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

Layers of Analogia in Eschatological Anthropology

The musing, below, was evoked by Resurrection Prolegomena at Fr Kimel’s Eclectic Orthodoxy.

I post it here so as to avoid being inapposite to others’ more pressing concerns (as I tend to digress) and to avoid sucking the participatory oxygen out of another’s forum (as what I usually lack in general accessibility is too often only made up for by my long-windedness).

When I (most vaguely) consider the possibility of a post-mortem discarnate soul, even as somehow embodied, even with an identity as somehow constituted of different types of form, including unitary, plural & partial …

it occurs to me that Bonaventure may have well been correct in that “every act of cognition must be theology’s slave” …

because such a metaphysical anthropological account as that above, which eclectically incorporates Thomist (unitary), Bonaventuran (plural) & Scotist (partial) conceptions of forms

even if does not necessarily presuppose an eschatological, theological anthropology

does implicitly recognize that Aristotelian syllogistics, alone, cannot metaphysically account for anthropological realities to the same extent or with the same facility that it does regarding other finite determinate realities.

When we (e.g. Abelard) bridge the modal ontology of our Aristotelian syllogistics with the modal identities of our divine syllogistics, we unavoidably must employ an epistemic approach that integrally intertwines univocal semantic, analogical ontic & apophatic conceptual strategies.

The alert metaphysician, especially emergentist, semiotic realists (whether Augustinian, Bonaventuran, Scotist, Neo-platonist, Thomist, classical or process, even naturalist but, sorry, not Cartesian) recognizes that …

For finite determinate realities, we unavoidably must bridge the logics of end-stated and end-purposed realities (the merely teleomatic & teleonomic) with those of end-intended realities (the clearly teleo-logic), similarly, employing an epistemic approach that integrally intertwines univocal semantic, analogical ontic & apophatic conceptual strategies.

As epistemology models ontology, there are, unavoidably, layers of analogia required to model reality’s layers of complexity, all characters in search of their Author, all complexities in search of the Simplicity, all determinacies in search of the Ens Necessarium, as “omnes cognitiones theologiae famulantur” (every act of cognition is theology’s slave).

So, when braver (incarnate) souls than I, e.g. Paul J. Griffiths, speculate regarding eschatological anthropology, I adopt a posture of charitable interpretation that presupposes their recognition of & attendance to those requisite analogical intervals & apophatic predications that will integrally relate to & qualify their otherwise univocal semantic references.

And I expect those, who employ robustly personalist stances, both divine & human, to draw such distinctions as between esse naturale & intentionale.

Then, regarding the natures, energies & wills of divine hypostases, when incarnated, due to those analogical intervals, ontologically, they’ll necessarily refer to them only in terms of, respectively, dyophysitism, dyenergism & dyothelitism, or, at least, a properly nuanced miaphysitism.

I would expect them to apply the same degree of nuance & same deliberate parsings to the plural & partial forms that constitute human hypostases, respecting the analogical intervals & employing suitable apophatic predications between those aspects of our identities as they variously correspond to our teleomatic physicality, teleonomic physiology & teleologic intentionality.

Specifically, then, when philosopher-theologians like Griffiths speculatively refer, denotatively & putatively, to finite, determinate human realities in terms of physical primitives, i.e. mass, energy, gravity & space-time, it seems to me that he’s certainly employing the necessary parsings & nuances. For example, implicitly, his use of prefixes like im-, non-, dis- , ir- and in-, and suffixes like –less introduce the requisite apophatic bracketing. Explicitly, his citing of dis/continuities and drawing of eternal-temporal distinctions properly advert to reality’s unavoidable analogical intervals.

So, that’s all to say that I don’t see anything, a priori, logically inconsistent or internally incoherent, metaphysically.

Theologically, his eschatological anthropology remains within traditional contours, historically & exegetically, dogmatically & liturgically, pastorally & theotically, although I see a workaround in the distinctions between esse naturale & intentionale vis a vis our eternal realizations of aesthetic intensities vs scopes, where he could affirm rather than deny Greogory’s epektasis.

Systematically, though, Griffith’s work is very highly speculative, because he’s boldly conjectured beyond the vague categories of hylomorphism using a scientific idiom that remains very much a moving target, e.g. the nature of space-time or his timespace, as we’re nowhere near articulating a Theory of Everything.

As I’ve written, previously, our minimalist transcendent methodology would interrogate physical reality, for example, asking such questions as whether it’s NECESSARILY

  • volumetrically in/finite,
  • geometrically un/bounded or un/closed,
  • topologically un/re/curved,
  • spatialized temporally,
  • temporalized spatially,
  • essentially or emergently spatio-temporal,
  • a/symmetric,
  • essentially non/inflationary,
  • quasi/exponentially expansionary
  • dimensionally 2/3/4/more-D,
  • homo/hetero/genous,
  • an/isotropic,
  • uni/multi/versial,
  • with dimension/less physical constancy,
  • with non/universal constancy,
  • nomologically im/mutable

and on and on and on.

Answers to certain of these questions will necessarily implicate answers to certain others.

Suggested Reading:

I resonate more with much in the following accounts, all consistent with my Scotistic sensibilities articulated above, than with Griffith’s, but certainly consider his equiplausible versus them, metaphysically.

Thomas M. Ward, John Duns Scotus on Parts, Wholes, and Hylomorphism, Brill, 2014, Review by Robert Pasnau

Why I – rather naturally – Have No Metaphysic

B.P. Prusak, Bodily Resurrection in Catholic Perspectives, Theological Studies 61, 64-105.

Relevant Twitter Thread by John Sobert Sylvest