Discover more from Джон’s Theologoumena: Another Minority Report
A Free Will Defense of Hell (doesn’t work)
Below is just an archive of my thoughts as were evoked by The Extrinsic Model of Universal Divine Causality: Divine Providence and Grace at Fr. Kimel’s Eclectic Orthodoxy.
In reading Mats Wahlberg, Justin Noia, Matthews Grant and that Thomist ilk, who take the implications of efficacious grace & predestination seriously vis a vis freedom, there is a certain irony in how some of them seem to converge on & even implicitly stipulate to DBH’s definition of perfect freedom.
Those who have so converged have done so with eyes closer to being wide open than certain other Thomists. What they are seeing is that the limit cases of whether or not we can be truly free while – not only efficaciously graced, but – in a beatific vision, create a “universalism problem” for any free will defense of hell.
Some perditionists complain that DBH’s definition of perfect freedom circularly embeds his universalist conclusions. They insist that rational freedom be defined only in terms of finite final causes, i.e. creaturely goods as final (rather than penultimate) ends in themselves. And they’re defining the degrees of freedom of rational agents independent of any given agent’s degree of rationality. What Noia & Grant are doing in recognizing that one would never avert one’s gaze from a beatific vision & would be impeccable precisely due to a beatific vision, even while being truly free, is – at least implicitly – acknowledging how perfect freedom & rationality must operate?
In converging on a more fulsome understanding of freedom & rationality in their relationship to grace, they thus fashion, it has seemed to me, both a fairly good logical defense of evil as well as a defense of a finite hell, i.e. purgatory. So, thanks for that, I say.
Overall, though, their understanding remains meager. Where they fail miserably is in when, in their theodicies of hell, they offer the most implausible greater good logics (this includes – not only certain of her analytic heirs, but – Stump, herself). Or, if they know better than to proffer evidential theodicies, they prescind to a mere defense of hell & beat a hasty, mysterian retreat with (they imagine) a deft skeptical theistic maneuver. Whether defense or theodicy, I find it all aesthetically repugnant, morally unintelligible & lacking in all common sense & sensibilities.
And this suggests a more fundamental problem with their theo-anthropo presuppositions.
So, okay, perhaps not all perditionists are saying that, when it comes to defining human freedom, we should keep both God & rationality out of it. Maybe some do recognize that we’re perfectly free only when rationally grounded, wholly & finally, in the divine. In other words, maybe not all are suggesting that universalists are cheating (tautologically, I suppose).
However, what they are all doing is ignoring that perdition entails DBH’s moral modal collapse. What they all are denying is that human persons are constitutively indwelled by the divine, intrinsically desirous of the divine and integrally part of the Totus Christus.
What many fatally fail to recognize is that our rational appetites for what’s true, beautiful & good in creation arise from our intrinsic desire for Truth, Beauty & Goodness, that is, for the Creator, Godself, and that our existential orientations (WE-ness) are finally ordered toward transcendental imperatives (THOU-ness).
What I’m pondering, above, is the meaning of freedom & trying to better grasp DBH’s definition of perfect freedom.
I wasn’t addressing the competing models of how it works, e.g. libertarian, in/compatibilist, open, classical or process, Molinists or even Crisp’s “Deviant Calvinism.”
Logical defenses & evidential theodicies of hell will never become an issue for those who employ DBH’s definition of perfect freedom, for no one can meet the perditionistic criteria of absolutely & definitively rejecting God in the first place. That’s because such a rejection would require sufficient freedom & knowledge (where sufficient = perfect). Anyone with such knowledge & freedom would be impeccable & wouldn’t avert their gaze from God.
A preliminary question can beg re whether or not & why anyone might be deprived such sufficient knowledge as, for example, would ensue from efficacious grace. What greater good might God intend by not gifting same to any who persist in rejecting Him to any degree?
Here is where a logical defense gets offered, which wouldn’t turn solely on one’s definition of freedom. Rather, it will reveal the various conceptions folks have regarding God’s character. Some invoke an appeal to a mysterious & unfathomable greater good, advancing an argument which might be logically consistent. I’m suggesting all such arguments are nonsensical existentially, wholly implausible in that they portray a God, Who, parentally, seems thoroughgoingly abhorrent.
For those interested, here are Wood’s attempts to fix Grant’s “universalism problem.” They don’t work but they make for great foils. Well, good foils, at least.
The “Dual Sources Account,” Predestination, and the Problem of Hell, Adam Noel Wood, European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 13 (1):103-127 (2021)
Divine Universal Causality and the Particular Problem of Hell: A Quiescence Solution, Adam Noel Wood, Scientia et Fides 9 (2) 2021