Impossibility of irrevocable solidification into evil


#1

Hi all-

I’m new here. I don’t have a lot of time to pursue conversations in addition to the few I have going on elsewhere, but I do stop in from time to time. I love GM’s book, chatted with him about it and shared some ideas. Haven’t talked to him in a while. My own research has been in open theism and as you all know the “fit” between the OV and UR has come up here and there. That fit isn’t something I wanted to discuss right now. I have something else in mind.

I’d like to suggest an argument FOR UR, and argument I haven’t seen elsewhere. I’ve shared this with GM some time ago but then put it on a shelf. It’s not a fully developed thought and it’s as much philosophical as it is theological. But we’ll give it a try.

Many of you know Greg Boyd for his work on the OV, his ‘warfare theodicy’, and most recently his work on the Church/State relationship. Greg’s best work is his most unknown and least read, his doctoral dissertation which was a Trinitarian reconstruction of Hartshorne’s process metaphysic. Greg basically solved a problem (so the thesis goes) that process theologians had been suffering from re: freedom. Greg developed a view of “disposition” as the mediators between possibility and actuality and argued that human beings, as ‘spiritual’ beings, are dispositional centers of experience.

Gosh I hate having to say so little about it. But with that in mind, let me make an argument for UR. These thoughts and some discussion on UR that we’ve had over on a site I frequent can be found here: opentheismboard.org/default.aspx?f=10&m=89426 (and there’s some more discussion here: opentheismboard.org/default.aspx?f=10&m=88443).

I’m saying that irrevocable solidification in evil is impossible given certain things. Basically:

(a) Human persons are by definition dispositional centers of sentient experience.
(b) Dispositions by definition mediate between possibility and actuality.

We basically use (a) and (b) to say:

© Human beings can solidify so completely that every possibility for personal becoming is foreclosed save one: the possibility of Godward becoming.

I’ve wondered where in the Bible we might find evidence of the idea that “Godward becoming" cannot be excluded from the field of possibilities a human being faces. I’m considering 2Cor. 3.17 — “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

“15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their minds; 16 but when a man turns to the Lord the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

Basically, the argument is that wherever God is, God brings to that situation “freedom" or “liberty”? What might that mean? It has to mean AT LEAST this (on the assumption of omnipresenece): that any non-God reality faces at least ONE possibility–the freedom to dispose Godward. What freedom is left is this is denied? Exactly. God cannot be present without creating for that to which God is present the possibily of Godward becoming. This is metaphysically the case. It’s what God brings to creation necessarily because of the kind of God God is.

It would presumably be true in all conceivable worlds, including hell. While it’s conceivable in the sense that a person in hell would renew her rejection of God on a moment by moment basis, what she could not do is (as Jerry Walls says HAS to be the case to make sense of ECT at all) freely choose, once for all, to irrevocably reject God, to irrevocably solidify in evil. Walls argues this IS an option for human choice. I’m arguing that such an irrevocable state of affairs could not be possible, for it denies what 2Cor 3.17 essentially affirm is the case everywhere God is, namely, that “where God is there is freedom”; that wherever God is present in creation, God brings “freedom" to that created reality–i.e., the possibility to “become” God-ward.

What created reality can exist apart from God’s sustaining presence? None. It’s ruled out by definition. God must be in hell, sentiently present at least in sustaining the existence of the wicked in their sufferings. God could not withdrawal his presence from the wicked ABSOLUTELY without annihilating them since no creature can exist independently of God.

So for persons to exist at all in hell, God has to be present in sustaining their existence. But once we put God into the equation, you put the freedom of “Godward becoming” into the equation. Wherever God is…ALL that God is (necessarily and potentially) is there, and that includes hell, in the experience of the suffering wicked. Wherever the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom–i.e., wherever God is, there is at least ONE possibility for becoming, namely, God-ward becoming. We are not free as beings created and sustained by God to eradicate THAT possibility.

What’s irrevocable about human being is its dispositional character; more specifically, the sentient and relational capacities of human constitution for personal, relational becoming. To be human is just to be a center of experience that’s free to “become” relationally and personally. To not be THAT is to not exist as a human being. For any existing human being, sustained in existence by the presence of God, then, God remains within that being’s dispositional field of possibilities as that one reality constituting the possibility regarding which the person must be free to dispose herself so long as she exists.

2Cor. 3.17 bolsters the position. GOD can’t be in/with anything, any situation without creating for that being or situation a certain FREEDOM. We could make a case for the impossibility of an irrevocable hell entirely without the dispositional argument just on the basis of God’s presence necessarily introducing freedom to any and all non-God realities God is present to. It’s entailed in the doctrine of ‘omnipresence’.

It’s rough and needs work, and I’m rushing through it, but I trust you get the gist.

Tom


2009 Glenn and Tom dialogue -- gallery comments
The Irrevocable Call of God
#2

Running very far behind in catching up with comments. But for what it’s worth: I agree with the gist. :sunglasses:

But it all depends on the intentions of God. An ECT proponent sooner or later has to claim that God either gives up intending to save some (many/most) persons from sin, or else never intended to save those persons from sin at all. Often this admittedly gets conflated with a non-orthodox claim that God is not omnipresent; but to be fair, an ECT could probably claim that the presence of God can still provide certain levels of freedom (insofar as sentient active existence continues) while still allowing irrevocable solidification into evil.

Remember, there’s a widespread acknowledgment (which I agree with, btw) that apart from the intentions of God, we all would drift into a hopelessly irrevocable solidification of evil.


#3

Thanks Jason.

I does depend upon the intentions of God. And nobody can have an opinion on the ultimate destiny of any created being without first deciding what God’s intentions are for that being. And here we have convincing reasons, I think, biblically speaking, for concluding that God’s intentions for all created being are good and loving and that this love is in fact infinite.

So it’s the omnipresence of THIS love which precludes ECT I argue.

Jason: But to be fair, an ECT could probably claim that the presence of God can still provide certain levels of freedom (insofar as sentient active existence continues) while still allowing irrevocable solidification into evil.

Tom: I’d be interested in seeing a proponent of ECT argues such a thing. In what sense would the movements and actions of an entity irrevocably solidified in evil be characterized as ‘free’ (in the sense Paul likely means ‘freedom’ in 2Cor. 3.17)?

Jason: Remember, there’s a widespread acknowledgment (which I agree with, btw) that apart from the intentions of God, we all would drift into a hopelessly irrevocable solidification of evil.

Tom: My own view is that annihilation would be a far more consistent way to respond to any actual irrevocable solidification into evil (if such a state were possible). But isn’t it the case that no created being can continue to exist in a state of irrevocable solidification into evil apart from God’s intending to sustain the continued existence of such a being in such a state? It seems to me that there’s just no removing active divine intentionality (the Eastern Orthodox ideas of the divine ‘energies’ and the ‘logoi’ of created entities come in here) from any created entity. So talk of what state creation would ‘continue’ to exist in apart from all divine intentionality turns out to be meaningless. It’s not a question of whether a created being would continue to exist at all if God were to have no intentions for such a being. That would by definition spell the end of that being’s existence, its annihilation. Given omnipresence, the question becomes not ‘Is God present here intentionally at all?’ but ‘What is God in fact intending here?’. I’m claiming that we must always ask this question regarding any existing being.

And as you say, how one answers this depends on what sort of God one believes God is, or what one thinks God can or cannot intend given the being and nature of God. I don’t think God can intend the continued existence of beings who would become irrevocably evil, which for me of course precludes the very possibility of such irrevocability. In my view, saying God is omnipresent, then, is equal to saying God is active intentionally with respect to all that exists. And since I can’t imagine God intending to sustain states which are irrevocably evil, I can’t imagine such irrevocability.

T


#4

Heres what I understand so far.
I understand this statement (syllogism) to mean

  1. where God’s spirit is there is freedom.
  2. God’s spririt is present in hell (sustaining all in it)
    Conclusion: God will bring freedom to all in hell.

the problem is the difference of God’s sustaining presence and Gods indwelling presence. Is it possible at all to have God sustain you and be dead at the exact same time? If it is possible to do for one moment of time then is is possible to do for an infinite moment in time.

I’m not sure your argument is sound. It appears that if God could sustain a sinner and the sinner be dead (spiritually) simultaneously then what is to keep God from continuing that forever.

Just some thoughts.

Auggy


#5

Auggy-

Maybe I should clarify. The conclusion isn’t that “God will bring freedom to all in hell.” It’s that God’s presence does in fact bring freedom to those in hell. That is, the freedom I’m imaging here is a present, not a future reality. God’s presence is itself the metaphysical grounds of ‘the possible’. So long as God is present to a being, that being “has its being” in God, and as such has the freedom to move (however incrementally) Godward.

I agree with you that there’s no question God can sustain people who are spiritually dead (for the moment). But we hold out the hope that those who are presently spiritually dead will hear the gospel and turn to God. So we believe (at least for the present time) that the choice to turn to God lies within the range of what’s possible for these spiritually dead people. They have the freedom to turn to God, though they are spiritually dead (I’m not a Calvinist obviously). That freedom is theirs now even as they are dead. What I’m saying is that God is the ground of such possibilities, and that wherever God is this is what God does, he offers the possibility of Godward becoming. More precisely, I’m suggesting that God IS this offer, this invitation to become. So to say God is present is to say creation is invited to move Godward. So it would be definitive of anything that exists as created and sustained by God that it always has God within the scope of its possibilities. That’s my fundamental claim.

I don’t think I can ‘prove’ it as such. It may be unsound as you say. I’m still thinking through it. There are also some key ‘process’ and ‘panentheistic’ insights (and a couple of traditional Greek Orthodox doctrines) that move it along. But never mind those right now. And it may be that 2Cor 3 isn’t a biblical example of what I’m talking about either. I might need to keep it a purely theological/philosophical argument.

Thanks for the feedback guys. Appreciate it!

Tom


#6

Tom: I’d be interested in seeing a proponent of ECT argues such a thing. In what sense would the movements and actions of an entity irrevocably solidified in evil be characterized as ‘free’ (in the sense Paul likely means ‘freedom’ in 2Cor. 3.17)?

Jason: In the same sense that any of our actions and movements are considered free now. Obviously such a person would not be freed from his sins, of course; and by definition the Arm or Calv proponent would be denying that the Spirit of the Lord, even though present, is in any way acting toward or granting that kind of freedom. But the irrevocably evil person would still be dependent on God for his freedom as a derivative personal agent. Thus, as I said, “the presence of God can still provide certain levels of freedom (insofar as sentient active existence continues)”.

Relatedly, and if I’m not mistaken, the tensing of that phrase would indicate that liberty already persistently exists where the Spirit of the Lord is. But those who are still sinners are not liberated from their sins and their sinning. We would say, “not yet”. So would Arms and Calvs, to a more limited degree; but all of us can agree that even sinners (who remain persons and responsible for their behaviors as sinners) are free by grace of the Lord in the sense of being active persons and not merely reactive simulacra thereof.

Jason: Remember, there’s a widespread acknowledgment (which I agree with, btw) that apart from the intentions of God, we all would drift into a hopelessly irrevocable solidification of evil.

Tom: My own view is that annihilation would be a far more consistent way to respond to any actual irrevocable solidification into evil (if such a state were possible).

Jason: Agreed; but I connect that fate strongly to drifting into hopelessly irrevocable evil, too. Any sin involves what would be annihilation if God ever did it; and only avoids annihilation of the sinner by the grace of God upon Whom we are dependent for our existence. (Where sin exceeds, grace superexceeds, for not as the sin is the grace, etc.)

Tom: But isn’t it the case that no created being can continue to exist in a state of irrevocable solidification into evil apart from God’s intending to sustain the continued existence of such a being in such a state?

Jason: Absolutely. But that is nothing against the points I was making earlier.

Tom: So talk of what state creation would ‘continue’ to exist in apart from all divine intentionality turns out to be meaningless. … Given omnipresence, the question becomes not ‘Is God present here intentionally at all?’ but ‘What is God in fact intending here?’. I’m claiming that we must always ask this question regarding any existing being.

Jason: I obviously agree very strongly with that. Which is why I pointed out that Calv and Arm theologians routinely end up talking about God’s intentions in regard to irrevocable sinners. I notice that their explanations regarding either the annihilation or the continuing existence of irrevocable sinners, however, either ignore trinitarian theism altogether as a factor (as if they might as well be Muslim theists or nominal deists or whatever), or else tacitly deny trinitarian theism (e.g. introducing schism in the intention of God or denying that God is intrinsically love etc.)

This doesn’t keep an ECT proponent from claiming that the presence of God can still provide certain levels of freedom (insofar as sentient active existence continues) while still allowing irrevocable solidification into evil. It does (I find and believe) preclude them from doing so as trinitarian theists, especially once a trinitarian theist makes a case for universalism following as a corollary from trinitarian theism. (Once that happens, they can only directly maintain a disconnect from the relevance of trinitarianism, which disconnection might have been accidental before.)