Griffiths on The Lure of the Void

“This language of loss and diminuition clearly suggests the possibility of coming to nothing, of annihilation stricto sensu.  That is what gives it the undeniable power it has.  For Augustine, as for most of the fathers of the church, the possibility of self-annihilation is suggested by a grammar of participation and gift.  On this view, the fact that you are is sheer unmerited gift, and what you are is a participant in the LORD.  Sin is the rejection of gift, and thereby the rejection of participatory being.  The result is loss of a properly ontological sort, and it is a loss that proliferates and multiplies as the sinner, the loser, attempts to grasp ever more firmly what is not there at all: the illusion of a mode of being independent of the LORD.  This proliferative loss eats away at the soul, causing the progressive loss of its distinctive properties (freedom, choice, judgment, understanding, virtuous habit, and so on) to the point where the soul returns to that from which it came: nihil, nothing, the void, simple absence.”1

  1. Paul J. Griffiths, Decreation: The Last Things of All Creatures (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2014), 199-200.

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