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I raised my children with the belief that hell was nothing to grapple with for all
practical purposes. I've only now bothered to more fully articulate why.
I employ seven categories to probe theological reality: 1) pneumatology 2) sophiology
3) Christology 4) anthropology 5) soteriology 6) eccelsiology 7) eschatology. These
represent categories of questions that require practical responses. We needn't delve
into these categories with their questions and responses, though, in order to appreciate
that many reject apokatastasis and universalism, as variously nuanced, precisely
because they would, then, no longer be able to make sense of their own old
interpretations of theological reality. Their chief complaint is that an insidious
indifferentism would necessarily ensue.
While it is true that, theoretically, God would never coerce us into relationship
(hence, He would, then, necessarily permit our self-imposed alienations), still, at the
same time, for all practical purposes, we needn't necessarily believe that His attempts
at seduction would ever fail. In my case, I couldn't imagine such. So, while I've always
felt we cannot be theoretical universalists, at the same time, I also raised my children
as practical universalists. Theology, itself, is no theoretical, speculative science but,
instead, an existential, practical science. Our mutually beloved Walker Percy grasped
this in his distinction between the informative and performative vis a vis the Good
News, n'est pas?
So, what I am suggesting is that, when we assert universalism, many often will
wonder: Why would we not, then, turn indifferent? For if
1) eschatologically, all are heaven-bound, then who cares
2) ecclesiologically, to which church we'd belong?
3) soteriologically, how we'd process moral and practical realities?
4) anthropologically, about our developmental trajectories?
5) Christologically, about incarnational and sacramental realities?
6) sophiologically, regarding one transformative pathway vs another? and
7) pneumatologically, regarding the performative significance of those interpretative
stances that are gifted by our participatory imaginations?
Ironically, the reason people ask this question is because, at some level, they truly
grasp the essentially performative nature of our beliefs. They have otherwise been
misled, however, via an overemphasis on their obligational impetus and an
underemphasis on their aspirational impetus. It is not that we do not have obligations
in order to meet the demands of justice, but we already know this from human reason,
alone. This is not what differentiates the Gospel brand in the marketplace of human
ideas or what introduces us to the Good News (that we are immeasurably loved),
which plants love's aspirations in our hearts. One would never know this from the
moralizing rhetoric that dominates our political landscape in the name of religion.
While this Gospel love (noncoercive) does not employ the same means as human
justice (often coercive), its methods are suited to the same moral ends, which love
shares even as its own ends surpass the aims of mere morality (via intimacy, for
                                            1
example).
The reason we would still aspire to the most nearly perfect articulation of the truth in
creed, celebration of the beautiful in cult(ivation) and liturgy, preservation of the good
in code and enjoyment of fellowship in community is that we are moved to such love
--- in such a manner as would give God the greatest possible glory (ad majorem Dei
gloriam) --- out of love, having first been loved. In other words, that's also why we
bother to get our pneumatology, sophiology, Christology, anthropology, soteriology,
eccelsiology and eschatology as right as we possibly can. Also, the more we get right,
the better able we are to run the race more swiftly and with fewer hindrances, seeking
enlightenment, so to speak, out of compassion for those who'd otherwise suffer our
unenlightened self. Teresa of Jesus would say that we seek such consolations so as to
gain the strength to serve and, when consolations do rain down, the water is for the
flowers. Much less, then, do such aspirations have anything to do with an anxiety-
driven scrupulosity or need to know one is saved from the fires of hell. We don't
become complacent or indifferent when we receive our confident assurance in that for
which we hope but are moved through such a contemplation to attain to love's aims.
So, while we do endeavor to cooperate with the Spirit in moving along our human
developmental trajectories and transformative pathways, whether physically,
intellectually, emotionally, morally, spiritually and religiously, we thus cooperate in a
manner that is consistent with our litany of humility, seeking to go only as far as God
would have us go and desiring to be no holier (or more whole, either) than our
neighbor, provided we are as holy (or whole) as God would have us be. We thus draw
a distinction between giving God the greatest possible glory and any imagined
increase in our intrinsic worth as human beings, who, already bathed in an absolute
value as God's beloved, don't thereafter increase or decrease in value! At some point,
we might just do what we do out of love and not, necessarily, because we fear eternal
estrangement from God (St Bernard's love of God for sake of self; St Ignatius' first
manner of humility). These insights are conveyed by St Bernard vis a vis our love of
God for the sake of God, by St Ignatius vis a vis our desire to imitate Christ per the
third manner of humility.
What, then, is at stake in our pursuit of ortho and doxy via our polydoxy, orthopraxy,
orthopathy and orthocommunio vis a vis our manifold and varied approaches to 1)
pneumatology 2) sophiology 3) Christology 4) anthropology 5) soteriology 6)
eccelsiology and 7) eschatology?
Much less need such aspirations have anything to do with avoiding hellfire and
brimstone and obtaining a beatific vision and, not at all, should we imagine that they
have anything to do with increasing our value as human persons via developmental
trajectory pursuits and transformative pathway choices; rather, they should much more
involve our growth in humility, hence authenticity, toward the end of giving God the
greatest possible glory as our souls magnify the Lord and our spirits rejoice in God,
Who's already saved us. Performance anxiety comes from working on our own
agenda. True freedom and real shalom come from being at play in the fields of the
Lord!
This is all why we value infants, old people, differently-abled people and everyone the
same, along with their human experiences. Human experiences that arrive after other

                                            2
experiences, whether developmentally or temporally, are not considered higher; what
they are, rather, is merely later. Once ensouled as human persons, we've all already
arrived at our status of absolute value and belovedness! What happens beyond that is
ordered toward God's glory as we travel the trajectories and pathways set before us,
ready to exit, humbly, toward whatever destination we're called, whether to a level of
holiness, intellect, emotional maturity or what have you, practicing whatever ortho- or
poly-, -doxy or -pathy or -praxy to which we aspire toward the end of AMDG, not
always knowing, as Merton prayed, whether or not we are really doing His will but
confidently knowing that our desire to do His will, indeed, pleases God.
The jargonistic summary would be that, while we can increase the complexity of our
human conscious experience, hence our ontological density, in a manner of speaking,
we cannot, thereby, increase our axiological density, our intrinsic value, which is
already absolute. What we are doing is, instead, cooperating as co-creators in
increasing the greater glory of God! Those who believe this look more ... relaxed.




                                           3

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A practical universalism

  • 1. I raised my children with the belief that hell was nothing to grapple with for all practical purposes. I've only now bothered to more fully articulate why. I employ seven categories to probe theological reality: 1) pneumatology 2) sophiology 3) Christology 4) anthropology 5) soteriology 6) eccelsiology 7) eschatology. These represent categories of questions that require practical responses. We needn't delve into these categories with their questions and responses, though, in order to appreciate that many reject apokatastasis and universalism, as variously nuanced, precisely because they would, then, no longer be able to make sense of their own old interpretations of theological reality. Their chief complaint is that an insidious indifferentism would necessarily ensue. While it is true that, theoretically, God would never coerce us into relationship (hence, He would, then, necessarily permit our self-imposed alienations), still, at the same time, for all practical purposes, we needn't necessarily believe that His attempts at seduction would ever fail. In my case, I couldn't imagine such. So, while I've always felt we cannot be theoretical universalists, at the same time, I also raised my children as practical universalists. Theology, itself, is no theoretical, speculative science but, instead, an existential, practical science. Our mutually beloved Walker Percy grasped this in his distinction between the informative and performative vis a vis the Good News, n'est pas? So, what I am suggesting is that, when we assert universalism, many often will wonder: Why would we not, then, turn indifferent? For if 1) eschatologically, all are heaven-bound, then who cares 2) ecclesiologically, to which church we'd belong? 3) soteriologically, how we'd process moral and practical realities? 4) anthropologically, about our developmental trajectories? 5) Christologically, about incarnational and sacramental realities? 6) sophiologically, regarding one transformative pathway vs another? and 7) pneumatologically, regarding the performative significance of those interpretative stances that are gifted by our participatory imaginations? Ironically, the reason people ask this question is because, at some level, they truly grasp the essentially performative nature of our beliefs. They have otherwise been misled, however, via an overemphasis on their obligational impetus and an underemphasis on their aspirational impetus. It is not that we do not have obligations in order to meet the demands of justice, but we already know this from human reason, alone. This is not what differentiates the Gospel brand in the marketplace of human ideas or what introduces us to the Good News (that we are immeasurably loved), which plants love's aspirations in our hearts. One would never know this from the moralizing rhetoric that dominates our political landscape in the name of religion. While this Gospel love (noncoercive) does not employ the same means as human justice (often coercive), its methods are suited to the same moral ends, which love shares even as its own ends surpass the aims of mere morality (via intimacy, for 1
  • 2. example). The reason we would still aspire to the most nearly perfect articulation of the truth in creed, celebration of the beautiful in cult(ivation) and liturgy, preservation of the good in code and enjoyment of fellowship in community is that we are moved to such love --- in such a manner as would give God the greatest possible glory (ad majorem Dei gloriam) --- out of love, having first been loved. In other words, that's also why we bother to get our pneumatology, sophiology, Christology, anthropology, soteriology, eccelsiology and eschatology as right as we possibly can. Also, the more we get right, the better able we are to run the race more swiftly and with fewer hindrances, seeking enlightenment, so to speak, out of compassion for those who'd otherwise suffer our unenlightened self. Teresa of Jesus would say that we seek such consolations so as to gain the strength to serve and, when consolations do rain down, the water is for the flowers. Much less, then, do such aspirations have anything to do with an anxiety- driven scrupulosity or need to know one is saved from the fires of hell. We don't become complacent or indifferent when we receive our confident assurance in that for which we hope but are moved through such a contemplation to attain to love's aims. So, while we do endeavor to cooperate with the Spirit in moving along our human developmental trajectories and transformative pathways, whether physically, intellectually, emotionally, morally, spiritually and religiously, we thus cooperate in a manner that is consistent with our litany of humility, seeking to go only as far as God would have us go and desiring to be no holier (or more whole, either) than our neighbor, provided we are as holy (or whole) as God would have us be. We thus draw a distinction between giving God the greatest possible glory and any imagined increase in our intrinsic worth as human beings, who, already bathed in an absolute value as God's beloved, don't thereafter increase or decrease in value! At some point, we might just do what we do out of love and not, necessarily, because we fear eternal estrangement from God (St Bernard's love of God for sake of self; St Ignatius' first manner of humility). These insights are conveyed by St Bernard vis a vis our love of God for the sake of God, by St Ignatius vis a vis our desire to imitate Christ per the third manner of humility. What, then, is at stake in our pursuit of ortho and doxy via our polydoxy, orthopraxy, orthopathy and orthocommunio vis a vis our manifold and varied approaches to 1) pneumatology 2) sophiology 3) Christology 4) anthropology 5) soteriology 6) eccelsiology and 7) eschatology? Much less need such aspirations have anything to do with avoiding hellfire and brimstone and obtaining a beatific vision and, not at all, should we imagine that they have anything to do with increasing our value as human persons via developmental trajectory pursuits and transformative pathway choices; rather, they should much more involve our growth in humility, hence authenticity, toward the end of giving God the greatest possible glory as our souls magnify the Lord and our spirits rejoice in God, Who's already saved us. Performance anxiety comes from working on our own agenda. True freedom and real shalom come from being at play in the fields of the Lord! This is all why we value infants, old people, differently-abled people and everyone the same, along with their human experiences. Human experiences that arrive after other 2
  • 3. experiences, whether developmentally or temporally, are not considered higher; what they are, rather, is merely later. Once ensouled as human persons, we've all already arrived at our status of absolute value and belovedness! What happens beyond that is ordered toward God's glory as we travel the trajectories and pathways set before us, ready to exit, humbly, toward whatever destination we're called, whether to a level of holiness, intellect, emotional maturity or what have you, practicing whatever ortho- or poly-, -doxy or -pathy or -praxy to which we aspire toward the end of AMDG, not always knowing, as Merton prayed, whether or not we are really doing His will but confidently knowing that our desire to do His will, indeed, pleases God. The jargonistic summary would be that, while we can increase the complexity of our human conscious experience, hence our ontological density, in a manner of speaking, we cannot, thereby, increase our axiological density, our intrinsic value, which is already absolute. What we are doing is, instead, cooperating as co-creators in increasing the greater glory of God! Those who believe this look more ... relaxed. 3