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.




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.

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