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.

(1 Cor 3:17 ESV) If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

(1 Cor 6:13 ESV) “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”– and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.

(1 Cor 8:11 ESV) And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.

(1 Cor 15:24 ESV) Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.

(1 Cor 15:26 ESV) The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

(Phil 1:28 ESV) and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.

(Phil 3:19 ESV) Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

(1 Thes 5:3 ESV) While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

(2 Thes 1:9 ESV) They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

(2 Thes 2:3 ESV) Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,

(1 Tim 6:9 ESV) But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

And those not referred to as destroyed are referred to as “perishing” — literally dying, meaning eternal death —

(Rom 2:12 ESV) For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.

(1 Cor 1:18 ESV) For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

(1 Cor 9:25 ESV) Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

(1 Cor 15:18 ESV) Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

(1 Corinthians 15:42 ESV) So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.

(1 Cor 15:50 ESV) I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

(1 Corinthians 15:53 ESV) For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.

(1 Cor 15:54 ESV) When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

(2 Cor 2:15 ESV) For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,

(2 Cor 4:3 ESV) And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.

(2 Thes 2:10 ESV) and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.

And so, if we take “destroy” to mean destroy and “perish” to mean perish, Paul’s letters make perfect sense if the damned are punished for a finite, perfectly just duration and then destroyed — to cease to exist for all eternity. That is, Paul’s vocabulary seems particularly well suited to Conditionalism.

Moreover, then the “fire that consumes” of the OT (e.g., Exo 15:7; Psa 59:12-13; 104:35; Isa 9:18-19; 47:14), the gehenna (garbage dump) of Jesus, and the destruction and perishing of Paul all fit together.

If you begin your study assuming that souls are, by nature, inherently immortal, then a good, thoughtful person easily winds up with something like Universal Reconciliation (or Universalism). But if you accept that only God is innately immortal and that immortality is a gift from God, there’s no need to go there — and the text supports Fudge’s Conditionalism much better than Universal Reconciliation.

[more to come]

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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12 Responses to Salvation 2.0: Part 3.9: David Bentley Hart’s “God, Creation, and Evil,” Part 2

  1. Dustin says:

    Some verses to think about contra the ones mentioned:

    1 Timothy 2:3-6(NIV)

    (Does God get what God wants?)

    3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.

    I Corinthians 15:22
    For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

    Colossians 1:19-20
    19For in him [Christ] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

    Romans 11:32
    For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.

  2. Monty says:

    Jesus longed(desired) to gather the inhabitants of Jerusalem to him as a mother hen gathers her chicks under her protective wings, but they would not. Because they would not, Jerusalem would be destroyed. God’s will for humanity and a new heaven and a new earth will no doubt come to fruition, but there will be many casualties along the way, contrary to his desire.

  3. Dustin says:


    Hosea could indicate that is not in God’s character.

    “How can I give you up, Ephraim?
    How can I hand you over, Israel?
    How can I treat you like Admah?
    How can I make you like Zeboiim?
    My heart is changed within me;
    all my compassion is aroused.
    I will not carry out my fierce anger,
    nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim.
    For I am God, and not man—
    the Holy One among you.
    I will not come in wrath.

  4. Richard constant says:

    At Dustin
    I’m going to try to say this politely what about the context of the verses that you’re using.
    If you don’t understand the flow of the thought where the Verse is being used, then again we wind up for them mouse on the moon eating green cheese.

  5. Richard constant says:

    who is Hosea who is Hosea talking to at what time is Hosea talking and what is he trying to get the people to do God’s people to do.
    A prophet is a spokesman for God.
    everyone should understand what the major and minor prophets are and what the major and minor prophets are saying and why.
    This goes back to Deuteronomy 28 and 29.
    this history lesson Essential not only to understanding God’s law and Torah law, also understanding God’s promise to Abraham.
    So that understanding why and what circumstances the prophets were speaking to gives an indication of how patient and long suffering God was with his people to repent.
    exactly why do all men die.
    look at Galatians chapter 4 verse 1- 11 at the right time God sent forth his son born under the law.
    Read Romans chapter 3! this is essential to understanding God’s righteous standing through His Word in judgement.
    For that to happen you have to know the story of God’s people.
    The children of Abraham.

    our father only told one person not to eat the tree of the fruit of good and evil.
    yet all men suffer death.

  6. Larry Cheek says:

    Richard C,
    If he had not eaten of the forbidden fruit how many men would have had a life? As I remember he could have lived forever even after his death if he had not been put out of the garden.

  7. Richard constant says:

    The created broke The Creator’s VERY GOOD RESTING PLACE,
    the trap of death had been sprung, catching all And any in the reality of the creator’s creation,
    the creator did not design the creation to be anything but a restful place for him and his created.
    Blessings rich

  8. Richard constant says:

    that should of BEEN

  9. Larry Cheek says:

    Richard C,
    Could you identify what area of scriptures led you to make this statement about the creation? That God viewed the earth as, “a restful place for him and his created”

  10. Larry Cheek says:

    I guess attempting to verify our own concept we all pull many verses out of their context to apply a certian word where we need it. Many of the texts you have quoted here are just as far from the subject as many of the verses which you had identified for the author of Muscle and Shovel.

  11. Richard constant says:

    Well Larry you’re going to have to figure out what happened between the 6th and the 7th day.

  12. Dustin says:


    I am aware of the context of Hosea. Hosea shows what Jewish theologian Abraham Heschel called the “divine pathos,” the idea that God has emotions and feels deeply toward humanity. As Heschel stated in “The Prophets”:

    ” No word is God’s final word. Judgment, far from being absolute is conditional.” (Heschel 2007, 1:194).

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