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N. T. Wright on Hell: Summary and Comments [Feb. 28th, 2008|01:39 pm]
Dan
I have always felt some frustration with the way in which N. T. Wright approaches the topic of hell, both because of the positions he engages and because I expect a little more from someone so committed to the larger narrative of Scripture.

I first came across his views in three small articles he had written ("Toward a Biblical View of Universalism" in Themelios 4:2 [1975]: 54-58; "Universalism" in The New Dictionary of Theology, eds. S. B. Ferguson and D. F. Wright [Leicester: IVP, 1988], 701-703; "Universalism in the World-Wide Community" in The Churchman 89:3 [1979]: 197-212), but he has, once again, addressed the topic in his recent book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of God. I'll begin by summarising what he says in this book, before making a few comments.

Wright begins, IMO, in the right place by refocusing what Jesus had to say about Gehenna. Essentially, Wright argues, Jesus was warning Israel of what would befall her if she continued to pursue violent revolution and rejected the way of peace that Jesus was offering (Wright expounds on this in more detail in Jesus and the Victory of God). Hence, he argues:

As with God's kingdom, so with its opposite: it is on earth that things matter... Unless they turned back from their hopeless and rebellious dreams of establishing God's kingdom in their own terms... then the Roman juggernaut would do what large, greedy, and ruthless empires have always done to small countries... Rome would turn Jerusalem into a hideous, stinking extension of its own rubbish heap. When Jesus said, "Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish," that is the primary meaning he had in mind.

So far so good, and Wright continues to argue that the parables that appear to address hell directly must be remembered as parables that insist on the pursuit of justice and mercy within the present life.

Hence, he concludes that Jesus offers us no fresh teaching on this topic, but simply follows the normal first-century Jewish belief on this topic -- which does include the belief that some people will be damned.

Wright then goes on the attack against the type of universalism promoted by liberal theologians in the '60s and '70s. He argues that their optimism is naive and that our recent experiences of horrible evils (he names places like Rwanda, Darfur, and the Balkans) remind us that there must be a judgment -- good must be upheld, evil condemned, and the world set right.

Again, this is all well and good, but then Wright's argument continues in a way that I wish to challenge. He argues that setting the world right requires that some have "no place" in the new creation -- in particular, those who have pursued idolatry, and thereby both acted in subhuman ways, and become subhuman creatures. What is the fate of these subhuman creatures? Not the traditional view of endless torment, nor a universalist view of repentance made possible after death, nor, yet again, a conditionalist view that argues that those who presistently refuse God's love, will be annihilated. Rather, Wright argues that the fate of such people is to become "by their own effective choice, beings that once were human but now are not." Hence, he argues that these creatures, existing in an ex-human state "can no longer excite in themselves or others the natural sympathy some feel even for the hardened criminal". In this way, they are "beyond hope, beyond pity".

Ultimately, Wright states that he would "be glad to be proved wrong but not at the cost of the foundational claims that this world is the good creation of the one true God and that he will at the end bring about the judgment at which the whole creation will rejoice." Indeed, he even goes so far as to suggest that Revelation 21-22 might open the door for holding the view that those outside the gates might be healed because the water of life flows out of the city, but he holds back from going any further in this thinking. Thus, he says, regarding this suggestion:

This is not at all to cast doubt on the reality of final judgment for those who have resolutely worshipped and served idols that dehumanize us and deface God's world. It is to say that God is always the God of surprises.

There are a few points I would like to raise related to Wright's presentation of these things. To begin with, I'm puzzled that he chooses to engage the forms of universalism that he does (and always has). Granted, there are some serious flaws in the liberal universalism that he criticises, but there is another form of universalism that he either doesn't know or ignores -- that is, the hopeful universalism propogated especially by Hans Urs von Balthasar, but also expressed recently by Gregory MacDonald.

Secondly, I'm not sure why Wright links hell so closely to judgment. Indeed, I think the most compelling thing about Moltmann's understanding of eschatology and universalism, is that he deftly and biblically demonstrates that the two need not be held together. It is quite possible for good to be upheld, evil to be condemned, the world set right, and, at the same time, for all people to be saved. Yes, there must be exclusion before there can be an embrace (as Wright argues, following both Volf and Tutu), but that does not mean that the act of exclusion must be final -- it could mean that all will, in the end, be embraced. This point, I think, goes a long way to overthrowing his stated objection to universalism.

Thirdly, given Wright's emphasis upon the biblical narrative, I'm a little surprised that he doesn't think (or at least doesn't say) that the salvation of all might be just the sort of "surprise" that fits rather well within the trajectory of that narrative. Despite the Old Testament material that shows us that the Gentiles would be also be welcomed into the Kingdom of God, the offer of the inclusion still came as a surprise to many in the days of Jesus and Paul. Of course, in retrospect, we 21st-century Christians can see how that inclusion fits the story rather well. I can't help but wonder if a similar surprise awaits us. Given the hints that exist within the Scriptures, we might also see the inclusion of all people in the consummation of the Kingdom.

Fourthly, I'm somewhat troubled by the things to which Wright appeals in order to refute "liberal optimism". In his "catalog of awfulnesses" and his mention of those who are "utterly abhorrent" he lists mass murderers, child rapists, those who engage in "the commodification of souls", and so on. Here's the kicker: over the years I have personally known several people who would fit into these categories, yet I hold onto the hope that they will be saved, and made new, along with the rest of us. I have known those who have tortured and killed others (gang members), I have known those who have sexually exploited children (pimps and johns), and I have known those who have commodified the souls of others (drug dealers), yet I have been unable to "cast the first stone." Now, let me be clear on this: I believe that all of these actions are truly, truly horrible, but I do not yet believe that the people who performed these actions are horrible. Yes, such people must be resisted, yes, they must be held to account; but must they be damned? I don't think so.

Wright, I think, is too quick to demonise the humanity of the Other in these examples. I don't know if he has spent much time with such people, but I wonder how that might change his views. You see, because I have had the opportunity to personally journey alongside of many of these people, I have had a chance to see that most of them had little or no chance to be something other than what they are. Some were born broken, others were so broken when they were young that they never had a chance to develop into anything else (remember most of those who sexually abuse kids, were sexually abused as children -- this is not to suggest that all those who are sexually abused as kids go on to abuse others, but it is a large factor, and I think other circumstances in one's life go a long way to determining whether or not one goes on to abuse others or not). Ultimately, contra Wright, I don't think that it is the human Other that becomes ex-human and is damned. Rather, I think it is the forces that dehumanise the Other -- forces of sickness, of structural evil, and so on -- that are damned, while the person is restored to their fully human status in Christ.

But wait, what do I mean when I say "some were born broken"? A few things: first, some people are born unable to empathise with others or follow moral codes (this is called Antisocial Personality Disorder, or, more commonly, such people are referred to as sociopaths). It is hard to know how to respond to such people. People who never had a conscience. Yes, they can do awful things -- but will they be damned or will they, in the end, be healed? Secondly, I also think of kids born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome -- often born into poor and violent homes. Such kids often have their brains damaged in such a way that they are unable to empathise, and unable to understood the consequences of their actions. Again, it's just the way their brains are wired. I've known a few like this; some were gang-bangers, who had done some awful things, but I'm just not sure that they'll be damned in the end. They, too, might be healed. In such people, sinful actions are the symptom of an underlying brokenness -- a brokenness they had absolutely no control over.

Similarly, for many of those who are not born broken, but are made broken, I cannot help but wonder if those who have not journeyed alongside of people who have experienced great traumas and violence, can really understand the true depth of the impact that trauma and violence can have -- especially on children. If these children grow up to inflict violence upon others this is tragic, but I wonder to what degree they are culpable -- or, rather, I wonder if I would have been able to grow up and be any different, or if any of us would. So, in the end, will these people be damned, or will they, like us, be healed, and made new?

I can't help but think of the scenario in Jn 8.1-11 involving the woman caught in adultery. I wonder, if at the moment of judgment, once we have been fully confronted with both our own sinfulness, our own complicity in the broader structures of sin, and the ways in which those who sinned against us have been sinned against, if what will result is similar to what happens to the woman. In 1 Cor 6.2, Paul tells us that the saints will judge the world. I wonder if this means that God will say "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone." I wonder then, if we are unable to throw stones, if God will also say to those being judged, "then neither do I condemn you. Come now and leave your life of sin."
linkReply

Comments:
From: (Anonymous)
2008-02-29 12:47 am (UTC)

The broken

I dont think your comments about those who are born or made broken are very accurate. We need to be reborn precisely because we are all born broken. We dont get "made" broken over time, we just get more damaged. No human has control over it.

There is no excuse, some of us might be more damaged than others, but we are all broken. Remember, its the consequence of Adam's sin that is our brokeness, our broken nature. It is the rebirth that restores that nature, and anyone, APD, sociopath, homosexual, pedophile, mum and dad, sister, brother, cousin, friend; we can all be fixed.

Geoff
geoff@gummer.co.nz
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From: ext_85572
2008-02-29 03:13 am (UTC)

Re: The broken

Geoff, I'm not really sure what you're getting at. It seems that this is precisely what Dan is trying to say. If I understand correctly, it is precisely the fact that we are all broken that we should not "cast the first stone." Indeed, we all are in need of being reborn. When you say "we all need to be reborn" do you mean that we all need to be baptized into the church in order to be saved?

Dan, this is a good post. It is too bad Wright's view doesn't account for Balthasar or others who insist on a hope for universal salvation. Does he build on any particular theologians to make the case or does he just go about doing his own exegesis? A major weakness in Wright is his lack of engagement with contemporary theologians and it seems like this is one such instance.

It seems to me that Jesus came to save specially the sociopath!

R.O. Flyer


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[User Picture]From: poserorprophet
2008-03-01 08:52 pm (UTC)

Re: The broken

R.O. Flyer,

Wright does engage some contemporary theologians -- it's just that he doesn't always engage the best theologian for whatever topic he might end up discussing. Indeed, I really can't account for the way in which he neglects Balthasar, even though he mentions those like Volf and Moltmann. Furthermore, even though he does reference Moltmann, he never seriously engages Moltmann's arguments about universalism and seems to pass him off as one of those overly optimistic liberals (although this is more implied than actually explicitly stated). Thus, as I mentioned above, he misses Moltmann's demonstration of the way in which hell and judgment don't have to go hand-in-hand.

As for the way in which he builds his case, he does do a lot of his own exegesis but he is usually doing so in conversation with other exegetes and biblical scholars. Essentially, he affirms a fairly traditional conservative view of hell -- he just adds the idea of people being reduced to ex-human creatures, but he is quick to note that this is all speculation.

Grace and peace,

Dan
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[User Picture]From: poserorprophet
2008-03-01 08:47 pm (UTC)

Re: The broken

Geoff,

Yes, R. O. Flyer has provided a pretty good response to your objection. I agree that we are all broken, and are all awaiting salvation (although I reckon we have different understandings of 'original sin' but I won't get into that at the moment).

Furthermore, I don't use this brokenness as an "excuse" but I would like to remind you that it is only by God's grace that we are saved from this brokenness. Sure, "we can all be fixed" but we can only be "fixed" if God chooses to intervene into our lives and make us new. Until God intevenes, I will not blame the broken for being broken.

It seems to me that you wish to limit God's gracious intervention to some, whereas I have a sneaking suspicion that God's grace might be limitless.

Grace and peace,

Dan
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From: mralf
2008-09-27 02:58 pm (UTC)

Re: The broken

On this one: Until God Intervenes, I will not blame the broken for being broken.

This totally misses the point of scripture, "faith comes through hearing the word of God," our responsibility is in telling the gospel of Jesus and sure many don't get it, maybe because the spirit doesn't enter them. Does that make them any less accountable to God ? God;s wrath still burns, and His mercy is witholding His foot that wants to stop the rebels from

1. listening to the devil (the new god) and
2. giving God the finger every day, while every thing we have is His anyway. If any of us created things that treat us the way we treat God, we'd totally step on them, nuke em and bury them deep in the garden never to be seen again out of memory. This is the love of God that he restrains themselves (the 3). You wanta picture of this. Remember how Jesus cursed the fig tree. If somthing does what it doesn't do, it gets zapped.

While Jesus can take up Enoch, he can nuke Judas now, not later. Let's get real.

Yeah God's grace is limitless, but conditional on a few things such as forgiveness, doing it unto others as you did it unto me (get that Kiwi Keith Green song- The Sheep and the Goats) unless he is too uncool for you : )

Like I say anyone with standards is judgemental. Jesus grace is huge, His blood and his spirit are no little feats. I think the father is pretty pissed if epople deny him now, later or any time, and the eternal curtain may come down anyway He pleases, count your lucky stars- Jesus, that we know about Him, and if you love the person next door, share the gospel, because mate, they're going down without the blood of Jesus. Are we good, I agree with what your saying about the hope for the seemingly evil folk. But uyuys seem to miss the whole point. The worst sin we commit is giving God the finger, not child rape, gangbanging or torture. That's the definition of idolatory.

We all give God the finger each day. We have a commission and do we do it ? I reckon not. And I am a hypocrite in saying this.

Why is God so judgemental like this ? We torture him every day the way we treat him and others. The broken mind of Ezekiel or Jeremaiah's 'depression' is the heart of God thrown into your eyes.
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From: (Anonymous)
2008-02-29 02:11 pm (UTC)

So wonderful, I made your words a second 'quote of the day'

What a beautiful, thoughtful post! I've quoted you on my blog (http://exploringourmatrix.blogspot.com/2008/02/looking-forward-to-gods-surprises.html), which is one of several theologically-focused blogs that have been discussing pluralism, universalism, inclusivism and so on from a Christian perspective. I invite you to join in the 'bloggersation'!
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From: (Anonymous)
2008-03-01 04:33 am (UTC)

Re:

A beautiful reflection--I couldn't have said it better myself. May that day come quickly.

Rachel
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From: (Anonymous)
2008-03-03 03:30 am (UTC)
hi dan.

i have trouble imagining ALL of humanity being made new. some terrible things are done and i understand that you seem to be saying that the action will be judged as apart from the person. i guess i just have a hard time seeing this.

i almost find myself wondering if some people are beyond redemption because they've hardened themselves to God and his workings.

what are your thoughts when paul, along with other NT writers, list off groups of people (liars, adulterers etc) and says that they have no place in new creation?

thanks.

peace.

jt.
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[User Picture]From: poserorprophet
2008-03-10 08:39 pm (UTC)
Hey JT,

The fact is, all of us have hardened ourselves to God and God's workings. That any of us are redeemed must be understood as an act of God's gracious in-breaking -- and that only some of us might be redeemed seems, IMO, inconsistent with the trajectory of the biblical narrative, and with the character of the Christian God.

Of course, as you mentioned, there are some passages in Paul, and elsewhere in the NT, that suggest that not all people will be saved. However, both Paul and other NT writers simultaneously seems to suggest that all people will be saved -- this is why I think the explicit witness of Scripture on this topic is too ambiguous for us to hold to any position with any certainty.

Finally, let me be clear that I am not suggesting that God will judge actions, but not judge people. I think that all of us people will be judged, but I think God's judgment is the sort that condemns evil, while also redeeming sinners, and making all things new.

Grace and peace,

Dan

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From: carlosrattclif
2008-10-09 04:56 pm (UTC)
  I will remind us that there are some passages of Scripture that would clearly support some form of Marxism when they discuss the fact that all contributed all they had and everyone shared in the common resources (my language).
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From: burtonmaden
2008-10-09 05:14 pm (UTC)
Of course I am not free from all sin, I am human, but I constantly think, God is watching me. As I don’t like to disappoint my family (parents, husband, children) I especially don’t want to disappoint my Savior.
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From: (Anonymous)
2008-03-03 09:01 pm (UTC)
Great post Dan.

"Ultimately, contra Wright, I don't think that it is the human Other that becomes ex-human and is damned. Rather, I think it is the forces that dehumanise the Other -- forces of sickness, of structural evil, and so on -- that are damned, while the person is restored to their fully human status in Christ." Right on.

Nathan Colquhoun
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From: (Anonymous)
2008-03-08 09:07 pm (UTC)
Thanks for these really helpful and thought-provoking reflections.

I wonder if you come to any different conclusions (or at least travel down a different path to reach your conclusions) if the people who spring to mind are not those broken in this way, but, for example, the torturers and disappearers (and their commanders) in the regimes of Pinochet, Rios Montt, and so many others? If the mass murderers are those who prepare for, and prosecute, war to feed the internal logic of the machine they serve (national security, power and possession)?

Does the social and economic location of those who act in these ways change our moral judgement of their acts (and of them)? What mitigating pleas can be made for those who have (by all objective standards) everything the world has to offer, have not experienced the kind of trauma, violence and abuse you refer to here, and use that privilege to wreak destruction?

I'm not arguing for a moralistic condemnation of these people either, just asking.
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[User Picture]From: poserorprophet
2008-03-10 08:53 pm (UTC)
Hey Anon,

Yes, to be clear from the outset, I believe that even the torturers, and their commanders, will, in the end, be saved. As I and others have suggested above, all of us are broken, and all of us are in need of grace -- and, in the end, I think God will act graciously to all of us. Some, I think, will face a far more terrible judgment than others, but I don't think that a terrible judgment necessarily results in damnation for any. Again, I am reminded of Christ's words from the cross. Speaking of those who crucified him, Jesus says, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Lk 23.34). If these are the words of the person who will, one day, judge us all, I reckon we have a decent grounds for hope -- even for contemporary torturers!

So then we come to the issue of mitigating pleas and the role played by one's socio-economic location. Essentially, I am interested in seeing condemnation mitigated in this worldly time and space. That is to say, what we believe about hell, and who will populate (or not populate) hell, has an influence upon how we interact with people here and now.

When we stand before the throne of God, I think that the only mitigating plea that anybody has (but that we all now have!) is the cross of Christ (although, on the cross, as I mentioned above, Jesus seems to factor in mitigating circumstances!). However, when it comes to how we relate to one another here and now, I think it is important for us to factor in various extenuating circumstances (for both the poor person who is oppressed and the privileged person who oppresses others). In this regard, I'll refer you to some thoughts I wrote about boundaries around the Eucharist -- cf. http://poserorprophet.livejournal.com/57149.html.

Grace and peace,

Dan
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From: (Anonymous)
2008-03-13 01:44 am (UTC)
Thanks Dan. Didn't mean to remain anonymous, just couldn't work the livejournal system.

Thanks for the link back to your Eucharist paper. Good stuff.

Ben
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[User Picture]From: daveordave
2008-04-15 06:14 pm (UTC)
Hi. I stumbled across your LJ while Googling "jesus and the victory of god" and Hell. I haven't read Wright's new book yet, but would you say that he is limiting "Hell" to only the incorrigibly wicked, those who insist on hurting others to the very end and refuse to change, or is he sticking with the more traditional "exclusivist" position (ie, 13 year old Buddhists who have never met a Christian will suffer eternal conscious torment)? Thank you ahead of time for any answer you can offer.
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[User Picture]From: poserorprophet
2008-04-16 08:29 pm (UTC)
G'day, thanks for stopping by.

As far as I can tell (I'd have to look back over Wright's stuff to be sure), Wright is somewhere in between the two positions that you describe. He seems to reject the notion that anybody can be saved after death (and hence appears opposed to the position that limits "Hell" to the incorrigibly wicked), but he also appears more open than the traditional "exclusivist" position. He speaks on these things with much less certainty than traditional "exclusivists" and leaves more room for God to be God.

Grace and peace,

Dan
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From: (Anonymous)
2008-05-12 09:13 am (UTC)

Second time unlucky

Dan

One thing that seems to have been overlooked here is that some people's hearts may very well be too hard, too proud or too whatever to accept God's offer when confronted with the full extent of their sins etc after they die. Do you not think? And then they would be the ones who would go to hell.

Yours in thirst, Hudson

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[User Picture]From: poserorprophet
2008-05-15 02:42 am (UTC)

Re: Second time unlucky

Hudson,

I haven't overlooked this, I just think that when we are fully and truly confronted by the presence of God, well, no one can the gracious invitation found within that presence.

A few examples: when I was lost in the depths of my personal brokenness, I encountered God's irresistable grace and was transformed by it. Similarly, Paul, even on his bloodthirsty mission, couldn't help but be transformed by his encounter with the risen Jesus. I think this will be true of all of us.

Furthermore, I think Scripture also points in this direction. When Phil 2 tells us that every knee will bow, and every tongue confess Jesus as Lord, and think that it is telling us that it is impossible to be "too hard, too proud or too whatever" to accept God's offer.

To suggest otherwise is problematical. Was I, or Paul, or whomever else, saved because I wasn't "too hard, too proud or too whatever" to accept God's offer? Surely not! Otherwise we end up representing that most dreaded of positions -- Pelagianism!

In sum: (1) No one is saved because of their own works -- all of us are saved because of God's work and God's grace; additionally (2) God is able to, and desires to, save all of us -- no nut is "too hard" for God to crack; (3) consequently, I happen to believe that God will save all of us -- in the end, when we all finally encounter God, we will all freely choose to bend our knees and confess Jesus as Lord.

Yours in hope,

Dan
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From: (Anonymous)
2008-05-20 03:41 am (UTC)

Re: Second time unlucky

you're advocating anarchy. if all will be saved then it doesn't matter a damn what anyone does in this life.

i still think what i said is closer to what the truth may be.

feel free to try to convince me otherwise.

sincerely, hudson
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From: (Anonymous)
2008-05-20 03:45 am (UTC)

Re: Second time unlucky

or do you think we will all just be ranked the opposite of how we were in this life, "the first will be last" and all that.
And assigned tasks and offices accordingly in the new heavens and the new earth.

?

hudson
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From: (Anonymous)
2010-04-22 07:48 pm (UTC)

Re: Second time unlucky

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From: (Anonymous)
2008-06-12 11:40 am (UTC)

A different angle

Ok, assuming you are right. how should we live our lives now and does it really matter at all what anyone chooses to do?

hudson
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[User Picture]From: poserorprophet
2008-06-12 05:29 pm (UTC)

Re: A different angle

Hudson,

Usually comments are emailed to me through livejournal, but for some reason I don't think I was notified about your last few comments. Allow me to briefly respond to what you have said.

First of all, I'm not advocating anarchy (although I continue to think that most people have little sense of what that word means -- the anarchists, from Proudhon, to Chomsky, to Stringfellow, aren't really all that scary... but I digress). Even if all are saved, what we do in this life matters very much. This is so for at least two reasons: (1) God calls us to live a certain way and will judge us for how we respond to this call (even if God ultimately chooses to save us all, standing before the judgment seat of God, having deliberately squandered our lives, is not a place we should want to be); and (2) even if people don't 'burn' for eternity, there are many who are 'burning' right now, and we can either alleviate or aggravate their sufferings. Hence, empowered by God's eschatological Spirit, we become agents of God's new creation, as it proleptically bursts into the here and now.

You see, as Christians we don't live and act the way that we do because the goal is earning a 'get out of hell free' card. We live and act the way that we do because we believe that this is what it means to be truly human. This is why, in the NT, the imperative is always premised upon the indicative. Paul doesn't say "live this way so that you can go to heaven when you die" he says, "live this way because that is what it means to be who you are." We don't live this way to earn a reward, we live this way because it just doesn't make sense to live any other way.

Secondly, this hopeful universalism then impacts how we live our lives as Christians because it profoundly influences how we engage in mission (or incarnational living, or whatever you want to call it). You see, rather than going to people and saying, "You must repent so that you can be forgiven" we go to people and say, "You sins have already been forgiven, so you are free to repent". Hence, we come to understand our mission as a way of giving others a foretaste of the final love and embrace that they will receive when God returns and becomes all in all.

So, briefly, that is a few ways in which this thinking impacts our lived lives, and our choices.

Grace and peace,

Dan
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From: (Anonymous)
2008-06-28 08:13 am (UTC)

Re: A different angle

blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God
but woe to the rich for they have received their consolation.

what consolation if everyone is saved?

and what about free will? we are seperated from the animals by virtue of free will. if we are all saved then aren't we much the same as the animals.

the clever see danger and hide. but the simple keep on and suffer for it.

but the wiser you are and the more you know the more you will suffer.

indeed most happiness stems from others suffering.

so if everyone will be saved, what is the point in anyone being wise or poor in spirit etc?

yes we are all sinful and the only way to the father is through christ. and it is possible that everyone wil be saved. i am not God.
but saying everyone will be saved does open a whole can of worms.


(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2008-08-05 02:26 am (UTC)

Re: A different angle

But I don't derive happiness from other people's suffering. Isn't that sadism? Didn't Jesus tell us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us? Is He asking us to do something God Himself is not willing to do?

Certainly there is free will but how free is a reformed alcoholic? Not as free as I am about drinking a glass of wine every now and then. Is it inconceivable that God will allow us to choose anything we want - except eternal damnation? Thus far we may go and no further?

Is it also inconceivable that true justice is all about restoration of what was lost or broken, reconciliation between the sinner and the sinned against and God, and redemption of the sinner?

Unfortunately we've reduced the Good News to either you go to hell or you get a "Get Our of Hell Free Card". It does not work that way.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2008-09-30 01:29 pm (UTC)

Re: A different angle

dan,

i'm gonna summarize what i've got to say simply. i fear it is being misconstrued

1. the kingdom of God is at hand
2. we are all called to repent and avail ourselves of God's grace in such a way that we may fulfill our various offices with the righteousness appropriate
3. This cannot be done without the grace of of the holy spirit in our hearts and lives transforming the old man into the new
4. if this means that all will be saved then praise God
5. but to dogmatically insist that this is the case is placing oneself in the position of God

peace, hudson
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: florinnelinara
2010-09-23 11:48 am (UTC)

Re: A different angle

A true reformed alcoholic should know more about free will than any other person; he learned it on the hard way.
rehab best
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From: mralf
2008-09-27 03:29 pm (UTC)

Re: A different angle

Dan,
I do think Paul speaks of our hope, referring to eternal life, the enemy in many ways is death. To be truly human is to be as Jesus was maybe. If you agree with Irenaeus' recapitulation, he did Adam all again. I argue, we should recapitulate Christ, to be like our master hence Ephesians says, be imitators of God. I think you are saying this to some degree.

Sadly, we have missed God's judgement, we play it down like its not there, the whole point of the bible is God's judgement and dealing with it. Why did Jesus die on the cross ? Its better to say, we give the finger to God and He is pissed, as we are too, and that is just being an unappreciative despot, sadist, for its from Him alone that we get good things.

Saying this, your technique "your sins have already been forgiven, so you are free to repent.' has value as a type of apologetic, despite downgrading the seriousness of our attitude to God.

I think the work of the Holy Spirit is key in all this. But remember according to Ephesians the Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, and Jesus says of the Spirit will convict of Sin in a number of ways, so here is the dilemmma, shouldn't a person know of their sin towards God before getting saved, what are they getting saved from ?

Saying this, God does whatever He wants. There was a situation where the Holy Spirit seems to have entered a guy without him doing anything at all while being essentially atheistic, and being completely transformed afterwards.

The love of God or Shalom, cannot be realised till the resistance is destroyed. This wussified love gospel is undermining His work at times. Is God judgemental, sure, we all are judgemental, anyone with standards is judgemental. People will have no idea of God's grace if they don't know what they are being saved from and how God perceives their/our sin.

We must not present this as discipling to US as many dumb groups do like MTS Sydney Evangelicals. We disciple people to Christ and explain that He is our hope and life, our love, and I without Him are a sinbound bastard, destined for destruction, praise the Lord. We should model (be real), a sense of how sinful we are and repentance. The Catholics may have gotten some of this right, we also need to model(be real) the salvation and joy of the Lord.
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From: (Anonymous)
2009-01-20 04:49 pm (UTC)

Hell - Judgment - N.T. Wright

In speaking of hell as that mode of existence where those who have rejected God's saving grace become increasingly inhuman and finally ex-human, Wright seems to be trying to make the biblical metaphors ususally associated with hell relevant to the 21st century. However we interpret the biblical imagery, in the end we must acknowledge the mystery and confess with the psalmist: "He will judge all people fairly...He will judge the world with justice" (96:10b,13b). All people includes sociopaths, pedophiles and you and me. Our omniscient and compassionate God knows how to temper mercy with judgment.(C.M. Sturge)
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2010-10-14 08:32 pm (UTC)

Re: Hell - Judgment - N.T. Wright

All of us need putting back together. I don't think the references pss passages have, in the light of the cross, any notion of retribution in them.

Mack Harrell
West Orange, NJ
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2009-05-29 11:34 pm (UTC)

Thank you for your article

I really appreciated this quote from your review: "the forces that dehumanise the Other -- forces of sickness, of structural evil, and so on -- that are damned, while the person is restored to their fully human status in Christ."

This is a very helpful reframe for me as I continue to explore this topic of Christian universalism...

Thanks..
(Reply) (Thread)
From: ext_219812
2009-12-27 09:12 am (UTC)
Excellent post Dan. Thanks for this. I have been journeying through theology for several years now and have finally come to rest as a hopeful Christological universalist. There are still questions to be answered though :) I also blog my own thoughts, so feel free to pop on over :)

Peter Gray

http://thesaviouroftheworld.blogspot.com/
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From: mackharrell
2010-10-12 06:46 pm (UTC)

Moltmann's understanding of eschatology and universalism

Dan:

I'd like a reference for this, please.

Tx.

Mack
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