Salvation 2.0: Part 3.10: David Bentley Hart’s “God, Creation, and Evil,” Part 3

grace5When I first advised Richard Beck that I’d be critiquing Hart’s article, he asked me
this —

As far as any advice I’d offer you as [you] take on that task is to give your readers a clear and specific answer to how conditionalism handles something like the Holocaust. Specifically, I’d like to see Fudge or you give an clear and unambiguous answer as to where those six-million Jews stand in relation to eternity. Are they in 1) in hell, 2) annihilated (or dead forever) or 3) eventually saved?

I’m not sure I understand the question. I mean, I understand the words, but not why this is supposed to be a particular challenge. But evidently it’s a standard argument in the Universal Reconciliation (UR) debate, as NT Wright addresses it in defending his own view of theodicy (how to reconcile a good God with evil in the Creation). The point seems to be that it’s unthinkable to declare that the Holocaust victims went to hell; therefore, we must accept UR. Not so fast my friend! Continue reading

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Salvation 2.0: Part 3.9: David Bentley Hart’s “God, Creation, and Evil,” Part 2

grace5How could Paul believe in Universal Reconciliation while writing Rom 9 – 11, agonizing over the damnation of Jews who deny Jesus?

And how could Paul characterize the damned, over and over, as “destroyed” if their fate is to be punished and then saved?

(Rom 9:22 ESV) What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,

(Rom 14:15 ESV) For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.

(Rom 14:20 ESV) Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. Continue reading

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Salvation 2.0: Part 3.8: Richard Beck, David Bentley Hart, and “God, Creation, and Evil,” Part 1

grace5Back on September 17, 2015, Richard Beck at his essential “Experimental Theology” blog wrote,

I have argued, for many long and lonely years, to any who would hear, that the doctrine (or hope) of universal reconciliation (UR) has more to do with theodicy than soteriology, more to do with addressing the problems of suffering than about salvation. More, I have argued that UR is the only coherent theodicy available to the Christian faith. The only coherent theodicy.

(I have advised Richard of this series and invited him to participate by posting here or by commenting.)

“Soteriology” is the theology of salvation — baptism, saved by faith alone (sola fide), that sort of thing. “Theodicy” is trying to figure out how a good God can allow evil. “Universal Reconciliation” is often referred to as Universalism — the idea that all people will be saved. There are many variations on the theme. For example, many conclude that Universal Reconciliation will only be achieved after a period of punishment — hence allowing for both perfect justice and love. And this appears to be Beck’s position. Continue reading

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Funds for Bahamians Left Homeless by Hurricane Joaquin

albert town long cay

From Miami Herald

Hurricane Joaquin hit the Bahamas hard, and the Westridge Church of Christ in Nassau is raising funds for hurricane relief. Their preacher, Clyde Symonette, emailed this note to me:

Hurricane Joaquin did extensive damage in the southern islands of the Bahamas. Nassau, where I live and where the church is located is pretty much unscathed. Residents of the affected islands are displaced and are in desperate need of food, water and other supplies in the short term and accommodations in the long term. As a church we plan do all that we can to contribute to the relief and rebuilding efforts. To that end I write to request that you incorporate a link to our fund raising site on your website. The link is it has been set up by Adam and Paula Williamson. Adam and his wife Paula have been with us for about 3 years now. He works for the US Government in the Bahamas. They are members of our church.

I know Clyde personally. My congregation sends two or three short-term mission groups each year to Nassau to work with this congregation. They are good people and will manage your donations well.

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Salvation 2.0: Part 3.1C: David Bentley Hart’s Criticism of the Traditional View

grace5Reader and frequent commenter Nathan wrote,

You seem to hold to this position with more dogmatic certainty than I’ve seen with other issues you’ve addressed on this site. Moreover, you’ve resorted to a flippancy that I find troubling (e.g., “roasting middle schoolers over a spit”). It’s as if the majority of Christians in the history of the church are not only uncharitable, but stupid.


First, if I’ve implied anyone is stupid, I apologize. That is not how I feel. I held to the traditional view for most of my life. I was not stupid. Just mistaken. But as I get older, as more friends and family die, and as my own health worsens, the topic of the afterlife becomes much less abstract and much more vital. I confess that I hold my views with intensity. I do. I’ve been through these questions many times before, and every time I take the topic on, I become more thoroughly convinced.

In addition, I’ve been working on a series responding to David Bentley Hart’s criticism of the traditional view of hell. And as the posts indicate, I’ve also been working through the “eternal fire” passages. And we need to confront these arguments and passages head on. No hiding our eyes. We owe it to ourselves to be brutally honest in assessing the evidence
— and Hart rubs our noses in it. Continue reading

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Salvation 2.0: Part 3.7: Justice

grace5Imagine a 12-year old girl raised in a Christian household. She has, we will assume, reached the “age of accountability.” It happened just today. And imagine that she is not yet a Christian. And she commits a single, solitary sin.

Now imagine that in a sad, tragic accident, she is killed. You are asked to preach her funeral. What do you say?

Do you pretend she was saved even though she’d never confessed Jesus, and in fact had not at all decided to follow him? She was more worried about school work, her friends, and boys. She just hadn’t made up her mind. Continue reading

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Salvation 2.0: Part 3.6: Separation from God

grace5Now, many a theologian has argued that hell is separation from God, and I think that’s part of the punishment. Maybe all. Speaking of the damned, Paul writes,

(2Th 1:9-10 ESV)  9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,  10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

We were born and have lived our days in God’s presence, even if we haven’t always been believers. God is present within his Creation, and surely his presence is part of the joy of life. Continue reading

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Headed to Aggie-Land

texasA&MI leave tomorrow for a brief trip to College Station, Texas located near … well … it’s in Texas somewhere. My third son, Tyler, will defend his doctoral work and should end the day with a Ph.D. in chemical engineering.

The practice there is for parents and friends to show up to watch the proceeding as professors grill the potential graduate before friends and family with intimidating questions — which has to be more entertaining than watching a graduation ceremony.

So I’m grateful for the opportunity to hear professors talk about enthalpy and such like. (I have no idea what it means either. But chem E people talk about it like it matters. I majored in math and stopped being able to understand Tyler’s discussion of his field about his junior year in college. I just respond with something like, “De miminis non curat lex.” We lawyers can talk in foreign languages, too.)

College Station is always a good trip — although I do have to question why such a ceremony is not on scheduled to match the Alabama vs. A&M game. That would have been nice.

I’ll be back Wednesday. Late. Might or might not comment while gone. But posts will continue per usual.

Oh, and “Roll Tide!!”

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Salvation 2.0: Part 3.5: Gehenna

grace5Jesus and James refer to the fate of the damned as gehenna, usually translated “hell.”

The word is entirely absent from Paul and the other NT writers, who prefer to speak in terms of the damned being destroyed. There is no word for “hell” in the Pauline epistles.

(Interesting, no? How could Paul write half the NT and say nothing about hell, when Jesus said so much? Maybe because we’re misunderstanding Jesus.)

The name means “Valley of Hinnom” or its full form “Valley of the son of Hinnom” … .

The valley was the scene of the idolatrous worship of the Canaanite gods Molech and Baal. This worship consisted of sacrificing children by passing them through a fire on Topheth (a high place) and into the hands of the gods (Jer 7:31; 19:4–5; 32:35). These practices were observed during monarchy at least under the reigns of Ahaz and Manasseh who themselves sacrificed their own children (2 Kgs 16:3; 21:6; 2 Chr 28:3; 33:6). Continue reading

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Salvation 2.0: Part 3.1B: Everlasting, eternal, unquenchable fire

grace5Monty asked about the meaning of “everlasting fire” in the comments. My answer was pretty long and I thought worth posting as a post — because it’s a good question that deserves a thorough answer.


Unquenchable fire

“Everlasting fire” in the NT is generally “unquenchable fire” which, in the NT, is always a reference to Isa 66 — Continue reading

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