Apocatastasis, Apokatastasis, the Eternalization of All Wholesome Trivialities – where there’s a will (divine Telos) there’s a way (to Heaven)

I’m committed to no particular theo-cosmogony and no cosmo-metaphysic, either, but it’s always seemed plausible to me that there could have been an uncreated, co-eternal formless void (in no sense some dualistic co-equal of divine forces, e.g. Manichean or otherwise).

There are ongoing scholarly debates (linguistic, etymological & exegetical) regarding cognates like tohu wa bohu and tehom, so, I don’t mean to specifically invoke them, but those debates have certainly evoked some of my thoughts, so, when I employ such concepts, I only intend to co-opt them as helpful metaphors.

To wit, then, we might well imagine neither a classical creatio ex nihilo nor a neo-classical creatio ex profundis, where the tehom refers to a primary creation (early exegesis of Augustine). And, under any circumstances, we best elide the exegetical debates, receiving Biblical accounts theopoetically not metaphysically, anyway.

But, certainly, our theopoetic narratives, theophanic encounters & theopoietic participations gift us some onto-theological & theo-ontological contours?

One such speculative take-away, I’d propose, is that our references to divine Telos must be predicated apophatically, whenever we engage in onto-theo- or theo-onto-speak. While there may indeed be a modicum of univocity, semantically, between a divine Telos, theopoetically, and our cosmic teloi, metaphysically, still, ontologically, like divine Simplicity, divine Telos “essentially” must remain a negative concept, an apophatic reference, a metaphysical placeholder for categories of Being, Reality & Relations that correspond only syntactically (i.e. not ontologically) to categories of determinate being, reality & relations.

So, while believing THAT determinate beings, realities & relations, with their cosmic teloi, participate in divine Telos, we can’t begin to proffer HOW this could be so!

Cosmic teloi might include various emergent “about-nesses” regarding the multiform “ends” of determinate realities:

end-unbounded via teleopotent veldo-poiesis (e.g. quantum fields);

end-stated via teleomatic cosmopoiesis (e.g. thermodynamics, gravity, etc);

end-directed via teleonomic biopoiesis (e.g life origins);

end-purposed via teleoqualic sentio-poiesis (e.g. what is it like to be a bat?)


end-intended via teleologic sapio-poiesis (e.g. origins of symbolic language).

Many recognize these multiform teloi within a strictly materialist monist account of determinate reality, accepting the inescapable nominalist, voluntarist &, ultimately, nihilist consequences.

Other monists recognize them within an idealist framework, accepting the pantheistic consequences, which include a principle of sufficient reason on deterministic steroids.

Ignoring the manifold & multiform aporia and question begging bruteness that unavoidably will afflict such emergentist accounts of determinate beings, realities & relations, such an infinite regression of dynamical efficient-material causes as determined by only the most ephemeral of teloi, in my view, might precisely describe a formless void, an eternal abyss wherein no formal or final causes “necessarily” perdure, otherwise merely probabilistically presenting in various degrees of in/determinacy, in an epistemic-ontic omelet never to be unscrambled.

What if, however, the divine Telos of the Ens Necessarium, substratively, super-stratively & circum-stratively, via a divine matrix, was diffused into this tehomic, formless abyss of determinate being, reality & relations, somehow inviting a creative & imitative participation in its eternal forms & finalities, its activities & works, its Love? (think divine energeia)

Might there ensue an Incarnation?

Might not every trace of human goodness, every beginning of a smile, all wholesome trivialities be eternalized?

Might we all not, apokatastatically, variously populate the firmament, whether as a tiny votive candle (e.g. that altar boy, Hitler) or as blazing helios (e.g Mother Teresa)? Overflowing our capacity, growing per eternal teloi, moving from glory to glory, beatitude to beatitude?

For every eternal Telic potency actualized would thus pierce the heavenly veil as a perfect participatory prayer or oblation, even as every merely ephemeral, tehomic teloi otherwise self-annihilates, not participating in the authentically True, Unitive, Beautiful, Good & Liberative.

A dog shaped by a trace of human goodness & desired by a human person, who’s in turn shaped by Divine Goodness, might well go to heaven, thus eternalized?

All traces of true sin (not mere finitude) might otherwise be washed white as snow, every tear wiped away?

Such a panentheistic account could square nicely with classical theism, even a neo-Platonist approach, with no need for Whiteheadian accounts that, themselves, flirt with nominalism.

Or not.

Just thinking aloud with no metaphysical horse in the theistic race.

The Re-Enchantment of a never, truly disenchanted Reality

It’s not so much choices of root metaphor, metaphysically, or whole-part stances, mereologically, that will logically force an a/theological conclusion or foreclose divine aseity & human freedom.

Rather, it’s facile conceptions of telos – not predicated equivocally as teloi.

Metaphysical & mereological choices merely leave different questions begging, eg “Why not rather nothing?” changes to “Why not rather something else?”

Causal realities require more nuance than generally employed, not only differentiating ultimate & temporal teloi, but even within the created order of determinate realities, recognizing the plurality of teloi presenting as different kinds of “aboutness.”

These telic realities will reflect various degrees of indeterminacy, which, while ontologically suggestive, remain epistemically undecidable.

Couple a much too facile & univocal conception of telos to the Principle of Sufficient Reason [PSR] with any metaphysic cum mereology du jour — and

that naive realism will morph mere methodological stipulations into full blown metaphysical philosophies, e.g. Spinozan (PSR on steroids), Denettian-Dawkinsian materialism & rationalistic theisms, which, being sylly, rely – not on faith, but – syllogisms.

A rigorous emergentism has now rehabilitated, semiotically, the never truly disabled formal-final causes, re-enchanting our never truly dis-enchanted reality.

These telic causal joints don’t present as metaphysical gaps into which we’d fideistically place our gods, but neither can the neo-Nietzscheans guard the metaphysical perimeters, where reality’s initial, boundary & limit conditions can’t a priori be declared brute rather than a donative fruit.

Is reality thus brute, fruit or mute?

For most persons & most of history, reality has been interpreted as – not at all mute, but – having spoken.

A robust existential actionability has been cashed out of that interpretation & normatively justified in terms of augmented unity, beauty, goodness & freedom.

Conceptions of divine interactivity have ranged between the remotest of deisms & most intimate of spousal mysticisms.

Such conceptions aren’t urged or constrained by our metaphysics, though, only by our theodicy-free theophanies!

Soul-making & the Greatest Good as divinely willed ends in an Anti-theodicy

As I have grappled with the problem of evil, I have been rationally satisfied by different logical accounts of the divine economy, all which seem, more or less, consistent with special revelation, some seeming not to be necessarily mutually exclusive from others, none seeming to necessarily be the case.

I view soul-making and the greatest good as divinely willed “ends” for which neither evil nor suffering are divinely willed “means,” which, instead, include, for example, epistemic distance and theosis.

Epistemic distance necessarily introduces finitude and contingency, which, while they can constitute failures to cooperate with grace, merely result from “inabilities.” While moral evil can also constitute such failures, those result, instead, from “refusals” to thus cooperate, in a word, sin.

An anti-theodicy can logically affirm both divinely willed soul-making and the greatest good as “ends,” while denying evil and suffering as necessary “means” in the divine economy? God would never intend evil or suffering but whenever confronted with same could work — not with, but — providentially against and around them and seemingly, perhaps, could even opportunistically exploit every new set of circumstances to bring about the greatest good (Romans 8).

Now, in this scenario, anthropological questions would beg for me about why we wouldn’t necessarily suffer from mistakes, only from sin (but, oh what a better world it would be!) Still, I’d rather remain theologically skeptical, on one hand, about how epistemic distance and theosis, alone, might have (even if somewhat implausibly so) operated in a possible world without evil and sin than, on the other hand, skeptical regarding God’s lack of moral intelligibility vis a vis what might exculpate Her from employing sin and suffering as necessary means (often seemingly repugnantly so).

Did Hugh McCann offer a soul-making, greater good evidential theodicy, arguing — not only “that,” logically, but — “how,” plausibly, sin and evil were “necessary” divine means?

Or did he otherwise recognize that, logically, the realities of sin and evil, even if probable, were definitely not necessary, and could successfully be worked around without overwhelming the divine economy with its eschatological, soteriological, sacramental, ecclesiological or sophiological ends?

As for the uninstantiated “possibilities” for moral evil, as logically entailed by freedom, they would have no ontological status. Arguably, too, sinful choices would result in axiological privations, evil, itself, having no ontological status?

Also, God, in McCann’s acount, appeared to be ontologically authoring, pre-morally, only an indispensable ontic evil (via epistemic distance as finitude not sin), which a proportionate reason would underwrite with the currency of a greater good, but otherwise remained teleologically uninvolved with any intentional agency, who, alone, would have directly intended such an evil, hence, alone, committing a morally culpable act.

Perhaps this is all more consistent with Scotus, who believed that the Incarnation was in the divine will from the cosmic get-go and not occasioned by some felix culpa.

God neither needs nor wills sin. Epistemic Distance requires ontic privations, not deontic depredations.