A Meditation on Apokatastasis

 

If God may save or damn any man (and if it is therefore possible for any man to be saved or damned) then no man is of himself worth saving. If men were inherently worth saving then God would save them all: otherwise he would be failing to do what ought to be done. Yet many theologies teach that God does not save all. Therefore it must be that all are not worth saving. That is, since every man who is saved may possibly not be, then each man who is saved is not of himself worth saving.

But if no man is worth saving why should we care if any are saved? Why should I care and desire the salvation of wife or child or friend if these are not worth saving, if in fact in the eyes of God they could be either saved or damned indifferently? To desire the salvation of something that’s not worth saving would be like desiring that a pile of poo would be saved, or a pebble, or an atom, or a vacuum of empty space. In fact such a desire would be an act of injustice, for we would be desiring the naturally unlovable to be loved. This view taken to its logical conclusion means that we ought to cease to care for any and all created good – even ourselves – since none of it is worth saving or redeeming. None of these things have of themselves any redeeming qualities, anything worth perfecting, anything worth loving. We therefore have no reason to want their redemption or perfection or even their continued existence. In fact since they do not deserve these things, to want such goods for them is unjust.

What a lonely, dreary life! To be constantly killing and careless of the things we come to love! Everything we come in contact with which we delight in and think good, is, in the eyes of God, something that may as well not be saved! Goodbye wife and mother and brother! Goodbye new formed eyes of the child, opening for the first time! Goodbye joyful laugh of friend! Goodbye tender gaze of lover! Goodbye bonds of youth, goodbye old acquaintance, barely remembered, but longed to be united to again! Since none of you are worth anything in yourself and since God need not keep you around I ought not care whether you reach beatitude or not. I must become such that I care not if anything I’ve ever loved is saved, since no creature I’ve loved really is worth saving! And since indeed much of it God will not save!

What man can live this way? God himself says it is not good for man to be alone. And the apostle’s breast burned in love for his brethren, so much he says he wished he could be accursed for their sake. Did not God say that the creation was “very good”?

Note well the problem I am pointing out. It is not that such creatures we love will be lost (though that is true.) Rather, it is that they could be. It is that they are such that they really of themselves are not worth anything: that the goodness in them is not really good in the sense of worth keeping around. It is that they are, in a word, worthless: not that they they actually will or will not be saved.

But if things really are worth saving, must God not save them all?

I end with this passage from George MacDonald from his book At the Back of the North Wind.

“Do you remember what the song you were singing a week ago says about Bo-Peep—how she lost her sheep, but got twice as many lambs?” asked North Wind, sitting down on the grass, and placing him in her lap as before.

“Oh yes, I do, well enough,” answered Diamond; “but I never just quite liked that rhyme.”

“Why not, child?”

“Because it seems to say one’s as good as another, or two new ones are better than one that’s lost. I’ve been thinking about it a great deal, and it seems to me that although any one sixpence is as good as any other sixpence, not twenty lambs would do instead of one sheep whose face you knew. Somehow, when once you’ve looked into anybody’s eyes, right deep down into them, I mean, nobody will do for that one any more. Nobody, ever so beautiful or so good, will make up for that one going out of sight. So you see, North Wind, I can’t help being frightened to think that perhaps I am only dreaming, and you are nowhere at all. Do tell me that you are my own, real, beautiful North Wind.”

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