A Universalist Eschatology of Humanity’s Three-fold Nature

Below is a meta-heuristic outline of my theological anthropology. Systematically, this is where I provisionally closed last year (2020). This is to say that it feels like I have already said all that I really wanted to say, theologically. My next life task may be to express it all differently, somehow, e.g. accessibly, concretely, spiritually, etc. So far, I’ve neither felt such an urge nor heard from my Muse.

In a nutshell, I have come to believe that, in the end,

1) that we’ll exist is wholly determined. “We’ll” refers cosmotheandrically;

2) that our original beatitude will be restored; that our primary nature, including our experience of an essential aesthetic intensity, will be wholly determined; and

3) that our theotic nature and secondary beatitudes, including our degrees of intimacy and scopes of aesthetic experience, will remain wholly indetermined.

1) vestigial Dei
  a) indicative apocata
  b) original being restored
  c) existentially determined
  d) ecclesiologically, unitive dynamics restore our essential belongingness

2) imaginal Dei
  a) indicative apocatastenai
  b) original beatitude restored
  c) primary nature determined
  d) soteriologically, sacramental dynamics restore our aesthetic intensity

3) similitudinal Dei
  a) subjunctive apocatastasis
  b) secondary beatitudes realized
  c) theotic nature indetermined
  d) sophiologically, intimacization dynamics expand our aesthetic scopes

And that’s the basic thrust of my Cosmotheandric Pan-semio-entheism.

Ladies, Lyrics & Laughter and Unspeakable Grief

For the heartwarming story behind this cover image by photographer Jan Somers, see: http://axiomnews.net/photographer-wants-world-go-nose-nose

A Facebook Post from April 2020

Good morning, family & friends.

Today is Monday, March 52nd, 2020.

Many of us awoke today without some of the gifts that we thanked God for yesterday?

For most of us, those will have included some of life’s most ordinary moments & simplest of joys. Others of us may be suffering from various God-sized holes in our hearts as can result from all manner of loss. Let me share a few words with those who are suffering life’s bigger losses, presently, for it’s you with whom I experience the deepest solidarity & wish to minister compassion & consolation, presently.

The following words are from Gerald May (from 3 different books, perhaps):

“We are conscious not just because our hearts are beating but because they are yearning.”

“The only way to own and claim love as our identity is: to fall in love with love itself, to feel affection for our longing, to value our yearning, treasure our wanting, embrace our incompleteness, be overwhelmed by the beauty of our need.

“Love is present in any desire … in all feelings of attraction, in all caring and connectedness. It embraces us in precious moments of immediate presence. It is also present when we experience loneliness, loss, grief and rejection. We may say such feelings come from the absence of love, but in fact they are signs of our loving; they express how much we care. We grieve according to how much of ourselves we have already given; we yearn according to how much we would give, if only we could.” end of May quotes

What I can promise you, in the vein of always teaching best what I’ve most needed to learn, is that, while God has fashioned each human spirit to heal in its own due time & own unique manner, more generally, He has also formed us as incredibly resilient persons, who, for the most part, will inexorably learn to live again, to love again and, yes, even to laugh again.

There’s a beautiful group of ladies in my hometown who call themselves “The Three Ells,” which stands for Ladies, Lyrics & Laughter. Its membership spans multiple generations. Biennially, in the spring, they put on a variety show (a real healing liturgy for those with Eucharistic lenses) and donate the proceeds to a different local charity. [I’m struggling to keep this short, but my heart gets so full when I write about my peeps & I’ve a neighbor passing on the levee, who’s often whistling Amazing Grace at this particular locale on his daily walk. One can’t make this stuff up!]

When the precious sacred faces of the 3 Ells make their precious sacred sounds in lyrics with laughter, it is because I happen to know so many of their stories, many regarding immense losses of unimaginable proportion and unspeakable griefs of every variety, that I also know that I am a witness to the Resurrection, as we experience it now in part, anticipatorily, and will some day realize it fully in a way … well, “Will we sing hallelujah? Will we be able to speak at all? We can only imagine!”.

Now, for others of us, for example, in quarantine mode with hearts aching & breaking to be unsocially distanced, let me help you imagine your next greatest moment of joy. Below is a song, the refrain of which came to me in a dream, wherein I was walking through downtown Lutcher, near my first ever place of employ on Texas Street. In my dream, a radio was playing through a screened shop window, with a song that I thought was beautiful. I suddenly awakened, grabbed my guitar, and penned the refrain lyrics, charted the guitar chords & hummed the tune into my phone’s voice recorder, so as not to lose what felt like a gift. Then, back to bed. The next day, I penned more lyrics, making it autobiographical, although, in my dream, I had associated the song with an old friend, as I pictured her real life experience of kissing her boy’s coffin, then whispering his name & goodbye.

Well, gotta stop here. But, enjoy the song and imagine how you’ll feel when you can once again Eskimo Kiss those precious sacred faces, whose voices make such precious sacred sounds!


Truly yours,

John Sobert Sylvest

Universalism – a qualified defense of both indicative & subjunctive apokatastasis

Regarding universalism, I’ve long held a view that’s situated somewhat between that of DBH & Paul Griffith’s.

With DBH & others, I reject how facilely notions like compatibilist & libertarian are so often used. But, I resonate w/Scotus & Maximus & (mis?)appropriate them as moderately libertarian.

I recognize “who we are” existentially & essentially per our primary nature as wholly determined by God, ie as imagoes Dei. With Maritain, I reject ECT because I believe in an indicatively universal apokatastenai, which restores our primary nature, necessarily, such that we’ll no longer be choosing “between” higher & lesser goods, post-mortem.

That’s distinct, then, from “who we can become” formally & finally per our secondary natures as self-determined by us, ie as similitudinae Dei. I thus believe a subjunctively universal apokatastasis is defensible as a theologoumenon and that it involves the theotic realization of our secondary natures, probabilistically, as we choose “among” eternal goods, post-mortem.

So, what’s at stake, self-determinately, can never entail “being who we are” as imagoes Dei, as if we could ever self-annihilate that which remains everlastingly & intrinsically good, but is rather “becoming who we could” as likenesses of God.

What’s at stake, then, are degrees of intimacy & objective beatitude.

I depart from that defensible theological opinion (subjunctive universal apokatastasis), though, because it seems that the same mercy & graces that Maritain invoked to defend an indicative universal apokatastenai, in my view, would also implicate an indicative universal apokatastasis, wherein we will forever self-determinately choose “among” eternal goods, passing from glory to glory, just not “between” higher & lesser goods.

At bottom, we are – not absolutely, but – only ever relatively free. As finite creatures, we can’t justly be dealt infinite punishments, whether ECT or annihilation. As a person in solidarity with humankind, but, especially as a parent, I can’t countenance either as they’re both, to me, aesthetically repugnant, relationally abhorrent & morally unintelligible. They don’t comport with the nature of God revealed in the Incarnation.

As for my model, I don’t know how theosis would work post-mortem without the epistemic & axiological distancing that’s integral to our experience of freedom, temporally. Perhaps we’ll only be choosing among eternal goods & not between being & well being. It may be that our temporal sojourns self-determine our degrees of subjective beatitude (aesthetic intensity), even as our eternal self-determinations realize various degrees of objective beatitude (aesthetic scope).


God Ordains Epistemic Distancing toward the end of Our Co-creative Self-determination but that doesn’t make sin necessary

God Ordains Epistemic Distancing toward the end of Our Co-creative Self-determination but that doesn’t make sin necessary

God fittingly determines that the essential nature of human persons necessarily includes that measure of epistemic distancing sufficient to allow for our choosing among rationally desired eternal goods.

God thereby permits each of us to co-creatively self-determine our unique charismatic character, spiritually.

One thing such an epistemic distancing necessarily entails is the axiological ordering of higher & lesser goods, for it’s in our very deliberations between them that we will learn which of God’s gifts we most deeply desire to both receive & give back, thereby developing our unique spirituality.

For if loving is the answer, then who’s the giving for? ~ Noel Paul Stookey

Now, it is necessarily the case that, because of such an epistemic distancing, at times, out of ignorance, we will unavoidably choose lesser goods. But, it is also the case that, eventually & inevitably, we can overcome such ignorance, precisely through this process of choosing.

What has never been the case, however, is that an ignorant choice of a lesser good is either necessarily culpable or ever irremediable, for to err, in & of itself, is not to sin and every mistake or sin lies within the scope of God’s mercy (cf. Romans 8).

Our human finitude, however radical, does not by design make sin necessary, although it does make its possibility unavoidable.

In pursuing our rational desires, even when we err, we can thereby erase a modicum of ignorance, or, in other words, close a measure of epistemic distance. It is only when one, with both sufficient knowledge & freedom, chooses a lesser good that one sins.

So, that very same epistemic distancing, which allows for our choosing among rationally desired eternal goods, thereby becoming who we co-creatively & self-determinedly choose to be, charismatically or spiritually, is also necessary for the growth of our freedom in choosing higher over lesser goods, virtuously or morally.

When we choose lesser goods, we sin in a measure commensurate to our current epistemic distance, ie some sufficient degree of freedom & knowledge.

So, the essential nature of human persons includes that epistemic distancing necessary for becoming free when deliberatively choosing both between lesser & higher goods as well as among eternal goods.

Beyond the co-creative self-determination of our unique charismatic character, spiritually, epistemic distancing allows us to grow a wholly virtuous character, morally.

A finally free person will only ever deliberate among rationally desired eternal goods, choosing in a way that fits one’s spiritual character.

How did Jesus experience His finitude or axiological-epistemic distancing?

Spiritually, He fully & perfectly expressed every charism. Humanly, He deliberated – not only among eternal goods, but – between lesser & higher goods and learned from His mistaken choices, progressively closing His kenotic epistemic distancing. He thereby even grew His human freedom, even as His need to deliberate between lesser & higher goods diminished with every epistemic closure.

Never did Jesus choose a lesser over a higher good with degrees of human knowledge & freedom sufficient to constitute a sinful refusal, a self-denial of Goodness, Himself.

Afterthoughts or Prologue or Whatever

Generally, I purposefully remain radically agnostic re probabilistic & evidential approaches to the problem of evil, but I’ll share my provisional “feelings.”

I would say that we’re sufficiently distanced, epistemically, to realize, operatively if not gnoseologically, Who & What we are as imagoes Dei sans mortality.

I could, however, imagine nonphysical, eg relational, forms of death being pedagogically indispensable to our fully realizing, both operatively & gnoseologically, who we most truly are, ie participants in a concrete, social Absolute.

BUT – would we be sufficiently distanced to realize, operatively if not gnoseologically, Who & What we can become theotically as similitudines Dei sans mortality?


Further reflections

I reckon Hick & Wykstra borrowed the term epistemic distance (dang, can’t use “ED” as it’s already taken) from applied linguistics (e.g. pedagogy) & probabilistic epistemology, where the concept of epistemic distancing refers to a linguistic modality re semantic meaning, pragmatic interpretation & cognitive learning.

Personally, I receive Augustinian & Irenaean approaches, including evil as privation, soul-making & free will defenses, as establishing a mere logical compatibility between classical theism & evil.

HOWEVER, I reject all evidential theodicies in their attempts to further develop such defenses probabilistically b/c they tend to trivialize the immensity of human pain & enormity of human suffering.

YET – I do provisionally accept Stephen Wykstra’s systematic, skeptical theistic reply to evidential arguments, precisely b/c he grounds it in the epistemic distance between us & God, for it at least succeeds in showing that our failure to explain evil doesn’t confirm atheism.

A choice is forced upon us: imagining either it’s the existence of evil or God’s character that must remain unintelligible.

BECAUSE OF – DBH’s game theoretic disposal of the antecedent-consequent decree distinction is decisive over against any eternal residue of evil’s parasitic existence … and because of

God’s character revealed in Jesus & discerned by the Fathers, who embraced apocatastasis …

God’s sufficiently intelligible … and

THAT gives me all the hope I need.

Still, what place might death & other horrendous evils have in our lives?

I can only say that – from the Logos, Who’s been eternally spoken – the only logoi going forth remain those of being, well being & eternal being.

Ergo, God’s got no-thing to do with & no place for death apart from its eternal vanquishment.

THAT, not how, all this may be true, I insist!

Finally, what gets God out of the dock needn’t be based in case theory (logical defenses, evil as privation, free will) & shouldn’t be circumstantial evidence (theodicies). Juries are instructed that they can rely on character witnesses, alone, for not guilty verdicts.

Thus surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, a holy host of others standing ’round

Who do YOU say …?

Crossing the Bridge between Nostra Aetate & Amoris Laetitia

Amoris Laetitia has built a bridge between our conceptions of ecclesial communities and conjugal unions, showing us how they can all variously realize positive goods and approximate the ideals of ecclesial & conjugal relationships. James Martin has shown us how to walk across it. Continuing our explorations regarding the positive elements in all lifelong covenant […]

Crossing the Bridge between Nostra Aetate & Amoris Laetitia

A Theological Anthropological Meta-Heuristic for a Neo-Chalcedonian Cosmotheandric Universalism

A Grammatical Heuristic for the Hypostatic Union:

Person or hypostasis is primary, whether divine or human.

Christ, the person, the Logos, has an essential divine nature and a secondary human nature.
His assumption (becoming) of the latter humanizes the Logos.

The essential nature of human persons is identical to Christ’s secondary nature, but it is not a nature each person fully exemplifies or realizes, initially. It is a nature we become. That
becoming for us constitutes our deification.

The identical uncreated logoi (divine volition & energeia) that humanize the Logos, deify the
human person.

Christ is constituted by & fully exemplifies the divine & human natures.

Human persons are constituted by the same human nature, only progressively so, I would
suggest, participating in the divine nature as vestige, then image, then likeness, thereby only
signifying” the divine nature which is analogous to the human nature, which different
persons realize to varying degrees.

So human nature is analogous to the divine nature, participating as an effect proper to its
cause, resembling it to varying degrees, so signifying (semiotically) vestige, image & ,
eventually & hopefully likeness. That essential nature, when fully realized, would be identical to the human nature assumed by the Logos.

These are grammatical heuristics. BYOM (Bring your own metaphysic!)

Given that heuristic for relating the divine & human natures in the Hypostatic Union, what constitutes this shared human nature – cosmically, noetically & logically?

For every noetic form of knowing there is a corresponding form of logical engagement, as these epistemic approaches engage every aspect of our donative reality via probes that are methodologically autonomous but axiologically integral: descriptive, interpretive, evaluative, normative & contemplative. [1]

Human Agency Acts:

1) Cosmically, as vestigium Dei or Human Being, which reflects the cosmos, involves existential causes in potency to probabilistic essential causes, which include probabilistic telic realities-

teleopotent (veldopoietic),

teleomatic (cosmopoietic)

teleonomic (biopoietic) &

teleoqualic (sentiopoietic).

Divine Causal Joint:
The Spirit operates here via the Gratuity of Creation

2) Noetically, as an imago Dei or Willing Human Person, which reflects the Divine Nous of the divine esse naturale and involves efficient causes in potency to probabilistic material causes as

kinetic (dynamical) and constituting the will, which is teleological (sapiopoietic) and which responds [2] per innate nous, intellectus or sapienta, which can assent, refuse or remain quiescent (absence of refusal) & which engages

descriptively via the

perinoetic (empirical);

interpretively via the

dianoetic (logical), aporetic (diastemic), epinoetic (apophatic), & ananoetic (metaphysical);

evaluatively via the

anoetic (affective) ;

normatively via the

deonticnoetic (moral & prudential); and

contemplatively (receptively) via the

metanoetic (theotic).

Divine Causal Joint:

The Spirit willingly operates via the Gratuity of Grace on human persons as

vestigia Dei thru divine energeia through their teleopotent (veldopoietic), teleomatic (cosmopoietic), teleonomic (biopoietic) &
teleoqualic (sentiopoietic) natures (generally considered exceptional or miraculous), thereby effecting all manner of existential causes (which are efficient causes but not distinctly human) and as

similitudines Dei thru divine energeia through their semiotic natures, thereby effecting all manner of formal causes in utterly efficacious but ineluctably unobtrusive ways.

But the Spirit, condescendingly, refrains from operating on (coercing) the human will via any manner of distinctly human efficient causes (contra Reformed & Báñezian anthropologies). So the Spirit will not operate via the Gratuity of Grace without the human will’s assent or quiescence, as it will not coerce one who refuses to cooperate with Grace.

3) Logically, as a similitudino Dei or Human Becoming, which reflects the Divine Logos of the divine esse intentionale and involves formal causes in potency to probabilistic final causes as

phronetic (autonoetic) and constituting reason, which is teleological (scientiopoietic) and which responds [3] per logic or ratio, which can progressively transmute the will (metanoesis) by engaging

descriptively via the

empirical (perinoetic);

interpretively via the logical (dianoetic), diastemic (aporetic), apophatic (epinoetic) & metaphysical (ananoetic);

evaluatively via the

affective (anoetic) ; and

normatively via the

moral & prudential (deonticnoetic); and

contemplatively (receptively) via the

theotic (metanoetic).

Divine Causal Joint: The Spirit operates here via the Gratuity of Grace.

A Gelpian-Lonerganian Architectonic – a missiological meta-heuristic

Be attentive, orient, describe, truth, final causes, eschatological, protological, transjective necessity or Ens Necessarium – analog of paterological uniqueness

Be intelligent, empower, interpret, unity, efficient causes, ecclesiological, interpretive, intersubjective intimacy – analog of hypostatic unity

Be reasonable, sanctify & consecrate, evaluate, beauty, formal causes, soteriological, evaluative, charismatic, harmonic, unified self as intrasubjective integrity – analog of mystical, creaturely-divine, sophianic union

Be responsible, sustain, nurture & heal, norm, goodness, material causes, sacramental, ethical, normative, interobjective indeterminacy – analog of essential unicity

Be in love, save, contemplate, freedom, existential causes, synergy, sophiological, liberational, theotic, intraobjective Logos-logoi identity – analog of unitary energeia


[1] These furnishings of the human epistemic suite correspond roughly to Lonergan’s transcendental imperatives and eightfold functional specialties, as explicated elsewhere in my Retreblement.

[2] Noetic responses roughly correspond to aspects of “knowing” as, for example, Newman’s illative sense; Polyani’s tacit dimension; Maritain’s connaturality; Fries’ nonintuitive immediate knowledge; Peirce’s abductive instinct; Aristotle’s intuitive induction; even noesis as pistis or faith.

[3] Logical responses roughly correspond to a more reflective engagement of existence’s donative realities, which are apprehended more inchoately when appropriated, noetically.

This is a companion piece to my Retreblement – a Systematic Apocatastasis & Pneumatological Missiology per a Neo-Chalcedonian Cosmotheandrism

Also to my Cosmotheandric Universalism

NeoChalcedonian Cosmotheandric Universalism

Because the Incarnation eternally proceeds from – not the divine nature as an essential necessity, but – the divine will as a volitional inevitability, therefore 

occasioned – not by some felix culpa, but – from the cosmotheandric get-go,

apocatastasis less so seems intended as some “restitutio in pristinum statum” and moreso seems to me

an indefeasible proto-logical entailment, hence eschato-logical inevitability.

Finite persons are constituted via acts in potency, divine persons by pure act. As such, Jesus eternally humanizes the Logos and deifies human nature via the cosmotheandric incarnation, thereby implicating several types of participation per distinct but analogous forms of dynamical perichoreses:

1) trinitological between the divine persons;

2) Christological in the hypostatic union;

3) cosmological in vestigia Dei;

4) anthropological in imagoes Dei; &

5) theotic in similitudines Dei.

Through those Trinitological & Christological perichoreses, divine persons “exemplify” the divine nature.

Through those cosmological, anthropological and theotic perichoreses, human persons “signify” the divine nature.

These eternal cosmotheandric realities thus constitute the proto-logical contours of all paterology, Christology, pneumatology, Trinitology, anthropology, ecclesiology, soteriology, sacramentology, sophiology, missiology and eschatology.

These proto-logical contours logically advert to no such reality as “evil.”

While, temporally & ephemerally, privations of goodness can obtain ontologically via a “parasitic existence,”  eternally, no coherent accounts of oikonomic condescension or kenotic tzimtzum could abide same and remain logically consistent and existentially congruent with the integrally related  & inherently consonant divine logics as are revealed in our Scriptures, celebrated in our Liturgies & Devotions and realized in our Theoses.

Eternally perduring parasitic existences would render unintelligible every divine logic: proto-, Christo-, anthropo-, soterio-, ecclesio-, sophio- and eschato-

This is all developed systematically in:

Retreblement – a Systematic Apocatastasis & Pneumatological Missiology per a Neo-Chalcedonian Cosmotheandrism


By existentialist & personalist, I mean that the predicate of existence (entitative existential quantification) will precede any of essence & energy & that any theory of triadic naming (semiotic-like) will be more fundamental than any emergentist theory of triadic terms.

So, any entity, person or hypostasis is more fundamental than essences or energeia (relations).

Absolute and nonstrict identities re determinate realities will have derived from a more fundamental relative identity re nondeterminate & self-determinate realities in our realist metaphysic.

Similarity & difference must be dynamically related via constitutive functional relations of formal identity, which is quidditative for determinate realities but not nondeterminate.

Three name theory will employ both existential & universal quantification but no universal qualification for nondeterminate & self-determinate realities.

Three term theory employs existential & universal quantification; also – the universal qualification of our irreducibly triadic propositional modal ontology; as well as propositional object in/determinacy for determinate realities.

ERGO, per our emergentist (participatory) dynamic, neither essences nor relations will infinitely regress for they will have ultimately derived from, participated with and been formally identified in relation to primal energeia or primal relations or primal logoi of a primal Logos.

This avoids both a pantheism and theopanism because the determinate realities of this emergentist account will have derived – neither from primal entities, themselves, nor a primal essence, but – the primal will of Persons, Whose divine haecceity refers (indexically) to hypostases in their otherwise indescribable, unqualitative, indefinite hereness & nowness.

What, then, of the “stuff” we’re made of, much less the stuff of which divine persons were begotten (& not)?

Well, it’s not as if our account has no antinomial residue. It’s consistent but incomplete, which is an architectonic feature not a positivistic bug.

While for material determinate realities, matter, alone, suffices to individuate hypostases, even when only metaphorically & analogically, the taxonomy of immaterial determinate realities (human persons, because we are analogical images of the divine persons), can only employ a naming strategy that recognizes “that, when & where” each of us, ultimately, came to be in our thisness, hereness, nowness (even in some form of eternal simultaneity).

Who each person is remains, ultimately & ineluctably, indescribable, unqualitative and indefinite!

A contemplative pause, then gaze, then stance with respect to any beloved accesses this truth.

What we do profess is that we know from Whom and Why we emerged.

And our participatory metaphysic suggests, with its inescapably vague (in/definite) and inescapably general (not specific) terms and modal ontology, How.

Some of us learned this in our catechisms when we reached the “age of reason” prior to our Holy Communion:

“Who made us?” and “Why?”.

Only a participatory process of Anamnesis (concelebration), which facilitates forgetting, at least, some of what we learned in our Age of Enlightenment, will get us back in touch with those fundamental truths, which are more so Christological, much less so philosophical.

I’ll now turn to making a list of things to forget.

Feel free to submit. For starters:


God Out the Dock

All the talk of defenses & theodicies vis a vis the problem of evil, which are more vs less on point (though not reckoning in my universalist logic), bring to mind an analogous criminal paradigm.

A general theory of crime, classically,
must involve a rational will. A given crime involves a set of facts, evidentially. A
particular case theory interprets those facts.

Logical defenses can represent interpretive case theory arguments, including whether or not there was a crime.

Theodicies represent evidential arguments
for specific facts, which might beg explanations.

An incredibly weighty form of substantive, positive evidence is good character. It needn’t be weighted in the context of other matters. That is to say that it needn’t be considered in the context of other evidence but is an independent factor that can, by itself, engender reasonable
doubt or produce a conclusion of innocence.

Jury instructions make clear that the law recognizes that a person of good character is not likely to commit a crime contrary to that person’s nature, so, that person’s character or nature can
require a verdict of not guilty.

So, while theodicies are repugnant & defenses can be merely adequate
(understandably, nevertheless, important to many), neither are necessary to take God out of the dock, if He can assemble great cloud of (character) witnesses.

I suspect that’s how many of us roll.

The Summer of Love: Feser-Hart Redux

I was initially disappointed with Feser’s lack of earnest engagement with _TASBS_ . At the same time, I do concede that he and DBH have previously gone back & forth rather extensively & substantively. In some sense, one might ask how much more can Feser really add by way of argumentation.

See, for example:


Honestly, I really couldn’t stomach more of Feser’s revival of that ole time religion, i.e. a decadent neo-scholasticism. The disconnect for me & his ilk truly is visceral. I don’t necessarily reject Feser’s counterarguments because they aren’t logically consistent. What leaves me cold or, sometimes, even on the verge of wretching, is that such rationalistic takes as his are so existentially disappointing.

To proceed from Feser’s valid premises to check for soundness, one must also accept his terms, which, in my case, presuppose that I will have jettisoned all of my most deeply felt aesthetic sensibilities & moral intuitions.

Now, I fully expect that, post-mortem, we will all travel “beyond” those quotidian evaluative dispositions in various ways, but I certainly don’t expect we’ll travel “without” them, that any acceptable post-mortem anthropology should do such violence to my earthly experiences of all that’s been true, beautiful, good & unitive. For that matter, neither can I set aside my theophanic experiences of the here & now for the morally unintelligible theodicies on offer.

Rhetorically, I felt like DBH was interrogating me, asking how I really felt, what I most deeply valued, whom I most fervently cherished and how those relational dispositions imparted normative impetus to how I’d really respond to various thought experiments, whether now or post-mortem, whether regarding God or, let’s say, my precious children. And he was suggesting “Hold that thought! Cherish that feeling!” before engaging any syllogism!

Others, like Feser, assure me, rather, that … well, if that single damned soul is my son  … “Don’t worry. You’ll get over it.” And when we reflexively recoil & launch an invective, they complain of our harsh rhetoric.

That’s it. I’ve said much more about much else, elsewhere & here. Sometimes too much, to be sure. So, I apologize again. But these are reasons of my heart. I’m searching for arguments that are not just valid. The most taut tautologies for me will also be existentially satisfying.

In a more discursive vein, I realize that many have misinterpreted _TASBS_ as a theodicy.

What I have described above has more to do with its theophanic thrust. I eschew evidential theodicies. I resist them vehemently. But I do countenance logical defenses regarding the problem of evil. One of the bigger takeaways from DBH’s arguments, for me, was a deeper appreciation for the conception of evil as privation, which, as a concept over the years, wasn’t wholly compelling to me, although, in some ways, just sufficient. What infused that notion with more meaning was interpreting it (as  a corrollary to _TASBS_) as referring to an eschatological reality.

While I had previously bought into the idea that evil had no intrinsic existence, still, it most definitely was real and “existed” parasitically. To suggest that its parasitic existence wasn’t visible, real, etc always seemed to be wholly incoherent, lame, unpersuasive. One just could not convincingly say it was absolutely “no thing.”

Only per a universalist account can one affirm that, ultimately & eternally, evil will indeed enjoy no parasitic existence &, as a corrollary to all being realizing its Sophianic union with Being beyond being, evil will lapse into utter no-thing-ness, absolutely not existing, since no privations of the good, of being, shall perdure.

Evil may not be absolutely no thing “yet” but it is progressively “becoming” nonexistent, for we are poised to exist in fulfillment of the divine Logoi.

Anything less than the utter destruction of evil’s parasitic existence (hindering our telic realizations) will leave us with a Manichean residue and a “relatively good” God?

So, while _TASBS_ proffered no shallow evidential theodicy as misread by folks wearing the wrong hermeneutical lenses, it does seem to provide a theophany which has practical implications for grounding a modest logical defense – not Platinga’s or Stump’s, but – perhaps like M.M. Adams’?

To be clear regarding the normative role that our aesthetic sensibilities & moral intuitions play in how we judge competing theophanic accounts:

Our evaluative dispositions are integrally situated within an holistic hermeneutical spiral, which orients us to transcendental imperatives. They represent laws planted in our hearts, experienced by our consciences, which have been further informed by family life, friendships & loves, church fellowship, catechetical instruction, moral development, liturgical cultivation, formative spirituality, communal discernments & ongoing conversions, both secular & religious.

They are not to be cursorily dismissed, hastily set aside or cynically caricatured.

I personally subscribe to an axiological epistemology, as has been previously articulated by Amos Yong and I in conversation with CS Peirce, Lonergan & RC Neville.

This should be read in conjunction with:

A Collatio in Response to Edward Feser’s review of David Bentley Hart’s That All Shall Be Saved

And with:

An Open Invitation to Universalism – no matter how you square divine-human agential interaction

A Gelpian-Lonerganian Architectonic – a Missiological Meta-Heuristic

Be attentive, orient, describe, truth, eschatological, protological, transjective necessity or Ens Necessarium – analog of paterological uniqueness

Be intelligent, empower, interpret, unity, ecclesiological, interpretive, intersubjective intimacy – analog of hypostatic unity

Be reasonable, sanctify & consecrate, evaluate, beauty, soteriological, evaluative, charismatic, harmonic, unified self as intrasubjective integrity – analog of mystical, creaturely-divine, sophianic union

Be responsible, sustain, nurture & heal, norm, goodness, sacramental, ethical, normative, interobjective indeterminacy – analog of essential unicity

Be in love, save, contemplate, freedom, synergy, sophiological, liberational, theotic, intraobjective Logos-logoi identity – analog of unitary energeia

The above meta-heuristic provides the hermeneutical key to my Retreblement – a Systematic Apocatastasis & Pneumatological Missiology per a Neo-Chalcedonian Cosmotheandrism


A Moderately Libertarian Approach to the Will – with Scotistic & Maximian influences

Both Duns Scotus & Maximus the Confessor sufficiently nuance their notions of the will in ways that sufficiently navigate past both voluntarist & intellectualist flaws.

The following strategies are influenced by but not developed solely from Scotistic & Maximian approaches.

relocate primary causation (as an immediate, continuously conserving cause) to the act of existence, which is in limited potency to an essential cause

recognize that secondary causality includes realities that vary in degrees of indeterminacy

relocate the will from a formal to an efficient causal act, which is in limited potency to a material cause

relocate the operation of grace from an efficient to a formal cause, which is in limited potency to a final cause

distinguish will (self-determination) from nature (hetero-determination)

distinguish an “assent to,” a “refusal of” & an “absence of refusal of” grace (as one can cease to refuse grace without assenting to it)

distinguish three logoi of being, well-being, and eternal being, God the sole cause of the first & third, while well-being’s intermediately caused by our sponaneous movement & gnomic willing (epistemic & axiological distancing), hence, intellect’s necessarily operative but not wholly determinative in volition

attribute gnomic will to evolution not a “fall”

distinguish freedoms to assent, refuse or permit (absence of refusal)


freedom from – an indeterminate willing w/o ratio (choosing among goods, including one’s choosing whether to will at all) from

freedom to – a determinate willing w/ratio (fallibly choosing between goods, per one’s constitutive desires & needs, and privations, iow, refusing grace) and

freedom for – a self-determined or self-limited willing (as in kenosis)

Helpful Resources:

The Subtle Doctor and Free Will, Part 1, Maximus Confesses

The Subtle Doctor and Free Will, Part 2, Duns Scotus on Freedom of the Will and Divine Foreknowledge

A paradox in Scotus account of freedom of the will by Gonzalez-Ayesta

Duns Scotus on the Natural Will by C. Gonzalez-Ayesta

Chapter 4, Duns Scotus on Freedom as a Pure Perfection – Necessity & Contingency by Gonzalez-Ayesta in
Margaret Cameron ed., Philosophy of Mind in the Early and High Middle Ages: The History of the Philosophy of Mind, Volume 2, Routledge, Jul 6, 2018

St. Maximus the Confessor on the Will—Natural and Gnomic by David Bradshaw, Ph.D.

But the Problem of Free Will by David W. Opderbeck, Ph.D.

Divine Freedom & Necessity (analogues & antinomies)

no best possible worlds but a pareto front of equipoised optimalities, choosing among the perfectly good – jssylvest

Freedom and Necessity in Modern Trinitarian Theology, Oxford University Press, 2016

Brandon Gallaher shows that the classical Christian understanding of God having a non-necessary relationship to the world and divine freedom being a sheer assertion of God’s will must be completely rethought.

Review of Brandon Gallaher, Freedom and Necessity in Modern Trinitarian Theology (Oxford: OUP, 2016), Reviews in Religion & Theology 24.4 (2017): 697-699–Justin Shaun Coyle.pdf by Justin Shaun Coyle

Retreblement – a Systematic Apocatastasis & Pneumatological Missiology per a Neo-Chalcedonian Cosmotheandrism

One can find further resources regarding Scotistic & Maximian libertarian conceptions of the will within these notes, above, especially by searching for Mary Beth Ingham, Marilyn McCord Adams & Eleonore Stump.