Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Universalism amongst the early church fathers

If this is correct, universalism was, if anything, more prevalent than the doctrine of everlasting torment in the Patristic era.

50 comments:

BenYachov said...

Wow what bullshit!

http://www.catholic.com/library/Hell_There_Is.asp

I've read JW's try to misrepresent the Fathers to claim they denied the Deity of Christ and the Trinity.

This garbage is in the same vain.

BenYachov said...

BTW what do we mean by "Universalism" when we claim the Fathers taught it?

Do we mean punishment in Hell wasn't eternal?

Or do we mean the Jewish view of Universalism(that the righteous of all nations will be saved or Persons who are not Christians threw no fault of their own might be saved)?

Or are you just confusing the doctrine of purgatory in it's primitive form with universalism?

http://www.catholic.com/library/Roots_of_Purgatory.asp

This may impress some Evangelicals but Catholics and Eastern Orthodox will not be impressed by this rape of the Fathers.

Gregory said...

If the original essayist had actually spent time reading the Greek Fathers, instead of relying on academic footnotes about the Greek Fathers, then he would hardly have reached such dogmatic conclusions.

Here's a quote from Clement of Alexandria taken from "On the Salvation of the Rich Man":

"For he who in this world welcomes the angel of penitence will not repent at the time he leaves the body, nor be ashamed when he sees the Savior approaching in His glory and with His army. He fears not the fire. But if one chooses to continue and to sin perpetually in pleasures, and values indulgence here above eternal life, and turns away from the Savior, who gives forgiveness; let him no more blame either God, or riches, or his having fallen, but his own soul, which voluntarily perishes."

This hardly squares with Brian's assertion that:

"Clement declares that all punishment, however severe, is purificatory; that even the 'torments of the damned' are curative."

Let's also hear St. Gregory of Nyssa in the matter concerning the rich man and Lazarus:

"This, in my opinion, is the 'gulf'; which is not made by the parting of the earth, but by those decisions in this life which result in a separation into opposite characters. The man who has once chosen pleasure in this life, and has not cured his inconsiderateness by repentance, places the land of the good beyond his own reach; for he has dug himself the yawning impassable abyss of a necessity that nothing can break through. This is the reason, I think, that the name of Abraham's bosom is given to that good situation of the soul which Scripture makes the athlete of endurance repose....Meanwhile the denial of these blessings which they witness becomes in the others a flame, which burns the soul and causes the craving for refinement of one drop out of that ocean of blessings wherein the saints are affluent; which nevertheless they do not get."

Taken from "On the Soul and Resurrection". For brevity's sake, I did not finish the entire passage where he describes those who are so wedded to earthly passion that there is no remittance in the age to come.

This hardly jibes with Brian's assertion that:

"From the days of Clement of Alexandria to those of Gregory of Nyssa and Theodore of Mopsuestia (A.D. 180-428), the great theologians and teachers, almost without exception, were Universalists."

I would encourage an actual reading of Patristic writers before making such dogmatic assertions about their views.

These same Greeks are the ones who gave assent to the Creed's words:

"And He shall come again to judge the living and the dead, whose Kingdom shall have no end."

But, in truth, the flames of God's holiness (Heb. 12:29) will be a gentle hearth to the righteous and a tormenting pyre to the wicked (Isaiah 66:22-24)....and it is "eternal" precisely because Christ's "Kingdom shall have no end."

That is why, my friends, He will come again to "judge the living and the dead". Make no mistake about that.

Otherwise, the Creed would have had Origen's stamp:

"He shall come again to restore all things"

Gregory said...

Christ's return is His judgment. It is a judgment of "love". It will be the complete revelation of Divine love. For those that love, it will be joyous. For those that hate, it will be a horror because their hatred---hate, of which, the hateful will not let go of---will forever be consumed by God's love.

If God should have his angels cast the wicked into eternal "blackness", it is out of mercy. For God is willing to give even the damned a respite from the torments of His love.

But to those who had been give more knowledge of God, more opportunities to repent, etc., will have less respite because their "knowledge" makes it that much harder to cloak the presence of God's love...to make it that much harder to shield themselves from God by ignorance.

Consequently, all will acquiesce the fairness of God because all will see that His only intentions are for good, peacefulness, forgiveness and love. Even in the age to come, nothing is blocking the sinner from God's mercy and forgiveness. Even then, God is still "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to eternal life". But, sadly, as the Lord said of apostate Israel:

"Ye were not willing"

BenYachov said...

Thank you Gregory!

It is a small truth that a small number of Fathers (2 or 3 and I am talking about guy who are Saints. Origen is out) might have believed this but to claim it is the majority view is clearly dishonest!

Morrison said...

If Universalism is true, then Hitler got a away with it.

In that case, who gives a damn what anybody does?

And why bother blogging about it?

Jason Pratt said...

The author has some good points, but strains too hard (and is at least somewhat misleading) in others.

I should however point out that quite a few Eastern Orthodox will in fact "be impressed", since universal reconciliation is not a forbidden doctrine among them and never has been, allowing high ranking theologians among them to hold it if they see enough reason to do so. This was a key point in early centuries after the East/West schism when popes were setting terms to Eastern congregational bodies papal loyalty: rejecting a belief in universal reconciliation was one of the terms of accommodation to Rome.

But mainly I stand aside and watch when people who talk about the Patristics talk about the Fathers believed and in what ways and to what extents. {g} Important topics, but not something I have any expertise in.


Now, if we're talking about theological coherency (metaphysics) or scriptural exegetics, I'm willing to hop up and down as much as anyone! {g!}

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

So for example...

Gregory: {{That is why, my friends, He will come again to "judge the living and the dead". Make no mistake about that.}}

Christian universalists, myself included, do not in the least deny that Christ shall come again to judge the living and the dead, including with eonian judgment. We dispute compared to non-universalists (and including among ourselves to some extent) what "eonian" means, necessarily and/or contextually, as well as what God's judgment involves in what aims to accomplish (and what will be accomplished in it).

At this point I would usually comment on the references to Heb 12 and Is 66; but since this thread is supposed to be about "universalism among the early church fathers", I won't bird-dog off on that--except to note that Heb 12:29 (much less the overall topic of that chapter) is hardly about our God the consuming fire being a gentle hearth to the righteous, even though it is certainly a statement of strongly expectant hope for salvation from sin for the errant sinners whom God loves and keeps on persistently loving.


And I will add that I don't think I would disagree in the least with Gregory's second comment as written!--except that I would bet on God instead of the sinner, that omnipotence and omniscience will omnipresently lead the sinner someday to repentance. (And I would point to various scriptural indications that God has revealed He will eventually in the Day of the Lord to come succeed in His goal at this.)

But even if I thought the scriptures indicated a never-ending stalemate on this, I would still be theologically a universalist for believing in God's scope and persistence in acting to save all sinners from sin, even if the sinner happened to always afterward remain willfully unwilling to repent.


Relatedly to Morrison: nope, Hitler still didn't (and won't) "get away with it" even if universalism is true; except in whatever sense you think you have "gotten away with it" in regard to any sins you have done in your life (and yet will be / have been saved from your sin and your sinning thanks to the grace of God.)

But as no penitent sinner, myself included, would claim to have "gotten away" with our sins as a result of our having been saved, neither should we consider any other sinner who is ever saved from sin to have "gotten away with it". Including Hitler if God saves him from his sins. (Or Satan for that matter.)

JRP

Anonymous said...

On the contrary, if Hitler is going to be saved no matter what...as per universalism...then he indeed did "get away with it".


Jeremy Mancuso, MU at Columbia.

Walter said...

If Hitler were to have repented and asked Jesus into his heart before his death, would we not say that he "got away with it"?

Should we only be good to escape punishment and reap rewards, or should we strive to be good for goodness sake, as Saint Nick has always told us?

Jason Pratt said...

Thank you for your unreasoned assertion to the contrary, Jeremy. {g} When you're ready to address what I actually wrote (which does not involve a case of "no matter what", except in the sense that God seeks to save sinners while we are still sinners instead of waiting for us to become righteous before seeking to save us), you're welcome to do so anytime.

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Walter: {{If Hitler were to have repented and asked Jesus into his heart before his death, would we not say that he "got away with it"?}}

No, I still wouldn't say he "got away with it" then either. Repentance from sin (whether before or after death) absolutely does not involve getting away with doing sin. (On the contrary, repentance is only possible at all if God does not allow the sinner to get away with it, but rather empowers and exhorts the sinner to repent.)

And being good for goodness' sake is a rather amusingly loaded phrase to appeal to. {wry g} Certainly as a trinitarian theist, by all means I encourage everyone, "Be good for goodness' sake!" Not for the sake of anything less than goodness (including monotheistic depostism convenient though that may be for someone at any point in time.)

JRP

BenYachov said...

If Hitler repented he would still have to have gone to Purgatory. So he wouldn't have gotten away with it.

BenYachov said...

BTW somebody remind me...Gregory are you Eastern Orthodox?

Gregory said...

Ben asked:

"BTW somebody remind me...Gregory are you Eastern Orthodox?"

Yes I am Ben. But, in truth, I am a "sinner of sinners" who must await, as our Liturgy says, "the dread judgment seat of Christ".

And Jason wrote:

"And I will add that I don't think I would disagree in the least with Gregory's second comment as written!--except that I would bet on God instead of the sinner, that omnipotence and omniscience will omnipresently lead the sinner someday to repentance."

I sympathize with your sentiments about God....except that neither omnipotence, omniscience nor omnipresence is able to move the "unwilling".

However, my main concern here has been the notion that St. Gregory of Nyssa, without exception, was a "universalist". So I would like to add another quote from his "On Infant Early Deaths", as an apologia to my Father in the faith:

"But some will say 'It is not all who thus reap in this life the fruits of their wickedness, any more than all those whose lives have been virtuous profit while living by their virtuous endeavors; what then, I ask, is the advantage of their existence in the case of these who live to the end unpunished?' I will bring forward to meet this question of yours a reason which transcends all human arguments. Somewhere in his utterances the great David declares that some portion of the blessedness of the virtuous will consist in this; in contemplating side by side with their own felicity the perdition of the reprobate. He says 'The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance; he shall wash his hands in the blood of the ungodly'; not indeed as rejoicing over the torments of those sufferers, but as then most completely realizing the extent of the well-earned rewards of virtue. He signifies by those words that it will be an addition to the felicity of the virtuous and an intensification of it, to have its contrary set against it. In saying that 'he washes his hands in the blood of the ungodly' he would convey the thought that 'the cleanness of his own acting in life is plainly declared in the perdition of the ungodly.'"

Therefore, the best that one could say of Gregory is that he is not wholly consistent in his views....but certainly not that he was, without exception, a "universalist". He, like any thoughtful Christian, refined his thinking over time as he matured in the faith. He may have admired Origen's views early on in his studies---for Origen, to his credit, was the most brilliant of Fathers---but Gregory was not "held captive", as it were, to his [Origen] thought.

Also, St. Gregory's prologue in his "Great Catechism" condemns, by name, some of those whom Brian commends:

Marcion, Valentinus and Basilides

In other words, the "Gnostics". It hardly follows that because the "Greek" Gnostics accepted "universalism", that this, in itself, validates the assertion of "unanimity amongst Greek Fathers" in this matter. Of course, if you cast your net wide enough, you are bound to catch many fish.

However, I, for my own part, am an inclusivist.

Gregory said...

Also, it is interesting to note that virtually the entire bulk of "universalists" among the Greeks, including Origen, have been condemned---for one reason or the other---by the Church.

It's also interesting to note that the anathema against Origen included the charge of promoting the "abominable doctrine of 'apokatastasis'".

BenYachov said...

Good to have you on board Gregory!

Someone who reads the Greek Fathers intimately is awesome!

This modern Universalism is foul teaching. I have no love for it.

(Not that I have anything against the persons who hold it other than to say politely they should reconsider it)

David B Marshall said...

I'm troubled by the attitude we Christians take to this issue. Which of us can claim to peer into eternity? As Lesslie Newbigin has said, it's tremendously arrogant for theologians to suppose it's their job to say who goes where after death. Why not add a fourth category, "We don't know?" I'll put my name on that list, any day.

I think our ignorance goes even deeper. Not only do none of us know who goes to heaven, none of us knows what it is. We're whistling blind.

As for all the people the Orthodox condemned, so much the worse for them. Another attitude I don't care for. Origen was a cool guy, whether or not some nameless 5th Century fanatic that the world has rightly forgotten thinks so. No doubt he got some things wrong -- which is the same as saying the man had a pulse. It's long since time the Christian church mellowed out a bit, and let God be God.

BenYachov said...

David,

Nobody here is claiming they have the insight into who is saved or damned. Catholics and Orthodox don't tend toward restrictiveness & grant God can and may save whom he wishes. Even persons who are heretics or non-Christians threw no fault of their own.

At best one can believe in a theoretical Universalism. That is since God gives sufficient Grace to all men to be saved there exists the real potential all might be saved. But that doesn't mean whoever winds up in Hell can look forward to getting out. That is a dangerous heresy.

Plus I resent the self-righteousness of some of the Universalists who act as if God owes us salvation or that He is morally condemnable for sending the wicked to Hell for eternity. I find Judging God to be slightly more obnoxious than Judging our fellow human being(which is bad).

Are they Christians or New Atheists? Because I find the similarity in argument disturbing.

Jason Pratt said...

Gregory: {{I sympathize with your sentiments about God....except that neither omnipotence, omniscience nor omnipresence is able to move the "unwilling".}}

So you bet on the sinner then? {g}

If what you meant is that even omnipotence cannot simply force a person to willingly do what they are unwilling to do, then of course I agree (and have said as much myself on that topic elsewhere), seeing as how even omnipotence cannot do that which is intrinsically contradictive. But that was not what I said; I was very careful to use the word "lead".

And if we cannot trust omnipotence and omniscience to omnicompetently lead even "sinners of sinners" to repentance and righteousness, then you yourself have no hope of salvation either. (Nor I nor anyone else.)


Regarding the quote from St. Gregory's treatise on infant baptism: possibly you omitted by accident the portion where he affirmed that the ungodly shall never be saved from their sins. But that the righteous shall rejoice in God's vengeance on the ungodly does not in the least entail, of itself, that God shall never succeed (or even intended to succeed) in saving the ungodly from their sins. (The archetypal scriptural reference to God's vengeance from the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy is also the archetypal example of this point: God punishes rebel Israel to the farthest extent, until they "are neither slave nor free"--and then as a result afterward...? This has a plenty of direct relevance to the Epistle to the Hebrews, too!)

Gregory: {{He, like any thoughtful Christian, refined his thinking over time as he matured in the faith.}}

Indeed!--but unless we have a solid chronology of composition on grounds independent of the question at hand, that principle might apply the other way around just as easily, yes? {g}


Gregory: {{It's also interesting to note that the anathema against Origen included the charge of promoting the "abominable doctrine of 'apokatastasis'".}}

True!--and ratified by a Pope not long afterward. Not however accepted by the same Eastern Orthodoxy who considered the anathemas of the Emperor at that Council in the first place; otherwise there would be no question in the East of whether universalism fails or passes the Ecumenical Council resolutions. (Compare with the issue of the filioque.)


As a peace offering though, I will offer another example of trinitarian universalists later condemned for heresy in other regards: namely at least one of the founders of the Antioch school (I forget which one, but both are often recognized as universalistic) for pushing the Two Natures doctrine of Christ too far. (As with Nestorius afterward, although I don't recall offhand if he promoted universal reconciliation.)

It may be worth noting on the other hand, as Bulgakov among others has done, that those particularly condemned for schisming the Two Natures (instead of the orthodox union, not to say the Alexandrian divine-nature emphasis which was condemned on the other side) may have been victims of needing someone to blame subsequent overreaches on.

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Well, Justinian did have a name David. {g} (As did the pope who ratified his anathema afterward, though the pope didn't actually attend that Council, staying outside in protest on another topic.)

Justinian's anathema was respected in the East, but not considered dogmatically binding (to say the least).


And I can sympathize with people reaching for doctrinal certainty on what we can expect after death (even when they don't arrive at the same results I do), so long as (1) it's reasonably based on what we consider to be doctrinally certain about God; and/or (2) it's reasonably based on details of post-mortem revealed by God in the scriptures.

Not that the issue is easy even in those cases (leading to a very understandable spread of differences in the results.)

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

BenYachov: {{Are they Christians or New Atheists? Because I find the similarity in argument disturbing.}}

Considering that I have written thousands of pages of apologetics for trinitarian theism (including the filioque, to that degree of detail) and historical Christianity, including a whole 700+ page metaphysical argument arriving at ortho-trin, I think I can say with some certainty, not only that I am not a New Atheist (or an Old Atheist either), but that any NA would consider such a charge riotously laughable.


Consequently, if on ground of trinitarian analysis (not even counting scriptural exegetics, though that, too) I argue and conclude that the righteousness of God is such that (if trinitarian theism is true) He must act persistently toward saving all sinners from sin, and that to refuse to act persistently or toward all would be unrighteous (inasumuch as righteousness is grounded in the uniquely trinitarian characteristics of God compared to any other proposition of theism, not to say non-theism)...

{inhale}{g}

...then I am not being self-righteous to do so, nor would any sane person (or one who cares about accurately opposing opponents) even imagine that I was being atheistic in doing so. Making mistakes, perhaps. But not being atheistic (or grounding it on my own self-righteousness either.)

Granted, most Christian universalists don't go into as much theological detail as I do (be I competent or incompetent in doing so). But I know plenty of dogmatically theistic Christian universalists who base their trust in God for the salvation of all sinners from sin, on God and His righteousness, especially in and as Christ. Not on anything less than that.

You appear to have popular vaguely non-religious (or at least non-Christian) universalism in mind. More power to you in inveighing against that. {g} But you are not paying remotely enough attention to someone like, say, Tom Talbott, if you think his hope in salvation from sin is based in his own self-righteousness, much less in a rejection of the righteousness of God, much much less in a rejection of the existence of God.

JRP

BenYachov said...

Jason we have MAJOR theological differences on every level. Jesus can do what he wants with you. I'm not involved.

But here is a major difference.

>[God] must act persistently toward saving all sinners from sin, and that to refuse to act persistently or toward all would be unrighteous

I do not believe in a God who has moral obligations to us. The concept is incoherent. The above is a walking talking violation of the teachings of Classic Theism.

I reject Theodicy on principle. Your argument is based on Theodicy which is wrong.

http://philpapers.org/rec/TRAATA-2

Tom Talbott's Simple Argument is incoherent when applied to Classic Theism. It can only apply to a Theisitic personalist god.

More later.

Jason Pratt said...

(Note: "Blooger" may be double-posting this comment; I'll erase if so.)

James: {{Your argument is based on Theodicy which is wrong.}}

My argument, as I clearly indicated (even though I didn't go into specific nuts and bolts detail), is based on trinitarian theism. I don't think we disagree with each other that trinitarian theism is wrong, but...

James: {{Jason we have MAJOR theological differences on every level.}

...well... {g}

(I am being a little wryly humorous at the expense of your rhetorical over-reach; but I have also noted before that whenever people oppose universalism they have always in my experience ended up denying some precept of ortho-trin theology, even when they otherwise wouldn't mean to. I was the same way back when I was a trinitarian non-universalist; it was my study of trinitarian coherency that led me this way.)

Trinitarian theism (or any other theological or anti-theological variant for that matter) logically precedes theodicy. That's how I have consistently rolled for the past eleven years of constant study, and I certainly haven't changed in the past few hours.


James: {{I do not believe in a God who has moral obligations to us. The concept is incoherent.}}

Speaking specifically as a trinitarian theologian and apologist, I quite disagree: God Who is morality and righteousness, has moral obligations to us, grounded in His own independent and ultimate self-existence as the actively interpersonal self-begetting and self-begotten ground of all reality. To claim that the God Who is thus essentially love has no moral obligations, is what would be incoherent.

It would admittedly not be incoherent to claim that God has no moral obligation to us if God is not Himself moral (seeing as how there can be no existent standard or ground greater or deeper than God, and that no lesser or even parallel ground would be obliging upon God.) But perhaps one of our many disagreements is whether God is in fact moral--which would eventually be a disagreement on whether God really is trinitarian or not.

I'll take the pro-Trinity side. {g}

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

James: {{Tom Talbott's Simple Argument is incoherent when applied to Classic Theism. It can only apply to a Theisitic personalist god.}}

Even supposing for purposes of argument that Tom's argument is incoherent when applied to Thomism (and by "classic theism" you clearly mean the tradition of the Beatific Vision represented by St. Thomas of Aquinas, not some kind of basic theism), I have actually read his argument and I stand by my previous statement: it is facetious, at best, to claim that he is basing it on his own self-righteousness, much less to suggest that in its principles his argument amounts to New Atheism per se. He may be wrong, but he is not wrong from proceeding along those lines.

JRP

Tom Talbott said...

Hi Gregory,

I find more than a little puzzling, I must confess, your contention that St. Gregory of Nyssa was not a consistent universalist. Mind you, I am no expert on St. Gregory myself. But I would urge anyone who might doubt that he consistently affirmed universal restoration to consult Steven R. Harmon’s chapter on St. Gregory of Nyssa in Gregory MacDonald (ed.), “All Shall Be Well”: Explorations in Universalism and Christian Theology, from Origen to Moultman (Cascade Books, 2011). Harmon wrote a Ph.D. dissertation on Gregory and most definitely rests his judgments on a reading of primary sources.

What puzzles me, in any event, is why you ignore the numerous passages in which Gregory both declares his belief that all created persons will eventually be redeemed and also explains exactly how to interpret the passages that you have quoted. Certainly Gregory believed in the possibility of terrifying punishment in the next life; he even believed, as his comment on Luke 16 illustrates, that an unbridgeable gulf exists between the unrepentant who experience God as a consuming fire and those safely in Abraham’s bosom. For as long as the unrepentant remain unrepentant, nothing can bridge that gulf and nothing can extinguish the consuming fire of purification. But at this point we must consider how Gregory puts the theme of judgment through fire together with that of universal restoration. In his Dialogue on the Soul and Resurrection, the same text from which you lift his comment on Luke 16, he arrives at the following definitive conclusion:

"…for it is not likely that the one who has become involved to such an extent in forbidden evils and the one who has fallen into moderate evils will be distressed on an equal basis in the purification of bad habits, but rather that painful flame will be kindled either to a greater or lesser degree according to the amount of matter, as long as its source of nourishment exists. Accordingly if one has a great load of the material, then the consuming flame of necessity will be great and longer-lasting for that one, but if the consumption of the fire is introduced to a lesser degree, then the punishment diminishes in degree its actions of greater violence and ferocity, in proportion to the lesser measure of evil which exists in that one. For it is necessary that at some time evil be wholly and completely removed out of existence…. For since it does not belong to its nature that evil have existence outside the will, when every will rests in God evil will depart into utter destruction, since there is no receptacle remaining for it."

Could you perhaps identify what specifically, if anything, in the quotations you have graciously shared with us commits Gregory, as you see it, to a doctrine of unending punishment? Gregory’s clearest statements on universal restoration are, not surprisingly, his comments on I Corinthians 15:20-28. See, for example, the quotation that I reproduced in the previous thread.

-Tom

Tom Talbott said...

Part I

Hi Gregory,

I find more than a little puzzling, I must confess, your contention that St. Gregory of Nyssa was not a consistent universalist. Mind you, I am no expert on St. Gregory myself. But I would urge anyone who might doubt that he consistently affirmed universal restoration to consult Steven R. Harmon’s chapter on St. Gregory of Nyssa in Gregory MacDonald (ed.), “All Shall Be Well”: Explorations in Universalism and Christian Theology, from Origen to Moultman (Cascade Books, 2011). Harmon wrote a Ph.D. dissertation on Gregory and most definitely rests his judgments on a reading of primary sources.

What puzzles me, in any event, is why you ignore the numerous passages in which Gregory both declares his belief that all created persons will eventually be redeemed and also explains exactly how to interpret the passages that you have quoted. Certainly Gregory believed in the possibility of terrifying punishment in the next life; he even believed, as his comment on Luke 16 illustrates, that an unbridgeable gulf exists between the unrepentant who experience God as a consuming fire and those safely in Abraham’s bosom. For as long as the unrepentant remain unrepentant, nothing can bridge that gulf and nothing can extinguish the consuming fire of purification. But at this point we must consider how Gregory puts the theme of judgment through fire together with that of universal restoration. In his Dialogue on the Soul and Resurrection, the very same text from which you lift his comment on Luke 16, he arrives at a definitive conclusion that should put the matter to rest (see Part II below).

Tom Talbott said...

Part II

Here is St. Gregory’s conclusion that you have ignored:

“…for it is not likely that the one who has become involved to such an extent in forbidden evils and the one who has fallen into moderate evils will be distressed on an equal basis in the purification of bad habits, but rather that painful flame will be kindled either to a greater or lesser degree according to the amount of matter, as long as its source of nourishment exists. Accordingly if one has a great load of the [evil] material, then the consuming flame of necessity will be great and longer-lasting for that one, but if the consumption of the fire is introduced to a lesser degree, then the punishment diminishes in degree its actions of greater violence and ferocity, in proportion to the lesser measure of evil which exists in that one. For it is necessary that at some time evil be wholly and completely removed out of existence…. For since it does not belong to its nature that evil have existence outside the will, when every will rests in God evil will depart into utter destruction, since there is no receptacle remaining for it.”

Could you perhaps identify what, if anything, in the quotations you have graciously shared with us commits St. Gregory, as you see it, to a doctrine of unending punishment? Gregory’s clearest statements on universal restoration are, not surprisingly, his comments on I Corinthians 15:20-28. See, for example, the quotation that I reproduced in the previous thread.

-Tom

David B Marshall said...

Ben: This seems to beg the question:

"Plus I resent the self-righteousness of some of the Universalists who act as if God owes us salvation or that He is morally condemnable for sending the wicked to Hell for eternity. I find Judging God to be slightly more obnoxious than Judging our fellow human being(which is bad)."

But the people you speak of DON'T "judge God," because they don't think he's sending the wicked to Hell for eternity. They're judging your beliefs, and finding them wanting.

"Are they Christians or New Atheists? Because I find the similarity in argument disturbing."

The similarity is in one premise, not the conclusion. Both seem to agree that it would be unjust for God to send people to hell. The New Atheists agree with YOU in assuming that that is what God is supposed to do. They agree with UNIVERSALISTS in assuming that that would be unjust. They agree with NEITHER in deducing that, therefore, God does not exist.

So you are in as much agreement with the NAs as the universalists are, only on different premises, while differing in your conclusions.

BenYachov said...

@Dave
>But the people you speak of DON'T "judge God," because they don't think he's sending the wicked to Hell for eternity. They're judging your beliefs, and finding them wanting.

The Just God who sends the un-repented sinner to Hell for eternity exists. The novel unjust Universalist "god" does not exist. They judge any God who sends a soul to Hell for eternity to be evil and since I believe that God objectively exists they in fact judge God. Does God condemn them for this?
I am not God so I leave that to Him who knows their hearts. But the teaching is repulsive to me.

>Both(Gnu'Atheist & Universalists) seem to agree that it would be unjust for God to send people to hell.

Yes and for that I condemn their false view. God give them the Grace to join the One True Holy Catholic Church.

>The New Atheists agree with YOU in assuming that that is what God is supposed to do.

It seems to me the New Atheists deny the existence or profess to lack any belief in any type of god. Besides I would say people more or less send themselves to Hell. Hell can be earned 100% by your own natural efforts. The Beatific Vision however can only be obtained by Grace.

To believe any mere New Atheist has such a sophisticated understanding of Religion is silly. A learned reasonable friendly Atheism might learn these facts acidemically but by Definition he would not be a Gnu'Atheist. Just as you can't be a Young Earth Fiat Creationist who at the same time believes in Theistic Evolution.

>So you are in as much agreement with the NAs as the universalists are, only on different premises, while differing in your conclusions.

That is logically fallacious. The Gnu's might agree The Catholic Church & other similar derivative groups teaches God condemns the wicked for eternity. But I don't see them understanding why that must be so. Since when are brain dead Gnu's knowledgeable in theology or Philosophy? I have your book Dave. You don't think they are that sophisticated.

Good try thought guy. Cheers to you.

BenYachov said...

@Jason

I am a Catholic Christian by the Grace of God and I can't be anything else.

I never said Universalists are New Atheists. Rather I compared their arguments to those used by the New Atheists to morally condemn God for eternal punishment & I stand by that criticism.

I can't deny that Universalists who confess the Trinity, Deity of Christ and are validly baptized are Christians since that would contradict the Infallible teaching of the Council of Trent. Catholics are Trinitarians and historically we have never taught Trinitarian Theology demands Universalism as understood by modern Universalists.

Additionally I reject Sola Scriptura, the Perspecuity of Scripture, Sola Fide, Private Interpretation, denial of the Authority of Tradition(2 Thes 3:6), denial of the Infallible Authority of the Church, useless Theistic Personalist "god" etc...all of this you must undo before I even consider your interpretation of Theology over my Mother the Catholic Church.

So I meant what I said about MAJOR theological differences on every level.

Then there is Classic Theism & Thomism(they are not the same. Scotus was a Classic Theist). I don't think we have the same understanding of the term Classic Theism.

Read my links to Edward Feser's blog on the other tread for details.

Now for a few other points.

BenYachov said...

>To claim that the God Who is thus essentially love has no moral obligations, is what would be incoherent.

No I don't agree that is like claiming since God is Perfection Itself he must have perfect Muscle Tone. But that is Prima facie absurd. God couldn't have perfect muscle tone without having muscles. But if God had muscles He wouldn't be Simple in Substance He would be Composite. He would have potency and thus wouldn't be Purely Actual. If he wasn't Pure Actuality & Simple in Substance then He wouldn't be Perfection Itself. We can coherently say God is the source of the perfection in perfect Muscle tone. But God doesn't have perfect muscle tone. In a similar manner. God is Goodness Itself. The goodness in moral goodness comes from God who is goodness itself. But God is not morally good. Or more precisely God is not a moral agent unequivocally comparable to a human moral agent.

It is incoherent to say God is a moral agent. The problem with all Theodicies is they all anthropomorphize God to some degree. Thus they make Him less than God and more of a creature with Maximally good behaviors.

That is not coherent.

read this paper
http://philpapers.org/rec/TRAATA-2

I might quote it.

Also the Writings of Brian Davies & the Late Herbert McCabe on the Problem of Evil are invaluable.

BenYachov said...

Some quotes from the paper.

"Perhaps the most problematic feature of most theodicies is the way in which they conceptualize God. The problem, more specifically, is that theodicies such as those one finds in Hick and Swinburne, and in most discussions in contemporary analytic philosophy, presuppose a thoroughly anthropomorphic conception of God.

God in the analytic tradition is understood as an individual entity or substance of some sort, usually a person or person-like being who exists alongside other personal beings (such as humans and angels) and non-personal things (whether they be things in the physical world, or the physical world itself).

The anthropomorphism of this conception of divinity is especially clear in the case of ‘perfect-being theology’,where the attributes of God are modeled on human virtues or excellences. In determining which properties are to count as ‘great-making’, the perfect-being theologian typically looks to see which properties are considered excellences or virtues in the case of humans.

Given that properties such as power, knowledge, and goodness would generally count as great-making in humans, the magnitude of each such property is then infinitely extended (e.g., the limited and fallible knowledge of humans is replaced by unlimited and infallible knowledge, or omniscience) and finally that property, suitably maximized, is ascribed to God.

Herein lies the anthropomorphic character of this methodology. God,on the perfect-being model, looks very much like a human being, albeit a quite extraordinary one, one inflated into infinite proportions: a ‘super-duper superman’.........The gulf between Creator and creatures may be great, but it is not an absolute one, for it is only one of degree.

For if God were thought of as an individual thing or object, there would be no way to account for the life-transforming impact that the reality of God is often said to have:
Coming to see that there is a God is not like coming to see that an additional being exists. If it were, there would be an extension of one’s knowledge of facts, but no extension of one’s understanding. Coming to see that there is a God involves seeing a new meaning in one’s life, and being given a new understanding. The Hebrew-Christian conception of God is not a conception of a being among beings.

The above is what I mean by Theistic Personalism.

BenYachov said...

This Post of QUOTES is partly what I mean by Classical Theism. I deny it is restricted to Thomism. Rather it is the original Christian view. The TP being the post-enlightenment Johnny come lately.

The ‘orthodox Christian thought’ referred to by Williams is a line of thinking that was prevalent in the patristic and medieval traditions. It also found expression in the Thomist view that God is not an individual entity, a particular being among others, but ipsum esse subsistens, subsistent being itself, or actus purus, pure act or activity, for in God being and doing completely coincide. Like the Wittgensteinians, Thomist philosophers and theologians have been vocal in their insistence that it is deeply
erroneous, if not idolatrous, to conceive of God as one thing existing alongside others, for in thinking of God along these lines one is in effect confusing the creature with the creator.
Brian Davies, in particular, has highlighted in many of his writings the importance of preserving the creator/creature distinction. He notes, for example, that it would be wrong to assert that God is an individual—in the familiar sense of ‘individual’where to call something an individual is to think of it as a member of a class of which there could be more than one member, as something with a nature shared by others but different from that of things sharing natures of another kind, things with different ways of working, things with different characteristic activities and effects.

BenYachov said...

Finally this quote from the end of the paper. Authored by N. N. Trakakis a philosopher of religion who calls himself a tentative Theist and had defended Rowe's evidential argument from Evil.

It’s interesting also that, like the divine command theory, the idea that God is not a moral agent would dissolve the problem of evil into a pseudo-problem. Davies therefore concludes: To be blunt, I suggest that many contemporary philosophers writing on the problem of evil (both theists and non-theists) have largely been wasting their time... They are like people attacking or defending tennis players because they fail to run a mile in under four minutes. Tennis players are not in the business of running four-minute miles. Similarly, God is not something with respect to which moral evaluation (whether positive or negative) is appropriate.

I love this Classic view of God! I so hate the Theistic Personalist "god"! I am a total strong Atheist in regards to the TP existence. But I love & believe in the True God with all my heart. I also love that I don't have to defend Him or justify Him.

He can do all the Justification!

Praise God!

BenYachov said...

Coming to see that there is a God involves seeing a new meaning in one’s life, and being given a new understanding. The Hebrew-Christian conception of God is not a conception of a being among beings.
-Classic Theism

God,on the perfect-being model, looks very much like a human being, albeit a quite extraordinary one, one inflated into infinite proportions: a ‘super-duper superman’
-Theistic Personalism

Gregory said...

JP said:

"If what you meant is that even omnipotence cannot simply force a person to willingly do what they are unwilling to do, then of course I agree (and have said as much myself on that topic elsewhere), seeing as how even omnipotence cannot do that which is intrinsically contradictive. But that was not what I said; I was very careful to use the word 'lead'.

And if we cannot trust omnipotence and omniscience to omnicompetently lead even 'sinners of sinners' to repentance and righteousness, then you yourself have no hope of salvation either. (Nor I nor anyone else.)


It remains to be seen whether I will pass the "test", so to speak. So I can only say, like St. Paul, that I "put no confidence in the flesh". That is to say, that I trust in the grace, mercy and love of God. But I'm not a monergist. I maintain, as the Fathers do, that man must co-operate with God in his/her own salvation. I have written elsewhere that all mankind has been "saved" through Jesus Christ. Meaning, that through the Incarnation, humanity--both body and soul--was brought into union with God through Christ.

But that is not the entire story, for we cannot be said to be followers of "The Way" if we are not on His path. Nor ought we expect to reach our intended destination if we persist in going astray.

It is a category mistake to place Divine Omnipotence as having "power" over a "free" act. It's like trying to say "the color round tastes shiny". Therefore, "middle knowledge" strategies, along with Calvinism, have already lost at the starting gate...unless, of course, one has already denied genuine, non-compatibilistic human freedom. I take it that JP holds to some libertarian position.

If you are a proponent of libertarian freedom, then you necessarily have--at the very least have--left open the possibility of eternal punishment. And if one were to subscribe to the bizarre hermeneutic tradition of Origen, then I suppose the denial of everlasting torment could be made plausible.

Tom Talbot said:

"What puzzles me, in any event, is why you ignore the numerous passages in which Gregory both declares his belief that all created persons will eventually be redeemed and also explains exactly how to interpret the passages that you have quoted. Certainly Gregory believed in the possibility of terrifying punishment in the next life; he even believed, as his comment on Luke 16 illustrates, that an unbridgeable gulf exists between the unrepentant who experience God as a consuming fire and those safely in Abraham’s bosom. For as long as the unrepentant remain unrepentant, nothing can bridge that gulf and nothing can extinguish the consuming fire of purification. But at this point we must consider how Gregory puts the theme of judgment through fire together with that of universal restoration."

Gregory said...

That is why I provided the quotations. But let me add to that quotation so that there is no mistaking what St. Gregory is saying there:

"For if any one becomes wholly and thoroughly carnal in thought, such a one, with every motion and energy of the soul absorbed in fleshly desires, is not parted from such attachments, even in the disembodied state....So it is that, when the change is made into the impalpable Unseen, not even then will it be possible for the lovers of the flesh to avoid dragging away with them under any circumstance some fleshly foulness; and thereby their torment will be intensified, their soul having been materialized by such surroundings."

In fact, he goes on to note a "contradiction" here with his previous pontifications on the apokatastasis; and then tries to reconcile them.

However, I have not denied that he taught a "restoration" of all things. What I said is that he is not consistent on it...which is why I provided quotes from his other works. Also, all of his writings are not readily available, at the moment, in English translations. I suspect that we will find more anti-apokatastasis quotations there as well.

Lastly, it makes little sense "why" St. Gregory would have spent exhaustive amounts of time refuting heretics like Eunomious if he absolutely believed that they all were guaranteed to be "saved" in the end. Even the elucidation of the meaning of the Holy Trinity becomes an exercise in superfluous ranting if there be no consequences beyond a temporary slap on the wrist and a free hall pass.

If it were true that all mankind would be saved, even if purified through a temporal "fire", then I would have no problem assenting to this. In fact, it would be quite comforting.

However, the Orthodox Church has had many Saints whom have directed the teachings toward eternal punishment: from the visions of St. Anthony to the frightening revelations of St. John of the Ladder. In other words, eternal punishment is not merely a "Latin" concept that was ignored by the Greeks.

Note that St. Gregory was a married man who went on to extol the virtues of "virginity". Indeed, the man was capable of changing his mind.

Robert Payne's "The Holy Fire" is where I started to develop the notion that St. Gregory straddled both sides of the fence on the issue of "hell".

Gregory said...

Tom:

I think that if you had considered his exegesis of David on "dipped in the blood of the ungodly", it's clear that he has eternal punishment in mind. He even states it categorically as such....namely, that the righteous understand their felicity in light of those who had gone to perdition. Again, let me produce a quote:

"Man, like some earthen potsherd, is resolved again into the dust of the ground, in order to secure that he may part with the soil he has now contracted, and that he may, through the resurrection, be reformed anew after the original pattern; at least if in this life that now is he has preserved what belongs to that image."

Taken from his "Great Catechism".

Again, as I said before, St. Gregory's views were mixed....much like St. Augustine's early views on freewill were different compared to his later thinking.

At the very least, I have provided some primary source material to think about. I don't expect everyone to agree with me. I certainly don't expect many to care. But for those that do care, I hope they will consider reading the early Church Fathers themselves. Don't just read about St. Augustine....read St. Augustine for your self. So, if I have awakened the "Berean" from his/her dogmatic slumbers, then I feel that I have done my job.

Remember to pray.

Anonymous said...

BenY says

"I love this Classic view of God! ...

Praise God!"

God is beyond evaluation, yet not beyond praise?

BenYachov said...

>God is beyond evaluation, yet not beyond praise?

Could not a scientist praise the biological innovations of Evolution?

Yet would it be coherent to evaluate Evolution morally?

OTOH Brian Davies might say the praise we give to God is not moral praise. When we praise God we are not saying "Job well done!" as if God could somehow fail at his actions.

Praise to God is the gratitude due him for actions He need not have done.

If my biological Father helps me that is significant. But in a certain sense as his child Dad is obligated to help me.

OTOH if Donald Trump who owes me nothing helps me he is due gratuitous praise for his gratuitous good act.

BenYachov said...

We have by definition as rational creatures moral obligations to Our Creator. God is not a Creature of any sort and by definition has no creator thus he has no moral obligations. He is Goodness Itself from which created moral Good derives but God is not morally good in the sense a creature of his must ideally be.

David B Marshall said...

Ben: I can't argue with customer. I lived in Japan too long. The customer is always right, even when he's wrong. :- )

BenYachov said...

Cheers Dave.:-)

Topm Talbott said...

Hello again Gregory:

I guess you and I may simply have to agree to disagree on the historical question of whether St. Gregory was a consistent universalist who never wavered in his belief in universal restoration. For the additional quotation you provide carries no implication, so far as I can tell, of unending punishment. Here it is again:

"For if any one becomes wholly and thoroughly carnal in thought, such a one, with every motion and energy of the soul absorbed in fleshly desires, is not parted from such attachments, even in the disembodied state....So it is that, when the change is made into the impalpable Unseen, not even then will it be possible for the lovers of the flesh to avoid dragging away with them under any circumstance some fleshly foulness; and thereby their torment will be intensified, their soul having been materialized by such surroundings."

You can find even harsher-sounding passages, by the way, in George MacDonald, who was unquestionably a consistent universalist, and similar passages even in Origen. In fact, the above quotation fits perfectly with Gregory’s understanding of universalism. The picture is this: The more rebellious the unrepentant become, the more intense will be their inner torment. That is but one reason why, if I may put it in an over-simplified manner, their rebellion cannot last forever.

Of course, any interpretation of the Bible as a whole, whether it be from a Calvinist, an Arminian, or a universalist perspective, must deal with both the theme of judgment and that of God’s ultimate triumph over sin and death through Jesus Christ; they must deal, in other words, with an initial appearance of inconsistency here. As you point out yourself: “In fact, he [Gregory] goes on to note a "contradiction" here with his previous pontifications on the apokatastasis; and then tries to reconcile them.”

Exactly! I rest my case.

-Tom

P.S. Incidentally, two of my own sisters and their families are members of an Eastern Orthodox Church, of which I think very highly. I also think highly of Bishop Kallistos Ware who, of course, comes down on the side of a non-dogmatic universalism.

GREV said...

Ben:

On the question of denial of authority of tradition -- denial of the Authority of Tradition(2 Thes 3:6), -- you are on firmer ground with II Thess 2:15.

Even then I would argue you are over reaching but that is an argument for another day.

I like what someone said about the views of the church fathers changing. They were not infallible and should not be treated as such.

BenYachov said...

>I like what someone said about the views of the church fathers changing. They were not infallible and should not be treated as such.

That might have been me....individual Fathers can teach error.

Shackleman said...

Forgive this interruption from the peanut gallery...

Will God save everyone? I don't know. Only God knows.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've gotta go try to wash this terrible plank out of my eye....

Papalinton said...

It's all too confusing. I think I'll have to consult a few external expert sources to see if I can get my head around this; Dawkins maybe, perhaps Hitchins. And of course, Sam Harris, the noted neuroscientist studying the debilitating effect of religion on a person's incapacity to relate or identify physical reality will assist in this review.

BenYachov said...

Here are some quotes from a Paper . Authored by N. N. Trakakis a philosopher of religion who calls himself a tentative Theist and has defended the Atheist philosopher Rowe's evidential argument from Evil against the existence of God.


QUOTE"Perhaps the most problematic feature of most theodicies is the way in which they conceptualize God. The problem, more specifically, is that theodicies such as those one finds in Hick and Swinburne, and in most discussions in contemporary analytic philosophy, presuppose a thoroughly anthropomorphic conception of God.

God in the analytic tradition is understood as an individual entity or substance of some sort, usually a person or person-like being who exists alongside other personal beings (such as humans and angels) and non-personal things (whether they be things in the physical world, or the physical world itself).

The anthropomorphism of this conception of divinity is especially clear in the case of ‘perfect-being theology’,where the attributes of God are modeled on human virtues or excellences. In determining which properties are to count as ‘great-making’, the perfect-being theologian typically looks to see which properties are considered excellences or virtues in the case of humans.

Given that properties such as power, knowledge, and goodness would generally count as great-making in humans, the magnitude of each such property is then infinitely extended (e.g., the limited and fallible knowledge of humans is replaced by unlimited and infallible knowledge, or omniscience) and finally that property, suitably maximized, is ascribed to God.

Herein lies the anthropomorphic character of this methodology. God,on the perfect-being model, looks very much like a human being, albeit a quite extraordinary one, one inflated into infinite proportions: a ‘super-duper superman’.........The gulf between Creator and creatures may be great, but it is not an absolute one, for it is only one of degree.