Whether grace can be offered after death

1.) The reality of Hell rests on whether grace is given after death or, in the case of the angels, offered more than once.

2.) By Hell I mean eternal non-corrective punishment as opposed to an age (aionios) of corrective punishment that leaves open the possibility of repentance. The best reading of the NT texts is that many will experience extraordinary torments that any reasonable person would dedicate his entire life to avoiding, but there are ambiguities about their duration.

3.) Axiom of grace: grace both elevates and transforms human life.

4.) Since grace transforms and elevates human life it must be in human life as such and not merely in one of its powers. Were it merely in one of its powers, it would be in essence a virtue, and so would perfect nature without elevating it.

5.) Grace elevates and perfects life, but the life of separated souls and angels differs from human life lived in the body. Life lived in the body has continuous time experienced by the living subject as such while temporality for bodiless finite creatures is a discrete time that consists solely in that creature’s need to think about reality with more than one thought.

6.) Discrete time is thus only in the power of the finite spirit and not its essence, being in the multiplicity of the acts it needs to understand.

7.) The subject of time in separated souls and angels cannot be the subject of grace, since if it were grace would not perfect and elevate the nature.

8.) So while pure finite spirits exist temporally, this temporality belongs to their powers and not their substance, and so the grace that they receive cannot be temporal.

9.) Only a subject that exists in time can experience grace as forgiveness, falling again, and repentance, i.e. only such a subject can be continually offered grace.

10.) The continual offering of grace is possible for human life lived in the body, but not for separated souls or angels.

11.) Hell is thus eternal in the mode of a natural consequence, in the sense that, even though separated souls are in time, they are not temporal in their life but in the powers of their life, and grace is given to life and not merely the powers of life. Omnipotence does not extend to contradictions, and there is a contradiction in giving grace over many times to a spirit without a body.

12.) Hell is not God “sentencing one to eternity” except in the sense that “God’s sentence” is  identical to whatever is the case. We can say God sentences one to eternity only in the way that is identical to saying that not even God could give grace more than once to a creature whose life was outside of time, since to do so involves contradiction.


Sanctificetur nomen tuum

The first desire expressed in the Our Father is that the name of the Father be made holy.

The name of the Lord plays an immense role in Scripture, with the whole phrase occurring in 243 verses. It seems to indicate a divine or divinizing power that humans can use, and which they therefore can also abuse. David’s challenge to Goliath is a paradigmatic case:

You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.

The name of the Lord is thus a sort of weapon. Again, Psalm 20:

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.

Or more emphatically in Psalm 118, where the phrase is an antiphon:

All nations compassed me about: but in the name of the LORD will I destroy them.

They compassed me about; yea, they compassed me about: but in the name of the LORD I will destroy them.

The term is also applied to intellectual power:

And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions.

The power that is at our disposal is also in God himself, and as such it can also be an object of praise and thanksgiving in its own right. If the soldierly or intellectual excellence gives glory or reverence to persons then it bestows it so much more so on the Lord.

The first desire of the Lord’s prayer is therefore that this power be made holy, that is, that all the energy of divinity be put in the service not necessarily of wisdom, military glory, the defeat of Philistines or Romans but of making persons holy, or that the power of God that is at our disposal, which certainly has proven itself able to vanquish armies and overthrow kingdoms, should now be seen as holiness-making.

Omni-properties of minds

1.) What knows all things is omniscient.

2.) Intelligence knows being and therefore knows all things. There is nothing other than being.

3.) Human intelligence is omniscient in the minimal possible way since it knows being only as, for example, given in the principle of contradiction.

4.) What is known must be made known, which requires what makes known.

5.) In sense knowledge only accidents are made known. Visible light, for example, produces an actual visible by producing a purely accidental object. Sensation is in fact a physical accident twice over: on the one hand it is the accident of an object and on the other hand it is the physical modification of an organ. Because sensation is of accidents it necessarily comes after the substance of things while intellection is of the substances themselves and so is caused by them only so far as intellection is passive.

6.) A purely passive intellection would not suffice to explain actual knowledge. Thus there is a principle in all intellection causally prior to all substance since what is known must be made known and any action coming after a substance would, by definition, produce an accident.

7.) What is causally prior to all substance is omnipotent.

8.) The passivity of our knowledge is the measure in which its omnipotence participates in omnipotence simply, and so human intellection is a participation in what Thomas called “the divine light”, or the divine intelligence in its role as pure agent intellection.

9.) Aristotle seemed to think that passivity entered our knowledge only by its union with body, but the possibility of the angels (to say nothing of their reality) refutes this.






Ultimate good

-Teach Aristotle’s ethics as the appropriate response to the ultimate good.

-The ultimate good is infinite, and so to love it appropriately requires continually wanting to love it more.

-The ultimate good is the measure of action like the pharaoh’s arm was the measure of the cubit. It is the right size no matter how large Pharaoh grows. What determines if some good is appropriate or not cannot itself be too much nor too little, and some good can be appropriately sought or not.



Sexual pathology

One sort of pathological desire is the inability to know the real motivation of one’s behaviors and desires. I’ll use pathological and its cognates to refer to such desires.

Determining the pathological requires some theory of human goods. The patient tells you he wants X, but the point of your theory of pathology is that he can’t actually desire X but must be really desiring Y, and therapy consists in getting the patient to discover this.

Psychology saw homosexual desires as pathological until the early ’70’s and gender dysphoria as pathological until relatively recently. Something analogous happened earlier in psychology with divorce or (even earlier) with fornication in the sense that, in the Christian West, divorce and fornication were seen as the sort of things that could not be legitimately desired until psychology gave arguments for why both could be fulfilling behaviors or at least behaviors that posed no serious harm. In all cases something went from being seen as intrinsically undesirable to having at least some healthy expressions.

As someone horrified by the thought of being sexually involved with someone other than my wife  it’s easy for me to sympathize with the idea that all the above behaviors are pathological since sex as I’ve experienced it for several decades now is so essentially tied to lifelong commitments and procreation, and its being so has made my life very happy. But that’s a fact in search of a compelling theory.

Or maybe not a theory so much as… what? Whether something counts as a legitimate desire or not is not just a matter of theory but of the possible relationships on offer in the time and place where one finds himself. We interpret experience though whatever we take the legitimate options to be, though even here we do so in virtue of an intellect that has access to being and therefore to the possibility of transcending all categories and givens.

For all that, the category of the pathological remains to be specified in any theory of the good, and shifting things out of that category redefines other behaviors as pathological. As necessary as it might have been to abandon the description of homosexuality as pathological, it had to generate an idea like homophobia, which, even if it isn’t a clinical description, points in the direction of the sort of belief that must now be considered pathological. If there can be no legitimate expression of disfavor or disapproval of homosexuals, then the disapproval must arise from an cause unknown to the one who disapproves, and the goal of therapy and education must be to awaken homophobes – or even potential homophobes – from their dogmatic slumber.


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