Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Should we be sorrowful that hell might be empty?

Ben Myers who teaches theology in Sydney (can you guess at which institution?) has a thought-provoking reflection on Rob Bell's Love Wins which was recently discussed here.

What do you think? If God's grace was so big that hell emptied out, should we be sorrowful? (Check first, would I be disappointed to find Hitler was not in hell?).

Is the whole of Western theology missing the orthodox mark, measured by Eastern Orthodox theology?

Could Barth be the one truly great, and greatly true Western theologian of all time?


Bryden Black said...

Small caveat on Barth Peter: while the logic of his doctrines of election and reconciliation might suggest a certain universalism, he himself shied away from this conclusion - out of respect for the sheer exegetical realities of say Matthew's Gospel, where division is unequivocal, or so it wld seem to any 'plain reading'.

Paul Powers said...

I'd like to think that everyone will be given one last opportunity to accept Christ's gift of salvation (perhaps when Jesus descends into he'll). But scripture gives no such assurance, and if you believe in free will, you have to accept the likelihood that someone will say no to his offer.

carl jacobs said...

would I be disappointed to find Hitler was not in hell?

The idea that Hitler is somehow morally worse than the rest of humanity (and therefore more deserving of eternal condemnation) is a profound theological error. It originates from a 'works' orientation that ranks men according to man's perception of the seriousness of sins. "Hitler killed a lot of people. I never killed anyone. I am better than Hitler." But that is not the moral standard by which men are judged. It doesn't matter how your deeds rank against the deeds of the man next to you. The standard is moral perfection. You may perceive yourself as standing on the peak of Mt Everest as compared to a man who sits at the bottom of the Marianas trench. Neither of you have any hope of reaching the stars. Objectively speaking, the one is not appreciably closer than the other. The infirmity of man remains, and his relative moral rankings have no standing in a divine courtroom.

In the eyes of God, we are all as guilty as Hitler. Of each one of us it is said None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good,not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.Their feet are swift to shed blood in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes. This is what we are by nature. This is all we are by nature. This is all we can ever be by nature. This is why we require a Savior. One who removes the heart of stone and gives back a heart of flesh.

So do not imagine that Hell is reserved for the 'really bad people.' We are all the 'really bad people.' We all deserve that same condemnation. The marvel is not that anyone would be condemned. Simple justice demands it. The marvel is that anyone would be redeemed. For justice must be satisfied to accomplish it. And how great was the sacrifice that justice demanded.

And that is the Offense of the Gospel. That man is evil to his core. That he is both unable and unwilling to do anything about it. That God looks at man and finds no good in man at all, but only a murderer's heart and a viper's tongue. Not much to boast about. And man by nature loves to boast.


Kurt said...

“And that is the Offense of the Gospel. That man is evil to his core. That he is both unable and unwilling to do anything about it. That God looks at man and finds no good in man at all, but only a murderer's heart and a viper's tongue. Not much to boast about. And man by nature loves to boast.”—carl

I’m far closer to the Eastern churches than to any Calvinist evangelical. Carl’s quote is a good example why so many of us Episcopalians have always rejected the Calvinist heresy. This has been true for centuries. While Latitudinarians like Bishop William White had their very real disagreements with Catholics like Samuel Seabury, and vice versa both schools were united in their detestation of Calvinism.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

John Sandeman said...

Hi Kurt,

would you believe I commissioned this article and published it!?

Kurt said...

Yes, John/Obadiah, I can believe that you commissioned it. You have never struck me as a vengeful Calvinist. A bit too happy-clappy, maybe, but certainly not vengeful.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Father Ron Smith said...

I have already made a comment on this thread but it appears to have been lost in the ether. Maybe not P.C.?

Father Ron Smith said...

We'll have another try:

I'll have to say that I am in agreement with Carl on this one.One must never underestimate God's power (and willingness) to Save & Redeem.

That was one of the scriptural assurances - when Jesus descended 'into Hell' after his resurrection from the dead, He was giving the inhabitants 'another chance'. Otherwise, why did He bother - just to show off?

Our problem as human beings is that we have been given the gift of Free Will - to accept - or not - the Redemption that Jesus has secured for all who BELIEVE in Him. What God will do about those who have never experienced his redeeming Love is surely up to God.

However, his Body, the Church, has to task of showing to All Creation the extent of His Love, so that, in as far as we do that, we are taking part in God's great work of Love.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Apologies if I have inadvertantly mislaid a comment you sought to make here. Thanks for following up!

Father Ron Smith said...

That's fine, Peter - we all make mistakes. None of us is immune.

Martin Davies said...

You might like to follow the St Andrew's Patristic Symposium on St Gregory of Nyssa at the Sydney Greek Orthodox Theological College. One of this Wednesday's papers is by Mario Baghos, on apokatastasis. The Facebook page abstract previews the restoration of all peoples which has already been inaugurated by the Incarnation of the Word in Jesus Christ, as delineated in Gregory of Nyssa's Catechetical Oration. I imagine the paper will appear on the FB page in due course.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks for the tip, Martin!

By the way, apropos some other debates happening on this blog, is the creative and flexible theology of the Orthodox extending to their understanding of marriage?

Father Ron Smith said...

Are all 'theologies of marriage' identical? What, for instance, does the phrase -'The Marriage Feast of the Lamb' mean, in that context?

One also has to consider those Holy Virgins (Nuns) who undergo a ceremony of 'Marriage to Christ'.

Could there be another sort of marriage - say, between same-sex persons who pledge their troth to one another in the sight of God? There are Christian theologians who actually think this is valid.

Because we Anglicans in Aotearoa/New Zealand have not yet got up off our butts and nutted this possibility through, it does not mean there is not a viable theology for same-sex blessings.