Perry Robinson on Ancient Faith Radio (Shameless Plug)

Februrary 10th there will be airing an interview on Ancient Faith Radio by Kevin Allen with myself on the subject of Universalism. For logistical reasons the interview will be recorded earlier (Feb 5th) but listeners can submit questions now via the AFR web page. Listen in and share!

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39 Responses to Perry Robinson on Ancient Faith Radio (Shameless Plug)

  1. Fr. Maximus says:

    Good to see you posting something again Perry. I was afraid this blog had gone dead. Looking forward to something substantiative, like in the old days…

  2. Fr. Maximus,

    Here is the answer to your worry.

  3. Congrats, look forward to giving the podcast a listen.

  4. David Richards says:

    Good interview. Hope you get well soon, Perry. I need to call you and ask you some questions about another topic.

  5. Canadian says:

    Very good interview with Kevin Allen, Perry.
    Would love to hear you regularly in some format.
    I love your line at the end, not sure if Kevin really caught it:
    “the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence because it’s well fertilized.” ;-)

  6. Canadian, Thanks.

    That is the way it seems to me in theological issues like this as well as philosophical issues. People dump one position because they are trying to get away from some problem, without paying attention to the real problems in the new view. It strikes me as a form of infatuation where we blind ourselves to the weaknesses of other views just as we blind ourselves to the imperfections and defects in the people we become infatuated with.

  7. Good news! I’m going to give it a listen right now. Thanks, Perry.

  8. Jon Andrew says:

    Likewise agree, good interview, very good distribution topics to discuss in there. Are there any other possible topics for interview in the works?

  9. Karen says:

    I appreciate your sharing the issues and the insights from your educational background here, Perry. In a sort of paradox I guess, I’m one who with you believes the Church must always teach what it does dogmatically regarding the Final Judgment, yet at the same time I find it important (for my own salvation even) to be able to hope that all might eventually repent (even if they do not in this life). Another contemporary Bishop who wasn’t mentioned in this podcast who also leans in this direction and who articulates a sort of Christian Universalism as a hope (not dogma) is Bp. Hilarion (Alfeyev), and I have found his work very helpful.

    As I was listening to your discussion on divine and human freedom of the will, I didn’t share your sense that in order to accept the possibility of universal repentance as a biblical and Orthodox hope (which I see as something necessarily a bit different than a dogma), that we can’t escape the conclusion that God must manipulate our wills somehow. (I’m willing to allow that perhaps this is simply my philosophical naivete showing.) Similarly, it doesn’t seem to me that it is necessary to view Rob Bell has having been “snookered” by pressing his questions in this direction in his very understandable reaction to modern forms of Calvinism any more than it is necessary to view the St. Gregorys and St. Clement of Alexandria (and also St Isaac the Syrian and St. Silouan the Athonite?) as having been led astray by aspects of Origenism/Platonism. (I could, of course, be wrong about this.) Actually, I’m not sure whether St. Isaac or St. Silouan would fall into the same category in your mind as the St. Gregorys and St. Clement, since they are not early Fathers, nor has one of them received the title “Theologian.” Neither, as I understand it, were they advocating teaching their hopeful speculations as Church dogma. It seems to me they (both Bell and all these Orthodox Saints) were/are, rather, working one side of a profound paradox of, on the one hand, the reality of humankind’s free will self-determination which resulted in Adam’s fall into sin, corruption and death, and the concrete as well as the theoretical implications of this for every one of us vs. on the other hand, the nature, eternity, and profundity of God’s mercy and righteouness, as well as His total victory over evil and death, and the implications of this.

    Regarding sin and free will, you have written, I believe, about the issue of the “natural” and the “gnomic” wills from St. Maximus the Confessor. I wondered if you might see a possibility in these insights of St. Maximus that could allow us to get around this seeming contradiction—in that, despite the corruption of the personal will by sin, human beings are even more fundamentally, by virtue of creation, oriented in their natural will toward the love of God, and that somehow because of this and because we will never cease to be human, we can never completely close the door on the possibility of the eventual healing of the gnomic will for every human person (even apart from manipulation on God’s part).

    The other thought I had as you were speaking about the necessity of allowing the possibility of permanent irreversible eternal consequences for moral choices and that, in theory, we have to allow that a totally deliberate and free choice for evil can be fixed at death and permanently close the door on paradise–and I would have to agree with this theoretical possibility—is that it seems to me not even Adam and Eve’s moral choice in the Garden could be said to have been completely free from any muddying influence outside of it. The evidence for this is that the Church has always seen a difference in the manner in which Lucifer sinned and became satan (who experienced no temptation or deception from any outside influence, but rather was led into sin by his own envy), and which does not allow for his repentance, and Adam’s sin, where repentance is a possibility. Eve, the Scripture says was “deceived” by the serpent. Furthermore, the Church also tells us that no sin since the sin of Adam and Eve has been made in the same way, i.e., beginning with an incorrupt state and perfect communion with God (the implication being that if Adam and Eve could repent and be forgiven and healed despite the relative lack of mitigating circumstances in their case, then we certainly all can be no matter the depth of our sins). Based on this, I would argue that our inheritance from fallen Adam is a guarantee that there will always be an element of deception and an involuntary aspect to even the most deliberate-seeming evil exercise and trajectory of the gnomic will for all of the children of Adam and Eve. I think this gives some room for a form of Christian Universalism as a hope that is, paradoxically, still not a contradiction of what the Church teaches as certain (especially in the theoretical sense), i.e., as dogma.

  10. Andrea Elizabeth says:

    Karen,
    It seems to me that the hope we have needs to be looked at. Are we hoping that God will stay his hand of punishment? This is when the loving and merciful God card gets played against the judgmental, just God. But what if both of these dichotomies in God’s character are wrongly understood?
    The idea that God is a constant ball of love and mercy that some people can’t stand, and for them he is torment without location, I think needs a little nuanced thinking too.
    I’m thinking the focus needs to be more on our own gnomic wills such as described in the story of the rich young ruler, and the saying, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”. What if “heaven” is for those who consistently choose God over temptation thereby strengthening their wills and making their “flesh” stronger. There are those who in this life may be deceived about what is temptation and what is God, but when they have a little clarity, which do they choose? If they decide that the straight and narrow way is too difficult, or has too many unpleasant consequences, do they opt out? If they do, then I think their will gets weaker and weaker each time, and by the time they see the pearly gates, they are too wimpy to enter and make excuses for themselves as they have all their life, even if they think they “love God”, which most of us do even while we are still sinning.
    I think that many times towards the end of our earthly life, God gives us circumstances to help fit us for heaven even if we’d gone astray. We will see our choices with even more clarity, but will we go the right way then? If we have some background of choosing right at all and wish we’d been better at it, then maybe so, but it will be painful and tormenting for us to go through the process. Can this process happen after death? Hopefully so. I think Lewis’ The Great Divorce does an excellent job of showing how people can still justify their “distance” and not choose God after death.
    St. Isaac the Syrian said, “This life was given to you for repentance,” and St. Silouan was a great ascetic and believer in repentance, so they must have thought it was necessary to see God. Repentance is something only we can do, not God by himself, no matter how merciful and loving he is, though he offers his help.

  11. Karen says:

    Thanks Andrea Elizabeth. I have no argument with you at all about the need for repentance. I’ve also noticed the close connection between the insights of St. Isaac and St. Silouan about the extent and depth of the love of God and their remarkable asceticism. That speaks volumes doesn’t it?

  12. Joel Haas says:

    Karen,

    As you wrote your comments I was struck by something that may be relevant. (Keep in mind that I am only a catechumen, and an ignorant one at that.) I have been taught that our use of our ‘gnomic will’ is such that over time we habituate ourselves into a certain mode of living – toward Life or death – and that we can actually ‘fix’ our use of the will in one of said directions. Now, before our death we are still given many opportunities to repent – even if we have been habituating ourselves toward death our entire lives. However, what happens when we pass through the final judgment and enter into ‘hell.’ As you implied above (regarding Adam and Eve’s fall into sin and death) God rarely (?) works ‘directly’ in our lives but rather through created reality – other people, the Holy Mysteries, the Scriptures, the creation, etc. What happens when all of the other people around us have also habituated themselves into death. Where will the opportunities for repentance come from? Who will God use to call or encourage or challenge us to repentance? Also, I have always been confused by the Orthodox tendency toward soft universalism because it seems to me to make the ‘dread judgment seat of Christ’ wimpy and soft. Is it unOrthodox to call it the ‘final judgment’? What is the real significance of the ‘judgment day’ if it is only a comma in the eternal opportunity to repent? How would this affect our proclamation of the gospel to those outside of the Church if their death in no way ends their opportunity for repentance?

    I may be revealing how crassly unOrthodox I still remain, but I only wanted to say all of that in case anything spurs on your thinking. Please forgive me for anything I said that is not of the Truth.

  13. Andrea Elizabeth says:

    Karen,

    The problem with believing in Universalism is that it seems to negate the reason to repent in this life. To this, one could say that removing the fear of not repenting leaves room for one to repent because of the attractiveness of God’s presence. I think I need both.

    The problem with not believing in it is that one can think that he or she has met the requirements more than others, and get caught up in who does or does not deserve to go to heaven.

    The problem with thinking everyone deserves to go to heaven in God’s eyes is that it makes insincere the prayers before communion that say I don’t deserve it. These prayers at least make it necessary to humbly ask to be allowed in anyway.

    The problem with thinking that anyone will be allowed in who asks at the last minute, no matter what, are the passages that say, “Why do you call me ‘Lord’? Depart from me for I never knew you.”

    But then there’s the parable of the wage earners and the thief on the cross who get the same reward starting late as did those starting early.

    But what about the one whose buried talent gets taken away from him?

    But who could not respect George MacDonald, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Isaac, and St. Silouan? I could speculate that they, because of their holy lives, experienced the gracious nature of God’s love so overwhelmingly that they couldn’t imagine that anyone could be deprived of it or not choose it. Then where they naive? I don’t think so. Maybe they knew the truth of the secure nature of being his and that not being his was impossible for them, or anyone from God’s point of view.

    Then we get back to the experience of God’s love being intolerable for those not disposed to it. If the barrier isn’t just their own fixed will, then maybe God places it for their own protection. Maybe without it they would be annihilated by his love. Forgive my speculations.

  14. Karen says:

    Joel, thanks for your thoughts. I take no offense. It is necessary for us all to wrestle with these issues. As I’ve said, I do believe the Church’s dogma, and I understand it is there because it is the truth. I agree very much with the observations that you and Andrea have both made about the dynamics of sin and the gnomic will (the dangers of the hardening process) and also of repentance (a softening process). I think that any belief in a form of Christian universalism, especially outside the Church, can be very dangerous because it can quickly become presumption and abandonment of the “narrow way.” In my experience, there’s a lot of fudging on Jesus’ hard teachings on the “narrow way” in a lot of Evangelicalism and elsewhere as it is (where awareness of the asceticism of the Church is lacking), and, frankly, this is a huge temptation for us all. This is another reason why I would never expect the Church to abandon her dogma regarding the nature of the Last Judgment.

    Fr. Stephen Freeman had some good thoughts on the “narrow way” here:

    http://glory2godforallthings.com/2012/11/29/the-narrow-road/

  15. Samn! says:

    Here’s a link to an essay by Fr. Touma Bitar, spiritual father of a pair of monasteries in Lebanon, where he attempts to reconcile belief that all may eventually be saved with a commitment to the narrow way:

    http://araborthodoxy.blogspot.com/2013/01/fr-touma-bitar-on-eternal-perdition.html

  16. Joel Haas says:

    Forgive me Samn!, but the first half of that essay seems to espouse something similar to a Calvinist doctrine of monergistic presdestination, only to locate it in the age to come instead of at the foundations of the world. I know that I have to accept that his view is probably a legitimate theologoumena, but in my mind it only serves to confirm the suspicions of Protestants that many Orthodox do not take the judgment passages in Scripture with any high degree of seriousness. I find Fr. Josiah Trenham refreshing in this regard (from ‘The Arena’ podcast on Ancient Faith radio). But perhaps when I am no longer an ignorant catechumen this will all make more sense…

  17. Samn! says:

    Joel, This particular argument isn’t monergistic in the least– it’s that, God always loves and always wills salvation, so given an eternity of time, we can hope that everyone will come around– and God will do all He can in His mysterious, inscrutable ways to help that to happen. That’s why Fr. Touma focuses on the ‘eternal’ aspect of eternal perdition– an infinitely long opportunity.

  18. An issue that I have not really seen addressed either by Perry or by others here is the meaning of eternity. It seems to me that many assume that it is unending time. I would say rather that eternity is beyond time; a movement into the unchanging existence of God within which we cannot speak of time and change. Theosis requires us to transcend our life bound to space/time and to move into the life of God’s eternity. On the last day all creation is shifted into the eternity of God; our present time/space existence must end for God to be all in all. Thus, in order for us to participate in the life of God, in His eternity, our life becomes eternal beyond time and change and so there is no more repentance or change of mind. Creation with a beginning requires space/time because it is necessarily limited at creation yet it cannot remain in everlasting space/time without limiting God, who must be all in all. Hence the Day of Judgment and eternal judgment. This eternity is either to life for those in union with God through Christ in the Spirit or to death for those who are separated from God for whatever reason because there is no life of itself apart from God. God is pure and undivided, so there is no place in Him for those divided by sin, faith or tribe. Death is not in essence, which is very good and the image of God, but in energies where a person has refused to have God’s as their own. Much like the Universe expanding until energy is so evened out that no life or matter can exist even though the universe is still there; still, dead and very dark.

    In this framework, to argue for the salvation of all, post the Day of Judgment, is to deny the salvation of any as participating in the nature of God (in energies not essence). Because man is a union of soul and body his repentance needs to be while in this state. After the division of the body and soul at death, one is unable to come to union because of the division of death. Since we are not reunited to the body until the Day of Judgment and the end of time, we only have this earthly life in which to repent and be united to Christ in body and soul; that is through faith, repentance and baptism. Nevertheless, there is hope for those dying in union with God before death because physical death in itself does not disunite one from God, as Christ proved, so our prayers for the departed until the Day of Judgement are effectual by providing a bond of love and acceptance to cover over division of sin to unite those faithful separated by sin at death; yet this is only with certain limits because even God’s love and will does not result in the salvation of all given each one’s personal freedom and authority being in the image of God. God denies His image in God not only with removing freedom but also authority, although both are closely connected.

    Anyway, that is the logic of one framework. Eternity is not one long opportunity to repent but the existence of God in His fullness beyond time/space and so it is all about who God is.

  19. Joel Haas says:

    Thank you for those thoughts, Fr. Patrick.

  20. David Richards says:

    Samn!, it seems to me that a problem with the idea that people in the eschaton have an eternity to repent, is that it entails a denial of self-determination. Repentance may be possible for some in the next life, but after the final judgment? Presumably at that point they have fixed their wills in evil.

    Look at what Abraham tells the rich man in the story of Lazarus and the rich man. They have Moses and the Prophets, and if they do not believe Moses and the Prophets, neither will they believe who is raised from the dead. What else is hardness of heart but stubborn unbelief?

  21. Samn! says:

    It would take a great deal of thought for me to think through whether I agree with Fr Patrick’s construal of eternity, so I can’t really comment on it.

    As for biblical evidence about wills being ‘fixed’ in the eschaton, well, you could create equally plausible collections of citations for both positions– in fact, all that remains in Syriac of the 5th volume of St Isaac is just a catena of Old Testament passages pointing to universal salvation. (Sabino Chiala is supposed to be publishing that at some point…. in any case he discusses it in his excellent “Dall’ascese eremetica alla misericordia infinita”).

    In any event, this is the sort of question that we’re best off not being too sure about, which seems to be the most common position in the Church’s history. The dangers of making ourselves look foolish by relying too much on our own logic in the face of God’s boundless love, mercy, and justice are immense.

  22. Fr. Maximus says:

    Fr. Patrick,

    Very interesting thought. I am wondering though how you can reconcile it with an understanding of free will. If eternity itself is what prevents a change of mind, because of a transcending of time,how can we choose anything at all?

    I am reading you as saying that the impossibility of changing one’s mind is based on a lack of time; i.e. a lack of temporal sequence. Where there is no temporal sequence, there can be mental sequence of “before” and “after,” so that changing one’s mind become impossible. Is this what you mean? This leaves me wondering how there can be thought at all in heaven.

    I suppose one could say that there is no rational thought divisible into sequence, but only immediate intellection, such as God possesses. Sic aut non?

  23. Fr Maximus,

    I would say that we receive eternity, that is God, freely including the eternal freedom of God’s own will as our own. We need to freely accept God as all in all to be able to receive Him eternally. Our eternity is so established in freedom and remains such. There is no change to negate this freedom so we remain in an eternal state of freedom.

    How free will or thought plays out in an eternal existence is something of which I know not until I experience it. Do we know how God exercises His free will or thought in eternity?

    As one aspect, I imagine that we receive instantly an infinite gift of knowledge and thought that we infinitely assimilate, from our limited starting point, so we “experience” leaping freely from thought to thought “choosing” our way into this infinity, picking of its infinite fruits, yet it is already at once all freely ours and known to us. It is just that we are unable to infinitely grasp it so our limited nature gives us an impression of learning and discreet choices, which become increasingly infinite in extent and appreciation as we go from glory to glory. The freedom of our state goes to all experience in this. We are no longer in a time/space situation to choose whether to accept God or not but rather we remain free in the process of assimilating our knowledge of Him, ourselves and each other. More that knowledge, all of our experience and actions of life may be considered in a similar manner.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts at present.

  24. Andrea Elizabeth says:

    Fr. Patrick,

    If eternity is infinitely choosing to discover what is, it seems hard to consider experience and actions in this light beyond becoming aware of all that fixedly happens and what is fixedly done. If creating is possible, then one basically unearths something already created? The fact that a timeless God created in the first place seems to open the door for new things to originate. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean that willing unity with God is one of those things.

  25. Andrea,

    If God’s life is infinite then He encompasses all life that one may live. So, there is no other life apart from that in Him. So, we are created to participate in God’s life not exist separately of our own right. We are in no way limited by participating in God’s eternity any more than you can say that God is limited. Are you suggesting that He is bored and needs to try new things? Why say fixedly? Is God bound by some constraint?

    I think that we must be careful when we think of creation as opening the door for new things to originate. Rather God manifests His own life and existence in Creation which He brings into being. In a sense there is nothing new in Creation, else God would not be infinite, and yet Creation is absolutely new in essence vis a vie the uncreated essence; it has beginning and was not and it is not a Platonic type emanation.

    I am of the opinion that creation is a one off; the main issue being that Christ would have to be incarnate in each creation to unite it with God. Yet, He has only one created body else He would lose personal identity and unity in His created nature unless one is to consider the matter as a multiverse issue with the same thing in various dimensions that don’t interfere with each other; one identity in multiple dimensions.

    I am not sure of what you are intending to say with the last sentence. Can you please reword it?

  26. syrian88 says:

    It seems like a lot of people are unaware that there are versions of universalism that neither deny Gehenna nor negate the free choice of humans. In very simplistic terms there is a version of universalism that posits Christ as the sole savior of the cosmos, acknowledges that many if not most people will spend “ages” in Gehenna (which makes sense of the chilling words of Jesus regarding the narrow way and only a “few” finding it), and that ultimately these people will repent and be reconciled with God through their own free choice. This vision certainly appears to be St. Isaac’s picture of universalism. The problem with most arguments against universalism is that they seem to object to the things that at least this type of universalist doesn’t believe (e.g.that there are many ways to God, that Gehenna does not exist or is empty, or that human free will would have to be violated for all to be reconciled to God).

    What the non-universalists never seem to deal with is the issue of loved ones suffering in a conscious torment for ever and ever with no relief or cessation being itself a torment for those who are reconciled with God and in Paradise. Even the Orthodox idea that Gehenna and Paradise are the presence of God experienced differently does not resolve this problem. One only has to read the eulogy that Fr. Alvin Kimel composed for his son to know the agony of conceding that our sons and daughters and parents and siblings and spouses being lost forever.

  27. Andrea Elizabeth says:

    Fr. Patrick, I was assuming consequences of receiving eternity at once, which I inferred from your posts above. I confess it did seem at first to be sort of static or limited, and thus maybe boring. If heaven is full of diverse things, like golden streets and multi-fruit bearing trees, it is hard to imagine them coming into being in a timeless, non-sequential way, or that we wouldn’t be to able to create at least variations things. But such is our current limitation of imagining what it will be like. It is interesting to think of discovering what already is rather than making or thinking new things. If that’s the case, I’m sure it will be heavenly.

    My last sentence was putting into too few words the universalist idea of people repenting from independence from God to willing to be united to Him after Judgment Day as an example of something new originating in a person where it did not previously exist.

  28. Andrea,

    I still think that there is a problem with the idea of repentance after the Last Day. There are a number of issues but the primary one is that there is no after the Last Day; it is an eternal Day, the eighth day. There is on this day a change in the whole mode of existence from the space/time that we experience to eternity. I don’t think that this change can happen to us individually but it affects all Creation at once; hence the saints in paradise waiting for this day together with those alive at the time. So, there is no possibility for any later repentance because Creation moves from the time/space mode required for free acceptance of limited creation to the realisation of what it has accepted that is God in His fullness beyond space/time. The change is necessary for God to be all in all and, due to the needed limits of creation and humanity, I don’t think that there is really another option for created life, salvation to eternal life or not to eternal death. Changing things means that one runs into a mass of contradictions in which God ultimately denies Himself. This is all about who God is and while God can do anything we know that He cannot deny Himself and these “constraints” are due to this and even God cannot do otherwise. We must believe that He is doing the uttermost best that He can to save all.

    I think that it is also helpful to remember that eternal life is not only knowing but it is living and acting and mostly it is loving first God and then all others. It is an infinite fullness that never gets static nor boring, yet neither should we conceive of it in the space/time framework.

    Syrian88,

    As a non-universalist, I do try to deal with the issue of loved ones that you raise. There are a number of things to consider including knowing true justice of God, respecting each one’s own freedom and authority even to our own loss, the fullness of the experience of God’s love, the relation of human love to divine love, the focus of our love being on God and not on this world to the extent of putting the love of God far ahead of all our loved ones and not desiring the relationships of this world ahead of God.

    I think that if the focus is on loved ones, as the group of concern, then one’s mind in not yet on God. If the matter is for anyone to suffer, including the worst of tyrants and Satan, then there is another matter based on true Godly love for all. Ultimately, I think it there needs to be an acceptance of what it is to be human in the image of God. To demand that all be saved can be to the extent of denying human nature and the image of God, and to deny God. Also, one must take care in how one understands hell; I am not suggesting a “soft” hell but rather that all will be according to the loving justice of God.

  29. syrian88 says:

    Fr. Patrick,

    I should have written, “what most non-universalists never seem to deal with” since clearly there are a few exceptions. I was speaking to the many, many debates around universalism I have read over the years rather than particular individuals in these comments (although some of the comments reflect examples of my points). And for the record I would not consider myself to be a universalist either although I think Orthodox Christians should hope and pray for the salvation of all. I certainly believe that if a person is not reconciled with God it will not be because of anything lacking in the love of God. I take that to be a central theme of St. Isaac’s writings. He is insistent that we not see God as arbitrary in his judgments, vindictive towards his creatures, or that his justice can be understood in terms of human justice.

  30. Fr. Patrick,

    I found support for your view in a book I got for Christmas published by Holy Trinity in Jordanville and compiled by Archimandrite Panteleimon, “Eternal Mysteries Beyond the Grave”. Speaking of what happens to the soul when it passes on:

    “Now everything that it ever contained, both the good and the bad, quickly and forcefully reveals itself. Man’s thoughts and feelings, his moral character, his passions and desires – all this now develops to an infinite extent. He cannot stop or change or overcome this development. The endlessness of eternity makes them all endless. His defects and weaknesses become unbounded evil. His evil becomes endless, his sorrows turn into unending suffering.

    Do you visualize the horror of such a condition? Your soul, which now is not good but still suprresses and conceals its evil within itself, will there appear absolutely evil. Your evil feelings, to some extent controlled here, there will become ravings, unless you uproot them here. If you have some power over yourself here, there you will be able to do nothing. All that is in you will with you pass there and develop to endlessness…

    Man’s soul, once it has separated itself from the body, continues with great force to develop in itself those qualities which it acquired during its life on earth.

    Consequently, the righteous are endlessly confirmed in their virtues and their reliance on God’s will, while unrepentant sinners become ever more wicked and come to hate God. By the end of the world’s history there will be only two categories of men, both on earth and in heaven: the righteous, full of limitless love for God, and the sinners, full of hate toward God.

    [... You who are wicked] will be unable to stop on this road or to turn back from it. You will suffer forever. What will be the cause of your sufferings? Your own ravings, caused by your own wickedness. They will give you no rest. The evil company into which you will fall will also eternally surround you and toruture you endlessly.

    And what of the good soul?

    Goodness also will become revealed in its entire fullness and strength. It will develop with all the freedom which it used not to have here. It will discover its entire inner worth, which here is largely hidden and is not recognized or valued. Its intire inner light, darkened here in every way; its entire blessedness, suppressed here by various sorrows; all these will now be uncovered and shine forth. And this soul, by the force of its morally developed and virtuously elevated desire, will reise tot he higher spheres of that world where, in the midst of limitless light, there dwells the cause and the First Image of everything good. There, in the realm of the brightest and purest beings, it too will become an angel; that is, a being as light, pure, and blessed as they.

    It will now forever become firm in the good. No evil, either internal or external, will now be able to shake or change it or to harm its blessed condition. But the soul will not live in idleness and merely enjoy its blessedness. It will act through its illumined mind; it will contemplate and penetrate the mysteries which here it cannot understand and reach to: the mysteries of God, the creation, itself, and the eternal life.

    Our condition in the future life will not be a condition of idle leisure. Instead, it will be a harmonious, complete satisfaction of all the longings and desires of our soul, which will undergo an unbroken and endless development. Man’s reason, heart, and will are destined to find for themselves many worthy objects and adequate material for their development.”

    It gets better, but I’m trying the limits of space here. I wish it went into more detail about the nature of the evil and the good person to begin with since no one is perfect.

  31. Androgen says:

    If eternal punishment is the problem for the EO universalist, then isn’t it natural to ask why didn’t Jesus just become incarnate before the creation of Adam and the fall? If Adam didn’t need previous humans for his humanity, than neither would Jesus. If that had happened, then all of creation would have been deified from the get go, and we would have fixed created persons with freewill and the impossibility to sin. It seems to me that if you hold to universalism, then the questioning of eternal punishment is misplaced; you should be questioning and justifying Gods actions from the start. Where you begin will determine where you end.

  32. Andrea Elizabeth says:

    But then Jesus would have had to get married and Eve would have been taken from Gods rib, and we would have been physical children of God. We would have been deified by nature instead of energies. I wonder why that wouldn’t have been good.

  33. Andrea,

    We are physical children of God, that is what happens when we partake of the Eucharist. The Church, the new Eve, is taken from the side(rib) of Christ, the new Adam, via the Eucharist. We are born of God through the Church as physical children of God. Deification would still be through energies even in the case mentioned else we would cease to be creatures if deified by nature. There are other problems with Adam being the incarnate Son of God.

    I read this today: 2 Peter 2:9-10:
    Then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation and how to keep the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority.

    It seems from this that God even keeps unjust from escaping temporary punishment before the day of judgment. Perhaps that is a hard reading of the text but when seen in the light of the rich man, in the story of Lazarus the beggar, who is unable to cross into paradise with Abraham even if willing nor are those in paradise able to come and help, I am struggling to see how can one be universalist if God is not even releasing the unjust from temporary punishment. While we know that God wills all to be saved, if He could and would, after the Day of Judgement, save them then God could and would have forgiven the rich man and taken him to paradise before the Day of Judgement, because the rich man recognised his sins and most gladly would have repented testified in trying to pass the warning to his brothers, and God would not keep the unjust to the Day of Judgement, in contrast to releasing the godly from temptation, but proactively seek to release them. Note, that the rich man also accepted the justice of his state even though he did not enjoy it because he did not complain about the justice of it but only sort to spare his brothers a similar fate.

  34. ioannis says:

    There can be no repentance after death because there is no death anymore. Our possibility of repentance is absolutely tied to our current state of ongoing corruption until our death.

    The angels can not repent not because they were not tempted or deceived, (actually the most of them were somehow tempted because they followed the bad example of the angel who first sinned).

    The angels can not repent because they can not die.

  35. Androgen says:

    The possible world example I gave follows confusion between the will and the use of the will, which is what I believe Universalism does. Even if the incarnation came before the creation of contingent persons, it would not guarantee a fixed personal use of the will. Sin and Death is destroyed in the eschaton, but reprobates and sinners will still exist.
    If Universalism is true then one would seem to say that no person is morally fixed in heaven, which would account for change. Yet, this would also allow for eternal falls.
    A Universalist could also say that due to Gods prescience and love in heaven, the only thing that is fixed is the moral direction all can take, and this without any type of violation of free will. This would stop the saints from falling and allow the reprobates to become saints.
    The problem with the last position is that if Gods eschatological presence could somehow irresistibly direct our personal use of our wills to only the good, then why wasn’t He present in such a way from the beginning? What stopped Him from such a non freewill violating presence that would irresistibly direct us to the good and stop evil and death? It seems to me that the principles that universalism needs for justification actually nullify the principles he uses to justify the existence of evil.

  36. Fr. Patrick,

    It seems to me there must be something necessary about Adam being of the earth and not begotten of God. Adam didn’t need human parents (except in theistic evolution models), but Christ had a human mother. Androgen’s scenario takes the Theotokos out of the picture. But even if that theoretically happened, it seems the way we are sons of God through union with His body through the Eucharist is different than if Jesus had a physical individual wife. My way of thinking about it probably over-spiritualizes the Eucharist to the detriment of the physicality of it, but it seems we are now more children by adoption since we are not children by nature. If we were Christ’s natural children, wouldn’t we also have a dual nature as He does? Maybe my conception of it does cause too much distance from the Eucharist. This may have to do with a too negative view of human nature and its ability to be united to God.

    It seems to me that the problem with the gnomic will could be that it is created too fragile. Infants are protected from their vulnerability by their parents. Did God expect too much of Adam and Eve too soon? Some people think they fell the first day. Seems to me they should have been reared and closely protected and guided until they reached an age of accountability. I guess we have to trust that they did, and that at death, if not judgment day, so all will be considered to have reached that age (evil’s available presence, developed by seducing and deceptive fallen angels, not withstanding).

  37. Andrea,

    Adam being taken from the earth is important to unite Adam with the rest of Creation; he is made of the same material as is everything else, he shares the same DNA structure as other animals. These thing unite him to the rest of creation and through him in Christ the rest of creation to God.

    I think that Christ being our human father (forefather) would distort our relationship with Him as adopted sons. He would be our father rather than the firstborn of us. I think that it is important for our salvation and deification that He is our brother in his humanity, that he is a human son as well as divine Son. This is only possible if he takes birth through a virgin and not as the first-created Adam.

    If he did have children by a wife, I don’t think that they would be dual natured because he would only father children through his human nature.

    We are children by adoption rather than nature, that is very true, but we are united physically, as well as spiritually, with Christ for this to be so; He is physically united to us as one flesh, though His flesh is spiritualised rather than in our present mode of existence.

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