Category Archives: Eschatology

Ratzinger: Who Sows Confusion is Antichrist

As did the great Garrigou-Lagrange, so did Joseph Ratzinger write a book on eschatology. Ratzinger’s book has many strengths, though it has considerable and repeated weaknesses as well.

But among the strengths is his identification of some of the characteristics of the Antichrist. He notes the clear teaching of Scripture that there are many antichrists. He obliquely acknowledges that there is perhaps a crescendo of this at the end of time. (Newman does a much better job drawing all this out in his essay on Antichrist in Discussions and Arguments.) At any rate, he cites from a medieval figure on the character of antichrist. The figure is Gerhoh of Reichersberg. It is a chilling quote:

Everyone who is Christo Filio Dei contrarius (against the Christ, the Son of God) deserves this name…. In other words, anyone who destroys ordo (order) and furthers confusio (confusion) is an antichrist (Ratzinger, Eschatology, 200).

Oh Lord, preserve your faithful in the Truth. Have mercy on us, for we are hungry, scattered, and wanting for direction. Without Truth, we cannot Love aright. In the Name of Love, then, Clarify for us Your Truth.

Some Men are Not Saved

Classical logic holds that the negation of a universal affirmative immediately implies the affirmation of a particular negative.

If “not all will go to the game,” then “some will not go to the game.”

Now, Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 7:21). Jesus is negating the universal affirmative. Thus, he is immediately implying the affirmation of the particular negative.

Thus, a logically equivalent expression is: “Some are not saved.”

And Jesus is speaking of men.

For classical logicians, we gather from knowledge outside the statements that “humans exist.” The statement, that is, is simply about existing human beings. Thus, the ultimate yield is: “There are some men who are such that they will not be saved.”

Symbolic logicians contend that the affirmation of a particular (negative or affirmative) constitutes an existential claim.

So, it seems on the count of either logic, that Jesus affirms that some men are damned.

Balthasar’s Delirious Hope that All be Saved

Hans Urs von Balthasar’s work has been gaining steady influence in the Church. Whoever reads his work must be impressed by his erudition and the vast sweep of his vision. And indeed he has many insights and has pioneered a way of doing theology that ought to be taken up in many of its respects, the criticisms here notwithstanding.

However, his work smacks of contradiction to the faith of the Church on a number of key points. And in other matters he has been wildly reckless. One topic on which he has been both utterly reckless and also – by any sober estimation – at odds with elements of the faith of the Church is on his hope that all may be saved.

I must summarize his argument and position here. The presentation could of course be developed more fully – but then again, so could the criticisms to follow.

Balthasar argues, to begin, that since we may hope – regarding each person – that he may be saved, we may hope that all persons may be saved. The argument seems logical (unless you have studied logic): If I may hope for each man that he can be saved, I may hope that the whole lot of men can be saved.

He further contends that this hope is not contradicted by any teaching of revelation or the Magisterium, for, he contends, the Magisterium has never declared that anyone is in hell, much less pronounced on any individual.

Of course, the ready critic will immediately bring up a terrible text such as Matthew 25 – where the sheep go off to eternal life and the goats are sent into the fires of hell. Balthasar has a quick response (Dare We Hope, 21ff; Theo-Drama V, 316ff). First, he allies himself with a favorite theological antagonist of his – Karl Rahner. Rahner found a way to “demythologize” such plain texts by way of Heideggerian existentials. (Too bad for the chaps who can’t read Being and Time – they wear themselves out to no purpose. Poor Francis Xavier. Perhaps he could have enjoyed some espresso on the beach.) Back to Balthasar – who, after all, did chastise Rahner, and quite rightly, for his undue optimism and the mechanical automatism of the supernatural existential. [For a more scholarly analysis of Rahner’s existential, see this article.] Yes, back to Balthasar. He calls on Rahner’s “demythologizing” or rather “de-apocalypticizing”, according to which texts such as Mt 25 are not at all predictive. The texts are not “advanced reports,” they cynically maintain. The texts are only warnings.

Second, Balthasar counters texts such as Mt 25 with texts such as 1 Tim 2:3f which indicate God’s will that all be saved. Thus, there are, he observes, two sets of texts. Balthasar then takes shelter behind some historical critical work. (Once again, since the conclusion favors him on this occasion, he makes friends with those whom he often elsewhere lambasts.) That work, Balthasar contends, suggests that the two sets of texts cluster in two different phases of the Christian self-understanding. The harsh set of texts (Mt 25) clusters around the pre-Easter message of Jesus. The texts regarding God’s universal mercy cluster around the post-Easter Jesus. Hence, Balthasar contends, the harsh set does not adequately represent the scope of hope we may place in Christ’s redeeming act. But the second set does.

At this point, the facile critic denounces Balthasar as a “universalist”. That is like Anakin charging the Sith when too young. Balthasar is not so foolish – at least on this point. Or, at least not on this score! For other lines of his thought do entail universalism, despite his pleas that he is no universalist. (He pleas, that is, that he is unsure of the outcome, which hangs in the balance.) Here, Balthasar simply contends that the two sets of texts cannot be gathered into a higher “system” of unity. Thus, we are left to submit ourselves to the two sets, recognizing that we are all “under judgment”. We cannot know the outcome of our own lives, let alone that of any other person. But we know we are threatened with judgment and promised mercy. How will we live in response? Thus, Balthasar says that he is not pronouncing any certain outcome. Rather, he is holding out the “hope” that all might be saved at last.

We ought, next, take a look at what he understands to be the mechanism of salvation. For Balthasar, that mechanism is this: Jesus Christ takes on our sins. Not just our punishment for sin but our waywardness, our very sins. Balthasar tries to walk as far with Luther and Calvin – with Barth! – as he thinks he can. To be sure, he does part with Luther, who claimed that Christ became sin itself. However, Balthasar mirrors Luther in a number of respects in this regard. He holds with Barth and Calvin, and seemingly Luther, that Jesus experienced damnation on our behalf. The manifold agony on the Cross was apparently not enough, though our Lord said it was enough. No, our Lord had to suffer damnation on top of what he said was enough. Be that as it may, Christ accomplishes our redemption by “removing” our sin from us and “letting it be” by itself. How can “sin” be “removed” from a man and “let be”? What is sin, such that it can be removed? Balthasar submits, sin is “a reality” (Dare We Hope, 137; Mysterium Paschale, 173; Theo-Drama V, 314). Balthasar thereby collides with the traditional notion of sin as a privation of a due good in human action, as this privation regards what is owed to God. Not enough for Balthasar. Rather, for him, sin is a reality! I.e., a really existing thing? Well, it must be, since, Balthasar alleges, Christ removes this reality from the sinner and “lets it be” by itself. What remains from the sinner from whom sin has been dislodged is saved. If there is any ounce of good will in you, then you will be saved. If you love puppies in New York, and rescue them from harsh masters, you have something non-malicious about you. Clearly, he who loves puppies, or daffodils, in New York, must not be perfectly malicious. The only way that you the sinner can be damned is if you identify yourself with that horrific, malicious sin that is the pure “Non Serviam”. (And even then…, but stay tuned.) Only if you identify yourself with that shrieking horror of sin can you be damned. (I am reminded of Munch’s The Scream.) And if you do not manage this act of total identification with your absolute “no”, then you will be saved. (Poor St. Monica, worrying herself for nothing about the eternal loss of Augustine. Surely he had some affection for his lover? And for Adeodatus? What tenderness Augustine already had. Monica could have saved those copious tears.)

And what is hell, for Balthasar? It is just that “sin itself, existing in its own, the pure ‘Non Serviam.’” Pure Evil, as it were, released by Christ’s redeeming act.

In his many horned (ten horned?) approach to this issue, Balthasar also examines what it means for hell to be without end. He allows himself to contradict himself – in the same text. For at one point he says that we must admit that hell is eternal. But at another point considers the idea that its eternity is one of intensity and not necessarily one of duration. The pain seems like it shall be without end but it may actually come to an end. Is this to liken hell to Purgatory? Seems so: TD V, 314. It is unlikely, he adds, that anyone will forever choose to be isolated from Christ’s redeeming act. After all, Christ went down to the damned, he says (Theological Explorations IV, 421f, 462f; DWH 26, 178; Wainrwright, Cambridge Companion, 124). And Christ cannot allow the damned sinner to remain forever unrepentant (TD V, 277, 284, 303f, 307, 311-13). At some point, the (damned) sinner will crack open, capitulate. If this happens, his past hell shall have been of infinite intensity, but not of infinite duration (See TD V, 298-314).

Finally, Balthasar examines the infinite love of God. If God infinitely loves man, then what would He do were man not to repent? What would God do? His love would have been thwarted, frustrated, in vain. Can God allow this? Would God allow this? Away with the thought, cries Balthasar. With these lines of thought, Balthasar retracts his earlier avowal that the outcome is not certain.

Alright – so much for the summary. There are some positive aspects to his thought. For one, unlike the optimists who follow Rahner, he takes hell as a threat rather seriously. Second, he encourages the Christian to enter into redemptive suffering as much and as deeply as possible for others. (This is the single greatest point in his reflections – and one worth taking home. We are called as Christians to pray for one another, to intercede for one another, to take on suffering that grace may fall from heaven on a hardened sinner. Personal holiness and concern for neighbor – for every neighbor – go hand in hand. This call is evident in Balthasar’s work, and it is one good reason that good people find his theology attractive. However, it should be noted that this good encouragement is not something that requires one to hold Balthasar’s thesis. Rather, it is separable and already taught by the Tradition. Indeed, Catherine of Sienna, rightly fearing many going to hell, begs God imploringly for the soul of a man sentenced to death. And she won!) Third, he states that God predestines no one to go to hell. This is a truism, but in some contexts (Calvinism) it is important to remind people of this.

 

But on so many issues regarding his “hope,” Balthasar is misleading, in error, and reckless. First, the fact is that any unrepented mortal sin entails of its nature eternal damnation. We are not damned only for sheer malice. We are not damned only for identifying ourselves with a “no” as necessary condition. If someone simply wants to have one romping time in fornication, and forgets about John the Baptist, and dies, one has merited eternal damnation in hell. In rejecting optimistic fundamental option theories, John Paul II rejected (wittingly or no) Balthasar’s notion of the necessary condition for damnation (see Veritatis splendor, art. 68; Note: this teaching belongs to the entire tradition).

Second, the Rahnerian reduction of the texts regarding the future, like Rahner’s reduction of the texts regarding the origins of the human race, are a species of modernism. Compare Rahner’s reading of the future and the past as solely a reflection on present religious experience (i.e., that of the sacred writer) with the holy teaching of Pope St. Pius X in Pascendi, a text well worth re-reading. We might add: These texts are “minatory” (i.e. warnings) because they are predictive. Just read the Epistle of Jude. The men of Sodom serve as a warning presently by undergoing torment of eternal punishment.

What of those universalist texts? The tradition – from Damascene to Aquinas to the 1950’s – read these texts according to the distinction between God’s will antecedently considered and consequently considered. We can consider what God wills to man as object of his love – salvation. We can consider what God wills to man as having responded or not responded to his love – salvation or damnation. The distinction is no doubt subtle, but it does not play fast and loose with either set of texts. Rather, it recognizes that God wills that all be saved and supplies the grace sufficient to realize this outcome, and it recognizes that not all will in fact avail themselves of this grace. There are many Catholic views on predestination, but these basics are accepted by all. Peer into the matter more deeply, and one discovers that the Magisterium accepts that God reprobates some: He permits some to fall. (Some is a logical category, meaning there are some – not necessarily, and probably not, few – that God permits to fall.)

Third, sin is not “a reality” as Balthasar makes out. It is not a “thing” that can “exist by itself as a pure negation”. That is simply nonsense. Take any sinful action and examine it: You will find that it has positive physical aspects (a knife, blood, a hand, etc.) but that it lacks due order (the man was innocent, the one who killed was not appointed by lawful authority, simply speaking we like blood inside the veins and not outside them etc.). It is the lack of due order or reference to a due end that constitutes the evil.

Also note that God creates all things or he does not. To say he does not is false, heretical, and blasphemous. But if evil is an “existing thing,” then God creates it. And this is abhorrent. Ergo, evil is not a thing, even an accidental thing, that exists.

Finally, we simply note that what exists, insofar as it exists, is good.

If Balthasar was speaking “phenomenologically,” why did he stress that sin is a reality? It’s kind of like his saying that God changes but doesn’t change, that he is in time but not in time. Which is it? (How long will you hobble on one leg, and then the other? You cannot serve two masters. Metaphor is not proper analogy. Let your yes be yes. Anything more….)

And as for the related claim that Jesus took on our sins themselves – not simply the punishment due to them – here we have Balthasar coming very close to supporting, if not outright supporting, the notion of penal substitution. Perhaps Balthasar avoids claiming the Christ truly became guilty, thus freeing himself from Luther’s blasphemy on this matter. But his assertion that Christ takes on damnation itself cannot square with the truth of hell. Hell is a place of sinful alienation, a place of aversion from the divine good. But Christ cannot become averse to the divine good. (On this topic, see Thomas Joseph White, “Jesus’ Cry on the Cross and His Beatific Vision” Nova et Vetera 5 (2007): 573-581.) The Catholic view regarding Christ’s act is that it was atonement, a vicarious act of satisfaction. By his loving obedience, Christ offered the Father a satisfaction sufficient for the forgiveness of infinitely many persons. Thus, he died for all. However, one must receive the fruit of this redemption by being justified in order to benefit from it.

Fourth, Balthasar’s logical inference is invalid. We cannot put more in the conclusion than is present in the premises. We cannot argue from a particular statement (each man) to a universal statement (all men). It is true that every man in Dallas has a chance of going to the season opener next Fall. But not all can go. The stadium has limited seating! Thus, Balthasar’s logic is flawed. But someone will object that God’s stadium has unlimited seating. How true! But the logic was flawed nonetheless. That is the precise point being made here. The earlier point about the God’s will considered antecedently and consequently addresses this issue of the stadium: God permits some to fall.

But what of the fact that the Magisterium has not declared any particular human person to be in hell? The Magisterium has no business making such a declaration. Yet, ignorance regarding specific individuals is not tantamount to ignorance regarding hell’s population.

So, what of the alleged fact that the Magisterium has not declared whether or not “anyone” is in hell? This fact is fiction. The Church teaches that demons are in hell. And demons are persons too! All of Balthasar’s fretting about what God is going to do if a single person is recalcitrant and won’t go to heaven should be applied to his relation to these demons also. For the fact is, they are damned. Nor does the Church pray for them. Her prayer is opposed to them, casts them out of our lives and down into hell. Nor should anyone pray for them. It would be contrary to God’s will, a sign of a deeply mistaken mind or of a rebellious will. Truth says, “Let the dead bury their dead.” A fortiori the spiritually double dead – the demonic agents.

But what about human persons? Well, on this point, there are some considerations that may well yield the conclusion that Balthasar overreached in claiming that revelation and the Magisterium have never asserted that human persons are in hell. Exegesis is of course fraught with contention. However, we could point to Jude, as I indicated above:

“Now I desire to remind you, though you were once for all fully informed, that he who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels that did not keep their own position but left their proper dwelling have been kept by him in eternal chains in the nether gloom until the judgment of the great day; just as Sodom and Gomor’rah and the surrounding cities, which likewise acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust, serve as an example (πρόκεινται δει̃γμα) by undergoing a punishment (πυρὸς αι̉ωνίου δίκην ύπέχουσαι) of eternal fire.”

The men of Sodom are serving as an example, undergoing punishment of hell.

Again, there is the frequently cited text regarding Judas: better had he not been born. As Ralph Martin asks, in his excellent book Will Many Be Saved?, how can the text be true unless Judas is damned?

But let us move on to the Magisterium. Consider this text:

“Omnipotent God wishes all men without exception to be saved [1 Tim 2:4] although not all will be saved. However, that certain ones are saved, is the gift of the one who saves; that certain ones perish, however, is the deserved punishment of those who perish” (Quiersy Council, A.D. 853, see DS 623).

Again, consider this text:

“But although Christ died for all, yet not all receive the benefit of His death, but those only to whom the merit of his passion is communicated” (Trent, VI, chap. 3; DS 1523). See also D # 717b.

Again, consider this text, happily relevant again in the new English Translation of the Novus Ordo:

“The additional words for you and for many are taken, some from Matthew, some from Luke, but were joined together by the Catholic church under the guidance of the Spirit of God. They serve to declare the fruit and advantage of His Passion. For if we look to its value, we must confess that the Redeemer shed His blood for the salvation of all; but if we look to the fruit which mankind have received from it, we shall easily find that it pertains not unto all, but to many of the human race. When therefore (our Lord) said: For you, he meant either those who were present, or those chosen from among the Jewish people , such as were, with the exception of Judas, the disciples with whom He was speaking. When He added, And for many, He wished to be understood to mean the remainder of the elect from among the Jews or Gentiles. With reason, therefore, were the words for all not used, as in this place the fruits of the Passion are alone spoken of, and to the elect only did His Passion bring the fruit of salvation.” Catechism of the Council of Trent, Section on the Eucharist

The glorious 1962 Missal of the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Church — always teaching us — also has this prayer, relevant for the fate of Judas:

Collect for Good Friday Office (Also said on Maundy Thursday, as Collect at the Mass):

“O God, from whom Judas received the punishment of his guilt, and the thief the reward of his confession: grant unto us the full fruit of Thy clemency; that even as in His Passion our Lord Jesus Christ gave to each retribution according to his merits, so having cleared away our former guilt, He may bestow on us the grace of his Resurrection, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.”

Consider this as well: The following is a proposition of Zanini de Solcia which was rejected by Pius II in 1459: “That all Christians are to be saved”. D – only found in old edition # 717b.

These texts appear – on all counts – to indicate that there will be a twofold division of mankind, the saved and the damned. And, as Ralph Martin contends, the constant Tradition understands the Scriptures and these creedal formulations to indicate a twofold outcome, and one in which the damned will be many in number.

As for Balthasar’s hope that God’s love will undercut the ability of the sinner to persevere in sin (TD V, 284), the Magisterium in the person of Clement XI rejects the following proposition of Paschasius Quesnel:

“When God wishes to save a soul, at whatever time and at whatever place, the undoubted effect follows the Will of God”. And “When God wishes to save a soul and touches it with the interior hand of His grace, no human will resists him” (DS 2412f). We could add Trent’s condemnation of irresistible grace as well. (But of course, Balthasar will contend that the grace is resistible, just that it won’t be resisted, that it is practically impossible for it to be resisted, that Christ will wait until the rebel gets tired of rebellion, etc.

On these issues, see Thomas Joseph White, “Von Balthasar and Journet on the Universal Possibility of Salvation and the Twofold Will of God,” Nova et Vetera 4 [2006]: 633-666.)

Finally, I add a proposition condemned by Bl. Pius IX: “Good hope at least is to be entertained of the eternal salvation of all those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ” (Condemned proposition #17).

We could add, in this regard, that the unspeakably vast majority of saints, indeed the chorus is practically unanimous, concur with these statements. That Origen seems to have gone astray on this issue is a different matter. He wrote before the Church taught. And he took some subtle positions – he debated with himself. Gregory of Nyssa is one of the few who explicitly held the hope that all men might eventually convert to God. But Augustine, Thomas, Bonaventure, Catherine, Teresa, Damascene, Chrysostom, Anselm, Don Bosco, et alia, all considered that hell will be packed with human beings.

And what about the children at Fatima?

Or what about this momentous quote from St. Faustina:

“These are the tortures suffered by all the damned together, but that is not the end of the sufferings. There are special tortures destined for particular souls. These are the torments of the senses. Each soul undergoes terrible and indescribable sufferings, related to the manner in which it has sinned. There are caverns and pits of torture where one form of agony differs from another. I would have died at the very sight of these tortures if the omnipotence of God had not supported me. Let the sinner know that he will be tortured throughout eternity, in those senses which he made use of to sin. I am writing this at the command of God, so that no soul may find an excuse by saying there is no hell, or that nobody has ever been there, and so no one can say what it is like. What I have written is but a pale shadow of the things I saw. But I noticed one thing: that most of the souls there are those who disbelieved that there is a hell. How terribly souls suffer there! Consequently, I pray even more fervently for the conversion of sinners” (Diary of St. Faustina, 741)?

Fifth, Balthasar paints a false notion of hell’s infinite duration. Essentially, he morphs its infinity of duration into an infinity of intensity. Thereby, he hopes to release some who are already in hell. This is like converting it into Purgatory. In some texts, he seems to want to unchain the demons too. But as I have stated, hell is already populated with demons, and these are damned forever. I conclude with Canon 9 of II Constantinople: “If anyone says or thinks that the punishment of demons and of impious men is only temporary, and will one day have an end, and that a restoration will take place of demons and of impious men, let him be anathema.”

What hath Ashley Madison to do with Eschatology?

The adulterous site Ashley Madison has recently suffered a grave hackattack. Apparently, the data of every user has been gathered and released by hackers. The site is an “affair” site; it sets up new relationships for those who are already married or steadily dating. The motto is “Life is Short; Have an Affair.”

The motto is akin to the thinking of fools condemned in the bible: “Eat, Drink, Indulge: For Tomorrow We Die!”

Now our question: What hath the hacking to do with Eschatology? Everything!

Eschatology is the study of “the last things”. Now, when each of us dies, we are judged immediately and privately by Almighty God. We are judged on the basis of whether or not we responded to the graces God offered us throughout our lives. If upon my death, I die in the state of mortal sin, I am found guilty of rebelling against God and suffer the condemnation of eternal damnation: “Out of my sight, you wicked doers; into the fire that dies not, with the worm that eats and never grows weary.”

But at the end of all time, there will be a public judgment. The public judgment will set to rights all inequities since the beginning of time, through the blood of Christ. For instance, if I was libeled, I shall be exonerated; if my evil deeds were in secret and no one knew them, they shall be exposed.

The public exposition of data of the Ashley Madison users was against certain laws of man. Whether it is or is not against true law, I do not wish to say here.

Most importantly, the public exposition of AM users is a foretaste of the public judgment of all souls by Almighty God. It is a judgment of justice. All injustice shall be exposed and unearthed. The users of the Ashley Madison site are unfaithful to their beloved. If married, they are adulterers.

Before that great and awful day, the DAY OF WRATH, the Dies Irae there is yet time to repent. Repent O Sinner, if you have sinned. Be Humble and Acknowledge the grace of God, O Righteous, if you have passed the test. Love is who judges; and Love judges love. If love hath grown cold or become unfaithful, how can it join the fellowship of eternal love?

The Day of Wrath is celebrated in the Church’s liturgy. That is, in the Extraordinary Form. Let us study it and ponder it, let us remember the grave, the ash that shall cover our corrupt and rotting bodies only days after our heart beats its last. If thou a man be, the bell tolls for thee.

DEATH is Struck, and nature quaking; All creation is awaking, To its judge an answer making. Low, the book exactly worded, wherein all hath been recorded…

A Dialogue on Hell

    • You told me hell is a terrible doctrine. Indeed it is. Why did you say this?
      • Because no one would be evil forever.
    • So what are you doing about the future?
      • I’ve left Christianity. If they believe in hell, in evil forever, to hell with them.
    • Any higher hopes?
      • No. I’m making my way. Trying to be decent.
    • What if someone wants something more from you. Your wife?
      • Look, I bring home enough money. I treat her with respect. I have my own time then. I need some space.
    • What if you were for more?
      • Damn it! I’ve got myself and it’s enough that I’ve done things for my wife and kids. Get out of it. Get out of it. Get out of here.
    • You, good Sir, have opened this abode of yours – forever. A man cannot decide just for the here and now. You thought he could. That is necessarily to decide “only for this and now.” You have chosen your time. Since you however carry on, for a man’s soul cannot be killed, that snippet of time you seized as yours: This shall be yours. And this alone. And as it does not correspond to the aspirations of your heart, it shall tire you out, relentlessly. Day in. Day out. Always yearning for the Real, you shall have – yourself! Relentless time beating ever the same dismal note upon pained ears. Relentless pushing of the ground upon your sense of touch, as you lay supine, weary, rolling, tossing in your bed of pain. Relentless dim light upon eyes both straining and strained. The stench of fetid flesh rising. The deadening silence wailing.
      • This is nonsense. I shall not live. I shall not live; I shall die! I am a mortal man. Nothing survives after death. I take great solace in this, in the face of your dire warnings about meaning and transcendence. All nonsense! I am but dust, and unto dust shall I return.
    • Tell me, good Sir. Do you know what a “circle” is?
      • What? I have had little interest in circles since high school. What has this to do with the topic at hand?
    • We shall see in a moment.
      • Well, then, if you must: Yes, I know what a circle is. It is a line equidistant from a point.
    • And what is a line?
      • Length without breadth.
    • Without any breadth?
      • None.
    • Have you seen such a thing?
      • Never. Couldn’t. No drawn or constructed circle could be perfectly circular.
    • Then, it strikes me as a fancy of your imagination.
      • No it is no fancy. For I could not imagine a circle.
    • Why not?
      • I would point out, first, that a circle could not be visible to my eyes, for the line tracing a circle is breadthless. And that which is breadthless admits no light, being without surface. But a thing is visible only through light.
      • Then, I would note that my imagination as it were “piggy-backs” on my senses. I can imagine only that which I can picture. And I can picture that which has dimensive spread, for I picture a thing as colored, but that which has no dimensive spread has no color. Therefore, everything I picture has dimensive spread, but a circle’s line has no such dimensive spread. For by dimensive spread I mean not simply extension but extension with breadth. But the line is breadthless. If everything I picture has dimensive spread but a circle’s line has none, I cannot imagine the circle – that is, the line tracing the circle’s figure.
    • Indeed. You have saved me time and labor. Now, how can what cannot be pictured by known?
      • It is conceived, not pictured.
    • So you can conceive what you cannot picture?
      • I just have.
    • You have a power, then, that transcends the limits of imagination, a power whose object cannot be represented adequately in any physical medium?
      • What of it?
    • Let us call this a pure power.
      • A what?
    • A pure power. By contrast, a mixed power is a power the existence of which consists in a corporeal instrument; further, the exercise of such a power is the act of said instrument. My eye requires matter, and in the right disposition. My heart likewise. I cannot see without that matter. Should the eye be plucked out, I could not see. Should the matter dissolve, I should be blind.
    • By contrast, a pure power has an existence distinct from any corporeal instrument. And its act is not the act of a corporeal instrument. It is a sheer power, if you will.
      • Then, yes. If I can know a circle the way I take it that I do know it, then I know by a power that is a pure power.
    • We have, then, a refutation of your earlier thesis. For that which can fall apart is that which is composed. That which is not composed cannot fall part. For to fall apart is for elements ingredient to a whole to fall away from unity. The eye is composed of matter in a certain arrangement. So, too, the heart. The eye can decompose into its constituents. So too, the heart. These are composed; these can decay.
    • But say there was something that just was a certain form. Say there were a sheer “form”. For instance, not a circle in clay or steel or wood. Just “circularity itself”. Not a heart in this matter (my chest) or that matter (your chest) but just a “heart itself”. Of course, it is impossible for there to be a “pure heart” but just say there were. Better to suppose: Think of pure circularity. Not the circularity of this wood or that clay; just circularity itself. You can separate circularity from this clay, by molding the clay if it is wet or breaking it if it is dry. You can separate bricks and lumber in a house, thus ‘dissolving’ the form. Why? Because the form of a house, the form of a circle in clay, is just the shape of matter. Hence, such forms depend on matter to be. But could you separate “circularity” from “circularity”?
      • Of course not. What would it mean?
    • Indeed, that which is a sheer form cannot be separated from itself.
      • Yes.
    • You, then, my friend, are a deep mystery. For you have a capacity which transcends the physical world. A capacity to conceive. You can act cognitively in a way that no corporeal instrument could possibly act. Now, nothing can act beyond its essence. So, if you have a power to achieve an act that no corporeal instrument can accomplish, there is something about your essence that transcends the limits of the corporeal. Your essence involves a principle of being that is not merely the “arrangement” of matter. Your essence involves a principle of being which is in-corporeal. A principle of being that yields a “pure power”. In short, a pure form.
    • Now, how can we separate such a form from itself? How can it decompose? It cannot. It simply is if it is. It will not fall into nothingness. It is immortal. You shall not die. You shall die; you shall live! Despair not O Wicked Man; There is yet hope of God’s grace and your conversion

Are the Damned Beloved of God?

No.

That sounds harsh, but how can it not be true?

Let’s meditate on what “love” is. It is “to will the good of the beloved”. Now, what is the good of man? It is to reach God, to be in God, to participate in the divine life and see and love the Blessed Trinity, and consequently, to be in loving communion with all his fellow men.

Now, is that good possible for the damned? It is not. They cannot have it. They have ironed their wills against God’s.

Now, does God do things that are pointless? Meaningless? Fruitless? Well, he offers his love to those who might repent, even if they don’t. That they might repent makes the offer of love meaningful.

But Question: After the woman you are courting definitively tells you that she will not marry you, do you go on proposing? How could God go on wooing the definitive rebel in hell?

There are those who want to make hell a bed of roses that the damned simply can’t stand. So that, their hell is that they don’t like the good things being proffered to them. But to suggest that there is grace in hell, which is what this amounts to, is to suggest that a necessary failure is what God wills. It seems abhorrent that God would will a necessary failure, but grace in hell would necessarily fail.

Rather, the Scriptures indicate that the damned must “depart from me you wicked!”, that they are “cast out”, etc. The language of distance is used, conveying a definitive abandonment by God.

Balthasar’s Hope

I posted on Balthasar’s “Hope” that all may be saved a while back. Since then, I ran into this prayer of the Church apropos of this topic whether there is a founded hope that all may be saved.

Collect for Good Friday Office: “O God, from whom Judas received the punishment of his guilt, and the thief the reward of his confession: grant unto us the full fruit of Thy clemency; that even as in His Passion our Lord Jesus Christ gave to each retribution according to his merits, so having cleared away our former guilt, He may bestow on us the grace of his Resurrection, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.”

Who is the Antichrist? (Part II)

Typology is a biblical phenomenon. For instance, Noah and the ark signify baptism. Again, Isaac signifies Christ. Again, the serpent Moses upheld signifies Christ on the Cross. Typology is the reference that one real biblical thing has for another. Abraham and Isaac were historically real, not just symbols. Yet, there were also symbols. This reference from one real biblical thing to another is Typology. Now, we can extend the concept of Typology and recognize that one real predicted future person or event has various partial fulfillments. I like to describe this as Typological Analogy. This is not my idea, however, I arrived at it by reading Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman. In a volume entitled Discussions and Arguments, Newman speaks about the various kinds of fulfillment of the expectation of an Antichrist.

Newman points to several different partial fulfillments. In each of them, he contends, we observe some but not all aspects of the features of the real Antichrist to come.

Even before the time of Christ, there was as it were a precursor of Antichrist. Antiochus IV (215-164BC) emerged to persecute the Jews after many of their rank succumbed to Paganism (1 Macc 1:11f). Apostasy followed by an “Antichrist”. After the coming of Christ, the emperor Julian, also called The Apostate, persecuted the Church violently in his brief reign (361-363). Newman next mentions Mohammed, who followed on the infidelity of heretical Christians denying various truths about Jesus Christ. Newman closes with a consideration of the Reign of Terror and its demolition of the altars and its return to paganism.

The point of Newman’s reflections is to prepare his reader to read the signs of the times. These partial fulfillments might have seemed as genuine fulfillments in their times. However, time kept rolling. One must both take seriously the possibility that the end is at hand now and that the end might be a thousand years away. One must be sober – and alert! For the Devil is prowling around seeking someone to devour.

Let me close on one final observation that turns the situation to our own. Newman puzzled over that line in 2 Thess in which Paul speaks about a force restraining the man of sin. What is this force? It turns out the vast majority of fathers held that the force was none other than The Roman Empire. That the Roman Empire was somehow able to forestall the coming of Antichrist. Now, Newman thinks that we should not disagree with them! But you will laugh – Old Rome has been dead for 1500 years! Not so quick, says Newman. Old Rome might mean a number of things. Perhaps it means rule of law. Perhaps it means order, good, a society ordered to a true common good. Perhaps, we can expand on him, it means a society that conforms to natural law, especially in marriage and sexual ethics! Thus, perhaps its dissolution is the dissolution of the rule of law, of order, of society, of the common good, and of marriage and the family.

In Newman’s day, the seeds for all these terrible aspects of rot that cover our society from within – these seeds were already planted. They were planted with the liberal theses that, e.g., the state has legislative and judicial authority over the marriage bond and that the state need not be interested in religion, that it can be established apart from religion and without regard to ends higher than those that are political. These theses the Church condemned. The only legislative and judicial authority regarding the bond of marriage – natural or sacramental – is that of the Church. All other authorities are null and void in all that they determine about the bond. These authorities may, and indeed must, enact legislation concerning the civil effects of this bond. Let me close with a few citations.

First, Pope Leo XIII, Immortale Dei, art. 6: “As a consequence, the State, constituted as it is, is clearly bound to act up to the manifold and weighty duties linking it to God, by the public profession of religion. Nature and reason, which command every individual devoutly to worship God in holiness, because we belong to Him and must return to Him, since from Him we came, bind also the civil community by a like law. For, men living together in society are under the power of God no less than individuals are, and society, no less than individuals, owes gratitude to God who gave it being and maintains it and whose ever-bounteous goodness enriches it with countless blessings. Since, then, no one is allowed to be remiss in the service due to God, and since the chief duty of all men is to cling to religion in both its reaching and practice—not such religion as they may have a preference for, but the religion which God enjoins, and which certain and most clear marks show to be the only one true religion—it is a public crime to act as though there were no God. So, too, is it a sin for the State not to have care for religion as a something beyond its scope, or as of no practical benefit; or out of many forms of religion to adopt that one which chimes in with the fancy; for we are bound absolutely to worship God in that way which He has shown to be His will.”

Second, Newman. And in reading Newman, we must keep in mind how much more indifferent we are to religion in our society – nay, not indifferent but hostile.

Newman: “And is there no reason to fear that some such Apostasy is gradually preparing, gathering, hastening on in this very day? For is there not at this very time a special effort made almost all over the world, that is, every here and there, more or less in sight or out of sight, in this or that place, but most visibly or formidably in its most civilized and powerful parts, an effort to do without Religion? Is there not an opinion avowed and growing, that a nation has nothing to do with Religion; that it is merely a matter for each man’s own conscience? – which is all one with saying that we many let the Truth fail from the earth without trying to continue it in and on after our time” (p. 59).

Who is the Antichrist? (Part I)

We find a frightening text in 2 Thess 2:3–12: “Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God…. And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming. The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

Though frightening, this text is not meant to be terrifying, paralyzing. Nor is it meant to invite wild speculations. For St. Paul prefaces the text with this caution about ‘predictions’: “Now, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we be you, brethren, not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come” (2 Thess 2:1-2).

The text concerns the “End Times,” and the study of that falls under what theologians call “Eschatology”. There are two extremes one wants to avoid in Eschatology. Apocalypticism is the extreme of thinking that the texts are very easy to interpret and the future easy to predict. Rationalism is the extreme of thinking that the texts do not pertain to the future but are merely expressive of the ancient biblical writer’s “experience”. Catholic Eschatology avoids both extremes.

The topic I broach with St. Paul is the Antichrist. This text, some texts from the Gospels, some lines in the Epistles of St. John, and some texts in Daniel and in Revelation are the source for Christian reflection on this “Man of Sin,” commonly referred to in tradition as The Antichrist. Who is he? How will we know him?

The Antichrist is a human being, not a demon. Yet, it is believed that he will be perfectly possessed by Satan. Perfect possession does not necessarily look frightful – like the movie “The Exorcist.” Rather, the harmony of wills – the man’s will and Satan’s will – makes the result look

quite natural.

When will this man appear? Two signs are linked with his appearance. The first sign is that the Gospel shall have been preached to the ends of the earth. Second, there must be a large scale “falling away” from the faith. That is, there must first be a massive apostasy in the Church. They will have itching ears, not wanting to hear the solid truth of faith. Rather, they will run after pseudo teachers who deny what the Apostles handed on. After many fall away from the truth of the faith, then this man will appear.

He will be associated with the Temple. Which Temple? Theologians wrestled with this and achieved a consensus: Not the Temple of the Church but the Temple of Judaism. However, as Daniel relates, this man will not be religious. He will not recognize the God of his fathers. Rather, he will put himself forth as God. Hence, he will be religious only in appearance. At some point, he will work wonders. He will not work miracles in the proper sense of the term. Rather, he will perform wonders by magic. (A miracle is by definition a work of God who controls nature. A wonder is something inexplicable and astounding. The latter can be accomplished by demons, who can wield the natural forces of the world to achieve startling results – when permitted by God.) God will allow this wonder working so that those who love a lie and hate truth will be deceived by this false prophet. Being deceived they will follow him. The Antichrist will persecute the true religion mercilessly. The goal of Antichrist will be the total destruction of the one true religion that Christ inaugurated at his first coming. Yet, as God has promised, this Antichrist, though he achieve many victories in battle, will ultimately be defeated. God will not abandon his Church, but she shall prevail even against the jaws of hell.

Now, here’s a difficulty. If the text of St. Paul is really about the future, then how can it mean anything to those who do not exist in the End Times? The answer to this lies in what can be called Typological Analogy or, better, Analogical Typology. I shall take this topic up next.