIKE God, and united to Him morally and spiritually, not substantially. DBH may think Catholicism got it wrong about this, but he cannot establish it merely asserting a fundamentally different view and saying "see, this is different."

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  32. ...or, maybe you don't understand his ideas. It wouldn't be something new...

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  33. Being as generally uninterested in theology as I am, it still occurs to me to ask with regard to the Universalist position, "Saved, from what, exactly, in ultimate terms?". And, if in your universalism you begin furthermore to sidle over to the pantheist side, the question becomes "Why bother with an otiose exercise like the Incarnation in the first place?"

    Now, temprementally speaking, I am not sure I have any problem with universalism at all; especially with regards to how it might impact me. I could have my cake and eat it too. Give the back of my hand to the annoying, sneer at the timid and the physically weak, die in an exciting act of violence rather than meekly age into helplessness, and otherwise idle away my existence seeking thrills, and it all would end up just perfectly anyway. As they say, "All's well, that ends swell" or something like that.

    Universalism should also be a pleasant prospect for men with perhaps less coarse vices. Say, for those addicted to aping 19th century polemicists and their floridly abusive mannerisms and styles. [Victorian cape, walking stick, tent-like sack coat, and flowing big-butterfly bow tie, not included.] That would be then those, whose tastes among the seven deadly sins run more to, say, Vainglory, wrath and gluttony, than, for all we know, to lust.

    Universalism, probably has something to offer to almost everyone. Which might have something to do with why they call it 'universalism".

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    1. The one thing infernalists can't do is actually respond to universalist arguments, though. It always just boils down to heresy accusations, ad hominem attacks, funny little quips, psychoanalyzing, indignant rants, and the like.

      How about taking Reitan and Kronen's book "God's Final Victory" and trying to answer their arguments? Or Talbott's? Even Hart's?

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    2. "The one thing infernalists can't do is actually respond to universalist arguments, though. It always just boils down to heresy accusations, ad hominem attacks, funny little quips, psychoanalyzing, indignant rants, and the like. "

      Hi. Might just be the way your comment appeared, but its placement looks as thought it was in response to my comment.

      As I said, although I am not very interested in theology, I did have those two questions: " ... with regard to the Universalist position, "Saved, from what, exactly, in ultimate terms?". And, if in your universalism you begin furthermore to sidle over to the pantheist side, the question becomes "Why bother with an otiose exercise like the Incarnation in the first place?"

      So, if your comment was indeed directed at me, perhaps you could provide an answer to those questions, before I go traipsing off to read some speculative theology stuff that supposedly proves that Christianity to this point has been largely misunderstood through virtually all of its previous history.

      'Cause frankly, I'd rather penitentially slog through 400, 1960's pages of 'Intentionality, minds, and perception; discussions on contemporary philosophy, a symposium', than spend 30 minutes reading creative theology.

      Then again, if all are saved, what's it really matter? We get bonus points, or a better view, or something?

      Anyway, if you really want to be of help, answer the two questions I posed. I would be interested in that.

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  34. More THoughts on What I think Hart is or trending towards

    He is pretty close, though not exactly like a typical "Liberal Christian" in these regards:

    a) He will say there wasn't a "single Christianity" but "Christianites" of the early Church. He may include some of the gnostic sects among them
    b) He will probably do his damndest to negate anything that will defend some kind of historicity of the bible
    c) He seems to hae a "Babylonian / Bourgoise Captivity" mindset and tripartate view of Christianity with a primitive early Chrurch captured by the Evil Byzantine Empire (with a "trail of blood" of some Xtian intellectuals and one decent Emperor, Julian the APostate) up until about the 19th century when intellectuals and revolutionaries started to get things right. I think this isn't a "reactionary position" (love for the "primitive golden age") but more or less a methodology for people of a certain activist intellectual disposition. I don't think Hart has much attachment to history, CHurch Councils, Church Tradition etc...but more an intellectual process and liturgy and, yes..a genuine love of Christ and some of the early Christians and a smattering of Christain thinkers throughout the ages
    d) Tempermentaly and in his deep moral indignations, provocations, and snarky humor he seems very much a product of how academics / activists of this ilk are inclined. I think it is considered a virtue among them. It may all be a part of an "epater les bourgoise" ontology of academics. It's just who they are.
    e) There is a love of a kind of odd communistic like primitivism mixed with oddly, a highly esoteric and turgid purple prose language

    Some things that differ though:

    a) I don't think Hart would be about reforming the Divine Liturgy into guitar music or whatever...though I may see him wishing for a kind of reformation of the Liturgy with very postmodern looking Icons and melodies. That's pure speculation
    b) I don't think he is a full on gnostic or pantheist. I'll read up on it a bit more, I think Feser is missing some of the language he is using for him to be accused of that though. I think Hart though may be delibratley being provocative / twitter reactionary to people he has an ax to grind with and is just pushing buttons so he can have a laugh with "the right kind of people"

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    1. It seems that he does have a more alexandrian view of the Old Testament:https://postbarthian.com/2018/03/14/david-bentley-hart-paul-denied-historicity-old-testament-1-corinthians-10-11/

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  35. Having now read through several of David Bentley Hart's rejoinders to Edward Feser's reviews of his works, I wonder how Feser summons the courage to engage so imposing and larger than life a figure; one so monumental in aspect, possessed of such mass and gravity that dozens of happy satellites orbit gratefully, proclaiming his name.

    If only Jesus Himself had been possessed of the wide and eclectic learning of David Bentley Hart, how many hundreds or even thousands of lost and theologically barren years might have been saved?

    But, you know, since all are - keyword - "saved", I am not sure how much difference it would make anyway.

    In any event, having now read through as many of Hart's prose stylings as I can for the time being bear, I am reminded of what a once famous member of the U.S. House of Representatives had to say when facing the kinds of vocanic blasts Feser now has directed his way:
    " ...so wilting; his haughty disdain, his grandiloquent swell, his majestic, super-eminent, overpowering turkey-gobbler strut ... so crushing to myself and all ... that I know it was an act of the greatest temerity for me to venture upon a controversy with him."

    The temerity, of that man, Feser.

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  36. Under panentheism, it's not merely the point of the world to undergo change, it's the point of reality to undergo change, so the "mode of not-God" is a necessary aspect of God.

    In the go-round for Hall's last book, DBH referred to the cycle of each bashing the other, each then semi- quasi- apologizing for excesses, and then each, again, bashing the other. At this point, I am somewhat confident that DBH is employing invective and simulated anger that he doesn't really feel about Feser, at least in part for the fun of inventing the insults and for igniting more controversy. He may be one of those people who just plain NEEDS controversy, in his emotional make-up, or he may be calculating enough to consider that his sales probably increase through the heated exchanges, or both. (Or, neither, I suppose.) Either way, I think he does actually enjoy the cycle to some extent, and is perfectly willing to keep it going as long as he has anything to disagree with Feser about.

    Feser, on the other hand, uses language and descriptors that are at least two or three levels less abrasive as what DBH chooses to employ. That may be in part Feser's personal style, or a free choice simply not to respond at the same level, or a perceived moral restraint he feels bound to submit to.

    While I think that Feser has better arguments and doesn't need invective to carry weight for him, I will admit that I have only read DBH's articles and none of his books, because I simply won't PAY the man for that level of invective in what COULD be done without such abrasion.

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  37. I just started reading Laudato Si', an encyclical written by Pope Francis. It's a controversial document, and although I don't relish the prospect of reading it, I have a sense of obligation to see what it is by reading it myself, as opposed to reading snippets of it accompanied by other people's commentary. Only a few pages in, I'm already getting red flags (I'm Catholic), and this passage in particular stood out to me: "As Christians, we are also called 'to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and our neighbours on a global scale. It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet'” To be clear, these words aren't all Francis's words, but he is quoting them with evident approval, and embedding them in such a way that he seems to adopt the claims made as if they are his own views. Having read Prof. Feser's review of DB Hart's pantheistic book just a couple of days ago, this item leaped off the page because, well, it sounds like pantheism. The person Francis is quoting in that passage of Laudato Si' is an Eastern Orthodox Patriarch. It's making me wonder just how big the pantheistic can of worms actually is these days among Catholic and Orthodox Christians (whether nominal or not).

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    1. Francis just as easily could have borrowed that hackneyed quote from America magazine

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    2. You mean, that's not how he did it? Weird, it sound just like!

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  38. I am going to once again quote the comment below because after viewing the YouTube video of Hart being interviewed, which was linked to in a comment above, it becomes brilliantly clear how that accusation is in fact a classic, paradigmatic, example of psychological projection, to wit: "...one thing infernalists can't do is actually respond to universalist arguments, though. It always just boils down to heresy accusations, ad hominem attacks, funny little quips, psychoanalyzing, indignant rants, and the like. "

    Now, keeping that in mind, take even a brief look at the Notre Dame interview with Hart. And what you will see is that right out of the gate, minute one, in response to the interviewer's very first question as to why the resurgence of interest in so-called "two tier" Thomism, Hart's answer comes in the form of a psychologically and sociologically framed ad hominem. He trots out all the typical progressive clichés concerning fearful and disoriented deplorables seeking reassurance and order as a way of dealing with their intellectual and emotional inadequacies, and their resultant social marginalization.

    He sniffs that it was largely to counter this "pathology" that he wrote the book.

    The only thing that I found unusual about Hart and Milbank's simperingly languid libels was the absence of any mention of the amygdala of traditionalists or a supposed fear of brown bodies.

    Yes, guided by these great intellects we learn that: drawing a boundary between nature and super-nature is an artifact produced in a panic over declining social position; that it is essentially fascist - yes the aging Anglican punk*ss actually said that - and, that it all further manifests as a bigoted reluctance to incorporate elements of non-Jesus oriented religions into the worship which Jesus Christ had instructed his followers.

    I suppose that a traditionalist might wonder at the reaction of Jesus to all this. How fortunate for Hart and Milbank's that they have grown beyond His cramped and unevolved reach.

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  39. If you haven't seen it, you might find this discussion between Hart and Feingold interesting:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swmKqWcCG5A&t=1783s

    In my estimation, Hart gets the better of the exchange.

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  40. There is a snarky comment (5th from the top) regarding Ed's review on DBH's announcements page. Apparently he will respond "in time".

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  41. There are several papal pronouncements related to the de Lubac's view discussed in the article. Let's start with the following three:

    1. In 1567 Pope St. Pius V condemned Baius’s claim that “The sublimation of human nature and its elevation to participation in the divine nature was due to the integrity of the human being in its first state, and is therefore to be called natural, not supernatural.” (DS 1921)

    2. Pope Clement XI later condemned the following Jansenist position taught by Quesnel, “The grace of Adam is a consequence of creation and was due to his whole and sound nature.” (DS 2345)

    3. Pope Pius VI also condemned this position in the bull Auctorem fidei, in which he wrote, “The doctrine of the [Jansenist] synod about the state of happy innocence … insofar … as it intimates that that state was a consequence of creation, due to man from the natural exigency and condition of human nature, not a gratuitous gift of God, is false, elsewhere condemned in Baius and in Quesnel, erroneous, favorable to the Pelagian heresy.” (DS 2616)

    The above condemnations having "due to" in the condemned propositions are easily avoided by de Lubac because, for him, the fact that a creature with intellect has an absolute need to be elevated by God to the participation of the divine nature in order not to be radically frustrated for eternity does NOT imply that the creature has "a right" before God to said elevation, or in other words that said elevation is "due to" the creature by God.

    On the other hand, de Lubac cannot avoid this statement by Pope Pius X:

    "There is no question now of the old error, by which a sort of right to the supernatural order was claimed for the human nature. [...] And here We cannot but deplore once more, and grievously, that there are Catholics who, while rejecting immanence as a doctrine, employ it as a method of apologetics, and who do this so imprudently that they seem to admit that there is in human nature a true and rigorous necessity with regard to the supernatural order – and not merely a capacity and a suitability for the supernatural, such as has at all times been emphasized by Catholic apologists." (Pascendi Dominici Gregis, 37)

    FWIW, a few years ago I wrote an article studying the issue under a different perspective, which some readers might find either interesting or useful to fight insomnia. It is in both blog and pdf form:

    http://speculativethinking.blogspot.com/2014/03/a-novel-look-at-nature-grace-controversy.html

    https://www.academia.edu/14858760

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  42. I listened to that discussion between Feingold and Hart, and Hart does get the better of the exchange. The whole conversation is fascinating (even if the poor quality of the audio makes it difficult to hear), but the crux of the disagreement seems to be exchange that starts at 38:53. Here is my transcript:

    FEINGOLD: “This human nature that’s in me as a reality . . . Is there a connatural end that’s proportionate to it, and what would that be? I think that’s a really important question. That’s one of the most fundamental philosophical questions. A question asked by Aristotle and Plato: What end corresponds to human nature (as it can be known without the benefit of revelation, which they didn’t have)? And St. Thomas weighs in here and says that, well, the ancients Plato and Aristotle got this one right: the connatural end of human nature is contemplating God through the mirror of creation. And so, the end is God, but the way of contemplating is through the things made. Is that a perfect end for rational creatures? And here we’ll [Hart and me will] agree: No, of course it’s not a perfect end because it leaves a natural desire unsatisfied, the one that we’ve been speaking about, the natural desire to see Beauty face to face. And so St. Thomas is saying two things here, and I think he’s right in saying this: that we can speak of a connatural end, contemplating God through creation ([e.g.] after this life, as he imagined for the for the children who died before baptism, before the age of reason without baptism), so a beatitude that’s in God but that is imperfect—and how imperfect? well, we could say, in some sense, immeasurably imperfect compared to seeing God face to face—but not for that reason, nothing, not for that reason, absurd, because it’s, simply speaking, imperfect, but in some sense, perfect, in proportion to human nature. But simply speaking, imperfect because leaving unsatisfied this natural desire to see God. And, thus, St. Thomas comes out with two ends possible for a rational creature: the supernatural, simply speaking, perfect; and a connatural, simply speaking, imperfect. And that’s crucial, I think, for architecture, in doing theology.”

    HART: “It does raise an interesting question, because we usually hear that the paradox that the nouvelle theologie wants to raise again and again is an irreducibly natural desire for an irreducibly supernatural end. And it’s not true that de Lubac denied a connatural end. But then if you say also, but that leaves an innate desire imperfectly fulfilled, or unfulfilled, it does raise the question if we’re really talking about a connatural end that satisfies at all. Because, again—and I’m speaking here as an advocate for this nouvelle theologie tradition but also for myself—if the prior orientation of consciousness and will towards God is what makes possible the desirability of natural ends, then any degree of satisfaction with natural ends is so imperfect that it could never be understood as any kind of fulfillment of human nature . . . .”

    On Feingold’s reconstruction of Thomas’s view (he admits at the beginning that Thomas different writings on the topic seem to be incompatible with each other), he holds that man has a natural desire to see God that is imperfectly, indeed infinitely imperfectly, satisfied by the contemplation of God through the mirror of creation, but that is nevertheless “in some sense” (notice the equivocation) perfect, viz. in proportion to human nature. As Hart points out, this is nonsense. A satisfaction that falls infinitely short of the full satisfaction of a desire is not satisfaction at all!

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  43. When I read page 18 of The Experience of God, when explaining the lack of explanatory power of naturalism, Hart says that "existence is most definitely not a natural phenomenon". Younger Kiel from the Land of Doofus defaulted to thinking of existence as natural. It seems obviously true that it is supernatural, though. What do others think of this idea that existence is supernatural? What are the consequences of our metaphysical participation in this supernatural power? And how do the answers to this question bear on Hart's understanding of the relationship between God and "the world"?

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    1. -Participation in? Or consequence of?
      -There can be only One necessary Being who has the power of being in himself, who is pure act.

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    2. It seems obviously true that it is supernatural, though.

      It seems obvious that the existence of a natural being is...natural. The coming into being of it might be supernatural, depending.

      What do others think of this idea that existence is supernatural?

      I think that the idea that the existence of a natural being is supernatural is pretty close to an oxymoron. Can we just insist that natural beings are supernatural beings, and get away with that by mere fiat?

      What are the consequences of our metaphysical participation in this supernatural power?

      I suppose it depends on what you mean by "participation in". I HAVE being: since I received it and did not participate in making myself come into being from nothing, any participation I have in it is utterly dependent on the being that I received.

      Nor do I, by participation, command this awesome power so as to make things come into existence by mere will that they exist.

      It is not necessarily true that "to exist" means that you "participate in" some other power that is independent of you, or at least existed before you. If you are wholly the recipient of being from an agent, who gifts you with your own existence, you don't thereby "participate" in the agent's being. It is a faulty assumption to presume that an agent can only cause the being of another by sharing its own being. Some causes cause that way - especially certain secondary causes. But some causality doesn't go that way - namely God's, who can create out of nothing.

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  44. Tony

    If it true what Ed says, namely that nothing would exist or keep existing for even An instant of God did not sustain it, it is hard to see how existence is not super natural.

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  45. +1, Walter.

    I suppose it depends on what you mean by "participation in"

    I do not mean it as of a power we exercise on our own.

    From W Norris Clarke, "The One and the Many - A Contemporary Thomistic Metaphysics", page 87:
    This key metaphysical doctrine of St. Thomas - reconciling the One and the Many in the universe as diverse participations of all beings in the central perfection of existence through limiting essence - if properly understood, opens up a magnificent synoptic vision that can easily deepen into a religious or mystical vision of the whole universe of real beings as a single great community of existents, with a deep "kin­ship" of similarity running through them all , which turns out when fully analyzed to imply that all are in some way images of God, their Source, each in its own unique but limited (imperfect) way. "Ah," one poet said when I explained this to him, "then being is the act of belonging! " Right on! No one can ever be totally alone, isolated, alienated in a universe of real beings.

    Non-being is the only alternative to being. So, I think "to exist means that you participate in some other power that is independent of you" is necessarily true (though maybe my lack of training is showing through and I'm using the terms "existence" and "being" improperly).

    Also, assuming we're talking about the same things here, to think otherwise would seem to be radically at odds with Catholic tradition (e.g.: Gospel of John and St Paul consider the Son pre-existing through who the world is created, etc).

    Are we talking past each other?

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  46. @ Walter Van den Acker,

    Eat a hot dog. The hot dog ceases to exist. That hot dog could not have existed for even an instant if you had not sustained its existence by not eating it in that instant.

    Would that make the hot dog's existence supernatural vis-a-vis your will to sustain it by not eating it?

    All hot-dogs are grateful for your sustenance.

    Tom Cohoe

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  47. Tom

    I don't eat hot dogs because I am a vegetarian.
    Now, I thought people around here were be aware of that "sustaining" for Ed means "actively sustaining".
    Your definition of sustaining entails something that Ed rejects, namely existential inertia. By your definition, a deist God is also a sustaining cause of creation.

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    1. [Why is the system preventing me from posting under "Anonymous" as I usually do?]

      @ Walter,

      1. It's easy to claim that a person "means" something more convenient to your own purpose than what he actually means would be.

      2. I didn't define "sustaining", so you can't say what my definition would entail. Besides, definitions do not entail anything. They are just definitions.

      3. You don't sound like you are very interested in what people actually mean. You sound more like someone who wants to make a plausible claim, correct or not, that someone you see as being inconsistent with your personal view is inconsistent with himself and so can be discounted.

      4. Hot dogs thank you even more for your sustenance.

      Tom Cohoe

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  48. @ Walter Van den Acker,

    Why do you always post such self-defeating nonsense? Maybe Ed will jump in and tell you, but don't wait up for it. :-)

    Tom Cohoe

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  49. Tom

    I don't need Ed's jumping in, because I know what Ed has to say about it. You can easily find this, but in case you can't, you should ask Ed.

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    1. Ok, I'll ask him: Hey Ed, do you agree with Walter's expression of your meaning?

      Tom Cohoe

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  50. “Clearly, Hart knows a lot of words, but he may want to double-check the meaning of ‘disinterested.’”

    Absolutely savage, Dr. Feser. Well played!

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