Struggling With Apocatastasis


Here’s an excellent post from the excellent Leah Libresco, my Patheos co-blogger who is much smarter than me, on the tension inherent in the idea of Universal Salvation (everyone goes to Heaven), or Apocatastasis, and the idea of human freedom. You can’t have Universal Salvation and human freedom, a typical argument goes, and God wants us to be free; if God just puts everyone in Heaven by fiat, the freedom of those who would rebel is negated.

Leah tries to square that circle by inviting us to look at salvation history not so much through the lens of judgement as through the lens of education. If we are educated to know and love Christ, we can embrace him without giving up our freedom. (EDIT: To be clear, Leah is not actually affirming Universalism in her post, just elaborating on a mechanism by which it could be made to work.)


This is fair enough as far as it goes. But as someone who has frequently toyed with Universalism, and has ultimately let go of affirming (but not let go of hoping for it), it’s not enough.

First of all, I think Leah will see that as far as affirming human freedom goes, viewing all of salvation history through the lens of education is also, well, rather infantilizing for humans. Of course we are all children of God and we cannot and should not ever stop learning from Him. And of course, education is a lifelong process. But the relationship between student and master is meaningless, indeed even perverse, if that relationship does not, at some point, come up to the end of that apprenticeship–and the student either standing or falling on his own.

But more importantly, I think Leah is looking at human freedom only through the lens of choice. Freedom is about free choice, and a truly free choice is a perfectly (or, at least, sufficiently) informed choice, and if we are not sufficiently informed, can we be held accountable for those choices? And if we are sufficiently informed in the next life, will we not make the right choice? I think this is very true as far as it goes. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” I think we will hear that sentence a lot in the Final Judgement. And Catholic moral theology does take it into account; a sin cannot be mortal unless it is undertaken with full knowledge and conscience; “invincible ignorance” is very invincible indeed. As our understanding of the human psyche grows, we see how high the bar for true, unrepentant mortal sin is. But is saying that enough to say that all will be saved? Is there no (unrepentant) sin that can qualify as mortal? Again, it’s hard not to see that as infantilizing.

A good example of this might be suicide. The Church used to refuse, at least at some times, Christian burial to those who committed suicide. The thinking was that if your last living act is a taking of a life, i.e. a murder, then you die in mortal sin and you are damned (although it is documented that this was never a universal view in the Church). Now with our understanding of psychology, we understand that many who commit suicide are not in fact responsible for their action; that suicide very often arises as a result of mental illness and that the one who takes his life is not responsible for the action. This might even be true of most suicides. Can we nonetheless affirm that all suicides are like this? That no person who commits suicide ever willfully chooses to do so? It seems to me that you can’t say so without an impoverished view of human nature and/or playing a sterile definitional game (anyone who commits suicide is by definition insane).

More to the point, I think there is another dimension of freedom which is not so easily captured by the lens of choice, which is having your actions carry consequences. Forgive me for jumping on my hobby horses all the time, but one key component of Montessori education is that children must use breakable objects. Glasses in Montessori classrooms are made of, well, glass, not plastic. So that if a child drops it and breaks it she sees and experiences, in the most concrete way, that her actions have consequences. And then the child has to clean it up. Montessori (and Montessori, remember, is applied Catholic anthropology) is all about education to freedom, and part of that freedom is recognizing that actions have consequences. Think of a toddler with an unbreakable plastic sippy cup. The toddler drops the cup, which bounces off the floor harmlessly. The nearby parent, a bit harried, reflexively sighs, maybe hisses a reproach to the child, picks up the sippy cup and shoves it back in the child’s hands. At no point in that sequence was the child in control of anything. The child is being taught that her actions have no consequences–the sippy cup was dropped and then magically reappeared in her hand; she is told not to drop things but there are no (intrinsic) negative consequences if she does–and she is reproached for behaving in the way that she is clearly expected to, i.e. irresponsibly (in the most literal sense: without responsibility). NB: I have done the thing I am criticizing here many times; nobody is perfect.

Having our actions carry consequences is a deep, deep need of the human soul. It is part of our Imago Dei: God is the one whose actions always have consequences. He merely speaks the Universe into existence. The Myth of Sisyphus is so powerful precisely because of this. That may be the ultimate form of torture: a realm where our actions have no consequences.

If there’s one thing the Bible says about this world, it’s that it is really really important. The world is not an illusion to be transcended, nor is it a prison to be escaped from. The Heavenly Jerusalem will not be some other reality, but this reality, albeit healed and divinized. And not only that, but men have a key role in bringing about the Heavenly Jerusalem and in building it in anticipation of the great Revelation. Adam’s task–the one at which he fails, sending the entire drama of existence as we know it into motion–is to tend the garden, i.e. divinize the world. According to the Talmud, and I see no reason for Catholic Tradition not to agree, God purposefully created the Universe with “holes” in it–holes meant to be filled by humans. Riffing off this, Vladimir Volkoff beautifully wrote that God created the Universe, from all eternity, with a hole in the “shape” of Beethoven’s 9th, and Beethoven’s vocation as an artist was to sense the hole, and the shape of the hole, and build something that would fit just right–and, of course, all of us have a similar vocation. Here’s the point–you want actions to have consequences? Every human action, according to the Bible, has eschatological consequence. Jesus’ glorious body, His Heavenly Body, has wounds.

To say that all–not most, but all–who die having willfully and knowledgeably and unrepentantly committed very grave sins and refused God’s grace will nonetheless receive it in the afterlife is ultimately to say that our actions here in this world have no consequences. There is literally nothing you can do to separate yourself from God’s grace. I am reminded of that generalization of Murphy’s Law that doesn’t just say “What can go wrong, will” but “Everything that can happen, will.” Is the only thing that can’t happen is for someone to willfully, knowledgeably, unrepentantly, both in mind and action, refuse God’s grace? I am highly sympathetic to the idea that most sin is really victimization, disease, unfree choice due to corruption rather than active rebellion. But the idea that this is true of all sin is, ultimately infantilizes human nature to a degree that just doesn’t jibe with what I take to be Catholic Tradition and Biblical witness, and orthodox Christian anthropology more generally.

Which brings to mind the following, uncomfortable question: if so, what’s the point? Of all existence.

I don’t mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way. And I mean it in particular in relation to human suffering. To me, the only possible explanation for human suffering that makes sense is the necessity of human freedom. That God makes His creatures free and therefore evil is injected into the Universe. If this human freedom is not radical (in the etymological sense: down to the root), if it does not have eschatological significance, then, quite simply, I don’t see how there is a point to the whole drama of human existence as Biblical Tradition relates; God could have just skipped the whole thing.

Let me put it this way. There was a piece a while ago on the Huffington Post by a guy whose pitch was “I’m a Christian and I’m an abortionist.” Nevermind the actual author of the piece. I just don’t think that someone who (a) identifies as a Christian and views that identity as important; (b) is an abortionist; (c) never repents; can be saved. That person would be someone whose entire adult life would be a long middle finger to God. Can most abortionists be saved? (Gulp.) Maybe. For many of them, there can be invincible ignorance, although invincible ignorance is not the same as denial, and I think it is very hard (impossible?) to do that work day in and day out and not realize that you are killing human beings. But for someone who identifies as a Christian? Again, I am not talking about the actual author of the piece, it is impossible for me to judge, just drawing a theoretical case from it. But in this case I think what we would have is someone who willfully chooses separation from God.

I write here as one who has great sympathy for Universalism. As Hans Urs von Balthasar writes, there is a strong rational basis for hoping that all will be saved. I do believe that the bar for true, unrepentant mortal sin is very high indeed, and God’s mercy astonishing. I am also an “anti-anti-Universalist”; there is clearly a very, very unhealthy tendency among some Christians to crave for the existence of Hell, to crave for the eternal suffering of demonized Others, that comes out in response to many Universalist or quasi-Universalist arguments. The idea that there is a truly astonishing breadth and depth to God’s grace is an important one, and a one that needs to be contemplated more.

But I think that ultimately Leah’s argument fails to get at the true measure of human freedom as I believe it is described in the Bible and as I understand Catholic Tradition to describe it.

Francesco Botticini – The Assumption of the Virgin” by Francesco Botticini – Unknown. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Like Patheos Catholic on Facebook!


Pope Francis Should Institute A Year of Confession
The Religion-Gospel Dichotomy
When All Earthly Hopes Fade, That Old-Time Religion Can Be A Lifeline
How To Rebuild Your Life In One Simple Step
  • Alvin Kimel

    “To say that all–not most, but all–who die having willfully and knowledgeably and unrepentantly committed very grave sins and refused God’s grace will nonetheless receive it in the afterlife is ultimately to say that our actions here in this world have no consequences.”

    You seem to be assuming that the universalist believes that folks will be saved without repentance and conversion. Perhaps some universalists do so this, but that was certainly not the position of Origen, St Gregory of Nyssa, and St Isaac the Syrian, nor is it the position of more recent universalist expositors, such as Sergius Bulgakov, Thomas Talbott, and Eric Reitan–nor is it the position of Richard Beck, whose article on universalism prompted Leah’s piece.

    Let me ask you a counter-question, if I may: does heaven require a populated hell? It seems to me that your principal argument in this article requires that conclusion.

    • oregon nurse

      “You seem to be assuming that the universalist believes that folks will be saved without repentance and conversion.”

      I’m not speaking for the author but the RC teaching is that repentance has to come before death at which point our will is unchangable. I struggle with that and I think it can be more nuanced than such a seemingly bright line. I’m not sure we even know when physical ‘death’ actually occurs. We have begun playing around with that definition re: brain death vs heart/lung cessation vs cellular death of the whole body. RC teaching talks about death being the point at which the soul separates from the body but clearly we don’t know if that is a precise moment, a process, or exactly when it happens. That is what causes me to think that there may be something around or even after the time we think of as death in which the soul still has free will to repent. For some it may take lifting the veil more than what is knowable to them during conscious life. However, the RC also says never presume that you can sin and repent at the last moment. It makes sense to me that there is a very important reason for coming to conversion in this life and even if there is an after-death possibility I think it must have ramifications to have delayed so long. In justice to all who fight sin in this life, I don’t see how it could be better to do so.

      • Alvin Kimel

        You are quite right about official RC doctrine. Anyone who dies in a state of mortal sin is damned. Period. This poses a problem for Catholics who wish to espouse universal salvation, as has been pointed out by Balthasar’s critics.

        • Theodore Seeber

          My response to that is this: If one is willing to admit that what one did WAS a sin and IS wrong and one is repentant for it, then it is no longer a mortal sin.

          If however, one tells God, not thy will but my will be done, it wasn’t a sin- that is deserving of eternal damnation. God, through His Divine Choice, has chosen not to overrule us in our own consciences.

          Therefore, while I’d want Hell to be empty, it probably isn’t.

    • Theodore Seeber

      A good Catholic universalist is one who believes in the concept of purgatory and the lack of permanence of hell.

      Heaven does not require a populated hell; but Heaven *DOES* require a converted population in Heaven.

      I make other universalists mad when I say that by the definition of the Church, everybody in Heaven is Catholic (part of the Church Triumphant) whatever they were in this life.

  • Kasoy

    Here are the words of Jesus to Josefa Menendez:

    - Judas cast into Hell
    - even at the last second of life, we can be forgiven if only we do not fall into despair
    (despair is the sin that cannot be forgiven because it is the sinner who refuses to accept God’s forgiveness out of pride or ignorance – according to Catherine of Siena to believe that one’s sin is greater than God’s mercy is the sin of despair)

    “After the betrayal in the Garden of Olives, Judas wandered away, a fugitive, a prey to the reproaches of his conscience which taxed him with the most execrable of sacrileges. And when he heard that I was condemned to death, he gave himself up to despair and hanged himself.

    “Who can measure the deep and intense grief of My Heart when I saw this soul so long taught by love . . . the recipient of My doctrine, one who had so often heard from My lips words of forgiveness for the most heinous crimes, finally throw himself into Hell fire?

    “Ah! Judas, why not throw yourself at My feet that I may forgive you too? If you are afraid to come near Me because of the raging mob that surrounds Me, at least look at Me. . . . My eyes will meet yours, for even now they are lovingly intent upon you.

    “O all you who are steeped in sin, and who for a time more or less long have lived as wanderers and fugitives because of your crimes . . . if the offenses of which you have been guilty have hardened and blinded your hearts . . . if to grant satisfaction to one or other of your passions you have sunk into evil ways . . . Ah! when the motives or accomplices of your sin have forsaken you, and you realize the state of your soul, O then, do not yield to despair! For as long as a breath of life remains a man may have recourse to mercy and ask for pardon.

    “If you are still young, if already the scandals of your life have lowered you in the eyes of the world, do not be afraid. . . . Even if there is reason to treat you as a criminal, to insult and cast you off . . . your God has no wish to see you fall into the flames of Hell. . . . On the contrary He ardently desires you to come to Him so that He may forgive you. If you dare not speak to Him, at least look at Him and let the sighs of your heart reach Him, and at once you will find His kind and fatherly hand stretched out to lead you to the springs of pardon and life.

    “Should it happen that you have spent the greater part of your life in impiety and indifference, and that the sudden approach of the hour of death fills you with blinding despair. . . . Ah! do not let yourself be deceived, for there is still time for pardon. If only one second of life remains to you, in that one second you can buy back eternal life!

    “If your whole life has been spent in ignorance and error . . . if you have been a cause of great evil to other men, to society at large, or to religion, and if through some set of circumstances you have come to realize that you have been deceived . . . do not allow yourself to be crushed by the weight of your sins and of the evil of which you have been the instrument; but with a soul penetrated with deep contrition throw yourself into an abyss of confidence, and hasten to Him who awaits your return only to pardon you.

    “The case is the same for a soul that has been faithful to the observance of My law from childhood, but who has gradually cooled off into the tepid and unspiritual ways of an easy life. She has so to say forgotten her soul and its higher aspirations. God was asking of her greater efforts, but blinded by habitual failings, she has fallen into tepidity worse than actual sin, for her deaf and drowsy conscience neither feels remorse nor hears the voice of God.

    “Then, perhaps, that soul awakens with a shock of realization: life appears to have been a failure, empty and useless for her salvation. . . . She has lost innumerable graces, and the evil one, loath to lose her, makes the most of her distress, plunges her into discouragement, sadness and dejection . . . and finally casts her into fear and despair.

    “O soul whom I love, pay no heed to this ruthless enemy . . . but as soon as possible have recourse to Me, and filled with deepest contrition implore My mercy and have no fear. I will forgive you. Take up again your life of fervor, and you will have back your lost merits, and My grace will never fail you.

  • Theodore Seeber

    I wonder if we will ever get to a day when every act of suicide is self-murder, if only for refusing the treatments for immortality.

  • jeanvaljean24601

    Several points come immediately to mind.

    The “Damnationists” (sorry, but I need a tag to call them if the other side are the Universalists) make a big assumption, with which they then arrive at a predetermined conclusion. Free Will. It seems to a non-philosopher they have assumed unlimited human freedom in order to secure the necessity of Hell, Hell following from freedom. However, if there is no Unlimited Human Freedom, there need be no hell. There are few, or no, unlimited conditions known to humanity other than those which are of God (Unconditional Love, Being, Intelligence, etc.) If freedom is not unlimited, then how can anyone burn in hell forever? (experience spiritual/mental pain whilst in the hospital being cured, yes. However the very notion of Punishment, especially Eternal Punishment, appears to be more an idea of Man than of God.

    However, freedom is affirmed that hell may also be affirmed. That may not be the argument they make, but it is the assumption they seem to be making.

    Also, it is affirmed people who are insane are not culpable. Really? Then is there a perfectly rational human being? No? Are we all not a bit Theologically Insane? And, in the provenance of God, is not every disease curable? Then, if curable, then eventually, in God’s time, cured. And hence, in Heaven.

    Then there is the evasiveness I see in Damnationists. It’s a “Don’t Blame
    Me, Blame God,” excuse, as if they would just as soon have everyone go to
    heaven, but, “well, you know God. Hell is His idea, not mine, so what can you do against the Big Dude?” And, frankly, I see it as morally and intellectually cowardly that they can not come right out and say, “Yeah, THAT jerk should burn forever, because s/he offended ME!”

    Lastly, all around, we see a certain unity. One God. One Universe. One human race. One moral rule for all. Yet, suddenly, there are Two destinies? Is it not more appropriate to consider One destiny, for All? Either everyone goes to Heaven (after suitable healing), or NO ONE goes! (either Hell or annihilation.)

    These thoughts are just random, however, they are as they came reading the above essay. Go ahead, tell me how wrong I am, and why. Please, don’t use the old, “God Told Me To Tell You,” be original.

    • Kasoy

      If you are a Catholic, then you may read the accounts of the mystics (revelations from God) about the truths of Heaven, Hell, Purgatory. see my previous post here for the link to one. The Fatima children related their vision of Hell and the Virgin Mary’s call for prayers, sacrifices for the conversion of sinners.

      • oregon nurse

        IMO, mystic revelations employ just as much allegory, metaphor, and poetry as the Bible. You have to be careful not to take them all literally. And even approved revelations can have specific details that are not theologically sound.

        • Kasoy

          You may want to read ‘The Way of Divine Love’. This is just a simple narration of events that took place based on the first hand experience of the nun in the 1920′s (Sis Josefa Menendez). It is more like the one written under obedience by Sis Faustina of the Divine Mercy. It is not the same as those written by John of the Cross.

      • jeanvaljean24601

        You may have noticed the Vatican has not made the alleged revelations of these people articles of faith. With good cause. A Catholic is not obligated to believe any of that stuff, any more then anyone (except Mormons) are obligated to believe the visions of Joseph Smith.

        As I noted above, Please, don’t use the old, “God Told Me To Tell You,” charlatans of all lands and times have used that ploy to put over something absurd on the spiritually weak and ignorant. Credulity is not faith, rather is anti-faith.
        I see the problem as one of assuming an Unlimited Free Will on the part of humans. Can anyone show that we have such? Argue like St. Thomas Aquinas. Again, if we do not have unlimited free will, we will not be condemned (or self-referred if you like) to Hell because God will always find an excuse not to torture us forever.
        Or, does anyone LIKE the idea of many folks burning forever?

        • Kasoy

          If it is true that everyone goes to heaven regardless of one’s actions on earth, then the best way to attain heaven is to commit suicide. If this is true (universal salvation), killing my loved ones is the most loving thing I should do to them so they can attain heavenly bliss immediately and avoid anymore suffering on earth.

          But most people will agree that suicide and killing are wrong.

          • jeanvaljean24601

            There is a vast difference between “going straight to Heaven”, and “going to be healed before you get there”.

            Has nobody ever mentioned that Purgatory is not a picnic area? Yet, it is not the “upper part of Hell”, but the “lower part of Heaven”.

            Distinguish between suffering for punishment, and suffering while being healed. Both hurt (I am forced to use metaphorical language here), but there are differences in the experience. (At least, if Dante’s poetry has any foundation at all — metaphorically speaking.)

            Love is willing the good of the Other as Other (and not as a department of Self.) If your loved one is Simon-pure, a Living Saint, then, yes, you *would* be doing them a favor.

            However, this entails knowledge denied to ordinary mortals, and unless you are more than an ordinary mortal… Not to mention you will incur more necessary healing on your own behalf??

            It is an absurd argument.

            However, I have noted that most Damnationists seem to believe God always agrees with their opinions, so…

    • Bruno

      There is nothing wrong with “God Told Me To Tell You”. Insofar as no man has any knowledge of the afterlife, Revelation is unequaled by speculation.

      If the idea of Hell seems to you more like an idea of man than of God, and you claim that you recognize that Jesus is who He said He was and accept the authority of His apostles and Church, than you seem to find yourself in a contradiction, for the stern words of Jesus on these issues are not few.

      That said, you may read the Book 21 of Saint Augustine’s City of God, available here: . I trust he can answer your objections better than I could.

      • jeanvaljean24601

        I have no problem with the “stern words” of the Lord. I DO have a problem with the interpretation people place on those words. Protestants (well, some of them) believe in an infallible Bible, However, that infallibility does not extend to their hermeneutic.

        We are obliged to believe there is such a place/condition as Hell. We are not obliged to believe anyone is permanently in such a place/condition. It very well may be a “purgatory.” For which, I refer you to Father Robert Barron on the topic.

        • Bruno

          I read it. And Father Barron doesn’t deny hell’s existence, nor eternal punishment; that hell is actually purgatory is your own interpretation. To me, Fr. Barron only seems to follow Hans in asserting that Christians may HOPE for apocatastasis. Does that mean we can go around claiming that there is no hell, and perhaps even commit a murder or two? No, it means that you are free to HOPE and ask for it, rather than proclaiming it to be “man’s idea”, which may actually be a sort of blasphemy.

          If the idea of hell really makes you uncomfortable, as it makes me, I’ll tell you my own way of dealing with it: praying Our Lady of Fatima’s prayer:

          “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the
          fires of hell, and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most
          need of Your Mercy”

          • jeanvaljean24601

            I believe we may be misreading each other.

            Please, look at what I actually wrote:
            *We are obliged to believe there is such a place/condition as Hell. We are not obliged to believe anyone is permanently in such a place/condition. It very well may be a “purgatory.”* This is no different than the Father Barron reference.

            How does one leap into the desirability of murder so quickly? It is an extreme case, and may make your point faster than mentioning a lesser sin, but to me, it is in line with a reaction which refuses even to think about things which are speculative.

            Nowhere do I deny the existence of Hell, not any other thing you seem to think I am guilty of. I do not regard Hell as a man-made idea. It is disingenuous to suggest I have blasphemed by such speculation, especially when I did not.

            I do regard some of the speculative theories about Hell as man-made. To chide me for what I said is well within the bounds of legitimate discourse, but not for what you read into what I said.

            There are varying degrees of belief from “de fide” to that which is condemned. Along the way are intermediate positions, such as that which is neither condemned nor condoned, but tolerated pending further light. There are also such things as “private revelations”, of which Marian apparitions are one, which are OK to believe, but not mandatory.

            I have encountered many people, and may have mistaken you for one, who act as “Guardians of the Faith”, while having no more authority than a fig. It is to them, I proclaim they should not use the argument, “God Told Me To Tell You.” It is a usurpation of a position they do not have.

            Finally, I was hoping for someone to engage with theological argument, not for condemnation of an idea without discussion.

            Obscurantism does not advance the faith, and only gives ammunition to “the cultured despisers of religion”. It was admittedly a fond wish.

            If you have anything beyond “you shouldn’t think that”, I will be most glad to talk further.

          • Bruno

            I suppose I should fell honored that you prefer me to St.

            The first argument, then. You claim that: “1. Hell is a
            necessity of unlimited Free Will; 2. There may be no such Unlimited Free Will; 2.1 Indeed, in man there is no such thing as Unlimited Free Will, because only God has unlimited attributes; 3. Man having such limited freedom, he cannot make an eternal choice.”

            Well then.

            1. Regarding the first assumption, an important observation: it is not from free will that we conclude for the existence of hell. We believe in hell first and foremost because we’ve been told that there is a place for the wicked. The relations you put forth between limited and unlimited freedom are your own attempts to reconcile such severe punishment with God’s perfect
            justice and mercy. If there is no such thing as unlimited freedom, rather than discarding Revelation, Magisterium and the essential mystery of God’s inscrutable ways, we must first reexamine the concepts and relations of necessity we put forth to see if there is no alternative justification for hell. Is your argument so compelling so as to discard these factors and at the same time to preclude the search for new arguments, in openness to mystery?

            2. I think not, and here is why. I have a problem with the
            idea of “Unlimited Freedom”. Leave aside the fact that freedom is not material and thus assigning limits to it is not proper, as limits are a quality of matter. Could we call it Perfect Freedom? It would seem better, but there is still a problem; you have not defined what makes “Perfect Freedom” different from “Imperfect Freedom” besides perfection (or ‘unlimitedness’), neither in nature nor in effects. As you have not done so, I will do it for you, but only in point 3.

            2.1 Be that as it may, you claim that only God has Perfect Freedom. Let me put you this question: what of satan and his angels? Have they not chosen to rebel, and in rebelling were sentenced to a terrible and eternal
            fate? So they have made a choice regarding their eternal fate. 1. if these damned were perfectly free, then perfect freedom is not an attribute which pertains solely to God; 2. If these damned were not perfectly free, then perfect freedom is not necessary to make a choice of eternal consequence.

            2.2 The argument above refutes your argument. “1” and “2” are refutations of, respectively, your statements on “2.1” and “3”, as per the way I numbered them.

            3. The above closes my argument and, to my view, suffices. Still, I said I would give a definition of Perfect Freedom… I lied, I’ll only try to guess what you mean by it. And I think you mean two things: (i) Perfect Freedom is what enables a man to choose his definitive destiny, even to the point of no repentance; and (ii) Perfect Freedom is what enables a perfectly informed choice; therefore is equivalent to, or at least inseparable from, Omniscience.

            3.1 Regarding meaning “i”, I think you say that such choice is impossible. I answer, such choice is perfectly possible, and we make several everyday. If I choose to have muffins instead of cake on a given day, then I
            have forever foregone the possibility of having had cake at that day.

            3.2 Regarding meaning “ii”, I think you say that no man has the full grasp of the consequences of his actions. Assuming this would imply also the assumption that God’s grace and revelation are insufficient for salvation
            (because insufficient to prevent damnation of the ignorant man). How exactly they are sufficient, I can’t tell and neither can you, but does that allow me to assume that they are not? In fact, in assuming that they are not, do I not reject the notion that God is just? And if I do so, how come are we at pains to explain hell according to divine justice, which we have just now rejected?

            3.2.1 So suppose I had been told by the baker that the muffin I chose over my cake had rotten eggs in its composition, due to the sabotage of his wicked helper (which for some mystery the baker allowed to work!), but I chose to have it nonetheless because it looked so shiny and was convinced that the baker was keeping something from me – perhaps I didn’t like his moustache. Tell me, was I not as free to choose the muffin as I was free to reject the advice? If I had taken the advice, wouldn’t I have the right and sufficient information? Am I not, therefore, to blame for choosing the muffin?


            As for the unity argument, it doesn’t make much sense. A “certain unity” doesn’t do justice to rebellion amongst the angels, nor of there effectively being freedom (since there seems to be nothing to choose between, as ALL IS ONE), nor to man knowing good and evil. Redemption has no special value, since it is a false happening, since there was nothing to redeem. And
            evil is all an illusion – therefore good, too, an illusion, and….


            I mean, that is really all that remains for us to say, OHHHMMM, like the Hindus. Now let’s wait for our salvation and annihilation brought by undifferentiated nirvana, and be freed from the burdens of existence!
            Where did you get this unity thing from? Teillard de Chardin? Theosophists? Sufis?

          • jeanvaljean24601

            My! Thank you for this posting. It is exactly what I was hoping to find. At a first glance, all arguments are very good. It will take me some time, a day, at least, to go over them, so I ask for patience in order to make a thoughtful reply.
            (Your 3.1 on “opportunity cost” is a good one.) As stated in my first, I am no philosopher and all these silly ideas are ones which I came up with on my own, ruminating on my front porch. (I have heard the name of Chardin, but have read nothing of his, nor do I know anything of the theosophists, but I once read the alleged sayings of Nasrudin.)
            A word of explanation, I haunt these websites in order to learn. I do not learn from diatribe, but from reasoned discourse. My propositions are intended to provoke someone with knowledge to respond. Too often, responses have fallen into condemnation or bullying or an uncritical agreement, as if I were trashing faith by proposing things to think about.
            And, yes, you may be flattered, if you wish, since Augustine is not available for conversation, and you have shown the courtesy of being so.
            As said, allow me to look these items over before making a reply.

          • jeanvaljean24601

            Firstly. Thank you again for taking the time to make such a thoughtful and detailed brief.

            As you probably suspect, your points are not entirely convincing (to me). They are, however, not without
            merit, and I would like to deal with them on their merits.

            To begin, you began by writing, “You claim…” and list
            several propositions. To be perfectly accurate, what I actually wrote was, “It seems to a non-philosopher they (Damnationists) have assumed unlimited human freedom in order to secure the necessity of Hell…” That was my mistake, since I should have used the qualifier “some Damnationists”. My personal argument, and one which you may find even more scandalous, will be given later.

            However, you do bring up something worthy of discussion. If I understand your point, you are saying that human beings have sufficient sanity, rationality, and knowledge to deserve punishment when they do wrong (and fail to repent) because they sufficiently comprehend the consequences of their choices. If this is not your point, please advise.

            Also, in a previous post to the excellently detained one,
            you appear to be saying that the idea of Hell is a deterrent against wicked behavior. Again, if this is not what you
            are saying, pleased advise.

            I do not wish to go further until certain I am understanding
            what you are actually saying, rather than some strange interpretation of what you are saying.

          • Bruno

            I have got a new insight, but will save it for later in order not to prevent you from making your argument.

            1. “[..]you are saying that human beings have sufficient sanity, rationality, and knowledge to deserve punishment when they do wrong (and fail to repent) because they sufficiently comprehend the consequences of their
            choices. If this is not your point, please advise.”

            Sort of, with qualifications. First, (a) I object to “sufficiently comprehend the consequences” and would replace it by “comprehend the risks of their choices”; and (b) that assertment is only fully valid prior to original sin.

            2. “[...] you appear to be saying that the idea of Hell is a deterrent against wicked behavior. Again, if this is not what you are saying, pleased advise.”

            Yes, it seems to me that a consequence of believing in Hell is avoiding wicked behavior, although I would deny that this is “the purpose of Hell”. I further admit that belief in Hell may worsen the behavior of individuals in state of despair, but such despair results also from ignorance of the gift of salvation, or its rejection, insofar as these things are separable.

      • jeanvaljean24601

        And, you will forgive me if I seriously doubt that God told YOU to tell ME anything.

        • Bruno

          No problem with that, I don’t claim to be a prophet. Only used your words.