A 12 Step Contemplative Spirituality

Dedicated to Father Richard Rohr

1) The paths of love and suffering both transform us. On both paths we journey both in authenticity and toward authenticity, humbly increasing our humility, authentically growing our authenticity. We recognize our radical finitude and get radically in touch with our need for outside assists or grace.

2) In touch, somehow and in some way, with this reality of grace, with the fact that manifold and multiform outside assists brought us into existence, itself, have nurtured and sustained us thus far and, reportedly …

per credible witnesses … can

re­orient,

re­dedicate,

re­new,

re­empower and

re­lease us …

3) We thus surrender to Outside Assists and yield to their gifts of

truth, via Right Believing,

beauty, via Right Desiring,

goodness via Right Behaving,

unity, via Right Belonging and

freedom, via Right Being­in­Love, as one Be­loved.

4) Working honestly and diligently to raise our awareness of how we’ve been wholly and miserably …

dis­oriented, acting both in and on un­truth;

dis­affected, aspiring, inordinately, toward lesser goods;

dis­possessed, acting willfully and not willingly;

dis­empowered, playing on the wrong playgrounds and with the wrong playmates, selfishly at work on our own agenda rather than at play in the fields of the Lord, where we cooperate with genuine outside assists or Grace;

dis­integrated, literally losing our freedom (always inner but, too often, also our outer liberty, too) and diminishing our capacity to receive and return genuine love (as distinguished from our enslavement to persons, processes and substances, which masquerade as counterfeit love objects rather than authentic love subjects).

The disengagement of playgrounds and playmates does not represent an abandonment of other souls or disregard of their intrinsic value as beloved persons but involves, rather, the establishment of healthy relationship boundaries, lovingly entrusting others to providence, while walking the path to freedom in a way that, one prays, others may choose to follow of their own accord, some day.

5) Re­connecting and reconciling ourselves to community ensues in the wake of sharing our stories of dis­orientation, dis­affection, dis­possession, dis­empowerment and dis­integration ­­­ not only with our own conscious awareness and our God, but ­­­

with another person who positively affirms us, who

re­possesses us from our possessed existence,

re­empowers us by reintegrating us into a wholesome, loving community, which, through

right belonging, can

re­instill right desiring, which will naturally encourage

right behaving, thereby reorienting us through right believing.

6) The contemplative stance goes beyond any problem-­solving or propositional concerns.

Far more than propositions for solving our problems in reality, the contemplative stance engages dispositions for evolving our probes of reality.

Beyond a mere nonreflective awareness, which doesn’t judge reality from our willful self­-perspective, propositionally, the contemplative stance does also adopt, dispositionally, a willing trustful surrender to a friendly ultimate reality, trading a specific set of anxious expectations for a more general and vague but peaceful hope in providence.

To the extent the contemplative stance pauses between reality’s stimuli and our responses, withholding judgments regarding precisely how we might think, feel, norm or interpret this or that reality, that pause, then, very much has a valence as a pregnant pause, as we dispose ourselves in a manner that reflects a surrender, to wit:

7) Take, Lord, receive, my …

memory,

understanding,

my entire will …

Gift me, new …

beliefs, a vibrant faith beyond my weak grasp of truth; to think again!

desires, a fervent hope beyond my feeble sense of beauty; to feel again!

behaviors, a willing love beyond my willful approach of goodness; to norm anew!

belonging, an authentic fellowship beyond my impoverished notion of community; to re-interpret it all together with others of goodwill!

beatitudes, a beatific vision that grows my experience of freedom beyond the mere license to do as I want to the clear liberty to do as I must; to liberate one to live & love again!

8) As a major hallmark of the contemplative stance, we re­cognize our radical solidarity and connected­ness to others, the cosmos, God and even our selves.

Out of this solidarity, compassion necessarily ensues, beginning with those to whom we, ourselves, have brought suffering.

The contemplative stance, then, pursues Enlightenment, much less so as any self­improvement or personal growth project.

Indeed, such spiritual masters as Gerald May, Abraham Maslow, Viktor Frankl and Bernard Lonergan instruct us that self-­actualization properly ensues as a by­product of self­-transcendence, that, pursued for its own sake, self­actualization even frustrates true transformation.

Hence, the Angelus and fiat: Be it done unto me according to Thy Word. And the Magnificat: For He looked on His servant’s lowliness …

Hence the real­ization that one seeks Enlightenment more so out of compassion for all those who have suffered our unenlightened selves!

Thus moved to sorrow, repentance and compassion via our contemplation attaining to love:

9) We move beyond any abstract, self assessment and willingly surrender to the concrete, practical response of re­constructing our broken relationships with others, seeking forgiveness, offering reparations, making amends from the standpoint of what’s truly helpful to them and not what’s needed by us.

10) The contemplative stance becomes ­­­ not a new way of thinking about reality, but ­­­ a new way of seeing reality.

We cultivate a practice of daily examen and daily sitting, a habit of pausing awhile, a commitment to timely and heartfelt reconciliations, knowing we’ll fall, again and again, from our inescapable finitude and fail, again and again, from our willful refusals to cooperate with outside assists or surrender to grace.

11) On the road of transformation, the quest , itself, becomes our grail; the journey , itself, becomes our destination.

Our growth in truth will commit us to accurate historical accounts and successful scientific ventures, beyond which we develop an eschatological vision, which means an enduring commitment to a better future. We seek and provide outside assists to orient us to truth.

Our growth in beauty will commit us to wholesome cultural engagements, beyond which we embrace an essential soteriological trajectory, which means we cultivate through time-­honored practices and rituals, our growth in authenticity and humility and recognition of solidarity with all other sojourners. We seek and provide outside assists to sanctify and dedicate us to beauty.

Our growth in goodness will commit us to enlightened philosophical and economic approaches, which inform all of our moral and practical norms, beyond which we engage a truly sacramental economy, which receives all as pure gift and which inventories both daily and lifetime moments of gratitude, voicing this gratitude to self, God and others. We seek and provide outside assists to nurture, sustain and heal us in goodness.

Our growth in unity will commit us to wholesome social realities, beyond which we participate in an ecclesiological reality, which fellowships in community. We seek and provide outside assists toward unity.

Our growth in freedom will commit us to political action and apolitical contemplation, beyond which we embrace diverse sophiological trajectories, which means we sustain our authenticity by different ways of being-­in-­love with others, God, cosmos and even self. There are many ministries but one mission.

Beyond a universal and essential soteriological trajectory, which gifts our authenticity, there are poly­doxic (many­gloried) ways of sustaining authenticity through loving and being loved. We seek and provide outside assists toward that freedom and relationality which foster reality’s deepest loves.

All spiritualities, whether the great traditions or indigenous religions, whether contemplative practices or 12 Step Programs, have elements of

eschatology vis a vis truth and right believing, historically and scientifically;

soteriology vis a vis beauty and right desiring, culturally;

sacramentology vis a vis goodness and right behaving, philosophically and economically;

ecclesiology vis a vis unity and right belonging, socially; and

sophiology vis a vis relationality and freedom, right beatitude, politically and contemplatively.

12) What return shall we make? That’s the urgent but peaceful imperative of all who’ve come into awareness of reality’s radically giving (donative) nature as we minister every consolation we’ve received to others. When we awaken to our solidarity, whether through the path of suffering or of love, which intertwine inextricably, compassion will inevitably and naturally ensue.

How can we keep from singing?

“For every poet it is always morning in the world; history a forgotten, insomniac night. The fate of poetry is to fall in love with the world in spite of history.” ~ Derek Wallcott

A 12 Step Contemplative Spirituality is not a life event but a lifestyle. It’s a lifestyle of gathering frequently with others to remember, to not forget!

Anamnesis (from the Greek word meaning “reminiscence”) is a liturgical statement in which the Church refers to the memorial character of the Eucharist (thanks-giving). It has its origin in Jesus’ words at the Last Supper, “Do this in memory of me.”

In a wider sense, Anamnesis is a key concept in the liturgical theology: in worship the faithful recall God’s saving deeds. This memorial aspect is not simply a passive process but one by which the Christian can actually enter into the Paschal mystery.

So, if amnesia means “to forget,” then an-amnesis means “not to forget.”

We recall, then, why we simply must be thankful. And we do so prayerfully.
As they say, a family that prays together, stays together.

So, too, psychologically, modern medicine has discovered that “neurons that fire together, wire together.”

Religion means to re-ligate or “tie back together.”

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All of this taken together suggests that our spiritual survival requires a vigorous hygiene and rigorous practice of “not forgetting to give thanks.”

Phillipians 4:8 reminds us: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is fair, whatever is pure, whatever is acceptable, whatever is commendable, if there is anything of excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—keep thinking about
these things.”

From a properly holistic perspective, this spiritual hygiene of anamnesis thus plays an indispensable role in maintaining one’s emotional equilibrium.

The more seriously compromised one’s emotional homeostasis has been, especially over protracted periods of time, the more vigilant one must be to stand guard over one’s thoughts, the more rigorous must be the practice of anamnesis and the more integral must be one’s assault against any and all threats posed to one’s psychological defenses.

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Anamnesis – a suggestion
Inventory:

1) 5 most stimulating intellectual curiosities that once captured your imagination

2) 5 most wholesome and emotionally satisfying moments that you can still recall with great relish

3) 5 most morally courageous commitments you undertook together with others

4) 5 most satisying practical accomplishments from your academic, athletic or work life

5) 5 most wholesome and rewarding social engagements you’ve enjoyed

6) 10 most wholesome and grace-filled familial memories, persons, events

7) 5 most spiritually rewarding divine encounters and the persons who shared or mediated them, whether personally, through books or media, etc and 5 holy places where such encounters were gifted

Commit the above inventory to memory and recite it daily. Recite it once. Or recite it 70 times. Recite it in the place of other tapes that have been playing in your head, perhaps for decades.

Go to this place of gratitude.

It will become your sacred, safe place. It not only represents but constitutes your reality.

It WILL rewire your brain.

Neurons that fire together will wire together. Others that cease firing will eventually lose their wiring.

I did this over 30 years ago and it rescued me.

Later, I listened to a Melody Beattie audiobook and she prescribed a similar daily inventory of gratitude and I better understood how and why my old spiritual hygiene had worked. Finally, my spouse came into this type of practice from yet another spiritual resource group and I witnessed its transformative influence on her, too.

In January 2003, I published the following: “How Wide Is Your Moat? – our holistic moat”

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The mutual fund industry has popularized the moat metaphor, a moat being that deep and wide trench around the rampart of a castle, that is usually filled with water. There are even pinball games, like Medieval Madness , in which players use different strategies to breach the castle’s defenses, such as the moat, the drawbridge, the gate, the wall. Sometimes the madness is not so medieval but very much contemporary, within our own psychological castle walls.

I have often thought of the analogy of the moat in other than economic terms. It might also be a useful image in considering a person’s general well being.

Like a castle with its multiple layers of defenses, one’s general well being is also bolstered by its own moats and walls and gatekeepers and can be breached by many different types of attacks.

There are times in our lives when we know our well being will have to do battle, when we need to both widen and deepen our psychological moats and pull up the drawbridges of our physical ramparts. The size of such bulwarks must be determined by many factors.
Let’s consider some examples of the types of battles we must all fight and of the kinds of defenses we might need to put in place to fortify our general well being.

When we are healthy, physically, emotionally and mentally, and under no significant stress, in other words are not under attack physically or psychologically, the size of our holistic moat doesn’t matter much, seemingly. I’m going to call this moat the holistic moat because its depth and width is determined by many factors which, I will argue, all need to be considered as a whole. Ignore any given factor and our defenses will be breached , which is to suggest that sometimes we don’t have a very wide margin of error to work with because our moat is both shallow and narrow.

What are some of the things that fill up our moat and seriously jeopardize our castle of well being?

Well, certainly anything which can affect us emotionally, such as trauma due to grief, terror or physical injury, such as chronic or acute illness, addictions, broken relationships, financial difficulty, employment and career setbacks, academic and professional failure, damage to one’s reputation whether unjust or from a personal failure, and so forth. The effects of aging or of a chronic debilitating illness, the propensity toward chemical imbalances of neurotransmitters, and other insults to our general well being, all of these things and more, can lower our defenses and increase our vulnerabilities to where we spiral down into near or total dysfunction and immobilization.

The return to any normalcy and full functionality can be difficult, near impossible. In such desperation, we can approach the point where we even lose the will to go on, despite our loved ones, and, assuredly, when the blessings of those relationships no longer weigh heavily enough in the balance against the pain of a truly tormented existence, the castle has been most seriously breached; our physical well being drawbridge is down; our emotional gate has been battered; our mental gatekeeper defeated. Our spirit has thus retreated to the most inner recesses of our being and, though still sharing immanently with its Beloved in these innermost chambers, there is no felt sense of communion, neither with God nor with the castle cohort, that indwelling and abiding relating to family and friends, and most definitely not with the outer world of strangers.
What are some of the kinds of defenses we might need to put in place to fortify our general well being?

When our moat is narrowed and shallowed by any of the insults to our well being we have considered, we have no room to maneuver and have little margin of error. We cannot afford any mistakes and must move aggressively on all fronts. If one’s castle is especially vulnerable, either chronically or acutely, one cannot take a casual approach to defending the castle. One must proactively work to widen the moat! Like the Corps of Engineers on the Mississippi River, one must continuously dredge because the silt is being deposited 24/365 when we suffer from chemical imbalances or are otherwise in the midst of trauma, grief, anxiety or depression.

Physically, we cannot afford to miss out on proper diet, sufficient rest and good exercise.

Our diet must be substantial and routine and not made up of the four mainstays of the 4 Cajun Foodgroups , which are sugar, salt, fat and alcohol .

Rest and exercise are essential, too, for manifold reasons documented elsewhere.

Medically , we must seek out pharmaceutical aids to help us through the acute phase of any substantial psychological crises with antidepressants or antianxiety prescriptions and maybe even sleep-aids or other therapeutic regimens.

Emotionally , we must force ourselves to interact with family and friends, with outdoors and nature, acting ourselves into a new way of thinking , unable to think ourseleves into a new way of acting.

Mentally , we may need ongoing psychological counseling and, perhaps, even that in combination with specialized trauma counseling or social welfare assistance and counseling.

Specialized support groups can be most efficacious in assisting and advising on all of the fronts under consideration here and can be an emotional lifeline. They can also make us feel a little less alone by being in the empathetic company of others who don’t know and will never know your tears but who have cried tears for similar reasons.

We should seek to stimulate and enrich our minds with good reading materials, uplifting movies and music, and engaging hobbies.

Spiritually , we may need spiritual direction, either formally or informally, with a director-directee relationship, or in a spiritual companioning mode with a fellow pilgrim with whom we may share a special spiritual kinship.

The life of prayer, no matter how arid or desolate, must be maintained with perseverance and discipline, privately and communally, perhaps augmented by small group participation but most definitely sharing as well in at-large community worship services.

Ideally, one can likely not implement the entire holistic regimen because the very exigencies and contingencies of life, which press in on us and lower our defenses, such as employment and parenting responsibilities, such as financial and physical constraints, also get in our way during the rebuilding efforts. However, one must aggressively and vigilantly attend to all of the factors within one’s means and to the fullest extent possible, notwithstanding constraints on one’s time and resources, and make these efforts a priority, because spiralling down to the lowest ebb of life will most assuredly defeat everything else one is trying to accomplish and deprive one of the vibrancy in one’s relationships, with God and others, that makes anything else worthwhile.

Our road to healing must be holistic and I emphasize this multifaceted approach because I have seen healing stratgeies sabotaged by approaches that don’t take the whole castle into account.

What good is it to deepen or widen a moat if one leaves the drawbridge down?

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The attempt to make it through significant crises only pharmaceutically can backfire and bring on even more substance abuse. The temptation to self-medicate with over the counter stimulants or sedatives can simiarly cause problems. To take pills but not eat and rest properly is self-defeating.

Confusing psychological counseling and spiritual direction can be a problem; they are distinctly different enterprises, however related.

If one’s castle is especially vulnerable, either chronically or acutely, one cannot take a casual approach to defending the castle. One must proactively widen the moat!

Neglect of one’s spiritual life, in my opinion, represents the first shallowing of the holistic moat because the spiritual life, a life of prayer, is the climbing into the watchtower of our castle, lifting our hearts and minds to God, aligning our wills with His, and, whereby through ongoing self-examen and discernment, we can vigilantly gaze out over all of our defenses and remain on guard for those attacks that no castle avoids. All of this we do as we await that Kingdom which is to come while living as safely as we can within that one which is already within us but constantly under siege.

It may be, that what I have outlined above can be viewed not merely as a defensive maneuver against life, but rather as one’s offensive strategy for looking to make one’s mark on the world. These are the very same things I’d suggest as New Year’s Resolutions, to anyone serious about deepening their relationship with God or their relationships with loved ones, to anyone interested in advancing on one’s academic or career path, etc There is a great unity of purpose in the spiritual life, to a holistically informed lifestyle.

When God is first in our lives, everything else falls into place and we will be about the same tasks in life whether our castle is under siege or not. Mark my words, however, it is best not to wait.

So, while you see a chance — take it.

While You See a Chance (for Asceticism) Take It! – forsaking all for the sake of Love

Viktor Frankl taught that a person with a WHY to live can bear almost any HOW.

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He should know; he learned that in a Nazi concentration camp.

That’s why renunciation, self-denial & ascetical exercises – not for their own sake, but – for the sake of a Loved One can also liberate us, ourselves.

We thus all should aspire to be strong-willed persons, but, as Gerald May distinguished, not willful but willing.

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How might we strengthen our will to grown in love, willingness & freedom?

How might we weaken our willfulness & break those bondages which separate us from those whom we love?

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How can we transform our “bondage to” into – not only a “freedom from,” but – a “freedom for” the sake of whom we love?

Where might we find a “technology of liberation” that frees us to aspire to a higher love, to life’s finer things, to get us back in the high life again, where all the doors we’ve closed at times might open up again?

Growing one’s freedom to love requires dwelling in – neither the past nor the future, but – the now.

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No need to get preoccupied with either the past (as “Jesus paid it all”) or the future (as the Spirit eternalizes all traces of human goodness, every beginning of a smile, all wholesome trivialities).

Nothing to fill in the blank with regarding “I’ll be okay when _______.”

Seriously, to grow my own freedom to love, I constantly sing in my head or even mouth the lyrics: “While you see a chance, take it!”

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In each now moment, while I see a chance to strengthen my willingness to love, I have better learned to take it, with increasingly few exceptions …
because my WHY to live has become way more important to me than any HOW.

Here, I am less focused on loving, personal interactions, although that remains the end. I refer, instead, to gratuitous self-denials, ordered to what Cynthia Bourgeault describes in terms of exercising & strengthening our “letting go muscle.” She’s talking within the context of distractions in Centering Prayer, but the same dynamic operates here.

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While I see a chance for denial, whether regarding something as simple as –

Googling or not to satisfy some seemingly pressing but genuinely idle curiosity,

consuming or not some morsel (digital or vittles),

replacing or not otherwise intrusive worries with psalms,

foregoing or not an indulgence of drama (news-cycles or soapy series), or, more proactively,

climbing out of a chair or not to go walk or

dedicating my time or not to spiritual writing —

while I see a chance for denial, I take it.

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And I’m talking about gratuitous self-denials regarding anything & everything, including wholly innocent self-indulgences, which, in and of themselves would be rather insignificant & morally neutral.

Because this exercising & strengthening of my “letting go muscle” has formed an increasingly strong habit in me of turning my attention to and caring ever more deeply about life’s higher loves & finer things, I’ve slowly found myself back in the truly high life, again.

Beginners on the spiritual path get scandalized at first regarding John of the Cross’ severe asceticism or Francis of Assisi’s betrothal to poverty.

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Later, they learn to quit beating their heads against life’s walls just because it feels so good when they stop. They better realize that our saints & mystics didn’t forsake all just for kicks, but, instead, for the sake of One, Whom they loved above all. Romance fueled desires inspired their renunciations, released them from bondages to _______ & freed them for the Most High.

The spiritual practices & ascetic disciplines of every great tradition will eventually come to the fore in every life, as each finds the mystical path out of either great love or great suffering, usually some of both.

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There may be some biochemistry in the admonition given to addicts – not to smoke as it makes relapses more likely. Beyond that, whether a substance or process addict (and we all have some degree of both, just varying by degrees of dys/functionality), I see the clear psychological & spiritual benefits that would accrue in strengthening one’s “letting go muscle.”

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So, in addition to the psalms & hymns of old time religion, I commend Disney’s “Let It Go” and Steve Winwood’s “Finer Things,” “Higher Love,” “Back In the High Life” and, most of all, “While You See a Chance.”

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From “Finer Things”
And come morning
There’s a good wind to blow me home
So time be a river rolling into nowhere
I will live while I can
I will have my ever after
The finer things keep shining through
The way my soul gets lost in you
The finer things I feel in me
The golden dance life could be

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From “Higher Love”
Think about it, there must be higher love
Down in the heart or hidden in the stars above
Bring me a higher love
Where’s that higher love I keep thinking of?
I will wait for it
I’m not too late for it
Until then, I’ll sing my song
To cheer the night along
I could light the night up with my soul on fire
I could make the sun shine from pure desire
Let me feel that love come over me
Let me feel how strong it could be
Bring me a higher love

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From “Back in the High Life”
We’ll have ourselves a time
And we’ll dance ’til the morning sun
And we’ll let the good times come in
And we won’t stop ’til we’re done
We’ll be back in the high life again
All the doors I closed one time will open up again
We’ll be back in the high life again
All the eyes that watched us once will smile and take us in

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From “While You See a Chance”
Stand up in a clear blue morning
Until you see what can be
Alone in a cold day dawning
Are you still free? Can you be?
When some cold tomorrow finds you
When some sad old dream reminds you
How the endless road unwinds you
While you see a chance take it
Find romance, fake it
Because its all on you

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Regarding the realities of Sacrifice as well as Detachment

Sacrifice requires the surrender of something good for the sake of something better. It’s an indispensable part of our human condition because we are radically finite. Values will inevitably compete, forcing often difficult choices.

When we do sacrifice one value or good for the sake of another, we do best to distinguish the higher from the lesser goods, the eternal from the merely temporal.

Sacrificial choices won’t always involve such a revaluing, devaluing or disvaluing. They can involve a Sophie’s Choice dilemma, which allows us to only suboptimally realize one of several otherwise vitally significant & deep values.

Often, sacrifices will take the forms of detachment (enjoyment in moderation) or dispossession (all or nothing abandonment). Neither is necessarily more effective or virtuous. That will depend on unique individuals and particular circumstances.

This is all to recognize, for example, that some persons might remain largely functional as social drinkers or recreational weed smokers (where that’s legal!) while others might be rather exceptionally susceptible to a downward spiraling into an inordinately dysfunctional tailspin. In such cases, an all or nothing dispossession or abandonment of such substances would be essential. Any notion that mere detachment or simple moderation would suffice is a dangerous rationalization, often unconsciously motivated by intractably ingrained habits.

So, too, for example, while loyalty is indeed a genuine good and high virtue, still, without disvaluing friends or loyalty, we might nevertheless need to reorder relationships & set boundaries by, as they say, changing our playgrounds and playmates. The changing of playgrounds & playmates must often be more than literal. Metaphorically, it can include the playgrounds & playmates in our minds & imagination, for example, the memories & recalls triggered by certain musical playlists & artists or by mere daydreaming & fantasizing. New approaches to leisure & entertainment can be life-saving.

Indeed, there is no measure of vice even in abandoning certain friends and absolutely no virtue in losing irreplaceable family time, employment, much less one’s very life.

This is a more extreme example but it applies to most sacrifices related to physical, emotional, mental, moral & spiritual hygienes.

As I wrote in my tribute to James Taylor, Ode to Stringbean, it’s place in time not a place in space, where a person’s home is found. That place in time is the eternal now. The entire journey is taken in each next good step. It’s about going home.

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Ode to Stringbean

the true handy man doesn’t work on a house

with a pencil and a rule

what he’s handy with are his people you see

love is jt’s tool

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most songs that are sung are about going home

according to his school

when life’s skies grow dark and full of clouds

and the world turns down right cruel

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when ole stringbean sang about carolina

he sang about a woman not a state

about a holy host of others

loved ones his truest fate

he had no need for sad salvation army sisters

singing nearer my god to thee

or moonlight ladies in the canyon

up on the roof went ole jt

he was going home you see

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what a fool I was to leave the only happiness i’ve ever know

where the seeds of faith were planted

and the fruits of love were grown

where seldom was heard a discouraging word

only rockabye sweet grady james

where I always thought I could see you again

e’r my flying machine went up in flames
when ole stringbean sang about carolina

he sang about a woman not a state

about a holy host of others

loved ones his truest fate

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he had no need for sad salvation army sisters

singing nearer my god to thee

or moonlight ladies in the canyon

shower the people sang jt

walking man walks like ole jt
in every life there are sacred places

where sweet memories abound

but it’s a place in time not a place in space

where a person’s home is found

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when life’s cold winds blow and your back’s to the sun

what’ll turn your head around

are those precious sacred faces

whose voices make such precious sacred sounds
when ole stringbean sang about carolina

he sang about a woman not a state

about a holy host of others

loved ones his truest fate

he had no need for sad salvation army sisters

singing nearer my god to thee

or moonlight ladies in the canyon

b s u r like ole jt

he was going home you see

Dealing with Intractable Emotional Turmoil

Anyone, Lord, whom I (or we) may have ever harmed and anyone, Lord, who may ever have harmed me (or us), whether by a thought, word or deed, or the absence of a thought, word or deed, whether through a sin or an error of omission or commission, whether intentionally or unintentionally, aware or unawares, whether justly or unjustly, politely or impolitely, charitably or uncharitably, Lord, I pray that You reach out and touch and heal us. I pray that you enable us to forgive one another and to accept one another’s forgiveness in order that we might receive your perfect healing. Amen.

I composed this prayer decades ago, but don’t recall why. Likely, it was a source of consolation to me in the face of a series of injustices I’d endured, aware that I’d offended, too, in my own way and to varying degrees. It supplemented any Act of Contrition.

Once, when visiting a family friend in hospice (a doctor whose end was to be a few days away), he asked me to pray aloud. That, above, is what I prayed, even as our parish priest stood by.
Closely tied to the Gospel imperative to forgive is the injunction not to judge. We are just never in a position to know when another’s failure to cooperate with grace is due to a sinful refusal or to an exculpating inability. We can’t even know this when another confesses to a crime or a sin.
So many failures to cooperate with grace are indeed due to various exculpating degrees of emotional duress, mental illness, deformative influences or lack of proper formation. God, alone, therefore, has such full knowledge.
In my experience, presuming another’s innocence rather than their guilt (often our own projection!), beyond merely obeying a Gospel command, can serve to tame our own wrathful imaginations (which too often can continuously replay the painful injury) and can thereby ameliorate our own suffering (as we reimagine ourselves merely unfortunate rather than as clearly & soberly attacked). This comprises a good first step in the cultivation of compassion for – not only others, but – ourselves.
How terribly wounded another must have been to carry on like that toward me, we imagine — instead of attributing to them straightforward malice or outright hatred. How often we rationalize and excuse our own dysfunctional behaviors and interpersonal offenses (and I’m not suggesting necessarily wrongfully so). We might best afford others the same benefit of the doubt.
Thus we can see how it’s very true that those who are the hardest & the harshest on others are also very likely similarly disposed toward themselves and their own failures to cooperate with grace. Thus the wisdom of the Desiderata — beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. Then, copiously extend that compassion!
All of this transcends other questions regarding how to deal with our emotional pain & spiritual suffering, as well as how to interdict failures to cooperate with grace in order to advance peace among peoples and maintain a modicum of public order.
Practicing forgiveness, not judging and liberally extending compassion toward oneself and others, makes for an indispensable start toward – not only healing, but – preventing much emotional turmoil. It’s really an implicit cognitive-affective behavioral approach as most spiritual disciplines are. While necessary, it’s not always sufficient, however. Our emotions are a gift of information regarding our internal milieu and external environs. While it’s true that bad cognitive and behavioral habits can make us guilty for certain degrees of emotional turmoil, generally, we should avoid judging ourselves and others for how we or they feel. At bottom, those feelings are a gift, part of our humanity.
For the most part, then, we are susceptible to judgment – not for how we feel, but – for how we behave. And this includes behaviors we engage to relieve our pain as well as those we undertake to interdict and remedy perceived and/or real injustices. Society sanctions such interdictions, from parenting to policing to military interventions, prescribing & proscribing various approaches to keep them proportional and to foster their efficacies.
In our radical finitude, even in our various authoritative capacities, our interdictions, themselves, can become sources of injustice — failures to cooperate with grace, though, again – not necessarily refusals, but – representing various inabilities in varying degrees. All sorts of rubrics are prescribed to define un/just interdictions and acceptable remedies for what ails a person, family or society. I’ve addressed those elsewhere in depth but, the preeminent rule is to always employ the least coercive means practicable as that’s most consistent with our unalienable human dignity. It’s consonant, too, with the time-honored wisdom of defaulting to a nonviolent resistance of evil, all other things being equal (not to suggest that they thus are!). That wisdom’s been demonstrated as true both through its manifold efficacies as well as the inefficacies ensuing from violence (physical, verbal, passive-aggressive, etc) both in the lives of victims and perpetrators of same throughout the ages. Alas, most know this intuitively and, thankfully, most do practice it in sufficient degrees.
What is equally maddening and befuddling, then, is how to handle the residual emotional distress — those feelings left over even after we’ve cognitively & behaviorally exhibited compassion, understanding & forgiveness of ourselves and others, even though we’ve prudently practiced or instigated the most efficacious interdictive remedies toward offending individuals or even institutions (for much dysfunction is institutionalized & intergenerationally intractable).
Any such residual emotional disturbances require holistic healing approaches such as outlined in my 12 Step Contemplative Spirituality, above.
As a pastor, counselor or significant other, as a suffering individual’s spiritual kin, we instinctively know that a compassionate, listening presence is paramount. A mere affirmation of the sufferer’s humanity and recognition of their pain combined with an unconditional acceptance of their very personhood is our first, best response. This passive response is a metaphorical, if not also a physical, HUG!
Responding with spiritual platitudes, psychological theorizing or superficial situational analyses is unkind because it risks trivializing what are often complex intra-personal dynamics, which have unfolded over long periods of time in a hypercomplex inter-personal milieu. Worse, we end up virtually dismissing the enormity of all human suffering, the immensity of all human pain, for, in our suffering, we simply are in solidarity. When we awaken to our human solidarity, compassion just naturally ensues.
Sometimes, that initial experience of acceptance and understanding and recognition can be so validating that a healing is experienced right then and there as a suffering person overcomes loneliness, alienation and misunderstanding. God becoming man is the paramount example of that simple efficacy. Our Mother Mary, as a Lady of Sorrows, similarly consoles us as we prayerfully reflect with loving intentionality on everything in her life that was joyful, luminous, sorrowful & glorious, in so many ways like our own lives.
Because not all of us are similarly situated in a precise manner (only generally so), it’s best to recognize that, while we all know tears, still, we can’t ever exactly understand another individual’s tears. We can only sit with them and try to variously dry a few at a time.
Beyond, then, seeking out those compassionate fellow sojourners, personal, pastoral & professional, there can remain lingering emotional disturbances, which, often, can indicate spiritual emergence opportunities. We can approach them, then, as spiritual emergencies.
Spiritual emergencies require, again, a holistic birthing process as the labor pains associated with our arrival as a truly new person in Christ will involve every aspect of our human giftedness – physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. In my experience, some lingering emotional pain requires spiritual discernment regarding why God may have chosen to cry this or that particular set of tears through you, why God has placed His voice of prophetic protest in you, perhaps anointed you with a particular calling to remedy this or that injustice, heal this or that situation, minister in this or that way in this or that place to this or that person or persons.
What form your ministry of healing may take on should be guided by an honest inventory of your own internal strengths & weaknesses coupled with a clear, sober assessment of any external opportunities & threats. Perhaps you are rhetorically gifted and can minister spoken and/or written words to small and/or large audiences. Perhaps you are inclined to minister less so such spiritual works of mercy and more so in corporal works of mercy. Perhaps you are called to a new vocation or, more likely, an avocation. Whatever the case, your own healing may be further fostered by your ministry to others. Your lingering pain may be a calling to some spiritual emergence of a new part of you, even a relinquishment of an old part.
They say that any pain, which we don’t allow to somehow transform us, will otherwise become a suffering we continue to transmit to – not only others, but – ourselves.
Being validated in one’s suffering does not mean that everyone similarly situated in a given affliction will have experienced it in the same way or to the same degree. It only means they know tears and trust the authenticity of your own.
There are far too many forms and occasions of injustice in our world for us to imagine that our discerned response should, of a sudden, become some general norm for all others to follow in their prescribed responses. This is true with respect to both our particular feelings and to our chosen method of remedy. The norms that do generally apply, though, are employing the least coercive (most nonviolent) means practicable, discerning the most constructive response conceivable and engaging in a most compassionate & forgiving manner — all toward the end of that response being the most efficacious, spiritually, physically, emotionally and otherwise.

Importantly, though, when we are at play in the fields of the Lord rather than at work on our own selfish agenda, we are to gain our consolation & rest content with the process, with the sowing of the seed, and to absolutely refrain from getting preoccupied or emotionally overinvested with the product, the harvesting of the fruits of our labors. We are to — Let It Go.

As one discerns one’s calling as to whether or not to intervene or interdict in cases of injustice, consider:

Not every battle is mine to fight

Not every wrong is mine to right

Only with Godly counsel will I make my war

Not every issue requires my view

Not every task is mine to do

But in prayer I can abide

To be

engaged but not obsessed

inspired but not driven

spontaneous but not compulsive

at play in the fields of the Lord

not at work on my own agenda

This is much too brief a treatment of a very complex set of human realities. In that regard it could come across as superficial, even naïve or Pollyannaish. I promise you, though, it’s deeper than many ever go in either diagnosing what ails them and our world or in prescribing remedies therefor.
Pax dominus sit semper vobiscum.

The the above approach has its anthropological foundations explicated here:

Contemplative Being, Believing, Belonging, Desiring, Behaving & Becoming – an outline of foundations

My Move from a Hopeful to an Essential Universalism

Consider reality’s “aboutness”es this way. A given aboutnesss refers to emergent degrees of novelty, each new level representing increasing degrees of freedom. Those various degrees are marked by manifold and multiform characteristics, like responsivity, adaptability, perdurance, behavioral plasticity and such.

At the level of fields (veld), quantum & maybe even more primitive fields, veldo-poietic conditions (initial, boundary & limit) exert teleo-potent influences (perhaps reality’s incipient teloi) and we might observe such as vacuum fluctuations, for example.

At the next level observed, cosmo-poietic conditions exert teleo-matic influences and we witness thermodynamic realities.

Bio-poietic conditions exert teleo-nomic influence on an emergent level of aboutnesses that we call life, where such as responsivity, adaptability & perdurance and more such novelties come on display.

Sentio-poietic conditions next exert teleo-qualic influence over a variety of sentient beings, at a level where we encounter the hard problem of consciousness and animal sentience.

Collectively, in creation, these above levels of interwoven initial, boundary & limit conditions comprise the vestigial Dei, the very fingerprints of God. We embrace them as reality’s lesser goods.

Made in the very image of God, the human person or imago Dei represents robustly teleo-logical influences in reality as sapio-poietic conditions influence a novel range of behaviors. The behaviors of this essential human nature exhibit an expansive aesthetic scope & intensity and warrant increasing practical responsibilities, as the young human person encounters reality’s lesser goods. This essential nature of the imago Dei can volitionally choose among various goods with a degree of abductive facility unknown to other animals, which rely on hard-wired abductive instincts, alone. By abductive, we refer to rudimentary hypothetical thinking or if-then computations.

What gifts the human person this truly novel abductive faculty is the unmooring of mere animal instinct by the arbitrary symbol systems of human communication. While these semiotic realities are beyond the scope of this presentation, the important take-away is that the human person as imago Dei already transcends all other semiotic realities even prior to the age of reason. This essential human nature, which chooses among life’s goods, volitionally enjoys an immensely rich aesthetic scope and intensity as a created co-creator. As such, it’s bestowed an absolute value and unalienable dignity of eternal import, which God wills to preserve in immortality. A person can therefore do nothing to forfeit the dignity or mar the value of his/her essential nature, nothing to lose the love of God. Parents well know this truth.

Beyond this aesthetic scope dimension of the human person’s essential nature as imago Dei, the human person’s radical finitude places reality’s goods in competition, often requiring practical choices or sacrifices, that is, not only a choosing among but between certain of life’s lesser goods. This epistemic and axiological distancing actually bootstraps a novel emergent freedom, opening the person to reality’s higher goods, thereby gifting increasing relational response-ability and warranting moral responsibility. This is to recognize that the volition of the essential nature of the human person no longer chooses only “among” reality’s lesser goods, as an imago Dei, but can choose to consider or not consider reality’s higher goods, effectively choosing “between” the lesser and higher goods.

The emergent relational & moral dimensions, whereby one grows ever more considerate or inconsiderate of reality’s higher goods in each act of willing, open the dimensions of one’s essential nature (including as vestigial & imago Dei) to the co-creative reality of an authentic secondary human nature, that “habitus” we refer to as a similitudino Dei or virtuous nature. Of course, one’s secondary nature may grow ever more inauthentic, too, with a vicious nature not at all in “likeness” to God even though irrevocably, at an essential level, always an image of God.

Due to our radical finitude, each class of human acts, whether as vestigia, imagines or similitudinae Dei (vestiges, images or likenesses of God) remain in limited not absolute potencies. Those acts might be considered, for example, as existing in potency to the vestigial Dei, efficiently willing in potency to a material imago Dei, formally acting in potency to a relational similitudino Dei.

In the context, then, of apokatastasis, minimalistically, each imago Dei enjoys immortality. In my view, every trace of human goodness enjoys immediate eternalization, including every beginning of a smile & all wholesome trivialities. Thus, so too every virtuous habitus would by the same logic enjoy eternalization, while any vicious secondary nature would warrant eternal annihilation, every crimson stain washed as white as snow.

What of punishment & purgation in eternity? As long as they’re proportional that violates no logic, for finite creatures enjoying only relative degrees of freedom & axiological beatitudes would warrant nothing absolute in the way of punishment.

What about God’s respect for the freedom of persons to cooperate or not with the graces gifted similitudinae Dei as they grow into ever more virtuous or vicious natures? In my view, the eternalization of every cooperation with grace precisely honors such freedom. The annihilation of every refusal to grow in intimacy similarly is in accord with same — not really constituting an actual occurrence or incident of existential negation, but — by virtue of one’s not co-cteatively willing that which would otherwise be subject to eternalization (i.e. the true, beautiful, good, liberative or unitive). All non-virtuous temporal acts passively retain their essentially ephemeral character & contribute to only an ephemeral aspect of one’s secondary nature.

What about the vestigia & imagines Dei, which act in limited potencies? Can’t those human dimensions so choose to forfeit their existential & material relationships to God? No, for those limited potencies do not include that type of volition. The question is thus nonsensical, anthropologically.

See
https://www.academia.edu/40144605/The_Vestigia_Imagines_and_Similitudines_Dei_per_Universalism_and_Apokatastasis

Also
https://www.academia.edu/39367925/Retreblement_-_A_Systematic_Apocatastasis_and_Pneumatological_Missiology

Note:

Perhaps rather than an essential universalism, as over against a practical one, I would better describe my own as a virtual universalism.

Either the essentialist or virtualist approach would deny predestinarianism & affirm the universal salvific will.

An essentialist might claim that apocatastasis should be dogmatically proclaimed since other positions are incoherent.
Contrastingly, a virtual universalism might suggest, with a suitable epistemic humility, that it should be accepted as a valid theological opinion, since its coherence, along with others’, can reasonably be argued.

What would distinguish the practical from the virtual stance, though, would be the belief that universal salvation might not only be hoped for but also professed by those who find it the most coherent position. That is they should neither be silenced nor labeled heretics, for the virtue of hope’s never a mere intellectualistic reality but a clear, vital existential disjunction. As such, hope as a virtue integral to faith & love, always invites one to holistically act as if thus & such (here, apocatastasis) is indeed the case!

As it is, while any determinism in DBH’s stance might be sufficiently soft, my own is much softer.

Universalism, itself, isn’t a monolithic position, so, room must be made for diverse opinions, anthropologically & theologically.

Marrying the Theological Anthropology of David Bentley Hart to a More Compelling Systematic Theology

Metaphysically, we must resist proving too much. We shouldn’t pretend that we can somehow a priori and rationally unscramble reality’s epistemic-ontic omelet of in/determinacies. This is to recognize that we can’t always specify which of reality’s levels of aboutness and/or layers of aporia represent entities and processes that are variously in/determinable and/or in/determined and to what extent. Neither can we specify which of these are primitive and which emergent, as well as which are atomic and which aggregate.

 

A vague phenomenological survey does reveal different types of aboutness or teloi: teleopotent or veldopoietic, teleomatic or cosmopoietic, teleonomic or biopoietic, teleoqualic or sentiopoietic and teleologic or sapiopoietic.

Theologically, we must resist telling untellable stories, philosophically. We shouldn’t pretend that we can somehow a priori and rationally unscramble reality’s theological-metaphysical casserole of teloi. This is to recognize that we don’t know enough about reality’s initial, boundary and limit conditions to determine which of the prevailing equiplausible accounts is more probable (e.g. mereologically, which explanatory account necessarily commits or avoids a fallacy of composition).

 

From a high theoretical altitude, ignoring the cultivars (or weeds) of metaphysical nuance, those philosophical theological accounts essentially reduce to nihilism, pantheism, deism, panen-theism, pan-entheism and classical theism.

 

A nihilism can derive from either a thoroughgoing determined reality of primitives, forces & laws or a thoroughgoing indetermined reality of dynamical, energetic contingencies or even some blend of such necessity & contingency, pattern & paradox, order & chaos. In any case, such outlooks will unavoidably reduce to epistemic nominalism, evaluative voluntarism, normative relativism, interpretive skepticism and existential nihilism, at least, in terms of eternal & ultimate concerns. (Arguably, temporally & proximately, there most certainly can be evaluative & normative, including moral, realisms, as well as weak, epistemic foundationalisms.) Such outlooks remain inescapably brute vis a vis any PSR (principle of sufficient reason) in that they a priori suggest that reality as a whole might, some day, be sufficiently explained, i.e. by an exhaustive account of its parts, as well as ontologically in/determined.

 

The prevailing theistic accounts approach reality as – not brute, but – the fruit of an eminently personal deity, Who sufficiently explains as well as ontologically causes the whole of determinate reality.

 

Some are motivated to embrace one worldview versus another based on various indispensable methodological presuppositions like, for example, naturalism or a PSR (weak or strong versions). HOWEVER –

 

Just because naturalism is an indispensable methodological presupposition doesn’t mean it necessarily holds, metaphysically, it only means that we will be unfortunate if it does.

 

Just because some (weak) Principle of Sufficient Reason is an indispensable methodological presupposition doesn’t mean it necessarily holds, metaphysically, it only means that we will be unfortunate if it does not.

 

One opts for an ultimate nihilism or naturalism, deism or theism, then, with other than apodictic certainty and on other than a priori rational presuppositions or metaphysical foundations. Does that necessarily implicate an unavoidable fideism? No.

 

All human epistemology boils down, in my view, to a pragmatic, semiotic realism, which is essentially fallibilistic and consistent with a number of reasonable, even though contradictory, metaphysical accounts, including eminently defensible minority positions alongside more common-sensical majority positions and folk psychological approaches.

 

In my view, since a pragmatic semiotic realism accounts for most human value-realizations, no mere fideism need account for one’s leap of faith past an ultimate nihilism. Faced with otherwise equiplausible approaches to reality writ large that are both a/theologically consistent and metaphysically coherent, why not opt, existentially, for that approach to human value-realizations which is, ultimately & eternally, the most meaningful & least absurd, anthropologically?

 

And, especially, why not thus opt if there are reliable, credible, authoritative and trustworthy voices across millennia, who’ve given witness to such approaches, wherein & whereby certain human value-realizations have presented and which, moreover, have appeared to be effects otherwise proper to no known determinate causes? That’s not fideism but fides et ratio par excellence!

 

Anthropologically, then, I commend the stance of David Bentley Hart, which, from one perspective, might be portrayed in terms of a theological suite of apophatic eschewals, which negate

1) instrumental accounts of evil, suffering & pain

2) evidential theodicies

3) libertarianisms

4) compatibilisms

5) intellectualisms

6) voluntarisms

7) consequential (& instrumental) disproportionalities and

8) frozen human potentialities (limited potencies) post-mortem.

 

Systematically, while there are coherent accounts under classical theism, which can be sustained consistent with certain logical defenses regarding the problem of evil, in my view, unless one employs a nuanced incarnational divine omnipathy in that defense (as I’ve elaborated elsewhere), merely relying on such distinctions as divine antecedent & consequent wills and on such as privation theories to account for all evil just doesn’t render accounts that are sufficiently persuasive, rhetorically, or satisfying, existentially, to many minds & hearts because, however consistent they may be logically, they don’t square with our common sense & sensibilities vis a vis our quotidian personal interrelational dynamics. Others have well inventoried such shortcomings.

 

On the whole, though, a suitably nuanced version of a doctrine of divine simplicity will have much to commend it, especially if it properly distinguishes between the divine nature and will, between divine esse naturale and intentionale, allowing for a thin passibility and recognizing a wide Pareto front of equipoised optimalities (rather than any singular best world scenario). For their part, determinate realities would variously reflect vestigia, imagines & similitudines Dei, all with varying degrees of incipient teloi, intentionalities and freedom.

 

There could be a multiversal plurality of different tehomic, formless voids, each a prevenient & uncreated chaos, representing all manner of eternal and/or ephemeral teloi of varying degrees of in/determinedness, constituting structured (some more so & some less so) fields of activity, each inherently (although variously) receptive to all manner of divine invitations (creatio ex profundis) to participate in novel teloi (creatio ex nihilo).

 

 

Each new Imago Dei would be soteriologically eternalized (thus divinely & radically determined) and sophiologically poised for growth in intimacy as a Similitudino Dei (per one’s radically free response in every participatory space opened by divine kenotic indeterminacies).

 

Such an approach would remain phenomenologically vague, hence metaphysically agnostic. One couldn’t specify the precise nature of any tehomic chaos vis a vis, for example, its degrees of incipient telos, intentionality or freedom versus what novelty was introduced by the creative divine esse intentionale, beyond insisting that the latter, in terms of being, only ever introduces what’s ameliorative, therapeutic, invitatory & eternalizing, where truth, beauty, goodness, unity and freedom are concerned, all over against what would otherwise be metaphysically (inherently) unavoidable in the way of tehomic pain, suffering, natural evil and moral evil. The divine will would thereby always reveal that truth, beauty, goodness, unity and freedom greater than which could not otherwise be conceived without introducing metaphysical incoherence, theological contradiction or anthropological absurdity.

 

Such a dynamical, divine matrix (as that of Joe Bracken) in dialogue with classical theism and a personalist Thomism (as that of Norris Clarke) would escape the flirtations with nominalism & determinism that inhere in many process theisms.

 

Because my account remains metaphysically agnostic (e.g. vis a vis a given root metaphor), poised between process & classical approaches but inspired by Peirce’s pragmatic semiotic realism, I call it a Tehomic Pan-semio-entheism: creatio ex nihilo ex profundis.

 

It ambitions no metaphysic and no evidential theodicy, but offers a logical defense to the problems of pain, suffering and natural & moral evils. This would all be consistent with a radically, divinely determined, soteriological apokatastasis, where each Imago Dei enjoys an aesthetic freedom gifted by an emergent abductive inference, anthropologically, as well as with radically indetermined relational & moral freedoms, whereby each Similitudino Dei can grow in divine intimacy, sophiologically.

This is all more fully explicated in Retreblement.

 

There’s Been Recent Seismic Activity in the Vicinities of Athos & Athens – or might that be a DBH Book Release?

Litanies of ad hominems betray the shrill rationalistic tenor
Of the quod erat demonstranda some would serve for theo-dinner
Where rogue Orthodox berate baroque Thomists and the Rad-O’s scold broke Scotists
They’re all a burger short of a happy meal, just take the time to notice
That they’re not strange bedfellows, at all, good ole Scotus and Palamas
So, rather than Feser and Hart, when you put on your pajamas
Take Bonaventure, Balthasar and Bulgakov to bed
To nurture mind and heart and soul, more peaceably, instead!

hart
I offer the above with tongue firmly planted in cheek, for, truth be known, I am deeply sympathetic to that chorus of DBH apologists, who, most every time he gifts us new reflections, commend the tenor of his ruminations, while begging our indulgence of the tone of his fulminations.

 

By temperament, I typically recoil from coercive rhetoric in an initial visceral reaction. But, I’ve slowly learned to be more discerning so as not to mute what may indeed be Spirit-inspired voices of prophetic protest, especially those coming from the ecclesial margins.

After all, I’ve bought-in to a Tradition that inherently nurtures a healthy self-criticality, even if, from a secular perspective, its corrective advances may seem way too glacial. But that’s always reflected a pace that’s more so been governed by an astute pastoral sensitivity, of practice, which remains appropriately attuned to the complex, dynamical & developmental nature of humankind’s manifold and multiform advances. This is to suggest that such a pace has in no way ever reflected a wholesale capitulation, of theory, to history’s otherwise vulgar zeitgeists.

Rather, to those with eyes to see and ears to hear, the seeds of truth, beauty, goodness, unity and freedom have long grown in this Tradition, even if certain shoots and fruits have, at times, sprung more visibly from the roots of our orchard’s margins. So as not to miss such a bountiful harvest, the Tradition has always nurtured a preferential option for the marginalized and has purposefully cultivated minority opinions, for example, whether of Franciscans, Scotists or Palamites, or the words of its Prophets, even those written on subway walls and tenement halls.

While our subsidiarity principles reflect a proper bias for the least coercive influences, they also precisely include any necessary escalations from softer to harder powers, when discerned, communally, with prudential reason. Such escalations can certainly include those of harsh rhetoric, which can take many forms, even if some seem more ostensible, e.g. scathing and/or acerbic criticisms, others more subtle, e.g. clamors for political correctness.

I’ve indulged my own highly coercive, rhetorical strategies over the years, no less impolitic, really, than those that might seem mean-spirited, by habitually resorting to an intemperate volubility, likely all the more off-putting due to my idiosyncratic, impenetrable prose. I don’t bring this up to invoke anyone’s indulgence on the off-chance I’m some prophet. But neither do I bring it up in mere passing, but rather by way of owning my shadow and publically apologizing to any and all ever affected by such an offense of charity. Introspectively, I know this has grown from some neurotic desire to make a difference and neurotic fear that I have not, what Merton described as a crisis of creativity. The other major crisis we all must resolve, per Merton, is that of continuity, i.e. death in all its forms and guises. So, point is, I am sorry and ask for everyone’s forgiveness.

Back to the main focus, so as to avoid any pretentiousness, it’s on entirely different grounds that I commend any indulgence of David Bentley Hart. He may not be perfect, only One Prophet ever was, but I do believe he’s one of the most important prophets of our times. And I encourage all those baptized as priests, prophets and kings, as well as all baptized by desire, to contribute to the conversation, which is about to escalate in the coming weeks. And don’t fail to contribute on any silly pretense that your contribution won’t be perfect, as if it ever could be. The conversation is too important and needs your voice — if not that of your head, then, perhaps even more importantly, that of your heart.

I know that much of the underlying tenor of DBH’s harsh rhetoric seems to betray a type of rationalistic preoccupation, as if one could merely logically and syllogistically get this all correct by merely thinking straight. But that analysis would be way off because, while good thinking remains indispensable per his appeal, he precisely adverts that such remains necessary but insufficient. Much of the tenor of the book, instead, he’s very deliberately aimed at our hearts regarding love and at our souls regarding beauty and at our instincts regarding goodness. Hart, in way better words than I could contrive, acknowledges that, finally, in my words, it will be on the wings of beauty and goodness, lifted by the Spirit’s winds of love, that truth will coming flying in. Those were my words but they came from Merton’s thoughts.

In conclusion, an abbreviated Litany of Humility:

Jesus, from the desire to be esteemed, exalted, consulted or celebrated, deliver me, Lord.

Jesus, from the fear of being ridiculed, insulted, corrected or humiliated, deliver me, Lord.

Jesus, that others may grow holier than me, grant me the grace to desire it, Lord, provided I may grow as holy as I should.

 

20190907_002837

 

A Roundup of Relevant URLs regarding the upcoming release of That All Shall Be Saved by David Bentley Hart

 

Below, I’ve encountered no novel, serious objections to universal salvation that cannot be overcome or that could, in my view, disestablish it as a valid theological opinion. At the same time, DBH does prove too much in some of his categorical dismissals of other opinions.

 

Below is an unindexed, unannotated compilation of stuff that I think is worth pondering, even thought I don’t agree with it all:

 

https://www.academia.edu/40275764/David_B._Hart_That_All_Shall_Be_Saved_-_what_to_expect

 

David B. Hart and the problem of evil

 

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2016/10/how-to-go-to-hell_29.html?m=1

 

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2018/03/no-hell-no-heaven.html?m=1

 

https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2017/03/02/u-turns-and-transcendentals/

 

https://davidtinikashvili.wordpress.com/2019/01/16/david-bentley-hart-that-all-shall-be-saved-book/

 

David Bentley Hart and Universalism: This Week

 

https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2019/09/what-ive-been-reading-and-browsing.html

 

All Shall Be Saved


https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-300-24622-3

 

https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2019/08/30/that-all-shall-be-saved-an-introductory-review/

 

https://www.getreligion.org/getreligion/2019/8/14/will-everybody-reach-heaven-is-hell-about-to-grab-some-more-headlines

 

https://www.clarion-journal.com/clarion_journal_of_spirit/2019/09/harts-that-all-will-be-saved-iii.html

 

https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/david-bentley-hart-is-everyone-saved-universalism-and-the-nature-of-persons/3706/3

 

https://inallthings.org/contributor/myles-werntz/

 

Making Nothing of Evil, and Everything of God: A Review of That All Shall Be Saved, Part 1

 

Making Nothing of Evil, and Everything of God: A Review of That All Shall Be Saved, Part 2

 

https://www.academia.edu/40052533/SAVE_NOTHING_A_Review_Essay_of_David_Bentley_Harts_That_All_Shall_Be_Saved

 

https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2019/09/08/preparing-to-read-that-all-shall-be-saved/

 

https://anopenorthodoxy.wordpress.com/tag/david-bentley-hart/
https://anopenorthodoxy.wordpress.com/2019/08/07/divine-freedom/

 

https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2019/09/03/book-review-that-all-shall-be-saved/

 

https://www.academia.edu/40290017/Divine_Communications_-musings_regarding_the_participatable_logoi

https://www.christiancentury.org/article/critical-essay/final-judgment-really-final

 

https://www.postost.net/2019/09/does-god-intend-all-people-be-saved-universalism-david-bentley-hart

 

https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2019/09/30/the-eternal-debate-over-the-nature-of-hell/

 

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/richardmurray/2019/07/four-reasons-the-early-church-did-not-believe-hell-lasts-forever/

 

https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2019/09/11/in-the-end-even-when-we-reject-the-good-we-always-do-so-out-of-a-longing-for-the-good/

 

https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2019/09/10/but-i-cannot-imagine-how-even-god-could-produce-a-situation-in-which-i-could-say-i-now-see-that-even-belsen-doesnt-really-matter/

20190908_200342

From early reviews and liberal previews of David Bentley Hart’s That All Shall Be Saved it does not appear that DBH will be offering a sylly syllogism grounded in some neatly interwoven exegetical, philosophical argumentation, which pretends to prove too much. Rather, he will offer an informal, rhetorical appeal to our common sense & sensibilities, grounded in our messy shared experiences, respecting the analogical interval between anthropological & divine realities while paying dutiful heed to certain participatory efficacies. Those would include the joyous, luminous & glorious effects of which are proper to no known determinate causes, as they transcend the mysteries of all suffering & the realities of all sin. Protologically & proleptically those efficacies constitute all manner of incarnational guarantees, seals, earnests, down payments & first fruits. Yes, we realize them now, in part, hence, we confidently believe & mandatorily proclaim their utter fulfillment, eschatologically.

 

Below are interwoven threads of – not formal premises with coerced conclusions, but – shared human experiences and intuitions, which might weave a story, a tellable story, that would best resonate with the Greatest Story Ever Told. Below are my words, my interpretations, of what I imagine DBH to be saying. His rhetoric entices me, more like getting caught in a web of meaning, a tad tangled but happily so, less like getting caught in a trap of logic, where the axioms are supposedly self-evident (although anything but).
• God doesn’t need evil, suffering or pain. While those can be redeemed in His economy, any essential epistemic distancing can otherwise be closed via theosis. Hence we reject morally repugnant evidential theodicies, while satisfied with unavoidably vague logical defenses & sustained by robustly pastoral existential consolations.
• Those theotic processes don’t absolutely determine reality since they require the synergetic cooperation of freely acting human persons. Hence we reject compatibilisms.
• Human acts aren’t absolutely free; however, since all (trans-)formative processes, whether theotic or redemptive, are necessarily ordered toward truth, beauty, goodness & unity, our participations in same will grow that freedom, our practicing of same will grow virtuosity. Hence we reject libertarianisms.
• The will and intellect, respectively, as efficient acts in potency to material causes & formal acts in potency to final causes, are integrally related, in human volition. Hence we reject voluntarisms & intellectualisms.
• Our secondary natures, both virtuous and vicious, are situated between such acts (efficient & formal) and limited potentialities (material & final), reinforcing or impeding their telic realizations but never extinguishing those human potentials. Hence any notion of frozen potentialities, post mortem, is anthropologically incoherent.
• Human persons are often guilty of willful blindness or vincible ignorance. But as finite, fallible persons, we will never attain such an absolute knowledge of either temporal or divine realities, such that we could be absolutely culpable for any, much less all, remnants of our ignorance. Hence even a vincible ignorance could never warrant an absolute punishment, as that would be disproportionate to our inescapably finite offenses.
• It’s inconceivable that, given sufficient time, divine telic processes (theotic and/or redemptive) would not close enough epistemic distancing to situate every last person, beatifically, in proper relationship to God, others, cosmos & self as ordered toward truth, beauty, goodness & unity with an authentic freedom. Hence we can not only hope for but can be confidently assured that all may be saved.

 

If that last point sounds more like a tepid, practical, hopeful universalism, rather than a clarion, theoretic, dogmatic proclamation, I mean it more so as a virtual universalism. 

Over against DBH’s complaint regarding some hopeful universalisms, let me suggest that not all taken to be paradox is necessarily intended to be exploited for its creative tensions. Some paradox we can resolve dialectically. Some eventually dissolves from paradigm shifts. And some paradox we simply evade, for all practical purposes, perhaps due to an intuitive reductio ad absurdum.

Conclusion – I’m drawn to this theological anthropology of DBH. Curiously, while it works well enough in a classical framework, especially when tweaked by a more personalist Thomism (e.g N. Clarke), I can also square it with a process approach (e.g. D. Griffin, Joe Bracken), particularly one that eschews nominalism. Likely this is due to the inherent adaptability of an informal narrative vs a strict argument.
In the final analysis, though, while I consider certain classical and process approaches to be legitimate opinions within the theological contours of the first seven or so ecumenical councils, I find a creatio ex nihilo ex chaos process approach to be more pastorally consoling, existentially satisfying and rhetorically persuasive than even Hart’s classical articulation.

 

Human persons are determined-enough to enjoy value-realizations and free-enough for those to be deeply meaningful.

 

So, to Einstein and the compatibilists, I reply: “Yes, God does play dice.”

 

And to the nihilists and libertarians we retort: “But they’re loaded.” Or, if not, still, at the very least, you must admit, they have only six sides.

 

To all, I’d observe: “One may, quietistically, refrain from playing and remain, essentially, an imago Dei. Or one may continue playing and, continuously crapping out, increasingly become an imago Similitudino.”

all-shall-be-well-crossstitch-completed5500841674616754573.jpeg

Divine Communications – musings regarding the participatable logoi

Note: Below, please do not be put off by my seeming reification of the divine essence. I should have written what’s below more artfully & rigorously, but please charitably interpret it within the context of my entire oeuvre until I take the time to rewrite it (as well as rewrite most everything else I’ve ever written, as this has never been my primary vocation, nor a discerned charism). What I am talking about, below, are personal acts, whether regarding the Monarchy of the Father (ur-kenotic) or the temporal Missions of the Spirit & Son (kenotic), and am observing which divine communications ensue pursuant to the divine nature and/or will.

 

Divine ur-kenosis of divine esse naturale gifts divine persons (nondeterminate being) participation in a mutual reciprocity of triune relationship (essence).

 

Analogously, divine kenosis of divine esse intentionale freely communicates Christ (self-determinate being) via both a theandric humanization and a theandric deification and also gifts determinate being (variously recognizable as vestigia, imagines and/or similitudines Dei) participation in divine realities (energies) via both universal and particular incarnational presences.

 

Some activities of the divine essence have been revealed via general and special revelation. Furthermore, certain divine attributes have even been divinely decreed as participatable (logoi).

 

I distinguish the ur-kenotic generativity from the kenotic creativity as analogous —not only because the former’s ad intra, the latter – ad extra, but — in order to emphasize that, while the logoi or energies are participatable by determinate being, the essence is not.

 

Further, while one might interpret special revelation as proclaiming that acts of divine communication (e.g. expression, disclosure, revelation, kenosis, etc all vaguely understood) are essential to the divine nature, their precise forms are not. That is to suggest that even if there’s no question regarding WHETHER & WHY divine communications are necessary per the divine nature, the to whom, what, where, when and how elements of same are freely determined per the divine will.

 

As divine communications go, then, it’s been revealed that ad intra generative communications are essential, while ad extra creative communications are freely willed.

 

There’s an ontological plurality of ad extra divine creative communications regarding both their precise natures and the various degrees of indeterminacy attendant to those ontological categories (per divine kenotic decrees). This is to recognize, then, that the actualizations or realizations of participatable divine logoi will be fulfilled differently by the vestigia Dei, imagines Dei & similitudines Dei of determinate being and also by the theandric humanization & deification of self-determinate divine being.

 

Is this to suggest that those divine logoi will not only be fulfilled differently but perhaps even to different degrees or extents? Which is also to ask whether they might be variously frustrated, whether temporally and/or eschatologically?

 

In my view, each Imago Dei necessarily realizes (and cannot frustrate) its divine logoi, whether temporally or eschatologically, while the perfect divine will allows each person to actualize whatever degree of Similitudino Dei to which s/he individually aspires, all of this consonant with God’s perfect nature & will and reflective of the perfect efficacies of all ad extra divine communications. In this last case, both the manner and degree of actualization that each Similitudino Dei realizes, beyond constituting a mere Cambridge property of the divine esse intentionale, will affect God’s will via a thin passibility, whereby a divine responsivity freely determines such actualizations & realizations per an infinite Pareto front (novel equipoised optimalities) of communicable Divine Eros, which varies in its aesthetic teleological scope, while remaining otherwise immutable in its eternally perfect aesthetic intensity. Analogous to this divine freedom, we might say that the human person’s essential nature, as an Imago Dei, enjoys a pre-moral erotic aesthetic scope, while any degree of a virtuous secondary nature, as a Similitudino Dei, enjoys an trans-moral agapic aesthetic scope, along with a commensurate degree of beatific aesthetic intensity.

Whether we so happen to magnify the Lord as Mary in our own fiats or otherwise give God AMDG, doesn’t variously affect but only variously reflects His perfect nature. The theandric humanization & deification, of course, fully realized the efficacies of every divine communication & communing.

Closing:

 

dbh1dbh2dbh3dbh4

dbh5dbh6

I began my life’s work in philosophical theology herein:

 

https://www.academia.edu/26023098/Reasons_and_Values_of_the_Heart_in_a_Pluralistic_World_Toward_a_Contemplative_Phenomenology_for_Interreligious_Dialogue

 

And have completed (at least, it feels so, for now) that work herein:
https://www.academia.edu/39367925/Retreblement_-_A_Systematic_Apocatastasis_and_Pneumatological_Missiology

 

With some clarifications of my theological anthropology here:

 

https://www.academia.edu/40144605/The_Vestigia_Imagines_and_Similitudines_Dei_per_Universalism_and_Apokatastasis

 

https://www.academia.edu/40009632/More_eschatological_anthropology

 

https://www.academia.edu/39981926/Eschatological_Anthropology_Voluntarism_intellectualism_libertarianism_and_compatibilism_-_Oh_my_

 

https://www.academia.edu/39945745/Apokatastasis_-_an_hypothesis_with_an_intro_to_retreblement

 

Divine Communications – musings regarding the participatable logoi

 

Note: Below, please do not be put off by my seeming reification of the divine essence. I should have written what’s below more artfully & rigorously, but please charitably interpret it within the context of my entire oeuvre until I take the time to rewrite it (as well as rewrite most everything else I’ve ever written, as this has never been my primary vocation, nor a discerned charism). What I am talking about, below, are personal acts, whether regarding the Monarchy of the Father (ur-kenotic) or the temporal Missions of the Spirit & Son (kenotic), and am observing which divine communications ensue pursuant to the divine nature and/or will.

Divine ur-kenosis of divine esse naturale gifts divine persons (nondeterminate being) participation in a mutual reciprocity of triune relationship (essence).

Analogously, divine kenosis of divine esse intentionale freely communicates Christ (self-determinate being) via both a theandric humanization and a theandric deification and also gifts determinate being (variously recognizable as vestigia, imagines and/or similitudines Dei) participation in divine realities (energies) via both universal and particular incarnational presences.

Some activities of the divine essence have been revealed via general and special revelation. Furthermore, certain divine attributes have even been divinely decreed as participatable (logoi).

I distinguish the ur-kenotic generativity from the kenotic creativity as analogous —not only because the former’s ad intra, the latter – ad extra, but — in order to emphasize that, while the logoi or energies are participatable by determinate being, the essence is not.

Further, while one might interpret special revelation as proclaiming that acts of divine communication (e.g. expression, disclosure, revelation, kenosis, etc all vaguely understood) are essential to the divine nature, their precise forms are not. That is to suggest that even if there’s no question regarding WHETHER & WHY divine communications are necessary per the divine nature, the to whom, what, where, when and how elements of same are freely determined per the divine will.

As divine communications go, then, it’s been revealed that ad intra generative communications are essential, while ad extra creative communications are freely willed.

There’s an ontological plurality of ad extra divine creative communications regarding both their precise natures and the various degrees of indeterminacy attendant to those ontological categories (per divine kenotic decrees). This is to recognize, then, that the actualizations or realizations of participatable divine logoi will be fulfilled differently by the vestigia Dei, imagines Dei & similitudines Dei of determinate being and also by the theandric humanization & deification of self-determinate divine being. Is this to suggest that those divine logoi will not only be fulfilled differently but perhaps even to different degrees or extents? Which is also to ask whether they might be variously frustrated, whether temporally and/or eschatologically?

In my view, each Imago Dei necessarily realizes (and cannot frustrate) its divine logoi, whether temporally or eschatologically, while the perfect divine will allows each person to actualize whatever degree of Similitudino Dei to which s/he individually aspires, all of this consonant with God’s perfect nature & will and reflective of the perfect efficacies of all ad extra divine communications. In this last case, both the manner and degree of actualization that each Similitudino Dei realizes, beyond constituting a mere Cambridge property of the divine esse intentionale, will affect God’s will via a thin passibility, whereby a divine responsivity freely determines such actualizations & realizations per an infinite Pareto front (novel equipoised optimalities) of communicable Divine Eros, which varies in its aesthetic teleological scope, while remaining otherwise immutable in its eternally perfect aesthetic intensity. Analogous to this divine freedom, we might say that the human person’s essential nature, as an Imago Dei, enjoys a pre-moral erotic aesthetic scope, while any degree of a virtuous secondary nature, as a Similitudino Dei, enjoys an trans-moral  agapic aesthetic scope, along with a commensurate degree of beatific aesthetic intensity.

20190908_200342

Whether we so happen to magnify the Lord as Mary in our own fiats or otherwise give God AMDG, doesn’t variously affect but only variously reflects His perfect nature.

The theandric humanization & deification, of course, fully realized the efficacies of every divine communication & communing.

 

A Roundup of Relevant URLs

I’ve encountered no novel, serious objections to universal salvation that cannot be overcome or that could, in my view, disestablish it as a valid theological opinion. At the same time, DBH proves too much in  some of his categorical dismissals of other opinions.

Below is an unindexed, unannotated compilation of stuff that I think is worth pondering, even thought I don’t agree with it all:

 

https://www.academia.edu/40275764/David_B._Hart_That_All_Shall_Be_Saved_-_what_to_expect

 

David B. Hart and the problem of evil

 

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2016/10/how-to-go-to-hell_29.html?m=1

 

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2018/03/no-hell-no-heaven.html?m=1

 

https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2017/03/02/u-turns-and-transcendentals/

 

https://davidtinikashvili.wordpress.com/2019/01/16/david-bentley-hart-that-all-shall-be-saved-book/

 

David Bentley Hart and Universalism: This Week

 

https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2019/09/what-ive-been-reading-and-browsing.html

 

All Shall Be Saved

 

https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-300-24622-3

 

https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2019/08/30/that-all-shall-be-saved-an-introductory-review/

 

https://www.getreligion.org/getreligion/2019/8/14/will-everybody-reach-heaven-is-hell-about-to-grab-some-more-headlines

 

https://www.clarion-journal.com/clarion_journal_of_spirit/2019/09/harts-that-all-will-be-saved-iii.html

 

https://www.clarion-journal.com/clarion_journal_of_spirit/brad_jersak/

 

 

https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/david-bentley-hart-is-everyone-saved-universalism-and-the-nature-of-persons/3706/3

 

https://inallthings.org/contributor/myles-werntz/

 

Making Nothing of Evil, and Everything of God: A Review of That All Shall Be Saved, Part 1

 

Making Nothing of Evil, and Everything of God: A Review of That All Shall Be Saved, Part 2

 

https://www.academia.edu/40052533/SAVE_NOTHING_A_Review_Essay_of_David_Bentley_Harts_That_All_Shall_Be_Saved

 

https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2019/09/08/preparing-to-read-that-all-shall-be-saved/

 

https://anopenorthodoxy.wordpress.com/tag/david-bentley-hart/

 

 

https://anopenorthodoxy.wordpress.com/2019/08/07/divine-freedom/

 

https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2019/09/03/book-review-that-all-shall-be-saved/

 

https://www.academia.edu/40290017/Divine_Communications_-musings_regarding_the_participatable_logoi

 

About that Recent Seismic Activity in the Vicinities of Athos & Athens

Litanies of ad hominems betray the shrill rationalistic tenor
Of the quod erat demonstranda some would serve for theo-dinner
Where rogue Orthodox berate baroque Thomists and the Rad-O’s scold broke Scotists
They’re all a burger short of a happy meal, just take the time to notice
That they’re not strange bedfellows, at all, good ole Scotus and Palamas
So, rather than Feser and Hart, when you put on your pajamas
Take Bonaventure, Balthasar and Bulgakov to bed
To nurture mind and heart and soul, more peacably, instead!

I offer the above with tongue firmly planted in cheek, for, truth be known, I am deeply sympathetic to that chorus of DBH apologists, who, most every time he gifts us new reflections, commend the tenor of his ruminations, while begging our indulgence of the tone of his fulminations.

 

By temperament, I typically recoil from coercive rhetoric in an initial visceral reaction. But, I’ve slowly learned to be more discerning so as not to mute what may indeed be Spirit-inspired voices of prophetic protest, especially those coming from the ecclesial margins.

 

After all, I’ve bought-in to a Tradition that inherently nurtures a healthy self-criticality, even if, from a secular perspective, its corrective advances may seem way too glacial. But that’s always reflected a pace that’s more so been governed by an astute pastoral sensitivity, of practice, which remains appropriately attuned to the complex, dynamical & developmental nature of humankind’s manifold and multiform advances. This is to suggest that such a pace has in no way ever reflected a wholesale capitulation, of theory, to history’s otherwise vulgar zeitgeists.

 

Rather, to those with eyes to see and ears to hear, the seeds of truth, beauty, goodness, unity and freedom have long grown in this Tradition, even if certain shoots and fruits have, at times, sprung more visibly from the roots of our orchard’s margins. So as not to miss such a bountiful harvest, the Tradition has always nurtured a preferential option for the marginalized and has purposefully cultivated minority opinions, for example, whether of Franciscans, Scotists or Palamites, or the words of its Prophets, even those written on subway walls and tenement halls.

 

While our subsidiarity principles reflect a proper bias for the least coercive influences, they also precisely include any necessary escalations from softer to harder powers, when discerned, communally, with prudential reason. Such escalations can certainly include those of harsh rhetoric, which can take many forms, even if some seem more ostensible, e.g. scathing and/or acerbic criticisms, others more subtle, e.g. clamors for political correctness.

 

I’ve indulged my own highly coercive, rhetorical strategies over the years, no less impolitic, really, than those that might seem mean-spirited, by habitually resorting to an intemperate volubility, likely all the more off-putting due to my idiosyncratic, impenetrable prose. I don’t bring this up to invoke anyone’s indulgence on the off-chance I’m some prophet. But neither do I bring it up in mere passing, but rather by way of owning my shadow and publically apologizing to any and all ever affected by such an offense of charity.

 

Introspectively, I know this has grown from some neurotic desire to make a difference and neurotic fear that I have not, what Merton described as a crisis of creativity. The other major crisis we all must resolve, per Merton, is that of continuity, i.e. death in all its forms and guises. So, point is, I am sorry and ask for everyone’s forgiveness.

 

Back to the main focus, so as to avoid any pretentiousness, it’s on entirely different grounds that I commend any indulgence of David Bentley Hart. He may not be perfect, only One Prophet ever was, but I do believe he’s one of the most important prophets of our times. And I encourage all those baptized as priests, prophets and kings, as well as all baptized by desire, to contribute to the conversation, which is about to escalate in the coming weeks. And don’t fail to contribute on any silly pretense that your contribution won’t be perfect, as if it ever could be. The conversation is too important and needs your voice — if not that of your head, then, perhaps even more importantly, that of your heart.

 

I know that much of the underlying tenor of DBH’s harsh rhetoric seems to betray a type of rationalistic preoccupation, as if one could merely logically and syllogistically get this all correct by merely thinking straight. But that analysis would be way off because, while good thinking remains indispensable per his appeal, he precisely adverts that such remains necessary but insufficient. Much of the tenor of the book, instead, he’s very deliberately aimed at our hearts regarding love and at our souls regarding beauty and at our instincts regarding goodness. Hart, in way better words than I could contrive, acknowledges that, finally, in my words, it will be on the wings of beauty and goodness, lifted by the Spirit’s winds of love, that truth will coming flying in. Those were my words but they came from Merton’s thoughts.

 

In conclusion, an abbreviated Litany of Humility:

 

Jesus, from the desire to be esteemed, exalted, consulted or celebrated, deliver me, Lord.

 

 

Jesus, from the fear of being ridiculed, insulted, corrected or humiliated, deliver me, Lord.

 

 

Jesus, that others may grow holier than me, grant me the grace to desire it, Lord, provided I may grow as holy as I should.

 

 

More urls as of 12 Sept 2019

https://www.christiancentury.org/article/critical-essay/final-judgment-really-final

 

https://www.postost.net/2019/09/does-god-intend-all-people-be-saved-universalism-david-bentley-hart

 

https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2019/09/30/the-eternal-debate-over-the-nature-of-hell/

 

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/richardmurray/2019/07/four-reasons-the-early-church-did-not-believe-hell-lasts-forever/

 

https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2019/09/11/in-the-end-even-when-we-reject-the-good-we-always-do-so-out-of-a-longing-for-the-good/

 

https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2019/09/10/but-i-cannot-imagine-how-even-god-could-produce-a-situation-in-which-i-could-say-i-now-see-that-even-belsen-doesnt-really-matter/

David B. Hart: That All Shall Be Saved — What To Expect?

From early reviews and liberal previews of

David Bentley Hart’s That All Shall Be Saved

it does not appear that DBH will be offering a sylly syllogism grounded in some neatly interwoven exegetical, philosophical argumentation, which pretends to prove too much.

hart

Rather, he will offer an informal, rhetorical appeal to our common sense & sensibilities, grounded in our messy shared experiences, respecting the analogical interval between anthropological & divine realities while paying dutiful heed to certain participatory efficacies. Those would include the joyous, luminous & glorious effects of which are proper to no known determinate causes, as they transcend the mysteries of all suffering & the realities of all sin. Protologically & proleptically those efficacies constitute all manner of incarnational guarantees, seals, earnests, down payments & first fruits. Yes, we realize them now, in part, hence, we confidently believe & mandatorily proclaim their utter fulfillment eschatologically.

Below are interwoven threads of – not formal premises with coerced conclusions, but – shared human experiences and intuitions, which might weave a story, a tellable story, that would best resonate with the Greatest Story Ever Told.

Below are my words, my interpretations, of what I imagine DBH to be saying. His rhetoric entices me, more like getting caught in a web of meaning, a tad tangled but happily so, less like getting caught in a trap of logic, where the axioms are supposedly self-evident, although anything but.

  • God doesn’t need evil, suffering or pain. While those can be redeemed in His economy, any essential epistemic distancing can otherwise be closed via theosis. [Hence we reject morally repugnant evidential theodicies, while satisfied with unavoidably vague logical defenses & sustained by robustly pastoral existential consolations.]
  • Those theotic processes don’t absolutely determine reality since they require the synergetic cooperation of freely acting human persons. [Hence we reject compatibilisms.]
  • Human acts aren’t absolutely free; however, since all (trans-)formative processes, whether theotic or redemptive, are necessarily ordered toward truth, beauty, goodness & unity, our participations in same will grow that freedom, our practicing of same will grow virtuosity. [Hence we reject libertarianisms.]
  • The will and intellect, respectively, as efficient acts in potency to material causes & formal acts in potency to final causes, are integrally related, in human volition. [Hence we reject voluntarisms & intellectualisms.]
  • Our secondary natures, both virtuous and vicious, are situated between such acts (efficient & formal) and limited potentialities (material & final), reinforcing or impeding their telic realizations but never extinguishing those human potentials. [Hence any notion of frozen potentialities, post mortem, is anthropologically incoherent.]
  • Human persons are often guilty of willful blindness or vincible ignorance. But as finite, fallible persons, we will never attain such an absolute knowledge of either temporal or divine realities, such that we could be absolutely culpable for any, much less all, remnants of our ignorance. [Hence even a vincible ignorance could never warrant an absolute punishment, as that would be disproportionate to our inescapably finite offenses.]
  • It’s inconceivable that, given sufficient time, divine telic processes (theotic and/or redemptive) would not close enough epistemic distancing to situate every last person, beatifically, in proper relationship to God, others, cosmos & self as ordered toward truth, beauty, goodness & unity with an authentic freedom. [Hence we can not only hope for but can be confidently assured that all may be saved.]

Conclusion – I’m drawn to this theological anthropology of DBH. Curiously, while it works well enough in a classical framework, especially when tweaked by a more personalist Thomism (e.g N. Clarke), I can also square it with a process approach (e.g. D. Griffin, Joe Bracken), particularly one that eschews nominalism. Likely this is due to the inherent adaptability of an informal narrative vs a strict argument.

In the final analysis, though, while I consider certain classical and process approaches to be legitimate opinions within the theological contours of the first seven or so ecumenical councils, I find a creatio ex nihilo ex chaos process approach to be more pastorally consoling, existentially satisfying and rhetorically persuasive than even Hart’s classical articulation.

Human persons are determined-enough to enjoy value-realizations and free-enough for those to be deeply meaningful.
So, to Einstein and the compatibilists, I reply: “Yes, God does play dice.”

And to the nihilists and libertarians we retort: “But they’re loaded.”

To all, I’d observe: “One may, quietistically, refrain from playing and remain, essentially, an imago Dei. Or one may continue playing and, crapping out, increasingly become an imago Similitudino.”

February 2020

See this Twitter feed for an exhaustive list of reviews:

https://mobile.twitter.com/AEROdynamicCat1

Meanwhile …

David Bentley Hart’s Lonely, Last Stand for Christian Universalism

Condemned to Salvation: Considering Universalism with David Bentley Hart

https://spectrummagazine.org/arts-essays/2019/book-review-all-shall-be-saved

https://www.wsj.com/articles/that-all-shall-be-saved-review-making-sense-of-perdition-11572561222

https://postbarthian.com/2019/10/17/review-that-all-shall-be-saved-by-david-bentley-hart/

Shall All Be Saved?

Making Nothing of Evil, and Everything of God: A Review of That All Shall Be Saved, Part 1

https://www.christiancentury.org/review/books/david-bentley-hart-s-polemic-against-alleged-doctrine-eternal-hell

https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2019/09/03/book-review-that-all-shall-be-saved/

https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2019/13-december/books-arts/book-reviews/that-all-shall-be-saved-heaven-hell-and-universal-salvation-david-bentley-hart

https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2019/09/30/the-eternal-debate-over-the-nature-of-hell/

https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-300-24622-3

Against the Bad Place: A Review of David Bentley Hart’s “That All Shall Be Saved”

https://www.firstthings.com/article/2019/10/harrowing-hart-on-hell

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/religious-studies/article/david-bentley-hart-that-all-shall-be-saved-heaven-hell-and-universal-salvation-new-haven-and-london-yale-university-press-2019-pp-232-2000-hbk-isbn-9780300246223/3790550555AC7980351AC45A30720DF9#

David Bentley Hart has Written a Silly Book

https://arcdigital.media/on-the-logical-impossibility-of-hell-972ff95f36d1

https://www.americamagazine.org/arts-culture/2019/11/15/two-new-books-salvation-ask-ultimate-question-are-you-saved

Episode 225 : David Bentley Hart – That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell and Universal Salvation

View at Medium.com

https://www.academia.edu/40052533/SALVATION_à_la_HART

https://growrag.wordpress.com/2019/10/09/an-initial-engagemet-with-david-bentley-harts-that-all-shall-be-saved-harts-eastern-facing-living-room/

http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2019/09/that-all-shall-be-saved.html?m=1

Review: That All Shall Be Saved

https://frted.wordpress.com/2019/10/14/that-all-shall-be-saved/

https://www.overdrive.com/media/4872822/that-all-shall-be-saved

https://poddtoppen.se/podcast/1474849938/the-zeitcast-with-jonathan-martin/that-all-shall-be-saved-with-david-bentley-hart

Good God?

https://www.sightmagazine.com.au/reviews/books/13845-books-salvation-for-who-theologian-puts-forward-a-different-view

David Bentley Hart: That All Shall Be Saved

Book review: That All Shall Be Saved by David Bentley Hart

https://www.clarion-journal.com/clarion_journal_of_spirit/2019/09/harts-that-all-will-be-saved-i.html

https://www.google.com/amp/s/orthodoxyindialogue.com/2020/01/25/that-all-shall-be-saved-heaven-hell-and-universal-salvation-reviewed-by-giacomo-sanfilippo/amp/

Book Review: Hart’s “That All Shall Be Saved”

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/theological-review-that-all-shall-be-saved-chris-green/id1474849938?i=1000451357433

Will All Be Saved? The Question Which Will Not Go Away

https://newsworthywithnorsworthy.podbean.com/mobile/e/david-bentley-hart-that-all-shall-be-saved/

https://scottandsadie.wordpress.com/2019/11/01/that-all-shall-be-saved-david-bentley-hart-introduction/

That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell and Universal Salvation

A Christian Reviews “That All Shall Be Saved” by David Bentley Hart

https://podtail.com/en/podcast/the-zeitcast-with-jonathan-martin/that-all-shall-be-saved-with-david-bentley-hart/

The Dangerous Hart of Universalism

On Universalism: Is God Defeated If All Are Not Saved?

https://www.opc.org/os.html?article_id=800&cur_iss=F

Rob Grayson reviews “That All Shall Be Saved”

David Bentley Hart – That All Shall Be Saved

https://simuljocularetpeccator.wordpress.com/2019/09/25/hidden-in-plain-sight/

https://davidtinikashvili.wordpress.com/2019/01/16/david-bentley-hart-that-all-shall-be-saved-book/

http://podcast.forgingploughshares.org/e/part-2-a-discussion-about-david-bentley-harts-that-all-shall-be-saved/

That All Shall Be Saved: A Review

https://publicorthodoxy.org/tag/david-bentley-hart/

https://forums.shipoffools.com/discussion/1990/that-all-shall-be-saved-by-david-bentley-hart

David Bentley Hart, on Grace Beyond Supply and Demand

http://www.jonathanmartinwords.com/the-zeitcast/2019/9/24/that-all-shall-be-saved-with-david-bentley-hart

https://www.getreligion.org/getreligion/2019/8/14/will-everybody-reach-heaven-is-hell-about-to-grab-some-more-headlines

http://carnageandculture.blogspot.com/2019/09/book-review-that-all-shall-be-saved-by.html?m=1

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php?topic=76928.0

http://heavenandearthquestions.blogspot.com/2019/10/david-bentley-hart-is-threatening.html?m=1

https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/do-all-people-go-to-heaven

https://www.postost.net/2019/09/does-god-intend-all-people-be-saved-universalism-david-bentley-hart

Christian Humanist Profiles 169: That All Shall Be Saved

https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/christs-rabble

https://churchlifejournal.nd.edu/articles/the-severity-of-universal-salvation/

A Summary of “That ALL shall be Saved” by D.B. Hart – Pt. 1

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

https://www.firstthings.com/article/2019/12/opiate-of-the-theologians

https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2020/02/theological-fraud

David Bentley Hart’s Lonely, Last Stand for Christian Universalism

https://longroom.com/discussion/1798040/a-pakaluk-of-lies

https://www.wsj.com/articles/that-all-shall-be-saved-review-making-sense-of-perdition-11572561222

What the Hell? That’s What Local Seminaries are Asking

https://www.getreligion.org/getreligion/2019/8/14/will-everybody-reach-heaven-is-hell-about-to-grab-some-more-headlines

https://www.lifesitenews.com/opinion/yes-hell-is-real-and-christians-should-not-take-it-lightly

https://www.clarion-journal.com/clarion_journal_of_spirit/2019/09/harts-that-all-will-be-saved-i.html

http://tamedcynic.org/christian-century-review-that-all-shall-be-saved-by-david-bentley-hart/

http://tamedcynic.org/all-shall-be-saved/

Misreading David Bentley Hart on Universalism [I]

David Bentley Hart & the Wisdom of Universalism [II]

David Bentley Hart’s Lonely, Last Stand for Christian Universalism

View at Medium.com

Review of That All Shall Be Saved, by David Bentley Hart

Marcionism, Allegorical Exegesis, and the Question of Universal Salvation

https://conversation.spectrummagazine.org/t/book-review-that-all-shall-be-saved/19132

David Bentley Hart’s That All Shall Be Saved

Recently read: Hart's 'That All Shall Be Saved'

DAVID BENTLEY HART FINDS A WAY OUT OF HELL

How The Ancients Heard Resurrection: A Reply to David Bentley Hart

Will All Be Saved? David Bentley Hart on Universal Salvation, Reviewed by John Ehrett

http://www.svc.church/blog/2020/01/that-all-shall-be-saved/

To Heck with Hell

Three Responses to David Bentley Hart (and one pseudo-response)

https://tantor.com/that-all-shall-be-saved-david-bentley-hart.html

https://sylvestjohn.org/2019/09/07/david-b-hart-that-all-shall-be-saved-what-to-expect/

Has David Bentley-Hart gone off his rocker?

https://gandalfsbeardblog.wordpress.com/2017/11/30/thoughts-on-the-universalism-of-david-bentley-hart/

https://natebostian.blogspot.com/2019/12/that-all-shall-be-saved-great-theology.html?m=1

https://scottandsadie.wordpress.com/2019/11/01/that-all-shall-be-saved-david-bentley-hart-introduction/

Book Review: That All Shall Be Saved

God our Savior, Who Desires all People to be Saved

Is A Literal Hell Believable In The 21st Century?

When A Theologian Goes Rogue: David Bentley Hart’s Universalism

https://semitica.wordpress.com/2020/01/20/eternal-punishment-in-the-septuagint-and-new-testament-a-response-to-ilaria-ramelli-and-david-bentley-hart/

Does Hart’s Dogmatic Universalism Miss the Real World Engagement of Christian Hope?

The Gag-Reflex and the Doctrine of Hell

https://fatherjohn.blogspot.com/2019/12/david-bentley-hart-and-marcionism.html?m=1

Hart, Martin, and the Evolution of Hell

https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/david-bentley-hart-is-everyone-saved-universalism-and-the-nature-of-persons/3706

https://forums.anglican.net/threads/david-bentley-hart-on-universal-salvation.3825/

https://labeak4652.wordpress.com/tag/david-bentley-hart/

https://harleyvoogd.com
https://orthochristian.com/126661.html

https://simuljocularetpeccator.wordpress.com

Why Moderates (and Progressives) Should Reject David Bentley Hart’s Universalism

Book Review: Hart’s “That All Shall Be Saved”

THAT ALL SHALL BE SAVED: HEAVEN, HELL, AND UNIVERSAL SALVATION reviewed by Giacomo Sanfilippo

David Bentley Hart’s The New Testament: A Review

Afterward

I began my life’s work in philosophical theology herein:

https://www.academia.edu/26023098/Reasons_and_Values_of_the_Heart_in_a_Pluralistic_World_Toward_a_Contemplative_Phenomenology_for_Interreligious_Dialogue

And have completed (at least, it feels so, for now) that work herein:

https://www.academia.edu/39367925/Retreblement_-_A_Systematic_Apocatastasis_and_Pneumatological_Missiology

With some clarifications of my theological anthropology here:

https://www.academia.edu/40144605/The_Vestigia_Imagines_and_Similitudines_Dei_per_Universalism_and_Apokatastasis

https://www.academia.edu/40009632/More_eschatological_anthropology

https://www.academia.edu/39981926/Eschatological_Anthropology_Voluntarism_intellectualism_libertarianism_and_compatibilism_-_Oh_my_

https://www.academia.edu/39945745/Apokatastasis_-_an_hypothesis_with_an_intro_to_retreblement

Retreblement – A Systematic Apocatastasis & Pneumatological Missiology

 

The Vestigia, Imagines & Similitudines Dei per Universalism & Apokatastasis

Human reality fully transcends the teleo-potent, -matic, -nomic, -qualic as teleo-logic

beyond the essential, dynamical human being/becoming (acting per existential, material & final human potencies), as vestigia Dei (autopoietic, but as more determined, less indetermined)

w/a distinctively human abduction as it transcends abductive instinct w/abductive inference, fostering a more versatile, plastic behavioral repertoire, aesthetically, i.e. vis a vis choosing among divine teloi & logoi w/an enlightened self-interest (erotically & proto-ethically), e.g. Bernardian love, Ignatian degrees of humility, Kohlberg’s stages, imperfect contrition, etc, of human persons as imagines Dei … every distinctively personal act constitutes a volitional disposition re both what to freely will (among divine logoi) and whether to (freely) will at all (i.e. choosing not just instinctively but inferentially), so as less determined, more indetermined

next (at age of reason) realizing a more versatile, plastic behavioral repertoire, ethically, i.e. vis a vis choosing among even more divine teloi & logoi by transcending self-interests (agapically & ethically), e.g. Bernardian love, Ignatian degrees of humility, Kohlberg’s stages, perfect contrition, etc, of a person becoming (virtuous and/or vicious 2nd natures), thereby with a more expansive aesthetic scope, too, as similitudines Dei, as much more indetermined

Considerations of human volition, a freely willing human, must avoid absolute notions of in/determinism, for the personal freedom of humans presents only in terms of degrees, whereby we are free-enough to truly enjoy meaningful (good-enough, beautiful-enough, dayenu) value-realizations.

It seems to me that human persons are determined enough so as to be radically unable to thwart the divine logoi ordered toward our personal being (essential nature as imagines Dei) but are indetermined enough so as to be radically able to thwart those divine logoi ordered toward our personal becoming (secondary nature as similitudines Dei).

All other conceptions of human freedom are facile & simplistic, and fall prey to tautological nonsense and analytical paradox, anthropologically, either indeterministically reducing to all sorts of ridiculous voluntarisms & libertarianisms or deterministically yielding silly intellectualisms & compatibilisms.

Neither Thomist nor Scotist nor Molinist theological anthropologies, properly approached, fall prey to such anthropological nonsense, essentially, because their explicit/implicit “theories of everything” embrace a priniciple of “sufficient” reason, which is neither the idealist monist PSR of Spinoza, which reduces to pantheism, nor a materialist monist PSR, which reduces to nihilism. There are various physicalist & naturalist approaches that vary in their interpretations of necessity & in/determinacy, but they go beyond the heuristic of a suitably nuanced Aristotelian hylemorphism to prove too much, in my view.

How one conceives human freedom vis a vis ultimate realities will always boil down to one’s stipulations re mereological (whole-part conception), metaphysical (root metaphor) and teleological (PSR version) primal realities.

Below are some reflections evoked by:

Despairing into Gehenna: Manis, Kierkegaard, and the Choice Model

One upshot of divine simplicity [DDS] and actus purus, when understood in terms of apophatic negation, would be that one way determinate being differs from divine being is that the former can act only in relationship to limited potencies.

The human being, constitutively, enjoys a freedom that phylogenetically (in its evolutionary lineage) presented with the emergence of symbolic language. Prior to the age of reason, where new freedoms (moral & spiritual) will emerge, ontogenetically (in its individual development), a human child already enjoys a freedom of choosing among equally optimal self-interested choices with a behavioral plasticity that differs – not only quantitatively, but – qualitatively from other primates.

Specifically, as a child matures, its (aesthetic) scope of self-interested choices is not limited to mere abductive instincts, which many animals exhibit, but is expanded by abductive inference, an if-then calculus driven by an early imagination that’s growing exponentially. This exponential expansion of behavioral plasticity precisely results from an unmooring of the nonarbitrary range of instinctive responses by the child’s growing repertoire of arbitrary symbol conventions.

I emphasize this constitutive freedom of choosing among equally optimal goods per a young human’s first order desires (what they want) to note its relationship to human eros, what St Bernard distinguished in terms of love of self for sake of self and love of God and/or others for sake of self. From this eros, young (and old) humans experience imperfect contrition, i.e. expressing sorrow due to our just punishment and growing in enlightened self-interest (choosing being over nonbeing). I mention this in the context of reminding all that such an imperfect contrition is all that’s ever been required “to be saved” and to observe that I was taught that it would be heretical to suggest otherwise.

Thus, it seems to me that, soteriologically, human beings are intrinsically constituted by all that’s both necessary and sufficient to be saved?

Furthermore, this elemental human freedom possesses a distinct proto-moral and proto-spiritual character, which means that it can potentially progress beyond its constitutive & soteriological essential nature to realize a more robustly elective & sophiological secondary nature, which might determine – not its eschatological destiny, but – its beatitudinal scope. By that, I mean to suggest that it could progress in Bernardian love, beyond the erotic to the agapic, i.e. love of God & others for their own sake, thus expanding its original frontier of equally optimal choices (what some would call a Pareto front), thus enjoying an expanded aesthetic scope of choosing among even more goods, albeit always acting within limited potencies.

Thus we can parse human freedom, constitutively & electively, soteriologically and sophiologically, erotically & agapically, in terms of aesthetic scope expansion, moral progress & growth in intimacy (theosis).

Thus we can distinguish between 1) willing among equally optimal goods, aesthetically; 2) whether we will or not, morally & spiritually; and 3) what we will. Our “willing among” goods and volitional option “between” willing or not (choosing between being & nonbeing, good & evil) refer to human freedoms. “What we will” has been determined by divine logoi, teloi, intentionale, etc.

Coming full circle to the DDS & Actus Purus, might this portrait of the imago Dei not illuminate our understanding of divine being? If we properly distinguish between the divine nature and will, esse naturale and intentionale, might we not glimpse a thin divine passibility, where the divine will chooses – never between good and evil, being and nonbeing, but – along an eternal Pareto front of equally optimal “best” worlds, no such choices entailing either improvements or impairments of an ever-perfect divine nature’s aesthetic intensity but only “affecting” a divine aesthetic scope? Would this not account, exegetically & Christologically, for the distinction between Jesus’ natural will and the Father’s will as He prayed for the passing of that particular Cup? Would this not account for human second order desires, theotically, for example, such as when we grow with holy indifference in Ignatian degrees of humility, from image to likeness, praying for our transformation even in “what we want to want”? That’s to say – not only regarding second order desires pertaining to our choosing “between” being and nonbeing, but – our longing to please others and God in our choosing “among” equally optimal goods in holy submission to wills not our own?

Of course, we differ from Jesus in that our natural wills have a gnomic character due to our temporal epistemic distancing, which may even perdure in some manner post-mortem for some duration. If my apokatastatic intuitions are correct, our gnomic willing affects and effects – not soteriological realities of our essential natures vis a vis the imago Dei, but – our sophiological trajectories as we grow our secondary natures in intimacy and beatitude.

These implications of my universalism thus turn on this distinction:

A single will to raise up the image, but two to make the image into a likeness. ~ Lossky

This implicates another distinction – that between our essential & secondary natures. Human freedom determines only WHETHER one chooses to will at all & not WHAT one wills (in participating with divine logoi), incrementally forming a virtuous or vicious secondary nature or various degrees of both.

Vicious choices are privative of being, hence eternally self-annihilating as God honors human freedom. This is to suggest that, whatever reality they exhibit temporally, will not perdure eternally (much less be eternalized instantaneously & proleptically like our virtuous acts).

Virtuous natures are eternalized, both proleptically (i.e. harvested, instantaneously, is every trace of human goodness, every beginning of a smile, all wholesome trivialities) & eschatologically, by virtue of necessarily being joined to divine intentionale.

Even if, hypothetically, a given person’s eternal being was, in the end, constituted only by their essential nature as an imago Dei, having developed no virtuous secondary nature whatsoever (even after all epistemic distancing has been closed, whether temporally or even post-mortem), there can be no talk of self-annihilation for an imago Dei’s not self-determined (cf Lossky’s one will). Neither would God’s perfect will annihilate such an imago Dei, for that would amount to a divine self-contradiction.

What’s at stake, then, would be the nature of one’s eternal beatitude, perhaps in terms of aesthetic scope, which would be self-determinedly wider for one who’s developed a virtuous secondary nature.

Dogmatic Presuppositions of my theological anthropology

In a way, the answers — to such questions as

1) “libertarianism or compatibilism?”

2) “intellectualism or voluntarism?” and

3) “will or intellect or character?” — aren’t even wrong (regarding either divine or human natures).

For human persons, this is because there are 3 indispensable acts, limited by potentialities, involved in every human choice. These include

1) existence in potency to being,

2) efficient to material (will) and

3) formal to final (intellect), each necessary, none alone sufficient. Of course, this part wouldn’t apply to Actus Purus.

Character (habitus) stands halfway between those acts and potentialities, like iron forged into

1) leg braces, facilitating and/or

2) a bear trap, crippling the potentialities,

although in the latter case, never able (either temporally or eschatologically) to kill them, as they’re, in principle, inherently realizable (both temporally and eternally).

God does not punish habits, only acts, ergo, God allows misery only as a punishment for acts.

Why Suffering in God’s Presence doesn’t make sense to me

I am grateful for these conversations. They make me scratch my head and help me process my muddled thoughts. If anyone catches my drift, that’s a blessing for me. If anyone challenges me to be more artful in expression, that helps me, too. Most of all, any challenges to the substance of my views has, eventually, brought me closer to the truth and our God. In that spirit, then:

Even once casting aside the classical libertarianism & compatibilism framings as nonsensical category errors (what I mean by saying such “answers aren’t even wrong” but are gibberishtic anthropological caricatures), I have strived, awkwardly, to more intuitively grasp how to avoid the notion that a human person’s eternal destiny isn’t wholly determined.

In other words, while it may be logically valid and internally consistent to argue, analytically, that humans are created as “freely willing the Godly-determined” by using definitions of freedom that, to many, sound paradoxical (but make perfect sense! In terms of virtu-osity!), I still want more than a syllogism.

I want a story in which I can participate, holistically and imaginatively. Good news? From the online lectures (youtube) of DBH, one can tell that he will be gifting nourishment for both head & heart in _That All May Be Saved_.

Still –

If the will is located in efficient causation, free in the sense of WHETHER one chooses to will at all, and also in the sense of choosing AMONG goods, that, in my view, offers an eminently satisfying account of freedom, not just cognitively but emotionally. In these senses, persons are manifestly self-determined, created as freely willing.

There is another sense of freedom, which imagines a person’s capacity to choose WHAT is good, in other words to self-determine and to define and to appropriate being & goodness as they imagine same. In this sense, then, some view freedom in terms of choosing BETWEEN good & evil (apparent good), being & nonbeing (apparent being), virtue & vice. This view falls into incoherence because WHAT is good and constitutes being has indeed already been wholly determined by God and we are not free to determine or define same.

What about the “freedom” to choose otherwise, though, to opt for evil or nonbeing? That’s nonsensical on the grounds that evil or nonbeing, as privation, doesn’t successfully refer, ontologically. That definition of freedom lacks an ontic reference and entails an epistemic error, propositionally.

Nevertheless, dispositionally, our choices can, indeed, be culpable & such habits, clearly, vicious.

Under the true definition of freedom, to refrain from choosing among goods when acting, i.e. giving no “consideration” to what God has determined, is intuitively recognized by most as “inconsiderate” behavior. While such can be just a plain mistake rooted in finitude, it can also be culpable (sinful refusal). Such a willful and culpable blindness, in my view, constitutes a self-determined behavior, “freely” chosen in the “whether & among sense” even though not the “what & between” sense. And it can habitually accrete into a vicious nature. I just believe that God honors such free choices through eternal annihilation, which we can self-determine vis a vis our “second nature” or acquired dispositions.

And I doubt anyone wholly lacks some measure of a virtuous nature, which will indeed be eternalized.

Even a person’s essential imago Dei — if largely bereft of any significant growth (2nd nature) from that particular image to likeness, if primarily wholly determined, if self-determined to the most meager degree conceivable and if not even discernibly responsive to some post-mortem epistemic-closure & beatific illumination — would not experience the Presence in misery, precisely because God has wholly determined otherwise. In God’s governance, punishment ensues only from sin (moral choices).

1) Because our moral nature emerges as a second nature from our essential nature, and
2) because, eschatologically, there are no longer moral acts, and
3) because acts not natures are punished under any circumstances,
no such misery can be experienced.

However one approaches the reality of innocent suffering in a cosmos fallen into dis-order by sin, temporally, such a disorder will, by definition, be eschatologically repaired.

voluntarism, intellectualism, libertarianism & compatibilism – Oh my!

Any proper transcendence of the category errors of voluntarism, intellectualism, libertarianism & compatibilism won’t entail a dissolution of in/determinacies.

What we can will (among) has been determined, while whether we will at all has not, the former as formal acts in limited potency to final causes, the latter as efficient acts in potency to material. Halfway between such acts & potency, habitus presents as virtuous & vicious 2nd natures, able to facilitate or cripple, but never to kill, potentialities.

This is why Thomas Talbott can say: Personally, I seriously doubt that God causally determines every event that occurs, whether it be the change of state of a radium atom, a dog’s leaping this way rather than that while romping in the yard, or the free choice of an independent rational agent.

https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2016/06/09/free-will-theodicies-of-hell/

Why should such an irrational choice, even if not causally determined, be any more compatible with genuine moral freedom than a rigorous determinism would be? ~ Talbott

In our temporal affairs, we routinely impute guilt to those deemed willfully blind. In criminal law, we employ such terms as willful neglect, reasonable diligence, reckless indifference, knew or should have known, should reasonably have known, etc In our quotidian affairs we refer to willful blindness or ignorance and self-deception. Moral theologians distinguish in/vincible ignorance and nescience, more crass when deliberate than affected, blameworthy in either case, more gravely wrong for serious matters.

That all such behavior is irrational to various degrees, nevertheless, it retains its inculpating character. That’s why so many irrational choices, even if not causally determined, are universally deemed more compatible with genuine moral freedom than any rigorous determinism.

My rule of thumb in theological anthropology is to preserve, as far as practicable, our common sense & sensibilities, so as not to violate the integrity of the freely willing person. Therefore, tautologically concluding that all irrational behavior is, in principle, exculpating, does not sufficiently square with our ordinary moral intuitions. Our universalist apologetics, then, best appeal to infinite mercy & forgiveness rather than argue for a counterintuitive analytic, syllogistic innocence. Having deftly avoided the shoals of voluntarism, we must similarly steer clear of intellectualistic appeals, which ignore the vicious habitus that can impede the efficient cause of the will in realizing its potentialities.

Whether a vicious nature stands halfway between the acts & potentialities of the will or intellect, still, it can in no way, temporally or eternally, extinguish them, as they remain inherently realizable.

Pastor Tom Belt has persuasively argued a Maximian irrevocability thesis: “Hart’s view is an argument for the impossibility of the will foreclosing upon all possibility of Godward becoming. Such foreclosure would be teleological foreclosure.”

Again, invoking my rule of thumb in theological anthropology – to preserve, as far as practicable, our common sense & sensibilities, so as not to violate the integrity of the freely willing person – Belt’s Maximian irrevocability thesis squares better with our human experience than the overly speculative account of any putative irreversibility theses vis a vis avoiding such conceptual discontinuities between now & the eschaton as would render our anthropology unintelligible.

Now, if I may presume to paraphrase Talbott: Add to Belt’s Maximian irrevocability thesis the condition of minimal rationality and it seems impossible that anyone rational enough to qualify as a free moral agent would freely embrace an objective horror forever.

That’s as close as one can come to splitting the difference between a hopeful, practical universalism & an affirmation of a robustly theoretic universalism.

It seems to me that it’s quite possible a our viscious 2nd natures may not transist into the eschaton, especially if considered as privations of becoming. They may well thus be annihilated as God honors one’s choice for a self-determined non-becoming (refraining from growth in likeness). There can otherwise be no annihilation, in principle, for an imago Dei, as no one can freely self-determine non-being for an intrinsically good & absolutely valuable creation. The imago Dei plus any inklings of our virtuous 2nd natures (no one has none, whatsoever?) are eternalized, as God honors our self-determined choices for becoming (theotic realizations of divine & creaturely wills together).

Notes:

Calvin, Luther, Aquinas & Scotus

The Antecedent and Consequent Will of God: Is This a Valid and Useful Distinction? by Andrew Hussman

Perhaps St. Anselm was on the right track when he classified the scriptural concepts under discussion here not as antecedens et consequens, but as misericordiae et iustitiae. This comes close to another distinction of God’s will, legalis et evangelicus. Law and gospel are found on every page of Scripture.

The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Biblical Interpretation edited by Paul M. Blowers, Peter W Martens

Bonaventure & Scotus on 1 Timothy 2:4

W

Gloria Frost: When the passages in which Aquinas and Scotus explicitly discuss the origin of contingency in creation are read in context with attention to the kind of contingency each is discussing, similarities between their views can be identified and the objections raised against their respective views can be solved.

In sum, for Aquinas the proximate reason for why an effect is contingently caused is the fact that it was produced by a contingently operating secondary cause. The ultimate reason, however, for why the effect was contingently caused is the efficacy of God’s will which willed for the effect to come about through a contingent mode of causation and thus, willed a contingent cause for it. Regarding the contingent mode of existence that belongs to all created effects, Aquinas says that the proximate reason for why every created effect is contingently existing is the fact that God freely causes every created effect.

In sum, when Scotus identified God’s contingent mode of causation as the source of the contingency of creatures, he was referring to the contingent mode of existence that belongs to all creatures. Like Aquinas, he thought that the capacity of the divine will to cause creatures contingently was founded on the fact that the divine will only necessarily wills the divine goodness, which is complete and self-sufficient.

Similarly, Scotus would have agreed with Aquinas’s position that effects are contingently caused by their proximate causes because of the efficacy of the divine will which chooses which kind of causes exist in creation.

Scotus, however, thinks that although the effects produced by God alone and those produced by both God and contingently operating secondary causes both follow from contingently operating proximate causes, they are fundamentally different in their modal features. The former effects have a single potency for non-existence, while the latter have double possibility for nonexistence. Thus, in Scotus’s view contingently operating secondary causes are a necessary condition for God to introduce into creation a secondary contingency, which adds an additional layer of indeterminacy to the contingent mode of existence which all creatures enjoy.

Scotus’s point is that God necessarily wills only those things that are necessary for what God loves in himself (i.e. his goodness). Thus, no creature is willed necessarily, since what is lovable in God does not require any creature for its existence. Like Aquinas, Scotus thought that God’s freedom not to create stemmed from the self-sufficiency and completeness of what is good, and therefore lovable, in God himself. If God’s contingent mode of causation with respect to creatures is traced to the self-sufficiency of the divine goodness, then the contingent mode of existence that belongs to creatures will similarly have this as its ultimate foundation.

Aquinas and Scotus on the Source of Contingency, Oxford Studies in Medieval Philosophy, 2014 by Gloria Frost

At Academia: Retreblement – A Systematic Apocatastasis & Pneumatological Missiology

At Scribd: Retreblement – A Systematic Apocatastasis & Pneumatological Missiology

More Eschatological Anthropology

I resonate with certain central elements of Dr Manis’ approach, e.g. that in *some* sense the divine will can be thwarted, that annihilation is incompatible with divine presence & that creaturely moral freedom’s a logically necessary condition of communion.

I also resonate with Fr Aidan’s recognition that no metaphysical necessity’s imposed on God. It is from both general & special revelations that we have been gifted with some knowledge of the logic that onto-logically inheres and theo-logically coheres in the divine’s relationship with determinate realities. That relationship, of course, has ensued from – not metaphysical necessity, but – a self-determinate, divine kenosis.

Our knowledge of same, at the same time, remains fallible & inchoate. Regarding the problem of evil, for example, I reject (even recoil from) theodicies re the *evidential* problem, instead opting for Job 38 (where were you???!!!), but I do embrace a divine presence solution to the *existential* problem, i.e. (Be not afraid! I AM with you!).

More directly bearing on this discussion, though, I personally experience much consolation from many of the defenses to the *logical* problem of evil, ranging across the theological spectrum (from classical to process approaches).

To be fully coherent, then, it seems we must aspire to pull together a solution that satisfies the problem of evil in a way that’s — not only *logically* consistent (and even the best atheistic philosophers now concede that accomplishment, which is why they focus on *evidential* theodicies), but — *existentially* satisfying.

Such a solution, then, must be neither evidentially pretentious (re: why God allowed this particular evil) nor soteriologically presumptuous (re: why God must do this) in addressing divine reality (e.g. suggesting definite metaphysical and/or moral divine necessities).

Thus it is that the more nuanced universalist stances will, in my view, aspire to reconcile the best classical defenses with the best existential intuitions, the latter grown — not propositionally from logical argumentations, but — dispositionally from theotic participations.

Beyond the arguments of Athens & energies of Athos, those participations will also include such quotidian realities as, for a prime example, the raising of children.

There is, then, in all authentic human loving, a trans-rational apophaticism, which, beyond all proposals of speculative affirmations & negations, disposes one via a movement of the will (e.g. including a will graced with a virtuous habitus)? Such a movement of the will, whether of parental, spousal or other communal loves, pretty much inevitably & in principle, will come up short in what it can articulate via its co-causal movement of the intellect, which falters in its effablings regarding life’s truly ineffable experiences.

It is from my experience as a parent & grandparent, then, coupled with my gratuitously gifted formation & sacramental participation in a healing, reconciling & loving community of faith, that I want to proclaim “THAT all may be saved,” even as I struggle to give a metaphysical or theological account of *why* or *how*.

Yet, I’m here to learn how to better defend that hope, which is indeed within me, that I and others might move more swiftly, with less hindrance & greater consolation on our temporal journeys into eternity.

Another of my feeble efforts to defend my hope follows, but I am more sure regarding why Fr Aidan’s and others’ intuitions truly matter, much less sure that I can convey my own in a sufficiently artful & accessible manner.

I use a lot of question marks, below, not to solicit answers but to indicate my own intellectual tentativeness. My hope is firm but my expression falters.

While I find it problematic to conceive how there could ever be a definitive teleological foreclosure (cf. Pastor Tom Belt), neither would I want to deny the necessity of a creaturely freedom to refrain from willing. Further, properly understood, both the Thomistic and Scotistic anthropologies, in my view, suitably avoid the libertarian, compatibilist, voluntarist & intellectualist incoherencies. Human acts can indeed, at the same time, be irrational & culpable or impassioned & culpable, because the reality of human freedom presents in degrees.

Admittedly, we find it hard to define & difficult to discern exactly how and precisely when such thresholds get crossed in terms of degrees of both affectivity & rationality as they impinge on various degrees of culpability.

Still, if we deny our common sense & sensibilities regarding our experiences of human freedom, whether temporally or eschatologically, we risk abandoning what little intelligibility we enjoy regarding same. We inescapably must rely on that same intelligibility that we must employ in our daily approach to the realities of our dynamical human transformation (including moral conversion, spiritual formation & theosis).

Therefore, what?

While creaturely moral freedom’s a logically necessary condition of communion, what if, like freedom, the reality of communion also presents in degrees?

Is there not a modicum of communion, even in that imago Dei, who’s not crossed the threshold into the human moral life, whether due to age, illnesses or deformative dynamics? Or, who enjoys little in the way of theotic participation in the human spiritual life, i.e. little or no growing in likeness? Or, who’s even culpably developed a vicious second nature, but undeniably remains divinely indwelled and teleologically oriented, eternally & inherently?

What *is* a vicious nature but a habit of refraining from whether one wills to will at all regarding — not *be-ing* per se, but — one’s *be-coming*? To refrain, that is, from whether one wills to will at all regarding — not one’s essential nature or very existence, but — one’s growing from image to likeness?

What if one could only self-determinedly choose — not to be or not to be, but — to become or not become?

What if, in the same way we mustn’t ontologize evil, perhaps, neither should we reify the concept of a vicious nature, which habitually chooses non-becoming?

What if we should otherwise also, in part, conceive of such an imago Dei in terms of what it has freely & definitively determined not to *become*, even though it would & must, nevertheless, thus persist in *being* for all eternity? Even that putatively definitive determination *not to become*, though, should be approaching the threshold of a practical inconceivability, at least for those of us who couple Belt’s irrevocability thesis with Talbott’s virtual impossibility thesis (my description of the latter)?

Even stipulating to such an eschatological anthropology, as would remain an essentially hopeful — not a theoretically necessary — universalism, there remains a question regarding how such an imago Dei, bereft of any robustly moral & spiritual becoming, might subjectively experience the Eschaton.

To what extent might its experience be tortuous, whether formatively, restoratively or retributively?

In my view, once determinate reality has been made whole, cosmically reconciled, in principle, creatures would not be susceptible to existential deprivations or depredations. An imago Dei, not grown into divine likeness beyond its irrevocable, essential nature, might, rather quietistically, enjoy a minimalist reverie of aesthetic scope, while others enjoy, in various degrees, more expansive scopes (as I’ve discussed elsewhere), continuing to exercise their freedom in an eternal fugue of choosing among divine goods.

So, perhaps, authentic freedom entails relational, just not existential, self-determination?
Perhaps one’s self-determined choice to refrain from becoming could, in principle, be exercised irrevocably & eternally, hence never definitively?

Perhaps such a choosing might best be conceived in terms similar to that of a sacred, precious imago Dei, as one who, prior to the age of reason, possesses the same absolute, intrinsic value as that shared by all innocent children?

Perhaps such a self-determined refraining (including post-mortem, even after all epistemic closures), eschatologically, no longer could involve a culpable refraining from the consideration or not of goods in one’s acts, in principle, since any such neediness as would have motivated such acts, temporally, will have been obviated, eschatologically, by the cosmic reconciliation?

In other words, such an eschatological reordering would be metaphysically incompatible with such deprivations & depredations as would’ve formerly been compatible with the old temporal, lapsarian dis-order?

Eschatological freedom would thus entail only whether one wills to will at all, i.e. one’s *choosing* or not (in & of itself) among eternal goods & becomings, as well as any choosing *among* such potentialities (that array of divinely determined goods & becomings)? It could not otherwise involve a choosing *between* divinely determined goods and reified evils (by disordered appetites or inordinate attachments), which would be ontologically nonsensical. Nor could it involve refraining from a choice from/for non/being, which has never been an existential prerogative of the imago Dei over against the divine will, anyway.

Eternal annihilation of any imago Dei remains off the table as conceptually incompatible with its essential nature and theologically incoherent, as it would constitute a reversal of the eternal divine intentionale?

I believe, therefore, that God honors the freedom of human persons by eternalizing all self-determined acts of human becoming (as synergetic divine participations) and by refraining from any eternalizations of our non-participatory acts (such as we refer to in terms of vicious 2nd natures) i.e. our choices “not to become.” As such, our virtuous 2nd natures transition into eternity along with our essential natures, while our vicious 2nd natures will self-determinedly perish (a virtual self-annihilation), which certainly remains, to an extent, and in *some* way, a lamentable thwarting of the divine will. What it would not amount to is an unmitigated loss. Such choices would (self-punitively & consequently) cost one tremendous but nonessential opportunities, but, in the end, no loss of an original & essential goodness. Such choices would amount to a gratuitous superabundance foregone, but with no loss of an abundant life redeemed, that’s to say, reoriented, saved, healed, sanctified & empowered, as a new creation.

Our participatory imaginations gift us, integrally & relationally, unity, beauty, goodness, freedom & truth, forming our dispositions (senses & sensibilities) toward various ways of belonging, desiring, behaving, transcending & believing, as expressed in our attitudes regarding & personal commitments to others, the cosmos, God & even our own selves, as told & retold in our stories.

One, who’s thus properly disposed & committed, can then imaginatively engage others thru inspired storytelling, thereby, in turn, fostering others’ healthy participations, dispositions & commitments.

Such storytelling may, more or less, lend itself to a more rigorous cognitive map-making, foundationally, which is to say, historically, exegetically, scientifically, philosophically & metaphysically. Theologically, such foundations can then systematically underwrite our ecclesiologies, soteriologies, sacramentologies, sophiologies & eschatologies.

There are countless pastors, homilists & spiritual directors from diverse faith traditions, who’ve articulated robustly pneumatological ecclesiologies, radically inclusive soteriologies, profusely incarnational sacramentologies, remarkably polydoxic sophiologies & universally efficacious eschatologies – as awakened & enlivened by human solidarity & compassion & retold in personal stories, thus implicitly grounded in their collective participatory imaginations.

Some are better than others, when it comes to explicitly mapping such dispositions, systematically & foundationally. Make no mistake, though, it can be done, especially, it seems to me, by those who recognize certain resonances between Franciscan, Scotist sensibilities & Eastern Orthodox sophiological approaches.

For example, however harshly one might wish to critique certain of Fr Richard Rohr’s explicit foundational apologetics, far more importantly & deserving of way more emphasis, implicit in the collective oeuvre of his lifetime’s ministry, is precisely such an ecclesiology, soteriology, sacramentology, sophiology & eschatology that I would to defend in my Retreblement: A Systematic Apocatastasis & Pneumatological Missiology.

This is to suggest that one shouldn’t ever miss the concrete, dispositional, participatory theophanic, theopoetic, theopoietic & theotic forests for the abstract, propositional, cognitive theological, metaphysical trees. As it is, robustly metaphysical descriptions & rigorous theological formulations necessarily elude us, in principle, while vaguely semantical references & broad heuristical contours guide us, in practice.

Following Ignatius, we must charitably presuppose the most orthodox interpretations of our theological interlocutors, not reflexively & habitually construing ambiguities & inadequate or inartful expressions against them.

Integrally, Fr. Rohr’s robustly pneumatological ecclesiology, radically inclusive soteriology, profusely incarnational sacramentology, remarkably polydoxic sophiology & universally efficacious eschatology are grounded in his Franciscan (common) sensibilities, Scotistic meta-heuristic (common) sensicalities & Eastern sympathies, both Orthodoxy’s sophiological tradition as well as the Orient’s nondual traditions. All of these presuppose, then, certain outlooks, theologically (i.e. paterological, Christological, pneumatological & Trinitological approaches) and anthropologically (as, continuous with all vestigia Dei & uniquely as imagines Dei, theotic intimacization invites each person to progress via similitudo Dei).

To wit:

A. implicatory trinitarian theology (of divine esse naturale):

  • 1) interpersonal propria
  • 2) intimate idiomata
  • 3) invitatory (ad intra ur-kenosis) relata

B. intertwined temporal missions of creation, conservation & consummation (mutually entailing acts of ad extra kenosis) via tri-personal presences (multi-form unitive revelations, i.e. mutual intimaci-zations not mani-fold encounters of separate exemplifications), where

C. inseparable “opera ad extra” are tri-personal while also especially revealing of particular exemplifications via their “proper roles” where the

D. immensity of the divine universal presence, which is variously im/mediate, in/visible & intense, the effects of which are tri-personally operative as well as personally appropriated in the theophanic operations of our creaturely “exitus” or production from God in divine creation, i.e. trinitologically & anthropologically … or as an

E. intensity of the particular divine presence via hypostatic extensions, the effects of which are – not only tri-personally operative & personally appropriated, but – personally “proper,” i.e. united to a given divine exemplification, in the theotic missions of our creaturely “reditus” or return to God in divine consummation, i.e. sophiologically & eschatologically … with the

F. immediacy (Emmanuel, God is with us!) of the divine mercy & urgency of its prompt succor, bringing about manifold & multiform proleptic creaturely realizations of the divine telos, as it’s entailed in these theotic missions. Such realizations anticipate & guarantee the divine missions’ universal efficacy, ecclesiologically & sacramentally, thereby effecting – in this eternal now – our creaturely salvation, redemption & reconciliation by God through divine conservation, i.e soteriologically.

G. implicated theological anthropology (of divine esse intentionale):

  • 1) indwelling vestigia
  • 2) imaginal uniqueness (essential nature of imago Dei)
  • 3) intentional & incremental theosis (dynamical & progressive intimaci-zation of secondary nature of kenotic similitudo Dei)

tags: interreligious dialogue, polydoxy, panentheism, pansemioentheism, retreblement, john sobert sylvest, richard rohr, universal christ, pneumatological missiology, apocatastasis, apokatastasis, david bentley hart, russian sophiology, joseph bracken, divine matrix, norris clarke, personalist thomism, charles sanders peirce, donald gelpi s.j., amos yong, palamas, duns scotus, logical problem of the trinity, richard rohr, michael morrell, perichoresis, universalism, universal salvation, free will, libertarian free will, cappadocians

An account of Universal Salvation (apocatastasis) consistent with a Libertarian conception of the will

Not as a systematic conclusion, but per my vague heuristics, it seems quite plausible that there’s no inconsistency between a proper libertarian conception of the will (e.g. those of Maximus & Scotus) and universal salvation (apocatastasis).

As long as we draw the necessary distinction between choosing “between” good & evil (being & nonbeing) and choosing “among” goods (on a Pareto front of equally optimal choices), along with the further distinctions of our essential & secondary natures (Scotus) and natural & gnomic willing (Maximus), apocatastasis can be conceived as sufficiently self-determinative.

Gnomic willing is what our one will, the natural will, does when epistemically-axiologically distanced, as it chooses to act or refrain from acting in accord with divine logoi, i.e. choosing or refusing participation in goodness & being, thereby forming or deforming one’s secondary nature as, in varying degrees, virtuous and/or vicious.

If we conceive our epistemic-axiological distancing in theotic terms, as our temporal journeying from image to likeness, our gnomic willing constitutes our co-creative participation in Being, beyond being, in Goodness, itself, beyond goodness. Our self-determined secondary natures, ad majorem Dei gloriam, will thereby gift us such holiness & beatitude that some souls will, indeed, outshine the sun.

I have insisted, for decades, inspired by something, per my dim recollection, that Hans Kung once suggested regarding eschatological anthropology (though I can neither cite nor recite it): that every beginning of a smile, all wholesome trivialities, every trace of human goodness, will be eternalized. Upon further reflection, consistent with those thoughts, it seems to me that every self-determined refusal to participate in goodness & being will be likewise respected, as any vicious aspects of our secondary natures transist into eternal nonbeing, as those temporal moments are essentially constituted by self-annihilations of our secondary natures.

I see no a priori reason that complete closures of each person’s epistemic-axiological distancing cannot be accomplished post-mortem, e.g. such as in instantaneous life reviews or via other such purgative vehicles, thereby eternally “fixing” our secondary natures and, definitionally, ending all gnomic willing.

If, in some unimaginable putative worst case scenario, a human person would transist into eternity with no measure of a virtuous secondary nature, no happy eternalizations, whatsoever, what might that entail?

There can be no eternal annihilation of a person’s essential nature, which will necessarily enjoy eternal being by virtue of its intrinsic goodness. That essential being can in no measure be diminished or demolished self-determinedly. No one conceives of a libertarian free will on such terms, especially those committed to the (theo)logical necessity of eternal fires & brimstone.

How, then, might we conceive this bare personal essence, bereft of a virtuous (and vicious) secondary nature? Well, following the conventional “age of reason” approach, which defines the threshold for the growth of rudimentary, self-determined secondary natures (moral & theotic), I conceive such an essential nature in terms of early childhood, as precious sacred faces, whose voices make such precious sacred sounds. And, in an eternal environs, no longer situated per an epistemic-axiological distancing, I envision those children of God & ourselves in pure delight & as wholly beloved. Now, if in holiness & beatitude, they present as tiny votive candles, thoroughly on fire with divine love, while others shine forth as this or that blazing helios, surely, that will not diminish their lovability? That others might be holier than us, O’ Lord, grant us the grace to desire it, provided we shall be as holy as you’d have us be!

What might constitute different degrees of beatitude? both of different measures of self-determined, virtuous secondary natures & of precious, sacred essential natures?

Different degrees of beatitude will be experienced commensurate with the self-determined ontological densities of each person, as measured in relative spiritual intensities (both moral & theotic) and experienced in degrees of expansive aesthetic scopes, that is in terms of the number of choices “among” eternal goods of which one has freely chosen to avail oneself. In this sense, the imago Dei will have grown in divine likeness, for, while the divine nature undergoes no change in perfection vis a vis aesthetic intensity, the divine will, esse intentionale, is ever “affected” in terms of aesthetic scope by our free, self-determined choices to participate in Being, in Goodness.

It is in this sense that I would suggest that the difference between our essential & secondary natures might roughly map to such distinctions as we’ve always recognized in terms of, for example, imperfect & perfect contrition, eros & agape, early vs later stages of Bernardian love, illuminative & unitive ways, Ignatian degrees of humility and so on.

It has always been accepted that imperfect contrition and love of self for sake of self & love of God for sake of self are sufficient. Such “enlightened” self-interest has always been sufficient for parents? I fully expect it will remain sufficient for our Heavenly Father and that it will obtain for all the requisite conditions necessary for our own eternal beatitude. For, as DBH has so compelling argued, who could enjoy an eternal existence separated from those we’ve always loved and will always love unconditionally?

Divine Energeia & Simplicity

In affirming a weak DDS (Scotists), thin passibility (personalist Thomists) or essence-energy distinction (Palamites), one shouldn’t imagine this merely involves a Scotist formal distinction, Thomist metaphysically real distinction or Palamite denial of essential simplicity, all which refer to determinate realities & their un/realized potency.

Any distinction between the divine esse naturale & intentionale, then, must be trans-formal, i.e. beyond our determinate categories, marked by a wide analogical interval & long apophatic moment. This apophasis might less so involve a logocentric negation, speculatively, but more so a transrational, ineffable experience (Lossky) that encounters the divine – not so much inferentially, intuitively or even affectively, but – participatorily, as we act with God in a synergy, thereby coming to know the Author of such works (Bradshaw) & becoming more authentically oneself via deification (Cappadocian).

Indeed, such ineffable experiences would gift us with a transrational & trans-apophatic knowledge of God (Staniloae). We can conceive these relational, communal communications of knowledge in terms of divine manifestations of God’s activities i.e. divine energies, among which, according to Bradshaw, the Greek Fathers would count simplicity.

Bradshaw writes: As with any energy, God is both simplicity itself & beyond simplicity as its source. Just as the sun is simple & yet possesses an indefinite multitude of rays, so nothing about divine simplicity prevents God from possessing an indefinite multitude of energies. Likewise nothing prevents these energies from being affected by creatures.

A metaphysical notion of simplicity, again, such as could be made in reference to determinate realities vis a vis Scotistic & Thomistic distinctions (formal & metaphysically real), in principle, eludes us regarding divine realities, especially suitably predicated apophatically & analogically.

However, in a Maximian sense, regarding the “things around God,” simplicity would symbolically mean that “the one Logos is many logoi, and the many logoi are one Logos.”

Michael Horton writes: According to Bradshaw, what Palamas did was to synthesize the various strands of thought that existed in Eastern theology (the energies, the logoi, the “things around God”, and the divine “light”) and subsume them all under the term energeia.

So, if we are to truly “pray our ontotheology,” we must observe that apophatic moment – not just engaging in negations of our logocentric speculations, but – wherein, relationally, we participate in divine activities, choosing our every act in consideration of divine logoi, celebrating the ineffable divine manifestations of our own and others’ theotic self-realizations. Such deifying effects will present as proper to no known determinate causes as we faithfully pursue holiness as characters in search of their Author.

Law of Retreblement

– both traditions, when they talk about the un/knowability of the divine ousia or essentia, are for the most part talking pious nonsense
– no such ‘thing’ as the divine essence
– no divine essence understood as a discrete object unto itself
– any language that suggests otherwise, whether patristic, Thomist, or Palamite, is an empty reification

David Bentley Hart

The Hidden & the Manifest: Essays in Theology & Metaphysics

Pity the patristic scholar, Thomist or neo-Palamite, who’s, over a career, deftly navigated past the theological shoals of modalism, tritheism & subordinations, only to discover per DBH’s critique that her oeuvre’s washed up on the shore of some desert island of divine quaternity, b/c she unwittingly reified the essence or hypostasized energeia. Such charges can happen to the best of scholars, e.g. Peter Lombard.

I don’t intend to defend any given scholar or tradition, as I’m not sure who DBH meant to indict, in particular. But I certainly subscribe to his normative contours, generally.

Many certainly presuppose the ousia’s not a thing, even if their rhetoric doesn’t explicitly express same. Let me suggest that, in fact, most, whom I’ve studied, hermeneutically employ, even if only implicitly, a trinitological Law of Retreblement.

I discern a law of retreblement in play in all authentic trinitological discourse, derivable from St. Basil, where the essential, personal & relational must be always conceived together &, when articulated, if not explicitly expressed together, at least has been implicitly & mutually presupposed. Furthermore, I’d maintain, that, while trinitological propria, idiomata & relata (both ad extra & intra) are not merely logical but clearly onto-logical, they remain weak semantical references to, & in no way robust metaphysical descriptions of, divine realities.

Such semantical references include:

  • essentially, denominative & connotative propria (iconic, lexical-iconic, metaphorical & analogical kataphases);
  • personally, determinative & denotative idiomata (existential, quantitative, locative & numeric apophases); and
  • relationally, connotative-denotative experiences through participatory synergies, which manifest effects, both soteriological & sophiological (theotic), as would be proper to no known causes, donatively gifting – not only inferential, intuitive & affective intelligibilities, variously inchoate & adequate, but – a robustly relational knowledge that’s trans-kataphatic, trans-apophatic, trans-rational & trans-formal, hence ineffably unitive via the Energeia, i.e. the logoi, the things around God, the Light.

Norris Clarke succinctly emulates this retreblement: “To be [being] is to be substance-in-relation.”

Even Aristotle’s conceptions of ousia, since they can variously refer to arche (ground), substance (entity) or form (im/material quiddities or generalities), anticipate & evoke the triadic inseparability of the divine realities’ essential unitary arche, personal hypostatic unicity & relational unitive forms.

This retreblement further evokes a mutual entailment of the divine realities revealed in the:

  • Monarchy of the Father, essentially, personally & relationally per propria;
  • generation of the Son & procession of the Holy Spirit, personally, relationally & essentially per idiomata; and
  • mutual revelation of the energeia manifested (ineffably but participatively) in every divine-creaturely act of synergy in both the gratuities of creation (by imagines vestigia dei) & of grace (by theotic oikonomia), relationally, essentially & personally per relata.

This mutual entailment avoids – not only modalism, tritheism & subordinationism, but – any quaternities, whether of a reified essence or hypostasized energeia (including Sophia).

Some may recognize in this divine semi-formal retreblement heuristic the same triadic categories & semantic rules we use for determinate realities. Those otherwise differ, however, by admitting acts in limited potency in each such category and by affording, in the category of formal relata, a connotative-denotative generic determination, i.e. a quiddity not accessible for the incomprehensible divine essence. As such, divine propria, idiomata & relata only semantically refer to divine realities but simply cannot collapse modally into the properties, entities & relations of determinate realities, which otherwise afford robust metaphysical descriptions.

Exploring the Other Side (well, one part, anyway)

continued from here

Bottomline:
I could only ever conceive of a post-mortem annihilation of one’s vicious secondary nature, never of one’s essential nature (imago Dei), which would be held in existence b/c of its intrinsic goodness. I picture such a “mere” imago as a person of 7 or younger (not some horror!).

To be or not to be, who we really are, that is the question, as we freely choose to act in pursuit of options that we know to be good (all equally or each sufficiently so) or not to act in consideration of same.

One can act in an inconsiderate or thoughtless way, without considering the good, under some compulsion, hence exculpably, or after considering the good, sinfully, in both cases depriving one’s act and its effects of any distinctively human quality. One can, thereby, nihilate the very essence of one’s being in a de-privative act that can potentially render effects deprived of the good (privatio boni).

Habitual patterns of in/considerate acts yield our secondary natures, which can include varying degrees of both virtuous & vicious natures, hence degrees of likeness to our God, extrinsically, varying in moral & spiritual intensities, which proportionately gift expansions of freedom & aesthetic scope. Our essential nature, an imago Dei, though, remains intrinsically good.

It seems quite probable to me that every authentically free human act, participating in Goodness, itself, has an intrinsically eternal quality, that every trace of human goodness, every beginning of a smile, all wholesome trivialities, are sophianized, gifted an eternal aesthetic scope. Other acts are self-nihilations, diminishing our secondary nature’s likeness to God in varying degrees, while, intrinsically & inviolably, our essential natures remain a precious, sacred imago Dei, a durable aesthetic intensity.

We thus self-determine, in every act, how much of our secondary nature gets eternalized (as virtuous) or self-nihilated (as vicious), what degree of authenticity we freely will to realize.

My Universalist Account

Therefore –

What if God honored all freely refused participations in eternal goods as ordered toward our contingent being?

What if God honored all freely accepted participations in eternal goods as ordered toward our contingent being?

What if that part of the nature of our contingent being, as it was formed by such refusals of eternal goods or being, was allowed to lapse into nonbeing, precisely respecting one’s free choice?

What if that part of the nature of our contingent being, as it was formed by freely accepted eternal goods or being, was eternalized (becoming virtually essential being), precisely respecting one’s free choice?

What would transist into eternity, then, whether proleptically and/or eschatologically, would therefore be our intrinsically good essential being, with its fixed aesthetic intensity, and extrinsically good (virtuous) secondary nature with its self-determined aesthetic scope, but never one’s vicious secondary nature, lacking sufficient moral intensity & self-determinedly ordered toward nonbeing, hence annihilation.

Notes:

Concepts to be Expanded:

Emergence of probability

Via transmuted experience

In individuals as secondary nature, with a diversity of specific identities & uniformity of generalIn societies as culture, pluralistically, in particular religions & universal presence

Mediated or not, pneumatologically

Expressing or not, Maximian logoi

A Consistent Trinitology & Robust Pneumatology?

What might draw one to Scotus re trinitology? So as not to be coy, I’ll tell you why & where the choice matters to me (& doesn’t).

If there’s no “substantive” difference, only terminological, between Scotist & Thomist accounts of nature & persons, and nothing separating either from the Capps re MOF, then, whatever motivates one to prefer one or the other account won’t involve concerns related to tritheism, modalism or subordinationism.

Such a motivation could derive from one’s idiomatic preferences, finding one idiom more felicitous than the next, for whatever reason. That (& Franciscan sensibilities) first drew me to Scotus b/c his approach had influenced Peirce w/whom I resonated. Beyond that, systematically, I later discovered certain nuances of the “subtle” doctor that resonated w/my pneumatological sensibilities.

While working w/Amos Yong, he reinforced why a proper approach to the filioque, & how an engagement with certain Orthodox emphases, might help me better articulate my pneumatology, which was concerned – not only with the Spirit’s particular activity in the gratuity of grace, but – the Spirit’s universal activity in the gratuity of creation.

Both how one articulates the MOF & how one appropriates the DDS could have implications for how one conceives ad extra divine interactivity, i.e. how pervasively indwelling is the Spirit in creation and how profusely intimate is the Spirit in theosis?

I consider the East & West, Byzantine & Latin, views of the Spirit’s eternal procession to have been largely reconciled through terminological disambiguations & in ways not just congenial to the stance of Maximus but which would’ve been satisfactory to both Mark of Ephesus & Palamas, even while I remain sympathetic to Zizioulas’ call for further clarification.

Still, in asking just how pervasive might be the Spirit’s creaturely indwelling & profusive the Spirit’s theotic intimacy, we must inquire into the DDS & more precisely define impassibility. And here’s my Thomistic rub, my pneumatological nub and the theological hub, where the Franciscans (Scotus & Bonaventure), Maximus, Mark of Ephesus, Palamas and the Capps all seem to converge, as ISTM, their stances entail a weak DDS, not inconsistent w/a thin passibility, none of this incongruous w/certain open conceptions (not to be coy, I’m thinking of Tom Belt). I should note, Norris Clarke, a personalist Thomist, was receptive to this approach.

Some might insist that the MOF differentiates the Persons only logically, that w/o robustly causal explanations it lacks intelligibility. Properly conceived, though, the MOF has definite ontological & causal implications, so, while wholly incomprehensible, it remains eminently & infinitely intelligible.

Still, for certain analytic types, there’s no analogical interval too wide or apophatic moment to long to break their kataphatic stride. Because they misappropriate idiomata & propria, which are inherently limited in modelling power, their trinitologies will inevitably stall, epistemically, from the inordinate theo-ontological freight they’re expected to haul. These same analytics complain of Thomism’s strong DDS, often on the same grounds of unintelligibility. While I’m sympathetic to that charge, I reject their radically kataphatic solutions and resist their facile causal models, which prove too much.

Contrastingly, what the East has consistently & properly held, in my view, is an appropriately (vaguely) causal MOF and suitably weak DDS. This remains congruent with the thin passibility that underwrites my robustly pneumatological intuitions of a Spirit, Who pervasively indwells in creation & profusely “intimacizes” in theosis.

Further Discussion

Scotus locates the will in efficient causation. For many, this represents a conceptual relocation from the formal. Conceiving the free will as efficient cause (in limited potency to material) implicates a volition that determines only WHETHER one exercises (or refrains therefrom) one’s will but not to WHAT it chooses, i.e. it must not refer to why this or that is chosen but only to why the will wills at all, because it does remain free not to act.

As such, the will refers to the sole rational potency, never acting without the intellect, which is co-causally operative (in bringing the Maximian logoi to bear) even though not finally determinative.

The will determines neither the act of existence in potency to essence nor the formal generically determinative act in potency to one’s final cause, which makes a human existent what one truly is, e.g. a human person, the symbolic species, an imago Dei, a beloved child of God, a sister of Jesus, a brother of the Cosmos.

Taken seriously, this has enormous soteriological and sophiological implications, which is to say, regarding redemption, justification & sanctification, i.e. intiation into communion, adoption into the Kingdom, on one hand, and, on the other, beatitude & glorification, i.e. ascetically & mystically or theotically, further establishing the Kingdom via communal collaboration.

In my view, Scotus would worry about the risk of any full blown liberty of indifference [1], i.e. including not just one’s aesthetic scope or efficient acts in limited potency to divine logoi, materially, but also, vis a vis aesthetic intensity (ontological density), existential acts (self-annihilation) in limited potency to divine logoi, essentially, as well as formal acts (generic self-determination) in limited potency to divine logoi, finally (as if we could become other than what we already are, what C.S. Lewis might call a “dismantling of humanity”). This amounts to what M. M. Adams would call a low doctrine of human agency [2], although I am not wholly familiar with her precise formulation and how it might comport with my own, above.

Any such exercise and actualization of rationality makes one’s efficient acts good and increases the being of the Kingdom, ecclesiologically, both proleptically & eschatologically. But does that also increase one’s own being, intrinsically, as per a Thomistic metaethic, per se changing one’s esse naturale per a generic determination? [3]

Or does it only change, per an agential extrinsic denomination, one’s esse intentionale?

Does moral evil frustrate an increase in the being of one’s esse naturale, even to the point of its full diminishment, so to speak undoing one’s intiation into communion and adoption into the Kingdom, denying one’s very aesthetic intensity & ontological density?

Rather, might it frustrate an increase in being only vis a vis one’s esse intentionale, foregoing further communal collaboration in the Kingdom, restricting one’s aesthetic scope, limiting one’s ecclesiological participation, as one neglects spiritual exercises and practices of presence? [4]

I’m not suggesting my anthropological categories & applications measure up with anthropological rigor or even capture the points of disagreement between, for example, Eleonore Stump & Marilyn M. Adams. Even if they amount to an ahistorical, eisegetic account of Aquinas & Scotus, though, perhaps they still have some normative integrity all their own?

If stable dispositions, derived from habitual spiritual exercices and practices of presence, to act in accordance with or contrary to one’s nature, i.e. virtues or vice, do produce second natures, whether virtuous or vicious, do those ontologically negate or just phenomenologically mask our primal human nature, hide the imago Dei?

In my view, our primal being and goodness is both unalienable, due to divine esse intentionale, & inalienable, not a capacity of determinate esse intentionale.

Eternally, are we dealt with in accordance with both or either of our natures, primary &/or secondary, however one conceives these volitional loci, as esse naturale or intentionale?

If the goodness of our being is thus light, will our existence in Hell thereby be unbearable?

Let’s consider Hart:
[T]he wrathful soul experiences the transfiguring and deifying fire of love not as bliss but as chastisement and despair. [5]

Does not this refer to the transformative & theotic dynamisms that I addressed, above. Will not those dynamisms cease post-mortem or in some eschatological closure of epistemic distance, such as in a particular judgment & life review? Hart doesn’t take this into account, when describing the tortures of hell, but only because he otherwise ultimately rejects an infernalist stance, not inconsistent with Bulgakov’s surmise that those dynamisms might continue post-mortem, finally rejecting eternal torment as a moral absurdity.

So, if those dynamisms terminate post-mortem, wouldn’t we necessarily only be dealt with in accordance with our primary nature, which would comport with Maximian being, eternal being and well-being? Or, if also our secondary nature, only that level of goodness & being which emerged per Maximian logoi, never otherwise instantiating a privatio boni, which have no ontological reality?

Might ill-being only ever be a transitory, purgative state? Or even a misconstrual of an eternal esse intentionale, which remains volitionally indifferent to any aesthetic scope, beyond its original endowment, not inconsistent with a Scotistic free will, located in efficient not telic causes?

A post-mortem will that’s closed all epistemic & axiological distances and has been purged of any residual vicious secondary nature could only refrain from determining among the goods of an enhanced aesthetic scope, choosing not to grow one’s spiritual intensity. It would no longer be able to otherwise act inconsiderate of goods pertaining to temporal exigencies, due to having none, so, would no longer be able to sin, no longer able to vary its moral intensity.

Bishop Barron [6] writes: If there are any people in Hell (and the church has never obliged us to believe that any human is in that state), they are there, not because God capriciously “sent” them, but because they absolutely insist on not joining in the party.

This isn’t wholly inconsistent with the view of volitional indifference to a self-constrained aesthetic scope, but, again, what of my point that human volition is not otherwise constituted by self-constraints regarding aesthetic intensity (ontological density), existentially or generically, regarding THAT one is or WHAT one primally is (whatever one believes regarding self-constructed secondary natures)?

How, then, would we psychologize that eternal disposition? I’m asking for a friend, who’s a social wallflower, who prefers to watch the mirrorball & swirling dervishes beneath, who doesn’t mind others coming over to sit in silent presence (90% is showing up, only 10% is dancing, perichoretically or otherwise?), while they keep the finger sandwiches & beers coming. One person’s modus ponens is another’s modus tollens?

As John O’Brien observers: Concerning the detailed specific nature of hell … the Catholic Church has defined nothing. … It is useless to speculate about its true nature, and more sensible to confess our ignorance in a question that evidently exceeds human understanding. [7]

Fr Richard Rohr writes: To be frank, I think that perhaps no single belief has done more to undercut the spiritual journey of more Western people than the belief that God could be an eternal torturer of people who do not like him or disobey him. And this after Jesus exemplified and taught us to love our enemies and forgive offenses 70 x 7 times! The very idea of Hell (with a capital ‘H’), as Jon Sweeney explains in this magnificent book, constructs a very toxic and fear-based universe, starting at its very center and ground. Hatred, exclusion, and mistreatment of enemies is legitimated all the way down the chain of command.” [8]

Jon Sweeney writes: “Ultimately, I choose not Dante’s vengeful, predatory God who is anxious to tally faults, to reward and to punish. Instead I choose the God who creates and sustains us, who is incarnate and wants to be among us, and the God who inspires and comforts us. That God is the real one, the one I have come to know and understand, and that God has nothing to do with the medieval Hell.” [9]

Conclusions

Following Scotus, I intuit that no eternally self-constrained aesthetic intensity is possible, neither existentially (THAT) nor generically (WHAT).

And with Rohr & Sweeney, I’ll simply insist, apophatically, on what an eternally self-constrained aesthetic scope simply must NOT be like.

Then, with O’Brien, I’ll confess ignorance, kataphatically.

Notes:[1] MM Adams re Scotus’ concerns re liberty of indifference, as she cites Duns Scotus, God and Creatures: The Quodlibetal Questions, translated with introduction, notes and glossary by Felix Alluntis, O.F.M., and Allan B. Wolter, O.F.M. (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1975), q.16, art. Il, 377-79·[2] ibid The Problem of Hell by Marilyn M. Adams[3] Dante’s Hell, Aquinas’s Moral Theory, and Love of God, Eleonore Stump, Canadian Journal of Philosophy 16 (2):181-198 (1986)[4] When God created us in the divine image, God intended us to be cocreators and participate in God’s plan. Hell may not be a literal burning fire, but does that mean it doesn’t exist?by Kevin P. Considine[5] The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? By David B. Hart[6] Bishop Barron[7] John Anthony O’Brien, The Faith of Millions: The Credentials of the Catholic Religion, pp. 19–20[8] from the Foreward to Dante, The Bible, and Eternal Torment by Jon M. Sweeney[9] Sweeney ibid

To Be or Not, to Sophianize or Not our human secondary nature: The Unbearable Lightness of Being (eternally self-determined)

In Conclusion –

Not as a systematic conclusion, but per my vague heuristics, it seems quite plausible that there’s no inconsistency between a proper libertarian conception of the will (e.g. those of Maximus & Scotus) and universal salvation (apocatastasis).

As long as we draw the necessary distinction between choosing “between” good & evil (being & nonbeing) and choosing “among” goods (on a Pareto front of equally optimal choices), along with the further distinctions of our essential & secondary natures (Scotus) and natural & gnomic willing (Maximus), apocatastasis can be conceived as sufficiently self-determinative.

Gnomic willing is what our one will, the natural will, does when epistemically-axiologically distanced, as it chooses to act or refrain from acting in accord with divine logoi, i.e. choosing or refusing participation in goodness & being, thereby forming or deforming one’s secondary nature as, in varying degrees, virtuous and/or vicious.

If we conceive our epistemic-axiological distancing in theotic terms, as our temporal journeying from image to likeness, our gnomic willing constitutes our co-creative participation in Being, beyond being, in Goodness, itself, beyond goodness. Our self-determined secondary natures, ad majorem Dei gloriam, will thereby gift us such holiness & beatitude that some souls will, indeed, outshine the sun.

I have insisted, for decades, inspired by something, per my dim recollection, that Hans Kung once suggested regarding eschatological anthropology (though I can neither cite nor recite it): that every beginning of a smile, all wholesome trivialities, every trace of human goodness, will be eternalized. Upon further reflection, consistent with those thoughts, it seems to me that every self-determined refusal to participate in goodness & being will be likewise respected, as any vicious aspects of our secondary natures transist into eternal nonbeing, as those temporal moments are essentially constituted by self-annihilations of our secondary natures.

I see no a priori reason that complete closures of each person’s epistemic-axiological distancing cannot be accomplished post-mortem, e.g. such as in instantaneous life reviews or via other such purgative vehicles, thereby eternally “fixing” our secondary natures and, definitionally, ending all gnomic willing.

If, in some unimaginable putative worst case scenario, a human person would transist into eternity with no measure of a virtuous secondary nature, no happy eternalizations, whatsoever, what might that entail?

There can be no eternal annihilation of a person’s essential nature, which will necessarily enjoy eternal being by virtue of its intrinsic goodness. That essential being can in no measure be diminished or demolished self-determinedly. No one conceives of a libertarian free will on such terms, especially those committed to the (theo)logical necessity of eternal fires & brimstone.

How, then, might we conceive this bare personal essence, bereft of a virtuous (and vicious) secondary nature? Well, following the conventional “age of reason” approach, which defines the threshold for the growth of rudimentary, self-determined secondary natures (moral & theotic), I conceive such an essential nature in terms of early childhood, as precious sacred faces, whose voices make such precious sacred sounds. And, in an eternal environs, no longer situated per an epistemic-axiological distancing, I envision those children of God & ourselves in pure delight & as wholly beloved. Now, if in holiness & beatitude, they present as tiny votive candles, thoroughly on fire with divine love, while others shine forth as this or that blazing helios, surely, that will not diminish their lovability? That others might be holier than us, O’ Lord, grant us the grace to desire it, provided we shall be as holy as you’d have us be!

What might constitute different degrees of beatitude? both of different measures of self-determined, virtuous secondary natures & of precious, sacred essential natures?

Different degrees of beatitude will be experienced commensurate with the self-determined ontological densities of each person, as measured in relative spiritual intensities (both moral & theotic) and experienced in degrees of expansive aesthetic scopes, that is in terms of the number of choices “among” eternal goods of which one has freely chosen to avail oneself. In this sense, the imago Dei will have grown in divine likeness, for, while the divine nature undergoes no change in perfection vis a vis aesthetic intensity, the divine will, esse intentionale, is ever “affected” in terms of aesthetic scope by our free, self-determined choices to participate in Being, in Goodness.

It is in this sense that I would suggest that the difference between our essential & secondary natures might roughly map to such distinctions as we’ve always recognized in terms of, for example, imperfect & perfect contrition, eros & agape, early vs later stages of Bernardian love, illuminative & unitive ways, Ignatian degrees of humility and so on.

It has always been accepted that imperfect contrition and love of self for sake of self & love of God for sake of self are sufficient. Such “enlightened” self-interest has always been sufficient for parents? I fully expect it will remain sufficient for our Heavenly Father and that it will obtain for all the requisite conditions necessary for our own eternal beatitude. For, as DBH has so compelling argued, who could enjoy an eternal existence separated from those we’ve always loved and will always love unconditionally?

Exploring the Other Side (well, one part, anyway)

continued from here

Bottomline:
I could only ever conceive of a post-mortem annihilation of one’s vicious secondary nature, never of one’s essential nature (imago Dei), which would be held in existence b/c of its intrinsic goodness. I picture such a “mere” imago as a person of 7 or younger (not some horror!).

To be or not to be, who we really are, that is the question, as we freely choose to act in pursuit of options that we know to be good (all equally or each sufficiently so) or not to act in consideration of same.

One can act in an inconsiderate or thoughtless way, without considering the good, under some compulsion, hence exculpably, or after considering the good, sinfully, in both cases depriving one’s act and its effects of any distinctively human quality. One can, thereby, nihilate the very essence of one’s being in a de-privative act that can potentially render effects deprived of the good (privatio boni).

Habitual patterns of in/considerate acts yield our secondary natures, which can include varying degrees of both virtuous & vicious natures, hence degrees of likeness to our God, extrinsically, varying in moral & spiritual intensities, which proportionately gift expansions of freedom & aesthetic scope. Our essential nature, an imago Dei, though, remains intrinsically good.

It seems quite probable to me that every authentically free human act, participating in Goodness, itself, has an intrinsically eternal quality, that every trace of human goodness, every beginning of a smile, all wholesome trivialities, are sophianized, gifted an eternal aesthetic scope. Other acts are self-nihilations, diminishing our secondary nature’s likeness to God in varying degrees, while, intrinsically & inviolably, our essential natures remain a precious, sacred imago Dei, a durable aesthetic intensity.

We thus self-determine, in every act, how much of our secondary nature gets eternalized (as virtuous) or self-nihilated (as vicious), what degree of authenticity we freely will to realize.

My Universalist Account

Therefore –

What if God honored all freely refused participations in eternal goods as ordered toward our contingent being?

What if God honored all freely accepted participations in eternal goods as ordered toward our contingent being?

What if that part of the nature of our contingent being, as it was formed by such refusals of eternal goods or being, was allowed to lapse into nonbeing, precisely respecting one’s free choice?

What if that part of the nature of our contingent being, as it was formed by freely accepted eternal goods or being, was eternalized (becoming virtually essential being), precisely respecting one’s free choice?

What would transist into eternity, then, whether proleptically and/or eschatologically, would therefore be our intrinsically good essential being, with its fixed aesthetic intensity, and extrinsically good (virtuous) secondary nature with its self-determined aesthetic scope, but never one’s vicious secondary nature, lacking sufficient moral intensity & self-determinedly ordered toward nonbeing, hence annihilation.

Notes:

Concepts to be Expanded:
Emergence of probabilityVia transmuted experienceIn individuals as secondary nature, with a diversity of specific identities & uniformity of generalIn societies as culture, pluralistically, in particular religions & universal presenceMediated or not, pneumatologicallyExpressing or not, Maximian logoiFurther Discussion

Scotus locates the will in efficient causation. For many, this represents a conceptual relocation from the formal. Conceiving the free will as efficient cause (in limited potency to material) implicates a volition that determines only WHETHER one exercises (or refrains therefrom) one’s will but not to WHAT it chooses, i.e. it must not refer to why this or that is chosen but only to why the will wills at all, because it does remain free not to act.

As such, the will refers to the sole rational potency, never acting without the intellect, which is co-causally operative (in bringing the Maximian logoi to bear) even though not finally determinative.

The will determines neither the act of existence in potency to essence nor the formal generically determinative act in potency to one’s final cause, which makes a human existent what one truly is, e.g. a human person, the symbolic species, an imago Dei, a beloved child of God, a sister of Jesus, a brother of the Cosmos.

Taken seriously, this has enormous soteriological and sophiological implications, which is to say, regarding redemption, justification & sanctification, i.e. intiation into communion, adoption into the Kingdom, on one hand, and, on the other, beatitude & glorification, i.e. ascetically & mystically or theotically, further establishing the Kingdom via communal collaboration.

In my view, Scotus would worry about the risk of any full blown liberty of indifference [1], i.e. including not just one’s aesthetic scope or efficient acts in limited potency to divine logoi, materially, but also, vis a vis aesthetic intensity (ontological density), existential acts (self-annihilation) in limited potency to divine logoi, essentially, as well as formal acts (generic self-determination) in limited potency to divine logoi, finally (as if we could become other than what we already are, what C.S. Lewis might call a “dismantling of humanity”). This amounts to what M. M. Adams would call a low doctrine of human agency [2], although I am not wholly familiar with her precise formulation and how it might comport with my own, above.

Any such exercise and actualization of rationality makes one’s efficient acts good and increases the being of the Kingdom, ecclesiologically, both proleptically & eschatologically. But does that also increase one’s own being, intrinsically, as per a Thomistic metaethic, per se changing one’s esse naturale per a generic determination? [3]

Or does it only change, per an agential extrinsic denomination, one’s esse intentionale?

Does moral evil frustrate an increase in the being of one’s esse naturale, even to the point of its full diminishment, so to speak undoing one’s intiation into communion and adoption into the Kingdom, denying one’s very aesthetic intensity & ontological density?

Rather, might it frustrate an increase in being only vis a vis one’s esse intentionale, foregoing further communal collaboration in the Kingdom, restricting one’s aesthetic scope, limiting one’s ecclesiological participation, as one neglects spiritual exercises and practices of presence? [4]

I’m not suggesting my anthropological categories & applications measure up with anthropological rigor or even capture the points of disagreement between, for example, Eleonore Stump & Marilyn M. Adams. Even if they amount to an ahistorical, eisegetic account of Aquinas & Scotus, though, perhaps they still have some normative integrity all their own?

If stable dispositions, derived from habitual spiritual exercices and practices of presence, to act in accordance with or contrary to one’s nature, i.e. virtues or vice, do produce second natures, whether virtuous or vicious, do those ontologically negate or just phenomenologically mask our primal human nature, hide the imago Dei?

In my view, our primal being and goodness is both unalienable, due to divine esse intentionale, & inalienable, not a capacity of determinate esse intentionale.

Eternally, are we dealt with in accordance with both or either of our natures, primary &/or secondary, however one conceives these volitional loci, as esse naturale or intentionale?

If the goodness of our being is thus light, will our existence in Hell thereby be unbearable?

Let’s consider Hart:
[T]he wrathful soul experiences the transfiguring and deifying fire of love not as bliss but as chastisement and despair. [5]

Does not this refer to the transformative & theotic dynamisms that I addressed, above. Will not those dynamisms cease post-mortem or in some eschatological closure of epistemic distance, such as in a particular judgment & life review? Hart doesn’t take this into account, when describing the tortures of hell, but only because he otherwise ultimately rejects an infernalist stance, not inconsistent with Bulgakov’s surmise that those dynamisms might continue post-mortem, finally rejecting eternal torment as a moral absurdity.

So, if those dynamisms terminate post-mortem, wouldn’t we necessarily only be dealt with in accordance with our primary nature, which would comport with Maximian being, eternal being and well-being? Or, if also our secondary nature, only that level of goodness & being which emerged per Maximian logoi, never otherwise instantiating a privatio boni, which have no ontological reality?

Might ill-being only ever be a transitory, purgative state? Or even a misconstrual of an eternal esse intentionale, which remains volitionally indifferent to any aesthetic scope, beyond its original endowment, not inconsistent with a Scotistic free will, located in efficient not telic causes?

A post-mortem will that’s closed all epistemic & axiological distances and has been purged of any residual vicious secondary nature could only refrain from determining among the goods of an enhanced aesthetic scope, choosing not to grow one’s spiritual intensity. It would no longer be able to otherwise act inconsiderate of goods pertaining to temporal exigencies, due to having none, so, would no longer be able to sin, no longer able to vary its moral intensity.

Bishop Barron [6] writes: If there are any people in Hell (and the church has never obliged us to believe that any human is in that state), they are there, not because God capriciously “sent” them, but because they absolutely insist on not joining in the party.

This isn’t wholly inconsistent with the view of volitional indifference to a self-constrained aesthetic scope, but, again, what of my point that human volition is not otherwise constituted by self-constraints regarding aesthetic intensity (ontological density), existentially or generically, regarding THAT one is or WHAT one primally is (whatever one believes regarding self-constructed secondary natures)?

How, then, would we psychologize that eternal disposition? I’m asking for a friend, who’s a social wallflower, who prefers to watch the mirrorball & swirling dervishes beneath, who doesn’t mind others coming over to sit in silent presence (90% is showing up, only 10% is dancing, perichoretically or otherwise?), while they keep the finger sandwiches & beers coming. One person’s modus ponens is another’s modus tollens?

As John O’Brien observers: Concerning the detailed specific nature of hell … the Catholic Church has defined nothing. … It is useless to speculate about its true nature, and more sensible to confess our ignorance in a question that evidently exceeds human understanding. [7]

Fr Richard Rohr writes: To be frank, I think that perhaps no single belief has done more to undercut the spiritual journey of more Western people than the belief that God could be an eternal torturer of people who do not like him or disobey him. And this after Jesus exemplified and taught us to love our enemies and forgive offenses 70 x 7 times! The very idea of Hell (with a capital ‘H’), as Jon Sweeney explains in this magnificent book, constructs a very toxic and fear-based universe, starting at its very center and ground. Hatred, exclusion, and mistreatment of enemies is legitimated all the way down the chain of command.” [8]

Jon Sweeney writes: “Ultimately, I choose not Dante’s vengeful, predatory God who is anxious to tally faults, to reward and to punish. Instead I choose the God who creates and sustains us, who is incarnate and wants to be among us, and the God who inspires and comforts us. That God is the real one, the one I have come to know and understand, and that God has nothing to do with the medieval Hell.” [9]

Conclusions

Following Scotus, I intuit that no eternally self-constrained aesthetic intensity is possible, neither existentially (THAT) nor generically (WHAT).

And with Rohr & Sweeney, I’ll simply insist, apophatically, on what an eternally self-constrained aesthetic scope simply must NOT be like.

Then, with O’Brien, I’ll confess ignorance, kataphatically.

Notes:[1] MM Adams re Scotus’ concerns re liberty of indifference, as she cites Duns Scotus, God and Creatures: The Quodlibetal Questions, translated with introduction, notes and glossary by Felix Alluntis, O.F.M., and Allan B. Wolter, O.F.M. (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1975), q.16, art. Il, 377-79·[2] ibid The Problem of Hell by Marilyn M. Adams[3] Dante’s Hell, Aquinas’s Moral Theory, and Love of God, Eleonore Stump, Canadian Journal of Philosophy 16 (2):181-198 (1986)[4] When God created us in the divine image, God intended us to be cocreators and participate in God’s plan. Hell may not be a literal burning fire, but does that mean it doesn’t exist?by Kevin P. Considine[5] The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? By David B. Hart[6] Bishop Barron[7] John Anthony O’Brien, The Faith of Millions: The Credentials of the Catholic Religion, pp. 19–20[8] from the Foreward to Dante, The Bible, and Eternal Torment by Jon M. Sweeney[9] Sweeney ibid

Ur-kenosis & Ur-analogy in a Trinitarian, Kenotic Panentheism – Bracken’s Peircean approach can bring Hegel, Bulgakov & others together

One might appropriate Hegel & Bulgakov through Peircean lenses, using, for example, Joe Bracken’s panentheism.

One can thereby also avoid any apparent (Hegel) or latent (Bulgakov) nominalist tendencies (thick in Whitehead, thin in Hartshorne) and affirm a robustly Trinitarian & kenotic panentheism.

Hegel (too deterministic? I’m not so sure. See thought experiment, below.), perhaps, needs an appropriation of Peirce (no nominalism) & Schelling (personalist, more freedom) for his panentheism to be distinguished from Aurobindo’s, and to conform more to Bracken’s panentheism, which is more consistent with Classical Theism.

The following makes sense within such a stance:

Clayton cites Hegel’s recognition that the logic of the infinite requires the inclusion of the finite in the infinite and points towards the presence of the world in God (Clayton 2004b, 78–79). Clayton, along with Joseph Bracken (1974; 2004), identifies his understanding of panentheism as Trinitarian and kenotic (Clayton 2005, 255). It is Trinitarian because the world participates in God in a manner analogous to the way that members of the trinity participate in each other although the world is not and does not become God. God freely decides to limit God’s infinite power in an act of kenosis in order to allow for the existence of non-divine reality. The divine kenotic decision results in the actuality of the world that is taken into God.
https://stanford.library.sydney.edu.au/archives/spr2012/entries/panentheism/

It seems that, as long as we don’t misconceive Logos & logoi (e g. of Maximus, Neo-platonists, etc) as universals, thoughts or ideas, i.e. abstractly, in essential or formal terms, but think of them in concrete terms of a freely acting Person with intentions or wills, reasons or purposes, to Whom some end is “fitting,” —

Then, we can apply the Anselmian principle, potuit, decuit, ergo fecit: ‘twas possible & “fitting,” ergo accomplished – to all Trinitarian missio ad extra, both vestigia of the gratuity of creation and oikonomia of soteriology & theosis of the gratuity of grace, without attributing such contingent effects to a *necessity* as would be grounded in God’s nature, divine esse naturale, but, instead attributing same to an *inevitability* grounded in God’s Will, divine esse intentionale.

As a thought experiment, how might Hegel’s determinism be cast in (or reconciled to) Maximian terms of logoi, Peircean realist (not nominalist) terms & a Scotist libertarian will, all in defense of a strong apocatastasis, e.g. consistent with Hart, perhaps.

If one conceives of both Scotus & Maximus as libertarians, for whom the intellect’s necessarily operative but not wholly determinative in volition, where self-determinative volitional acts remain limited in potency to the logoi of being, well-being, and eternal being, then, the creature self-determines – not its depth, but – its breadth of being.

The creature self-determines the kenotic scope of its theotic participation (perhaps even choosing to annihilate much of it), while God, alone, determines the kenotic intensity of that participation (in an aesthetic teleology).

Whatever one’s eschatological anthropology, any irreversibility could only refer to one’s self-determination of scope, i.e. in terms of foregoing superabundant being. Existence, itself, abundantly & gratuitously, partakes of being over against nonbeing, limited in potency to divine logoi (rather than, e.g. merely uncreated essences or universals).

If appetitive movements cease in some instance, e.g. due to closure of a creaturely epistemic distance, at some moment like a particular judgment, then, per the determinative Maximian logoi, this could not entail a cessation of ardor vis a vis the depth of one’s desires & loves, i.e. the very fact that one desires & loves per an intrinsic orientation, but only could refer to a self-determination regarding the breadth of those ardors.

Some may call this eternal ill-being, if they must, but ill*being* would strike me as a paragon of oxymorons, i.e. once considering the intrinsic goodness of any and all participation in Being, itself, beyond all being.

The thought that some of us might populate the firmament like a tiny votive candle, while others might shine forth like a blazing helios, would not likely be off-putting to anyone, who’s ever been a parent, whose love for each child knows no bounds, no limits, and differs in neither depth nor breadth, intensity nor scope, from one to the next, however much they participate or reciprocate in family-being, however differently abled regarding, or disposed toward, same.

So, as parents, we’ll always pray: That our children & grandchildren may become holier than us, provided that we may become as holy as we should, Jesus, grant us the grace to desire it.

At any rate, that’s where I was headed, when suggesting:

I conceive the afterlife as a state wherein the will remains, eternally, in relation to an extrinsic aesthetic scope, however otherwise unsurpassable the realization of one’s intrinsic aesthetic intensity. (This is an imago Dei riff on the divine esse intentionale.) This requires a conception of volition, whereby one, while only ever freely willing that which is suited both to one’s advantage & justice (& never freely pursuing privatio boni or evil for evil), also enjoys the radical freedom to choose – from among the infinity of aesthetic options as they’ll lay before us in eternity, none, in any way, suboptimal (an eternal Pareto Frontier). This requires my Scotist conception of quasi-libertarian freedom, which would include the power to refrain from willing one optimal choice, while willing another (equally optimal), both choices self-interested & both just.

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Litany of Humility
Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930),
Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X

A Further Defense of my Eschatological Anthropology

In further defense of this apocatastatic hypothesis, let me further defend its eschatological anthropology, which employs an analogy of divine and determinate esse naturale & intentionale, the determinate as imago Dei.

By aesthetic depth or intensity, I refer to the ontological density of the human person’s essential nature, which, in the great chain of being, transcends (but includes) all teleo-potent, teleo-matic, teleo-nomic & teleo-qualic realities as a teleo-logic reality, as the symbolic species.

From the anthropological account of a Peircean axiological epistemology, this entails an holistic epistemic suite, marked by an aesthetic primacy (no more voluntarist than the Scotist’s primacy of will). As such, we distinguish the determinate esse naturale and intentionale only formally, as integrally related, inseparable aspects of the human person.

God gifts this reality, an imago Dei, an absolute, intrinsic value, the perfection of which cannot be enhanced or diminished by extrinsic changes in the aesthetic scope of its esse intentionale.

Aside from the gifts of its existence & redemption, where this makes some sense, what are we to make of theotic realizations, of Lonergan’s secular & religious conversions, of our journeys to Authenticity & Sustained Authenticity, of mystical theology’s Ways of Perfection, of Ascetic Theology’s path from the false to True Self, where this makes less sense?

In other words, to what does Transformation refer in terms of any reality’s movement from vestige to image to likeness?

Transformative movements, in my view, refer to all manner of self-transcendence, a by-product of which is self-actualization.

Such movements, per Bernardian love, move us from

  • love of self for sake of self,
  • love of God for sake of self,
  • love of God for sake of God, to
  • love of self for sake of God.

Ignatius similarly gives account of this journey in his Degrees of Humility.

More simply put, we move from imperfect to perfect contrition, from the eros of self-enlightenment to the agape of Gospel love.

Imperfect contrition is necessary and sufficient, however, for increased beatitude!

Even love of self for sake of self, that most basic of desires, the storge’ & eros of Lewis’ Four Loves, remains both necessary & sufficient in a human reality that’s already essentially & absolutely, intrinsically valuable to God, as an imago Dei, which comprises a perfection, which cannot be enhanced or diminished by such extrinsic changes as could never increase its dignity or worth, only its beatitude.

We might, therefore, introduce a distinction between more perfect redemptions & salvations (as Scotus introduced for the Immaculate Conception, which I, then, analogously applied to post-mortem, eschatological anthropology) and more perfect creatures, in and of themselves, ontologically. The former apply, beatitudinally, while the latter would apply, essentially & existentially, except for the fact that it does not, since the intrinsic value of persons is already & ever absolute.

Transformation, therefore, refers to sanctification & glorification, growing as holy as He would desire & passing from glory to glory in eternal beatitude, as one’s will might self-determine vis a vis its desired aesthetic scope.

Does this trivialize mortal sin? Does it sanction quietism? Does it amount to an insidious indifferentism? Does it obviate soteriological discourse?

Let’s foreground the distinctions I’ve introduced above.

As St John of the Cross pointed out, God’s creatio continua holds the soul in existence even in mortal sin. What’s placed in jeopardy is never the absolute intrinsic value of the person’s existence, only its own extrinsic realizations of other values (that are also of absolute intrinsic value, in and of themselves, i.e. Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Love & Freedom, the pursuits of which are their own rewards).

Here, the quest, itself, becomes one’s grail, the journey – one’s destination, the sitting – one’s consolation.

This is because, naked personal existence, itself, only ever pursues any values, via transformative value pursuits, because, in and of itself, it already constitutively & necessarily possesses them in goodly measure, precisely by already abundantly participating in that & Whom it would to possess, but is already possessed by. Thus it’s really only aspiring to be (and do) who it abundantly is already, only ever more fully, i.e. superabundantly.

A person, eternally being, could never be annihilated through self-determination & wouldn’t so be since the divine fiat, which has deemed it intrinsically good, has already deemed its existence fitting per divine esse intentionale. In so doing, such a personal act of existence was limited by divine logoi, one of which mirrors, via its determinate esse intentionale, a radical freedom – not of ontological density or aesthetic depth or intensity, but – of aesthetic breadth or scope.

Whether or not, after having crossed a sufficient (or even closed an essential) epistemic distance, this aesthetic scope remains irrevocably intact (a Maximian hypothesis) or irreversibly frozen (a Thomist hypothesis), the naked personal existent nevertheless “enjoys” its constitutive & abundant possession of and participation in Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Love & Freedom, by virtue of an essential (naturale) participation, always journeying (intentionale) in Being, itself, beyond all being, because it’s never self-determined in its esse naturale, whether or not it happens to also be self-determined in its intentionale (via irrevocability or irreversibility).

It would seem exceptional, when anyone would forego (or appear, somehow, indifferent to) superabundance, settling into a quietistic stance. At the same time, a nevertheless abundant life would be sustained precisely by the soteriological efficacies that reach all, for all have been redeemed. Some do enjoy, via a self-determined aesthetic scope (limited in potency only by divine logoi) a superabundant beatitude.

What, then, of mortal sin? Even if that state somehow irreversibly freezes one’s determinate esse intentionale (foreclosing the possibility of any expansion of an essential, minimalist aesthetic scope), such as via an epistemic closure in a particular judgment, it cannot annihilate one’s essential existence or its absolute intrinsic value, personal dignity & extrinsic worth, as eternally loved by God & others, all expecting absolutely nothing in return.

Primal ur-kenosis, ad extra kenosis and the kenotic self-emptying of parents & lovers has always been this way?

We even recoil at every insidious form of ableism, which would value our children based on developmental milestones or setbacks, whether due to genetic, perinatal or accidental dis-ease, whether from deformative influences or the pangs of addiction, whether due simply to age or through their unfathomable dispositions & puzzling personality differences.

Who values a child at 20 more than one at 2?

Who loves a child, who’s a model of social grace, athletic grace or academic grace, more than one who’s on some spectrum, physically awkward or mentally struggling?

It’s all grace!

Who tells a child, if you don’t come to Thanksgiving Dinner, I will hire a hit man to take you out? Well, yeah, right. I guess that has been done, in so many ways, but it was with the best of intentions and highly nuanced.

No, I can buy that some will be votive candles in eternity, on fire with the same flame, ontologically, as others, who’ll outshine the sun. After all, life seems very much like that here and now. A lot of us quite rather be votive candles, truth be told. And I imagine that some earthly luminaries, who compete with the stars, themselves, may well be but votive candles in eternity, once their dross burns off.

What I can’t imagine is that any fire, whomsoever, will be extinguished, by one’s self or Another’s determination.

See ya on the other side.

Exploring the Other Side (well, one part, anyway)

Scotus locates the will in efficient causation. For many, this represents a conceptual relocation from the formal.
Conceiving the free will as efficient cause (in limited potency to material) implicates a volition that determines only WHETHER one exercises (or refrains therefrom) one’s will but not to WHAT it chooses, i.e. it must not refer to why this or that is chosen but only to why the will wills at all, because it does remain free not to act.

As such, the will refers to the sole rational potency, never acting without the intellect, which is co-causally operative (in bringing the Maximian logoi to bear) even though not finally determinative.

The will determines neither the act of existence in potency to essence nor the formal generically determinative act in potency to one’s final cause, which makes a human existent what one truly is, e.g. a human person, the symbolic species, an imago Dei, a beloved child of God, a sister of Jesus, a brother of the Cosmos.

Taken seriously, this has enormous soteriological and sophiological implications, which is to say, regarding redemption, justification & sanctification, i.e. intiation into communion, adoption into the Kingdom, on one hand, and, on the other, beatitude & glorification, i.e. ascetically & mystically or theotically, further establishing the Kingdom via communal collaboration.

In my view, Scotus would worry about the risk of any full blown liberty of indifference [1], i.e. including not just one’s aesthetic scope or efficient acts in limited potency to divine logoi, materially, but also, vis a vis aesthetic intensity (ontological density), existential acts (self-annihilation) in limited potency to divine logoi, essentially, as well as formal acts (generic self-determination) in limited potency to divine logoi, finally (as if we could become other than what we already are, what C.S. Lewis might call a “dismantling of humanity”). This amounts to what M. M. Adams would call a low doctrine of human agency [2], although I am not wholly familiar with her precise formulation and how it might comport with my own, above.

Any such exercise and actualization of rationality makes one’s efficient acts good and increases the being of the Kingdom, ecclesiologically, both proleptically & eschatologically. But does that also increase one’s own being, intrinsically, as per a Thomistic metaethic, per se changing one’s esse naturale per a generic determination? [3]

Or does it only change, per an agential extrinsic denomination, one’s esse intentionale?

Does moral evil frustrate an increase in the being of one’s esse naturale, even to the point of its full diminishment, so to speak undoing one’s intiation into communion and adoption into the Kingdom, denying one’s very aesthetic intensity & ontological density?

Rather, might it frustrate an increase in being only vis a vis one’s esse intentionale, foregoing further communal collaboration in the Kingdom, restricting one’s aesthetic scope, limiting one’s ecclesiological participation, as one neglects spiritual exercises and practices of presence? [4]

I’m not suggesting my anthropological categories & applications measure up with anthropological rigor or even capture the points of disagreement between, for example, Eleonore Stump & Marilyn M. Adams. Even if they amount to an ahistorical, eisegetic account of Aquinas & Scotus, though, perhaps they still have some normative integrity all their own?

If stable dispositions, derived from habitual spiritual exercices and practices of presence, to act in accordance with or contrary to one’s nature, i.e. virtues or vice, do produce second natures, whether virtuous or vicious, do those ontologically negate or just phenomenologically mask our primal human nature, hide the imago Dei?

In my view, our primal being and goodness is both unalienable, due to divine esse intentionale, & inalienable, not a capacity of determinate esse intentionale.

Eternally, are we dealt with in accordance with both or either of our natures, primary &/or secondary, however one conceives these volitional loci, as esse naturale or intentionale?

If the goodness of our being is thus light, will our existence in Hell thereby be unbearable?

Let’s consider Hart:
[T]he wrathful soul experiences the transfiguring and deifying fire of love not as bliss but as chastisement and despair. [5]

Does not this refer to the transformative & theotic dynamisms that I addressed, above. Will not those dynamisms cease post-mortem or in some eschatological closure of epistemic distance, such as in a particular judgment & life review? Hart doesn’t take this into account, when describing the tortures of hell, but only because he otherwise ultimately rejects an infernalist stance, not inconsistent with Bulgakov’s surmise that those dynamisms might continue post-mortem, finally rejecting eternal torment as a moral absurdity.

So, if those dynamisms terminate post-mortem, wouldn’t we necessarily only be dealt with in accordance with our primary nature, which would comport with Maximian being, eternal being and well-being?

Might ill-being only ever be a transitory, purgative state? Or even a misconstrual of an eternal esse intentionale, which remains volitionally indifferent to any aesthetic scope, beyond its original endowment, not inconsistent with a Scotistic free will, located in efficient not telic causes?

Bishop Barron [6] writes: If there are any people in Hell (and the church has never obliged us to believe that any human is in that state), they are there, not because God capriciously “sent” them, but because they absolutely insist on not joining in the party.

This isn’t wholly inconsistent with the view of volitional indifference to a self-constrained aesthetic scope, but, again, what of my point that human volition is not otherwise constituted by self-constraints regarding aesthetic intensity (ontological density), existentially or generically, regarding THAT one is or WHAT one primally is (whatever one believes regarding self-constructed secondary natures)?

How, then, would we psychologize that eternal disposition? I’m asking for a friend, who’s a social wallflower, who prefers to watch the mirrorball & swirling dervishes beneath, who doesn’t mind others coming over to sit in silent presence (90% is showing up, only 10% is dancing, perichoretically or otherwise?), while they keep the finger sandwiches & beers coming. One person’s modus ponens is another’s modus tollens?

As John O’Brien observers: Concerning the detailed specific nature of hell … the Catholic Church has defined nothing. … It is useless to speculate about its true nature, and more sensible to confess our ignorance in a question that evidently exceeds human understanding. [7]

Fr Richard Rohr writes: To be frank, I think that perhaps no single belief has done more to undercut the spiritual journey of more Western people than the belief that God could be an eternal torturer of people who do not like him or disobey him. And this after Jesus exemplified and taught us to love our enemies and forgive offenses 70 x 7 times! The very idea of Hell (with a capital ‘H’), as Jon Sweeney explains in this magnificent book, constructs a very toxic and fear-based universe, starting at its very center and ground. Hatred, exclusion, and mistreatment of enemies is legitimated all the way down the chain of command.” [8]

Jon Sweeney writes: “Ultimately, I choose not Dante’s vengeful, predatory God who is anxious to tally faults, to reward and to punish. Instead I choose the God who creates and sustains us, who is incarnate and wants to be among us, and the God who inspires and comforts us. That God is the real one, the one I have come to know and understand, and that God has nothing to do with the medieval Hell.” [9]

Conclusions

Following Scotus, I intuit that no eternally self-constrained aesthetic intensity is possible, neither existentially (THAT) nor generically (WHAT).

And with Rohr & Sweeney, I’ll simply insist, apophatically, on what an eternally self-constrained aesthetic scope simply must NOT be like.

Then, with O’Brien, I’ll confess ignorance, kataphatically.

Notes: