In Defensionem Hart: A Reply to Douglas Farrow’s Review of ‘That All Shall Be Saved’

By Roberto De La Noval

Harrowing Hart on Hell”—Douglas Farrow’s review of David Bentley Hart’s new book, That All Shall Be Saved, cannot be said to fall short of that same wit and bite which characterize his opponent’s writings. In a few places, Farrow even lands some impressive punches against Hart, such as his incisive question whether Hart’s moral argument—that God would be evil in the light of eternal torments—does not also prove God evil in view of the finite sufferings of this life. Still, the passerby not familiar with Hart’s book will be misled by reading the bevy of Hart’s arguments which Farrow rehearses in, unfortunately, a less than charitable and accurate fashion. Consider this letter, then, a spectator’s plea to momentarily pause the match and review some of the worst mischaracterizations of Hart’s argument.

The problems begin quite early in the review. The central theological argument of Hart’s book is not so much an existential question as it is a question about the possibility of theological speech itself: if God can still be considered “good”—indeed, the Good itself—despite the eternal suffering of his creatures, can we justifiably claim the divine name “good” bears any analogical relation to our usage of it in reference to earthly moral action? Farrow’s recourse to an Augustinian skepticism about fallen creatures’ “instincts and feelings” is actually beside the point, unless we are prepared to admit we have no idea at all what “goodness” is. Hart’s argument is intended to force just this decision in the reader—either to fly into a fideism which throws its hands up about our ability to know the revealed character of God or to affirm that the traditional doctrine of eternal torments is morally incoherent, so much so that it threatens to destabilize the Divine Names by which we speak of, and to, God. Hart has raised a serious question about the doctrine of analogy and its relationship to both theological anthropology and the doctrine of God, but Farrow barely registers this. And let the reader not be distracted by claims that these moral instincts are actually gnostic in provenance. Chase the hare and ignore the kipper, for we are here dealing with moral sentiments nurtured by the gospel itself.

Moving on. It is not, in fact, so easy to disentangle Augustine from his double-predesti­narian legacy, Farrow’s appeals notwithstanding. Divine foreknowledge may not entail determin­ism, but Augustine makes it perfectly clear in his final treatises on predestination and perseverance that “the ordering of his future works in his foreknowledge … is absolute and nothing but his predestination” (De Dono, ch. 41). The late Augustine was no semi-Pelagian, and his doctrine of operative grace affirms that it is God’s action, his secret and eternal predestination of his saints, with the corresponding conferral of salvation’s necessary and sufficient graces (conversion and perseverance), which explain divine foreknowledge of the specially elect. That means that God’s foreknowledge of the damnation of the non-elect is in fact knowledge of his own refusal to grant them saving grace. It may be painful to acknow­ledge that this pillar of Western Christianity taught that God chooses to predestine some to salvation and to leave the rest—even seemingly innocent babies—to their condign fate within the massa damnata of fallen Adam, but honesty requires that Farrow experience in his breast the same moral horror at the Augustinian doctrine of “predestination to damnation through omission” as he feels towards certain Reformed teachings. After all, Augustine explicitly, though infrequently, does indeed speak of predestination to damnation: “[God] most justly recompenses with punishment those whom he has predestined to death” (De anima et eius origine, Patrologia Latina, t. 44, c. 533). Augustine really is “responsible for the vicious God of the double predestinarian and for the evils of later Western determinism,” in Farrow’s words. Hart may not be respectful towards Augustine, but he is not unjust.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this review is the quick work Farrow makes of Hart’s Scriptural case for universalism. A hand-wave suffices to dispatch Hart’s extensive demonstration of the New Testament’s blatant insistence on the universality of Christ’s redemptive and salvific work. Farrow is certainly right that Hart doesn’t give a thought to the “covenantal and sacramental context” of the word “all” in these universalist Scripture passages (e.g., Rom. 5:18-19, Rom. 11:32). That’s because no such context could constrain all the universalist passages Hart brings forward. Consider just one verse, 1 Corinthians 15:22: “For just as in Adam all die, so also in the Anointed (Christ) all will be given life” (Hart’s translation). Unless there is a particular sacramental or covenantal context in which only some die in Adam, we should take Paul at his word and admit the parallelism he clearly intends. In fact, the Apostle seems to think that grace supersedes sin (Rom. 5:20)—a point in favor of Gregory of Nyssa and Sergius Bulgakov who believed the second Adam had dis­placed the old as the head of the human race. Probity would require that we admit this book’s Scriptural case for universalism cannot be reduced to 1 Tim. 2:4, like some interpre­tive straightjacket into which Hart forces unwilling Scriptural testimonies (more determi­native for Hart, in any case, is 1 Cor. 15, whose conclusion is difficult to interpret in any but a universalist fashion). One can in good faith disagree with Hart’s interpretation of this or that biblical verse, but it is a persistent untruth that universalists have no leg to stand on when it comes to Scripture. Farrow’s review, sadly, perpetuates this mistaken impression. Ref, call the foul.

* * *

Rob De La Noval is a doctoral candidate in theology at the University of Notre Dame. His research focuses on Sergius Bulgakov and Russian Religious Thought. He has also translated multiple works by Bulgakov, with one in the most recent issue of the Journal of Orthodox Christian Studies and another (with co-translator Yury P. Avvakumov) in process with University of Notre Dame Press. He has published with Public Orthodoxy, America Magazine, and Church Life Journal, among others.

This entry was posted in Book Reviews, David B. Hart and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

55 Responses to In Defensionem Hart: A Reply to Douglas Farrow’s Review of ‘That All Shall Be Saved’

  1. brian says:

    Farrow’s review is flippant in tone, continually winking at the perceived audience convinced that tradition and infernalism are identical concepts, further that such tradition is unassailable as coincident with divine revelation. The assertion that Nyssa’s notion of the unity of humanity is a case of subjective idealism equal, but opposite in error to nominalist individualism is among the many breezily introduced errors. Secure in his dogmatic allegiances, Farrow presumptuously dismisses the actual arguments in a manner that does not invite the reader to engage the inquiry except as a question determined beforehand. If the matter were trivial, such a glib appraisal would be hardly worth remark. As it touches the coherence of the gospel, the scope of what we can both hope for and imagine, as well as the honor of God, it’s a rather appalling frivolity that is astonishing given Farrow’s putative interest in ecumenical dialogue.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Fr Jonathan says:

    Thank you for this. I frequently wonder why so much energy is expended on an idea (i.e., unending, limitless punishment) that is not stated in the Nicene Creed — nor in the Apostles’ Creed, though there is an unsurprising reference to it in the Athanasian Creed. The doctrine of eternal perdition is just as much “theologoumenon” as as the Filioque, or the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, or the concept of the disabling of moral freedom after death.

    Perhaps there is a correspondence between all of these concepts and Augustine’s increasing agedness. In any case, why is Augustine (and Farrow, for that matter) so motivated to propose and protect damnation?

    Again, thank you for this response to Farrow.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    “It is not, in fact, so easy to disentangle Augustine from his double-predestinarian legacy, Farrow’s appeals notwithstanding.”

    This is a real problem for Catholics who so quickly enter the fray to defend St Augustine and his dogmatic commitment to eternal damnation, even while turning a blind eye to his strong predestinarianism (and in the process proving Hart’s contention that his arguments will probably not dissuade those already committed to eternal damnation). If someone cannot see the contradiction between Augustianian-Thomistic predestinarianism (whether formulated as preterition or double predestination), then they cannot see the contradiction between absolute Love and hell. There is, of course, an Augustinian way out: to assert that in Jesus Christ every human being is predestinated to eternal salvation.

    Liked by 2 people

    • “There is, of course, an Augustinian way out: to assert that in Jesus Christ every human being is predestinated to eternal salvation.”

      For which reason it surprises me that Calvinists are so adamant that one cannot believe that all will be saved or that Jesus died for all. Why not both together? Why do some many people claim that the belief that in Jesus all be saved is the same as a belief that some may be saved without Jesus?

      Liked by 2 people

      • HAT says:

        Because some of the Calvinists have not read their own creeds, and have forgotten about Heinrich Bullinger. We are supposed to “have a good hope for all,” according to the Second Helvetic Confession. And we can.

        Liked by 3 people

    • Maximus says:

      “There is, of course, an Augustinian way out: to assert that in Jesus Christ every human being is predestinated to eternal salvation.”

      Well said, Fr Aidan. And it seems to me that this is the way Hart has laid before us. Yet St Augustine in his later works seems to have denied human free will, and Calvin most certainly did. My question remains how it is that Hart believes he can assert human freedom within this paradigm of single predestination unto salvation. I know there’s a lot to his argument, but still: all *must* return to God.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        I summon Rob De La Noval to address this question! 😎

        Liked by 1 person

      • It is God’s Word and His Absolute Truth that demolishes all arguments that God cannot and will not ultimately save All, reconcile All, justify All, recapitulate All, draw/drag All to Himself, have mercy on All, and finally subject All to the Footstool of Christ’s Feet, so that evil and it’s consequential spiritual & physical death are finally abolished–so that God can be ALL in all of His rational created beings. I think that you know all the Scriptures that prove this up to 1 Corinthians 15:21-28, “at the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times” in Ephesians1:9-10, when Christ “finally and fully reconciles ‘the All Things–visible and invisible’–that were created by and through Him”–Colossians 1:15-20.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Robert Fortuin says:

        I submit Hart does so, Maximus, by consistently rejecting notions of freedom (and by extension, predestination) which do violence to the integrity of secondary causality. How one construes human freedom is operative here.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Maximus says:

          Thanks Robert. That is helpful. I would still say—very sheepishly, for I have not read the book—that secondary causality is precisely the issue: God’s will (first) and my will (second). To guarantee ultimate conformity of the second with the first seems deterministic to me. Again, it “seems” to be, but I’ll reserve my conclusions for after the book. I look forward to engaging Hart’s arguments.

          Like

          • TJF says:

            It is ultimately deterministic, but so it must be at the transcendent level since our freedom does not rival God’s freedom. He wills without any constraint. We don’t. All secondary causality is subordinate to primary causality. There must ultimately be something that determines things, otherwise all things would be just so much chaos and irrationality. At least that’s how I understood it.

            Like

          • Maximus says:

            Thanks TJF. As a synergist, I think there’s a real sense in which human persons determine their own way. Otherwise, it seems that human persons would be mere monergistic extensions of God Himself, doing the will of God regardless of their cooperation. I am happy to speak of “God doing His part, and us doing ours,” each having a contribution to make. I know some find this language crass, but I think something like this is necessary for true human agency. Indeed, Fr Dumitru Staniloae uses identical language in his Orthodox Dogmatics. At the very least, I find it a good way to speak about our experience of God.

            Like

          • Robert Fortuin says:

            It would be deterministic IF God were an agent among agents. But traditionally conceived God is not so, He is not one among many.

            Liked by 1 person

          • TJF says:

            Maximus, I agree with Robert I should have mentioned that. But yes, God is not one object among others. He is beyond and transcends all created things. I think DBH’s arguments are ironclad, both logically and morally. I would definitely suggest purchasing the book if you can. Hart does uphold that we must freely choose God.

            Like

          • Maximus says:

            Robert and TJF, thank you both. I’ve obtained the book and look forward to reading it. I’m also aware of this teaching, that God is not an agent among agents, that our freedom and God’s freedom are not a “zero-sum game” in which God and the world compete for space within the same ontological plane of existence. I have held this view myself. I have recently moved away from it, however, sensing that it doesn’t do justice to the personal God who lovingly created the world and invites his creatures into a mutual communion of love. As a philosophical construct, it has beautiful appeal. But if God is not an Other, then how may I know and commune with Him? How may we share in mutual love? I admit that the non-competitive view of God’s relation to the world is very attractive. And yet, I keep coming back to this question: if God and man exist on two completely different ontological planes, how might they ever truly relate, even in the Incarnation? I know the normal answer: they relate more deeply and fully than under any other paradigm.

            Yet it still seems that within the non-competitive paradigm, God and the world have no immediate point of contact, no direct juncture of common experience, and thus all that’s left are extrinsic terms of engagement. It follows that man is left only with *mediated* experience of God, and thus no real interaction with the divine life, whereas Scripture envisions Christians as co-workers with God and participants in the divine nature. A rich doctrine of participation seems to be precluded by a non-competitive schema, for it seemingly disallows human co-operation with God, stifling any true possibility for synergistic confluence between God and the world. No surprise here, but I think a more promising, and more biblical, option for the God-world relation could (and should) be constructed from the teaching of the real essence-energy distinction in God.

            Like

          • Robert Fortuin says:

            Then I suggest you have misunderstood it Maximus. It is precisely because God is not an agent among agents that He can and does act without determining agents.

            Look to be sure, on a practical, experiential level speaking of synergy (as does Fr Staniloae as you noted) is commendable – but such doesn’t hold water without a ‘non-competitive’ metaphysics of agency.

            Like

          • maude says:

            What is the image of God in man if not agency tied together with what we call reason and will? We don’t believe that the consequences of sin is a loss of agency, or the destruction of the image of God in man, but rather it is death. It’s why His command to Adam and Eve to not eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was given, not as some kind of set-up but with the full expectation that they had the power to comply. They didn’t share in God’s omniscience, but they didn’t need to in order to respond to God’s love with love, as shown by obedience to a simple command. It is why Christ showed that, even taking on sinful flesh, he, as a free agent, could submit all things to the Father through obedience and didn’t think equality with the Father something to be grasped, as opposed to Adam who believed it was desirable to be like God, even if it meant going against God’s will. It is why we are not called to be clever but to enter the Kingdom as children.
            To suggest that God’s agency, as first cause, overrides man’s agency, reliant on the first cause, seems to destroy the image of God in man, which was a work of His own hand.

            Like

          • TJF says:

            No one said that God overrides you. The claim is that there is no competition. God is the source and end of all things. Alpha and Omega. Everytime you feel called to pray it is not you who decided to pray it is God who called you and you responded. We all have the image of God. We need to attain to the likeness by following His will. It is impossible to will evil as evil. One can only mistake it for good. God will keep educating us for as long as it takes until we learn that our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.

            Like

          • Robert Fortuin says:

            TJF: “Everytime you feel called to pray it is not you who decided to pray it is God who called you and you responded.”

            I don’t think that is right. The decision is ours and it is God who willed it.

            Like

          • TJF says:

            Thank you for the correction Robert. I agree. That sounds more correct.

            Like

          • Maximus says:

            I will continue to think on this, Robert. My mind is not completely made up. I appreciate the honest feedback.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. earsofc says:

    I wrote a short critique of Farrows review, for anyone interested.

    https://myearsofcorn.wordpress.com/2019/09/14/a-critique-of-a-review/

    Like

  5. Tom Talbott says:

    Roberto De La Noval seems to me right on target in his final paragraph, which begins with this statement: “Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this review [by Douglas Farrow] is the quick work Farrow makes of Hart’s Scriptural case for universalism.” According to Farrow, “many will be perplexed, if not astonished, by Hart’s handling of Scripture,” which in the end, Farrow thinks, “comes down to this: Hart takes thelei in 1 Timothy 2:4 as ‘intends’ rather than ‘desires’—which is semantically possible, and contextually all but impossible. God intends, God determines [Farrow’s italics], that all men be saved. He then reads the rest of Scripture in that light . . . When he finds reference to salvation for all, he does not pause to consider the covenantal and sacramental context of ‘all,’ but insists that the meaning is ‘all without exception.’ Where this does not seem tenable, he writes off the text in question as poetic fancy.”

    For my own part, I am highly “perplexed, if not astonished” that Farrow should present Hart’s scriptural case for universalism as if everything hinges on an incredibly trivial dispute over the translation of single Greek word, namely thelei. Why, first of all, does Farrow insist that a translation, which he himself concedes “is semantically possible,” is nonetheless “contextually all but impossible”? Normally, context is more relevant to the issue of interpretation than it is to that of translation. In any case, just what in the context of 1 Timothy 2:4 does Farrow think excludes Hart’s translation of the specific term in question? Unfortunately, he provides nary a clue, and, furthermore, Hart’s translation of this term accords perfectly with the Augustinian understanding of it—which is ironic, to say the least. For Augustine consistently treated 1 Timothy 2:4 as if the crucial issue concerns the scope “all” (literally “all men”) rather than the meaning of thelei; he thus argued that “all men” should be interpreted, not translated, as “some people from all groups and classes of people” (see Enchiridion, sec. 103, if you have any doubt about this). In fact, Augustine couldn’t have cared less whether thelei should be translated as “intends,” “desires,” or “wishes.” And that’s only in part because, according to later Augustine at least, God is bound to achieve everything he intends, desires, or wishes. Augustine himself, in other words, would have recognized the utterly trivial nature of the issue that Farrow raises.

    Even more absurd is Farrow’s contention, without offering a single example, that Hart “reads the rest of Scripture” in light of his understanding of 1 Timothy 2:4—as if the meaning of thelei in this text were more important to Hart than the parallel structure of such texts as Romans 5:18, 1 Corinthians 15:22, and Romans 11:32. Here Farrow never even pauses to consider, if I may borrow his own way of speaking, that the first two of these texts say nothing about what God intends or desires or purposes and focus instead on what Christ has already accomplished on the Cross. Suppose, then, that Hart should simply make Farrow a present of the relevant Greek word and allow Farrow to translate it in any way he pleases. What implication would this carry for the soundness of Hart’s own reading of the Christian scriptures? None whatsoever, so far as I can tell. In fact, as Augustine already illustrates, the correct translation of thelei has no relevance at all to Farrow’s real concern, which is the need, so he believes, to limit the scope of “all” in various “covenantal and sacramental” contexts. For surely, no reputable scholar even doubts that “all” is the correct translation in these contexts, whatever the correct interpretation might be. Worse yet, in the three texts just cited, as Roberto De La Noval has in effect already pointed out, Paul references all human beings twice in the context of a single parallel sentence where in each case the second reference could not plausibly be more restrictive in its scope than the first.

    So yes, this review of Hart’s book is indeed disappointing.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Tom Talbott says:

    At the end of Douglas Farrow’s review of Hart’s book, he sings the praises of Michael J. McClymond’s recently published two volume work, The Devil’s Redemption: A New History and Interpretation of Christian Universalism. He recommends reading McClymond along with Hart, and I recommend that as well. For McClymond seems unable to summarize any philosophical argument accurately, including the arguments of those who agree with him in their rejection of universalism. Some of the confusions he falls into are almost unbelievable, as I explain in my own reply to McClymond at the following URL:

    https://willamette.edu/~ttalbott/McClymond4.pdf

    Needless to say, then, I would recommend that you read both Hart and McClymond, even as you take a peek at the first section of my reply to McClymond entitled “An Unfortunate Confusion.”

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Jason says:

    “…his incisive question whether Hart’s moral argument—that God would be evil in the light of eternal torments—does not also prove God evil in view of the finite sufferings of this life.”

    This gets to the problem underlying all flavors of Christianity: God is sovereign, God is loving, God is perfect. Yet he subjected his prized and most favorite creatures to the caprice and whimsy of an unfathomably evil and devious talking snake, thus thoroughly f*cking existence for, oh, an aeon or so. If a parent did this to a child we’d call him crazy and/or sadistic. This is a problem which I have not seen adequately addressed by adherents of any branch of theology.

    Like

    • Robert Fortuin says:

      Then, Jason, you must not have been paying attention to, or not comprehended, or else simply not have read Hart’s writings on the topic of creatio ex nihilo as it relates to God’s moral character.

      Like

    • Grant says:

      One of the problems I see here Jason (though perhaps I’m taking your last paragraph as a more serious made point than intended) is reading a mythic narrative as if it were describing some historically concrete event that happened at some point in time. As if we (or a man and woman called Adam and Eve) were subject to the trickery some capricious snake for laughs and giggles, and why would God permit this, seems as odd as asking why Zeus left Pandora alone with the box (though interesting parallels exist between stories) or why Prometheus is allowed to share fire, or when Fenrir is not killed to prevent Ragnarok (or Loki or other gods). It doesn’t really make sense to ask such questions of myths as it misses the point they convey, and the truth that is reflected. Even more so with sacred myth (though all myth have a degree of the sacred, and are a means and mode of knowing and investigating reality that cannot be approached any other way, our current dismissal of them, or reduction down to mean psychological analysis is one are Western culture has gone quite off track and entered a period of strange ignorance and alienation from creation).

      From a Christian perspective the myth would also have to be as both embedded within the first, and both looked at through, understood through and interpreted through Christ as the Gospel (this approach is indicated numerous times in the New Testament, such as Christ indicating to disciples that the Old Testament was all about Him and concerned Him, or St Paul saying without Christ a veil remains over those narratives so they cannot be understood, and we see both St Paul, who clearly didn’t regard all events as historical, as well as the Gospel authors and other writers of epistles using this approach as did the Church with it’s allegorical, typological and spiritual readings for quite some time).

      To be fair many Christians don’t treat it as such currently, which only causes more problems in my opinion and misses engaging what is being reflected here, both a return to an earlier interpretive trajectory, as well as taking it forward misses pointless and completely made up controversies that seem to rage in some places (creationism vs evolution come to mind, and a lack of work integrating the yields of such studies into such theological dealings and investigations). I think this is changing, but having made such false controversies, which to be fair, this was started as much by emergent secularists as devout Christians, as I remember all to well such events as schools teaching for years that everyone believed the earth of flat unit Columbus made his voyage (conveniently forgetting if that were the point of his voyage it signally failed, he hit the Americas and never completed his journey around the Earth, yet miraculously in this fiction, everyone in Europe suddenly believed), all based on a book written in the 19th century that was intentionally deceptive over the actual historical record, feeding into a narrative of the ‘superstitious’ church dominated middle ages and their credibility until the Enlightenment brought everyone into the light. Of course, historians at the time spoke up against schools and such up-taking such fictions, as they knew no one questioned that the Earth was round, this had been known for over 2000 years from early late antiquity until the present day. Such had been present in medieval manuals still existing, giving the reasons for such believes and they had the size of the earth pretty accurately calculated as well. It’s also the reason why orbs in royal coronations are orbs (because the Earth was known to be round). The actual issue that spurred Columbus voyage of a disagree over the size of the Earth, the old model, or the one Columbus championed (incidentally he was wrong, the old model as essentially correct). This was one of only a number of such essential falsehoods that were known as such, yet still ended up being taken like widefire through the 20th century and taught as fact since it fitted the ideology and Enlightenment own mythology so well, so this tendency and conflict has been stoked and manufactured by all sides, all having ideological reasons (so they believed) for it.

      Sadly we find ourselves here, and sadly some Christians still want to tilt at these pointless windmills, thinking more like the secular culture then they would like to imagine (when I here creationists or new atheists speaking, they both seem to think and approach they subjects in exactly the same manner, both are fundamentalists born out of modernism one way or another).

      This is not say you should become a Christian (though obviously I think it’s claims are true properly understood, and you should follow Him, but only once you come to know it for yourself freely), but over all you should follow truth and love as best you can and with honesty and integrity. This also means, when engaging with Christians or Christianity engage with questions like this, and the creation narratives in a Christian manner both as a myth and through the lens of Christ and the Gospel, and through the mythic mode to attempt to understand is believed (by Christians) to communicated.

      The problem of evil is a real problem, I believe there are fragmentary answers and reasons why creation was allowed to fumble in it’s emergence and existence into this current damaged state, particularly as it is a temporary state, that without in any way minimizing the horrors that are so evident among such beauty, the terribleness of death both and the end and all during life taking and damaging ourselves and those we love, causing such events of terrible suffering and devastation, but that all will be healed, reconciled, made whole and brought to full completion. That in that unfolding we will have a fuller understanding and see why the possibility of evil was allowed to take hold for a time until all things were brought through and out, involving the decent of God Himself into it’s very heart, so that death by death is defeated and will be destroyed, to full freedom, love, joy and fulfillment, both in part and whole, and into a dynamic ever increasing joy we cannot even imagine as we dwell in shadow. For the Christian, particularly one such as myself who sees univeralism as an essential part of the Gospel, God creation is always a call to creation into Himself, uniting it to Himself and the love found in the Trinity in freedom, and entering into the shadows that have come upon us and bound us, becoming as us and freeing us from their hold now, and in completion to come. Death and evil remain terrible mysteries that for us now, mock us when we try to understand them fully, but they will I believe pass away even as they are defeated. And while terrible, I also think Christians have reasons if yet someone incomplete and not yet able to be fully comprehended, particularly when something terrible happens in someone’s life, to know, particularly looking to the Cross and the Resurrection, both that such things are the enemies of God, that in taking on them in self-giving love He did not allow such to fall on us out of sadism or cruelty or ineptness, and neither has He left us or anything alone in facing such twists to His good creation but has entered in and defeated it, securing in the Resurrection it’s promised destruction and vanishing from everywhere as shadows before the Sun, as creation is and everything in it is brought into glorious fullness and vibrant life, into the freedom and love and infinite joy without restraint prepared for it from the foundation of all (and at which the first creation myth will be complete, it will be very good, we are still in the first creation myth). The old things will have past, all things will become new.

      I don’t expect this or even intend this to convince you, but more of an encouragement when engaging with the Christian tradition (or any other tradition for that matter) on it’s own terms, and looking to the best and most strongest and deepest parts of the tradition. Also open yourself up to the Truth guiding you, and things will work out in the end. As I admit, the problem of evil is also a mystery, and while I believe there are good reasons for Christians to still affirm their claim as St Paul tells us, we see now only through a glass dimly, only seeing fragments and our knowledge is incomplete, only then will we know as we are known.

      I understand where your question comes from, from the reaction of the heart against the terrible evils you can see and suffer, keep that indignation against evil,though don’t let it twist you, as it puts you on the same side as Christ, death is His enemy as well, so you are in good company and already putting faith in Him though you may know it not (not sure if you’ll welcome that now or not, but there it is 😉 ).

      Like

      • Jason says:

        Thanks for the reply. I think it’s quite nice and comes from a beautiful place. in fact I am a Christian, and have been almost all my life, which might be part of the problem. It’s hard to be objective about things that are so close and familiar.

        I find Universalist interpretations of scripture to be the most coherent — certainly more coherent than the fundamentalism I was brought up in.

        And yet imo there are things which remain unreconciled, imo.

        Thanks again peace to you.

        Like

  8. It is God’s Word and His Absolute Truth that demolishes all arguments that God cannot and will not ultimately save All, reconcile All, justify All, recapitulate All, draw/drag All to Himself, have mercy on All, and finally subject All to the Footstool of Christ’s Feet, so that evil and it’s consequential spiritual & physical death are finally abolished–so that God can be ALL in all of His rational created beings. I think that you know all the Scriptures that prove this up to 1 Corinthians 15:21-28, “at the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times” in Ephesians1:9-10, when Christ “finally and fully reconciles ‘the All Things–visible and invisible’–that were created by and through Him”–Colossians 1:15-20.

    Like

  9. Matthew Hryniewicz says:

    One thing that Farrow does, which I’ve seen in many places now, is to accuse Hart (and Ilaria Ramelli) of being entirely inept in the historical realm. He does so by gesturing towards Michael J. ­McClymond’s book The Devil’s Redemption: A New History and Interpretation of Christian Universalism. I have not read this book yet (or any others on this matter), but does anyone know what sorts of things Hart and Ramelli are being accused of? Lots of folks seem to be quite dismissive of any historical account that gives universalism even a shred of legitimacy, instead seeing it as some fanciful misreading of the cold hard facts which point emphatically towards the doctrine of eternal hell.

    Like

    • Grant says:

      Having read the respectful but quite devastating response Ilaria Ramelli gave to McClymond’s book’s misunderstandings and mischaracterizations of her work included now as an appendix to A Larger Hope? Volume 1 (and I think Father Kimel has a version of it, where I first read it) it seems ideological loyalities are leading to very levels of strawmaning and ad hominen ( to call either historically inept is patiently false even if you disagree with their arguments, interpretations and conclusions).

      Like

  10. maude says:

    “’For just as in Adam all die, so also in the Anointed (Christ) all will be given life’ (Hart’s translation). Unless there is a particular sacramental or covenantal context in which only some die in Adam, we should take Paul at his word and admit the parallelism he clearly intends.”

    Remember the resurrection of the dead, including both those with faith and those without, only happens because of Christ’s resurrection. Christ’s victory over death is what prevents man from returning to dust and staying there. After the judgement those outside of grace experience the “second death.” Understood this way, neither eternal life nor damnation would be possible if not for the resurrection.

    I find the teachings of predestination (and double-predestination) problematic as well. They seem to suggest that God created many with the intention of withholding grace from them. But considering what Christ’s death and resurrection meant for all of creation, His actions can only be understood as an outpouring of grace to all. To believe that God does not express a love that even rises to an earthly parent’s love for his child if He allows his creatures to suffer eternal damnation, one would have to believe that one has no free will and cannot possibly receive His grace unless irresistibly compelled, which is a Calvinist teaching alongside predestination. Just as a loving parent, given the opportunity, would save their child from death, the child may resent the efforts and scorn the parent’s love. The parent hasn’t withheld grace but the child refuses to enter into that grace.

    It seems to me that Farrow’s main objection was what he understood to be Hart’s condemning tone toward traditional teachings. Though I feel no opposition to the idea that everyone will turn to God in the end, that we (churches and theologians) don’t necessarily have a complete understanding of what God’s salvation entails, I do feel that there is much in the scriptures and tradition to challenge the universalist view, so much so that to speak overly confidently one way or another seems hubristic. If embracing the gospel involves embracing universalism and if those who perpetuate the teachings of damnation are destructive to the gospel of Christ, how does one explain all the warnings and exhortations from Christ and his apostles? Wouldn’t it have been more straightforward to simply speak of the joy of salvation and the benefits of doing God’s will?

    Like

    • Grant says:

      Because creatio ex nihilo means all things (including all past, preseny, future, anf the very nature, form and environment to think, exist and be) a created and brought into existence from nothing freely by God, with nothing constraining Him but His own nature. No matter what freedoms we give to us as secondary causes it is still reducible down to the Primary csuse. Therefore if any will br lost forever God brought creatiob into being with both that possibility and was willing to sacrifice His rational childten for some other purpose (as Hart has said, that alone is terrible as to bebwilling to make wager is to accept and agree to all outcomes even if they fortuitously turn out well, the negative are accepted and intended as a price paid). And in God’s case, being God, and not a god, not some being among other beings dealing with preexisting matter that is othrr than and resists Him and His efforts to bring to tge Good like Plato’s demiurge, but as God, Being itself He brings all things into existence and gives them their whole form, being, nature, context and everything, past, present and future, every response and interaction to us part of that overall creative act, any that are lost are lost because He lets it happen. And more so, in such creation from nothing without any conditions but Himself means allowing such to end up destroyed eternally while others He so structures creation not to be, means He brings those into being to be lost forever, to be the sacrifice for His other purposes for creation. They are fuel to be burned for His purposes, and so it doesn’t matter what scope you give secondary freefoms, as God is God and all secondary causes are reducible and enfoldrd in their Primary cause, if sny are lost forever that is intended by God ‘from the foundation of the Cosmos’ are you are stuck with the same monstrous issue of predestination to destruction forever no matter what picture you embrace. God would remain on who beings rational beinga into existence to be sacrificed to destruction forever, and as Calvin at least admitted such a God cannot be called Love or the Good as such if those words have any meaning (and if not, we could be certain of nothing, not least which revelation to trust) but this attacks central Christian dogma and revelation in Christ about God, nothing more than a frontal attack on it.

      It also makes those lost slain from before the foundation of the world, given over in sacrifice for the rest of creation, not only does that make God evil but they not Christ become the real ones suffering in the place of the saved, their suffeting substitutes, thdir saviours on whose everlasting destruction creation is created to turn on. Paradise would ecist and depend on eternal destruction of others, and that is the ultimate dystopia and s horror beyonf imagining. It also denys repeated promises in Christ’s victory and salvation, that He will draw all things to Himself, that death defeated will be destroyed as the last enemy (apparently in non-universalist versions it reigns forever, forever defying God and dominating parts of His creation), that God will be all in all (apparently He won’t and is dependent on death or must submit to it), Christ eill subdue all things to Himself and hand it over to the Father for the aforementioned God being all in all (but this is not so and He will fail, some, many, perhaps most resist Him forever and death remains triumphant over some parts of creation forever), there shall be no more tears or crying, no more sea anywhere in creation (so no more chaos, destruction or death) but apparently not so, parts of the new creation are nothing but tears, suffering and destruction forever, all will knell and acknowledge Him as Lord, yet St Psul tells us none can call Him Lord except by the Spirit freely and to salvation. It is to say in short, that death and evil will reign forevet and not pass away but hold some forever.

      All this is nothing but an attack on the Gospel and it’s claims and revelation, and to not at least allow the universalist position alongside the other two as a legitimate position is to kerp people locked in terror not love of God when they choose to follow Him (if they don’t just Christianity outright because of this teaching, and they would be right to do so, rejecting evil would be far more truly following Christ). The warnings in no way demand a infernalist nor annihilationist reading, and sit within the universalism of St Origen, St Gregory of Nyssa (who were also the great defenders of human freedom), St Isaac of Ninevah, St Paul himself, to Segius Bulgarkov and George MacDonald of more recent times (read hell as universal purgatory here or the severity of universal salvation at https://curchlifejournal.nd.edu/articles/the-severity-of-universal-salvation for some idea of this).

      I can’t want to think, believe or decide, you must follow the truth as be you can, we all must, but I cannot agree to being told we shouldn’t focus on this nor declare it as so alongside and part of the joy of salvation when as far as we can see to allow the belief that God allows some to be lost forever attacks the very integrity of the Gospel, of God, and of the salvation that is proclaimed, making it all a twisted and horrifying mockery (strong words I know, and not what you believe but that is how it is from our view, the Gospel itself is at stake).

      Like

      • maude says:

        You’re claiming that all Christians who have not embraced universalism as part of revelation are turning the Gospel into a mockery. You have a mere handful of Christian theologians who have embraced universalist ideas, and certainly not in such strong terms as Hart and yourself are using. Christ himself did not present the gospel to his disciples in these terms. This, in and of itself, should give you pause.

        It seems that you are relying too much on your own ideas of what is good and just, your own understanding of the nature of the Father, and that you are shedding your own humility like a snake sheds its skin. Let God lift you up but do not lift yourself up or you will fall into that first error made in the garden: the attempt to be like God, apart from the person of God, and only by some logic by which you think you have trapped God (eg. “in order to be good and all-powerful, God must…”)

        I reject Calvinistic ideas of predestination because it makes claims on God’s intentions in an equally presumptuous but polar opposite way to Universalism. It claims that God can only be just if He punishes sin and that entails breaking some “jars” that were made for the purpose, when Scripture tells us that he desires all to be saved. It claims that His holiness is such that He can’t stand the stink of the sinner, when He sent his very son to take sinful flesh onto himself, the same Son who claimed that no man has seen the Father but the Son and to see the Son is to see the Father because the Father and Son are one. I also reject Calvinism because it is a novel interpretation of the gospel fifteen hundred plus years after it was given to the apostles and is at odds with portions of apostolic tradition, particularly in its treatment of free will.

        Christ has died for the life of the world and offered us adoption to be sons and daughters of the living God. Your calling is to embrace this with your whole being, not to wonder what happens to those who don’t. Do you really think that Universalist teachings will bring people to the Truth, that people are only held back by the prospect of Hell? Do people love their sin and remain in darkness because Hell is a loathsome idea? If you are able to call God Father, do you not trust him with not only yourself but also with every living creature? It is not palatable theology that brings peace, but the perfect love of the Father that casts out all fear.

        Like

        • Grant says:

          I actually have not said or claimed that Christians are intentionally making a mockery of the Gospel, but rather that but rather it was a claim that those who are universalists be allowed to put forward our certainty of it (just as much as infernalists and annihilationists do) because it seems clear for us that it does create a mockery of the Gospel, and essentially denies clear dogmatic claims about God revealed in Christ (which unlike the disputes over infernalism, annihilationism or universalism or not in dispute). This is an important distinction that I thought I had made clear in my last paragraph, if not I’m pleased to correct that impression here. The point here was that you seem to be asking that we not do so, and thus essentially concede the possibility of infernalism or annihilationism rather then proclaiming God’s victory over all death and evil and it’s passing way (which for us really means all death and evil and the reconciling of everything). That is asking that we accept God has created the universe in such a way that some might be lost forever, that this was an intentional decision, to give those He creates (which He creates freely, under no obligation or conditions other then Himself, which is creatio ex nihilo) to being lost over (either in destruction forever or to be tortured forever) and accepted that risk. To accept that in creation is to have accepted that outcome whether it happens or not, in any venture all outcomes are essentially accepted whether they come to pass or not, one which also accepts evil will endure forever, death will claim some forever. Again, you don’t have to accept any of the above, but the point is your asking us to accept what is patently wrong to us, does make a mockery to us of the Gospel and God and just accept that as okay even as it seems that worst thing that has been maintained about God through the ages. And to that, I say no, I don’t think we should agree to that, to ask us to go against our consciousness and sense of love and truth as you would ask. Again it’s not a matter of you accepting universalism, it’s what you would ask of universalists to do.

          As for the rest, I would not St Gregory of Nyssa was at least as strident as Hart, declaring quite firmly that not only will all people eventually be saved, but the devil as well which St Origen was more tentative is proposing. That is fairly strong terms at least to me. And I believe and read in the Gospels places where Christ does seem to promise universal salvation (and no where, unless you are already reading through a infernalist or annihilationist hermeneutic, where it promises any will be lost forever), such as the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, the labourers that arrive later, Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, what is impossible with human beings is possible with God, (taken from Ramelli’s translation in A Larger Hope) Luke 16:16 ‘the good news of the kingdom of God is announced, and everyone is forced in by God’, God (identified by St John as Love in His very Being), out of love sends the Messiah to save the whole world (and so everything that makes up the Cosmos, there is nothing in there to imply any conditioning of the statement) in John 3:17, and 12:47. Referring to His coming crucifixion the Lord declares: “Now the ruler of this world will be thrown out. And when I am lifted up from earth, I will drag(or draw if you like) all people to myself (John 12:31-32), or that He has been entrusted with all humans, and wants to bestow eternal life to them all: ‘Father… glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify You, because You have entrusted Him with every human being, that He may give eternal life to every being that you have given Him. Eternal life is that they know you’ (John 17:1-2). Some of the translations might be disputed, but the overall tenor gives reason to see clear univeraslist statements in the Gospels themselves, so not as much pause as you might think (again traditions and hermeneutics play a part in reading and translation so wider theology inevitably plays a part before we even get to the Gospels, they don’t interpret themselves, our traditions do that for us, conditioning how we read and hear what is said).

          I admit that much else in the Gospels in many areas and concerning many things can be unclear veiled in images, metaphors and imagery from the time, but then this also leads to many other issues, the Trinity for example, clear teachings on the Church, bishops and clergy, relations of Gentiles coming into the Church, all this we can draw and develop from things said but much that is central teaching and Dogma is not explained explicitly. That doesn’t mean the Church and Christians don’t and haven’t for centuries held them firm and developed and proclaimed them nonetheless. They have seem them clear in the Gospels, apostles teaching and life of the Church when such things have been thought out, experienced and lived in the context of the Life of the Church, and from seeing and reading from the central praxis of Pascha and of God’s giving of His Son to save all, and His express wish to save all (or in the case of the Trinity, seeing this revealed in the Gospel narrative as read and lived throughout, and through the life of the Church which is why the Church can feel confident in proclaiming it firmly, just read through those denying this as to why this is not as obvious as you might think just from the Gospels alone, read Dave Tuggy for example).

          All this then needs full working out. You make an interesting statement, that I am relying to much on my own ideas of good and just, though such concepts are principles drawn from the Gospels and the commandants given as central, as well as the revelation of God’s love as His central being, and of Jesus on Life in action, to His perhaps that His Father forgive us because we don’t know what we do (will Our Lord’s own pray fail?). I would ask you not engage in somewhat insulting comments such as that I am shedding my own humanity like a snake, really now, that is quite beneath you and not a comment given in love, so lets leave insults out of this shall we (particularly as you have been given no special insights into my soul) and deal with arguments, not each other. I have no desire to attack you, and I certainly don’t believe you are losing any humanity for questioning me, please return me the same courtesy please. Now, back to good and just concepts, if we cannot trust what we think of as good and just, then we cannot trust anything, we have no light to guide us and we might as well throw up our hands and stop talking as we are entering a form of theistic agnosticism where we cannot know anything. We cannot know what is good and just, if that is so, that what might seem evil to us could be good, and what we think is good evil and not God’s will, and what follows from this is that we cannot know or trust any purported revelation to be from God. How could we know, should we give to the poor, should we love our neighbour, is to forgive and bless for forgive enemies to be like God, how if this is so can we know? And if not, how can we trust the Gospel is the Gospel, that Jesus is the Lord and not an imposter or deceiver, that some other claim might be so, we couldn’t trust anything because we would have nothing to evaluate it by, the light that would seem to confirm it’s truth and goodness could be a lie, since if we follow this claim that we cannot trust our sense of truth, good and justice then we cannot know what is good and just or indeed the Good. It is a theistic agnosticism that makes being a Christian or anything else impossible, and any revelation impossible to affirm. And as I said, we might as well just stop discussing anything, since we cannot know anything.

          But if that is not so, and I think it is patiently absurd position, then our sense of good, and the words we give have real meaning and do analogically relate to God in a real manner, so you cannot dismiss their concerns lightly, particularly when further guided by the very principles and teachings in the Gospels, if that as the Sermon of the Mount, the Incarnation and self-giving of the Cross are genuinely reflective revelations of God, and of what love is, and that the revelations of God as creating everything from nothing freely are also true then God’s own promises and revelations and the working out of that revelation leads to these very points (which includes our own sense of good illuminated by Pascha, by the teaching of the Gospel and so on, by God’s revelation of Himself as God, as sovereign Creator, and His love and desires for all which He brings from nothing).

          To be fair to Calvinism, it simply works out what St Augustine had already developed, double per-destination isn’t as novel an interpretation as you think. But my point is that in light of creatio ex nihilo and God who creates freely is that it doesn’t really matter, you can grant secondary freedoms all the scope you want, they are still reducible down to the first and primary cause. As such, if any is lost, this is intentionally allowed and accepted by God in creation, and are given as sacrifices to it, so if some are lost it doesn’t matter if you reject Calvanism, it seems clear to me it ends in the same place (some a chosen to saved, and some to be destroyed, but such is a direct attack of God as Love and the Good, or as God, and thus only a god, conditioned by things above and beyond himself).

          You don’t have to accept this, but to claim it doesn’t present an issue to the Gospel that we shouldn’t tackle is ignoring a significant issue that deserves attention, as a moral claim on God Himself is at stake in the infernalist or annihationist positions (and just dismissing it as our defective sense of good isn’t going to make it go away, particularly not when they are the very instincts developed under the light of the Gospel and it’s principles such as the Sermon of the Mount).

          I won’t say much more on this (and again I hope any further responses doesn’t drop into insults about my lack of humanity, as again, I don’t believe you have been privileged to see into my soul). But to end, do I think a universalist proclamation would help, of course, a clear unconditional proclamation of God’s saving love of all creation is exactly the very think that leads people to the love that casts out fear, into joyous freedom and love. If a gun is being held to your head, or you or your loved one has a sword that could potentially fall at any time, that doesn’t give love without fear, it keeps the fear fully in place. Terror of God (and so you cannot love Him fully, the first commandant) and makes love of others condition, God might not have arranged things to save them, so do you love them partly if He has not selected to save them? If the requirements and teachings on love are so, requiring us to love our enemies and all, we should love and know we love them now and directed towards eternity, does that love become cut off if they are lost, is all love then conditionally if we find ourselves separated and know they are being tortured forever, what becomes of the love then, and what of evil and death that endures forever. What Gospel can be proclaimed with confidence that casts of fear and terror that gives conditions and uncertainty, that puts death on the same level as God, that says it could last forever, that it and life are equals, that is not so, death is not the equal of God, nor life, it will be destroyed, and that is a proclamation that brings to love that casts out fear and hatred and yields love without restraint. So yes, I do believe the unconditionally promise of Pascha and the Gospel can only be truly found through universalist prism.

          It has been interesting chatting to you on the whole, and I wish you the best in following the Truth as you know, and as I do, and I pray we both continue in love and following Him and live in and through Him the best as we see things darkly now, until all is cleared in the full and glorious light to come.

          Be well and may He bless and keep you always.

          Like

          • maude says:

            Grant, I never said that you were shedding your humanity like a snake. I said that you were shedding your own HUMILITY like a snake sheds its skin. I didn’t say it to insult you. I only meant it to mean that rather than set up conditions in which God’s goodness relies on His lifting you (or anyone) up, leave it to God to uplift us. Perhaps, I was getting carried away with imagery, but I was picturing the snake that was lifted up for the healing of the Israelites, the way a snake purifies itself by shedding its skin, and the fact that a snake is close to the dirt and “humility” means close to the ground. I was also thinking of the way the snake tempted Adam and Eve to glorify themselves by eating from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil rather than trust that God would give them everything good in due time. I would not question your humanity or presume the state of your soul.

            I’ll have to finish reading your comment when I get some more time, but I wanted to make it clear that I was not intending to insult you.

            Like

          • Grant says:

            You are right Maude, and I very much owe you an apology, I’m afraid I misread what you said (I was a little tired at the time, but it’s no excuse).

            So I hope you will accept my apology for misreading and mischaracterising you. It was I who should have known and acted better (at least have read through your reply a few more times).

            So I am sorry, and hope you can forgive for that mistake.

            God bless.

            Liked by 1 person

    • DBH says:

      With all due respect, Maude, it is impossible to say what Doug Farrow was really objecting to, since not a single assertion made in his review about my arguments is accurate, or even relevant. It is a review that consists entirely in inventing arguments that no one has advanced and then attacking them with ferocious indignation, while wholly failing to address the arguments that are actually there in the text.

      Of course, I have known Doug for twenty years. I would have expected nothing else.

      Like

      • maude says:

        Clearly, Farrow objected to what he understood to be a condemning tone toward traditional teachings on damnation, regardless of whether or not he was being fair or correct in his estimation. This is why I avoided making personal remarks on your book, which I have yet to read, and kept my comments to Farrow’s article, this blog post, and Universalism in general. Of course, Mr. Farrow could be your arch enemy, taking pleasure in willfully misrepresenting you for twisted reasons of his own, but I guess I tend to give you boys the benefit of the doubt. I look forward to reading your response to Farrow.

        Like

        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          Maude, by all means David’s book. It throws so much light on the reviews. 🙂

          But I have already published two excellent reviews of Hart’s book by Tom Talbott and Taylor Nutter. They will give you a much better understanding of ‘That All Shall Be Saved’ by Farrow’s review, which really is a poor review. I understand why someone believes in hell on what they believe to be the infallible teaching of the Church (as Farrow does), but if a reviewer has not followed David to the point where he too does not see and feel the horror of eternal damnation and does not see why it puts the gospel of Christ into radical question, then they have simply not read the book seriously and well and therefore should not be reviewing it.

          Like

        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          There really can’t be a response to Farrow’s review, as he does not grapple with the substance of David’s book. As I said, it’s a bad review. Read ‘That All Shall Be Saved’ and decide for yourself.

          Liked by 2 people

        • DBH says:

          Maude, There are personal stories within personal stories, none of which is important. We are not–or were not, to my knowledge–enemies, but my break with First Things was a fairly acrimonious one (I could not remain on good terms with a collection of editors who had embraced the politics of the alt-right), and so there is a reason why the journal commissioned and published a review that in substance and tone would normally have fallen far afoul of its own editorial standards, and that the editors were well aware (having known me for years) could not possibly have been accurate.

          All of which is only to say that one never knows where a review comes from, really, and ultimately a book has to be allowed to speak for itself. My only reply to a review that is not a real review, like Doug’s, is simply to point in the direction of the book I actually wrote. That said, yes, I take some very vigorous shots at the traditional majority picture of things; but always with an explanation of precisely what I am objecting to and why. I like to think it’s all in keeping with Paul’s recommendation of the virtue of parrhesia (outspokenness, frankness, candor–provocation, even).

          Liked by 1 person

          • maude says:

            I understand; it’s usually best to let a book speak for itself. After all, it takes far more effort to write a book than it does to review one. However, in all sincerity, from an outsider’s perspective, Farrow’s review doesn’t appear to lack engagement with some of the ideas that seem plausibly present in your book. I further get this impression after reading what those who appreciate your book are saying (or not saying). For instance, free will seems mostly skirted in these discussions.

            I can, in good conscience, denounce the Calvinist doctrines with which I was raised. Predestination combined with a total depravity that deprives one of even the ability to call out to God without being irresistibly drawn by Him is so demonstrably wrong to all who have not built a doctrine by ignoring much of scripture while hyper-focusing on other scriptures. I can clearly see how it does violence to the gospel. It takes away man’s free will and, therefor, the image of God in man, which leads to all kinds of problems. Also, these ideas, as Calvin settled on them, were never part of Catholic or Orthodox Church teaching, even if Augustine shared some ideas that, one could argue, Calvin followed to their logical conclusion.

            I’ve long considered Universalist ideas. I have criticisms of the way Hell has been treated by many in the Church throughout the ages. I cringe when I hear someone speak about people getting their just reward in Hell. I can’t even get myself to say the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. Too often that sort of piety looks like presumption at best, hatefulness at worst. But I’ve hesitated to embrace Universalism for some of the same reasons I feel that Calvin should have hesitated to present his ideas as Christian doctrine.

            Can you address one point that was brought up in the review? Do you think that it is ultimately impossible for a rational creature to not choose the good, that he only would fail to do so if he lacked sufficient knowledge, for the reason that one can’t possibly have sufficient knowledge and be rational and choose death? If so, is free will, to your thinking, ultimately tied up with the capacity for reason and access to knowledge?

            Like

          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            Read the book, Maude! David devotes a large section of his book to the very question you ask, and it’s unfair to ask him to repeat himself in a blog-comment. Read the book.

            Like

      • paul higgins says:

        Farrow made many arguments; that your translation of the NT (quoted in the new book) is heavily biased toward univeralism (e.g. that the passages from Paul do not refer to ‘all’ humanity understood absolutely, but rather a covenantal ‘all’, etc.), that you do not sufficiently address angels (how do angels reject God with perfect knowledge conditions, if your ‘rational will’ argument is correct? Notably, your translation of Jude 6 states that fallen angels suffer ‘aidios’, unending punishment, so how do you account for this?), that you mention our inability to draw clear conclusions based on the NT’s “fragmentary and fantastic images” but then you proceed to draw clear conclusions where it suits your purposes, that you fail to address various scriptural passages that clearly mitigate against your interpretation, that you stretch analogical language (God as ‘father’) to essentially univocal language (as if God’s fatherhood were precisely similar to us forgiving a small child for a transgression), that your earthly-knowledge-condition-based moral intuition / cry of conscience is sufficient to completely comprehend the mystery of the afterlife state, that you fail to address the various issues in Origen’s univeralism, that your use of Gregory’s universal “Man” doesn’t sufficiently account for the individual will, that you fail to mention any of the Church Fathers or conciliar documents beyond late Augustine / Gregory of Nyssa / Origen and a couple others, that you refer to Hell as being “trillions of years” in duration (as if it were Hegel’s bad infinity, and as if we are required to understand Hell’s temporality in this way), among many other issues mentioned by Farrow; his review is full of arguments that apply to the book that you have written. Also there’s the minor issue of your referring to all of your ideological opponents as psychopaths (presumably this would come as a surprise to the hundreds/thousands of saints who have believed in the traditional understanding of Hell), that you chalk up any disagreement with your positions to sheer idiocy or confusion, or the fact that you’re apparently now a radical Protestant (i.e. if a pan-ecumenical council of Catholic and Orthodox bishops were to declare the eternity of Hell as a dogmatic truth, you would claim that you alone were the true Church).

        Like

        • paul higgins says:

          Or see also, among many other valid critiques (https://derekzrishmawy.com/2019/09/20/the-powers-the-mystery-of-created-freedom-and-harts-pointless-deal-with-the-devil/):

          “If creation ex nihilo and the doctrine of eternal damnation are true, the evil of damnation is folded within even his positive intentions for creation . . . under this “canopy of God’s omnipotence and omniscience”, this supremely efficacious providence, this will that can work interior to all other wills without violating such wills, the “risk” involved in the mystery of created freedom is essentially eliminated, along with the coherence or purchase of that defense. . . . . a God with that sort of power [that Hart describes] and that sort of relationship to the universe is one eminently capable of preventing a fall and bringing free creatures into unity with himself without the pain, suffering, and consequences of brought about by either human freedom, or that of the powers. . . . if we are to believe Hart’s earlier statements about the gratuity of evil, then these instances (really, aeons) of unnecessary, unredeemed, and pointless suffering constitute their own form of horror within the Christian story Hart is telling. By Hart’s own standards it seems another “secret compromise with evil,” only in this case, there was no point in making the bargain at all.”

          [Gratuitous insult deleted—1st and only warning]

          Like

          • TJF says:

            Before you start running your mouth, it’s probably a good idea to make sure you know what you are talking about. First off, since I’ve read TASBS twice now since it’s come out I can tell you haven’t read it, based on you thinking that Farrow addressed any of his arguments in it. Farrow did address arguments based on common perceptions of universalism among other things, but nothing specifically from this book. Also, DBH did answer this critique here:

            https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2019/09/20/theodicy-and-apokatastasis/

            Which btw he mentions, was also answered in the book. I also commented on this second reviewers blog. Check the comments to see my answers. Are you looking for truth or an argument?

            Like

          • paul higgins says:

            Thanks for the link – I have read the book (finished it three days ago) and have read all of Hart’s publications since discovering his first book in 2005, which is why I’m so disappointed by his latest. I referred to Farrow’s arguments because Hart stated that Farrow did not make any arguments; this is false, in the limited space of a First Things book review he raised a dozen reasonable issues. I see that Hart addressed the issue of fallen angels (in the link you provided), but this is not a coherent response; Hart says that angels don’t have perfect knowledge conditions because . . . they just don’t (???), i.e., because his argument would fail, otherwise; no references to the Fathers or Scripture, etc.
            In general, I don’t know, it’s just challenging when an author is (frankly) so arrogant that he considers all attempts at good-faith discussion about his arguments to be always-already incoherent. I’m sincerely curious how it must feel to think that one has made the only irrefutable theological argument in recorded history?

            Like

          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            Paul, you have made your point, and no more needs to be said about it. If you wish to discuss the substantive arguments advanced by David in ‘That All Shall Be Saved,’ well and good. I and others will do our best to address them. But let’s stick with the specific arguments and your objections to them. Agreed?

            Like

          • TJF says:

            Paul, I believe his contention wasn’t that Farrow didn’t bring any counterarguments to the table. It was that they were not counterarguments to his positions, but to random other ones, which I judge to be accurate. I was quite perplexed at reading the article. My apologies for assuming you hadn’t read the book. Please forgive me. As far as the angel thing, I think it makes sense. How can an angel make a freely willed irrational decision? That’s incoherent. He doesn’t really develop it because he probably thinks that what angels do or don’t do is a red herring to the real crux of the matter which is what does God do? I also don’t think his “arrogance” is presumptive. Reading some of the fathers is fairly shocking in the way they claim to be correct and everyone else is a vile heretic fit for destruction, etc. He doesn’t go that far. He certainly wouldn’t be the first to claim to know the truth, and at the end of the day we all think we believe the truth, or else we wouldn’t believe it now would we?

            Like

        • While your objections are noted, and to the uninformed and unthinking, would appear to have some value, there is a much deeper ethical problem with an eternal hell of torment that you do not seem to address. This is precisely what Hart addresses in the first section of the book. Let me see if I can bring a few questions out which highlite these ethical considerations:

          If God is in the business of saving souls, then your answer to the following questions would be most instructive regarding a seeming dichotomy of His actions among human beings:

          1. If ECT is true, and the decisions we make in this life determine our final destiny, then why would God allow Satan to tempt, trick, and torment us into making decisions which will result in an eternity of shrieking pain? Surely we have enough within ourselves which is capable of taking us away from the Lord without having an additional enemy who is immensely more clever than we to trick us into perdition?

          2. If the wicked one was defeated at the Cross, then by what power does he have the authority to wage warfare against human beings? My understanding of the Cross is that it has defeated Satan and stripped him of all his usurped rulership over Creation. How then is he allowed to prowl around and attack mankind, and for what possible purpose?

          3. If God desires the salvation of all (1 Tim 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9) , then why would He allow the wicked one to enact warfare against us, knowing that if we fall, we damn ourselves forever. (Remember, I am asking these questions under the assumption that ECT is true.) If it is my desire that my son live a virtuous life, I am not going to introduce him to the local hooker in town, and if she shows up on my porch looking specifically for my son, I will chase her down the street with an axe handle. Is God any less Father to us than the best of earthly fathers?

          Further questions along this line may be found here:

          https://http4281.wordpress.com/2017/05/20/10-questions/

          and here:

          https://http4281.wordpress.com/2017/08/19/vacuous-answers-to-reasonable-questions-part-two/

          Like

          • maude says:

            1. Think for a moment about the “Garden of Eden” story. Satan comes in the form of a talking snake and tells Adam and Eve that God hasn’t been straight with them – not only will they not die if they eat the forbidden fruit but they will become like Him, knowing good and evil. Taken at face value, it’s a ridiculous story. Without much persuasion, they are willing to ignore the one simple rule given by God, who they are well aware has made them and provided for them, in favor of listening to some strange, talking serpent. In multiple ways, you see a replay of Satan’s own sin when he tried to usurp God’s throne. They question God’s good-will toward them in favor of becoming like Him but apart from Him, which are the two big lies from which most, if not all, sins come. We are nothing apart from God and we can receive nothing, except it comes from his Hand. They had to turn away from God to even believe the lie. So, what we’re left with is the potential to turn away, which is tied up in free will. This story replays itself in the heart of every human being, and we know this if we know something about our own hearts, and we know this because we are told that no one is good but all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God; and if any man says otherwise, he is a liar. The enemy is the liar and a lie tries to leach off of a truth because on its own it is truly nothing. To more directly address your point: No, Satan wasn’t so very clever and Adam and Eve weren’t so very naive that they couldn’t have chosen simple trust and obedience. Why do you think we are told that we must become like children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?

            2. Why did God wait for thousands of years to send the Messiah? Couldn’t he have sent him the very next day? Why didn’t he show Adam and Even a “what happens next…” video? Surely they would have avoided the fruit if they fully understood the consequences. Some questions go to places that are far outside of our scope of understanding. It’s why “theodicy” has never been addressed to the satisfaction of all.

            Think back to the garden story. Christ, “the second Adam” did not think equality with God was something to be grasped but submitted to his father, even for his own glorification. What I find so off-putting about this idea that God’s goodness requires that he save us all in the end, is that it seems yet another way to commit that original sin. But instead of a snake saying, “Did God really tell you that you would die…?” now, it’s a theologian saying it…and once again we’re given a choice to simply take God at his word and enter his kingdom as children, or try to take our divinity by force…”Did God really tell us we would be condemned eternally if we do not put our faith in his son because, if you think about it, his very nature and goodness wouldn’t allow it….” I’m not saying one must not hope for universal salvation (hell is not something to believe in) or claiming that DBH is an incarnation of Satan. I’m saying DBH, as clever as he may be, is going to places that are too lofty for him.

            3. Chasing the whore away will hardly end your troubles. Now if you turn your son into a vegetable, then you don’t have to worry about the whore coming to him or him going to the whore when you’re not looking. He’ll just lie there, and you won’t have to see what’s going on in his mind or his heart. Of course, that would be a terrible thing to do. You would have made a son in your own image just to destroy that image for fear he’ll choose badly. He will never truly become like you, and you will take little pleasure in his existence because he is not what he was intended to be. Ironically enough, given your example, the son of God never shied away from hookers and because he always submitted himself to his Father, they were not a temptation to him. He even led them to repentance, and God had no need to chase any of them down with axes.

            Like

  11. TJF says:

    Maude, I’ve read the book and I can tell you that this “review” is not a review at all. Farrow is reviewing something but it isn’t Dr. Hart’s book. He is “reviewing” some other random caricatures of what some people may believe, but not any arguments Dr. Hart puts forth in his book. If you read it, you will see this clearly. If you are interested in the question of free will, jump straight to his 4th meditation when you purchase the book. Although I will say the 1st meditation is the most powerful argument, as he clearly states. If that one is true all the rest are only ancillary.

    BTW, I have a question for either Dr. Hart and/or Fr. Aidan. One of the biggest objections I have from fellow my fellow Orthodox is based on the principle lex orandi lex credendi. I never really know how to counter this other than pointing out that Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev has shown in Christ the Conqueror of Hell that many ancient hymns do indeed seem to be claiming universal salvation. I think John Chrsysostom’s Paschal Homily can certainly be interpreted that way. Has the church in her liturgical prayer life indeed gone astray? What are we to say to this question?

    Like

    • Robert Fortuin says:

      TJF – By any account lex orandi lex credendi is at best a supporting guide and as such can’t be relied upon as an unquestionable source of incontrovertible dogma.

      Like

      • TJF says:

        Thank you Robert. It did seem like an attempt to make a lot more things at least seem like dogma. An attempt to pressure people to think a certain way.

        Like

Comments are closed.