An open letter ...
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“This latest book [You Are Gods] continues the trajectory away from historical Christianity evident in Hart’s recent work.” - Ed Feser
If one ventures over to Feser’s blog to peruse the comments on his post about his review, one finds many similar comments from readers regarding Hart’s deplorable and pitiful departure away from orthodox Christianity, in contrast to all his earlier works, where he was a staunch orthodox apologist for the Faith. One can find similar remarks made by McClymond in his interviews where he speaks against universalism.
To which I say...wtf are they talking about? Have they even read any of Hart’s books? This is such an annoying and idiotic criticism because Hart talks at length of Gregory of Nyssa’s universalism and monism in The Beauty of the Infinite, which was his first book from 20 years ago!
For example, “Gregory's universalism, though, is a subordinate issue; what is of interest here is the light it casts on Gregory's larger vision. That is to say, Gregory's understanding of the infinite never dissolves into abstraction: infinity is God alone, in his fullness, in whom all richness, beauty, motion, and life already dwell, without violence, negation, diremption, or the sacrifice of the particular.”
The Experience of God from a decade ago speaks much of Vedanta; and Atheist Delusions, from 2009, Hart’s most popular “orthodox” book that gained him praise from all manner of fundamentalists, evangelicals, and apologists, has several pages devoted to universalism, including this particular line:
“The threat of eternal torment is an appeal solely to spiritual and emotional terror, and to the degree that Christians employed it as an inducement to faith, their arguments were clearly somewhat vulgar. The doctrine of hell, understood in a purely literal sense, as a place of eternally unremitting divine wrath, is an idea that would seem to reduce Christianity’s larger claims regarding the justice, mercy, and love of God to nonsense.”
Hence, all these remarks that these critics make, where they praise Hart’s earlier works but rebuke his latest ones, are revealing of one of three possibilities: either 1) they’re intentionally lying and misrepresenting Hart’s views or 2) they’re lying that they ever read his earlier books or 3) they’re too stupid to have understood what it is they read.
On panpsychism, which introductory texts do you best recommend? I of course believe everything is imbued with soul and mind, but I’m not in step with the current academic discussions on it: I believe it because that’s a view of the world that makes me want to be alive rather than not. I’ve read Kripal’s The Flip, which talks over this in a broad intro sort of fashion and with a focus on the sciences; what next?
So long as Feser's quarry is new atheism, his mode of argumentation is compelling and largely satisfying, but this open letter response puts it beyond doubt that his preferred critical moves simply won't work when his target is infinitely more subtle and nuanced than anything that school of thought produced.
Bracing. Let the false myth that Thomism has the logical upper hand die a much-deserved death.
Would you agree that the relation between nature and grace that you outline here maps onto Maximus' distinction between the logos physeos and the tropos hyparxeos? This is how Maximus writes of miracles, after all, such as that of Christ walking on water—as a modal change in a constant nature, not an abrogation of that nature.
For myself, I prefer the rich metaphorical langauge of the Upanishads (which I have picked up recently for the first time, inspired by your own references to Vedantic tradition) : "Like oil in sesame seeds, like butter in cream, like water in springs, like fire in a firestick" so dwells the Lord in the depths of consciousness. As you seem to be saying, it turns out that upon close inspection this language of 'realization' is not finally inconsistent with the vast implications of Christian theosis.
>>a concern for distinctively Christian orthodoxy isn’t really what drives Hart in the first place
This is the heart (see, I can do it, too) of the matter, & what really gets people like Feser's knickers in a twist. I'd expect no less from someone who has argued that Islam is inherently violent.
Not being one that has been trained in formal theology, philosophy, or logic, this is, nonetheless, my attempt at summarizing why a theist monism / “pantheism” is ultimately correct:
If God “dreams” forth all potentialities, and indeed “exists” as all potentialities, then all actualities that materially exist are thereby not God. But since God is Absolute - the Ground of all being - then all existing things must actually participate within God, for to do otherwise would be to exist outside of God, and thus rival God.
So God is the ground, source, subsistence, and destination of all things. Since God is Absolute, all that is contingent is Not-God, and thus all things must contingently exist. Said another way, all Not-Gods need to manifestly exist in temporality, because the only thing that can ultimately exist in teleology is God. Hence, all things that are not God in His infinite grounding and fullness - all imaginable realities - must manifestly exist to become God, and what intelligible, finite, material, temporal, experiential history is, is the story of God calling forth “God” from nothingness.
Is this in anyway near to the idea of theosis, or is my attempt here a tautological error, or just incoherent nonsense?
If what you're saying is true, Gregor Samsa was born a potential beetle.
From Laudato Si: “The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face. The ideal is not only to pass from the exterior to the interior to discover the action of God in the soul, but also to discover God in all things” (#233). The text then quotes Ali al-Khawas in connecting the interior experience of God and the creatures of the world, before moving onto St. Bonaventure, John of the Cross, and the even the experience of the Sacraments and the sacramental imagination as signs of a universe utterly permeated with God.
Now, Laudato Si is not yet widely accepted among a certain sect of US Catholics (to put it mildly), but pantheism, panentheism, however you wish to describe, is deeply within Catholic orthodoxy. Moreover, as you point out, Aquinas' embrace of Aristotelianism (via Muslim philosophers) caused not a minor stir among Catholic "orthodoxy" in his day.
Ugh.... this is just such a frustrating review by Ed. Even read Torrell on this. Furthermore, he just ignored any discussion of Aquinas' treatment of happiness or the nature of the will and intellect.
But the big issue here is that "Thomism" is not the thought of Aquinas and all the Thomistic schools actively distort Aquinas' thought. All of them have agendas (although perhaps the transcendental Thomists can be excused).
Again, I appreciate your references to Ibn Sina. Aristotle is always important for Aquinas, but the importance of Ibn Sina simply cannot be overstated (not just in the early works either when the explicit references are more numerous such as in the Sentences and De Ente). Most people's understanding of Aquinas (Feser) is not nearly Platonic enough - although for some reason when I tell this to people they get quite upset (no Dominican I know would be caught dead making such a claim). In fact there is actually a direct lineage from Aquinas - from Ibn Sina, Dionysius, the Liber De Causis, and the Arabic Plotinus materials - to Plotinus.
In suggesting that DBH rejcts orthodox Christianity, Feser hasn't adequately taken into account sections 23 and 24 of "The Chiasmus"
Concerning deification, does something like the following sound at all right? In the Beatific Vision, every human being will follow Christ in being a hypostatic union of human and divine natures, except that, instead of the second person of the Trinity, the persons with those two natures will be us.
You two are adorable
That was a fun read. As an aside, Thomas Aquinas must be distinguished from neo-Thomism, which is often a cartoonish caricature of what he actually taught. There is much more to Thomas than meets the eye for anyone who cares to grasp his teachings more fully. DBH has a much better understanding of Thomas than most Thomists.
"Today, I have been blessed to come into the presence of the great Christian saint, Thomas Aquinas. I beg all Christian faithful to try to serve their neighbors by tuning their minds to the spirit of his teaching." - 14th Dalai Lama, the tomb of St. Thomas Aquinas, Tolouse, France, Nov. 8, 1993.
How can grace perfect nature without human nature being intrinsically directed to the supernatural? This very language of grace perfecting nature seems to insinuate that nature stands in need of being perfected to bring it to its completion. As such human nature just could never be a pure nature.
Do you consider yourself a Panentheist? I.E (Karl Christian Friedrich Krause, Paul Tillich)