David Bentley Hart on Universal Salvation

Discussion in 'Faith, Devotion & Formation' started by bwallac2335, Oct 9, 2019.

  1. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    The bible teaches Universalism...the wideness of God's salvation is demonstrated in the Bible's words, spirit, and in the history it records. Any proof-texts you could cite that appear to refute Universalism must be read in harmony with God's revealed character, which is loving, merciful and is not willing for any to perish, but that ALL should come to repentance. Does any here really doubt that He won't triumphantly accomplish what He wills?

    Universalism was never declared a heresy and conflating it with monergism and origenism does not help the particularist cause. Neither could the Councils legitimately anathematize as it biblical truth, indeed the very heart of the Gospel, which the church councils were called to reiterate and refine.

    And the ancient church is not alone in this. Even the reformers trusted in the hope of universal restoration. Martin Luther said: "God forbid that I should limit the time of acquiring faith to the present life. In the depth of the Divine mercy, there may be an opportunity to win it in the future."

    Listen to the angels, friends and heed their message!
    "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to ALL people."
     
  2. Liturgyworks

    Liturgyworks Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Actually the Fifth Ecumenical Council did anathematize it, more specifically Apokatastasis, which is basically the same idea. But it sounds to me like you are saying that no one is at risk of damnation, and this contradicts the Athanasian Creed.

    Lastly regarding Martin Luther, he and CS Lewis expressed a hope that people could repent post-mortem, but this is not universalism per se, and is is also challenging to reconcile with the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

    The heart of the Gospel is the entire Gospel, furthermore; you cannot take portions of it and elevate them above others, but with regards to this issue, as I indicated previously, John 6, John 3:16 and Matthew 28:19 are particularly relevant. Why have a great commission if heathens can be saved without faith in Christ or baptism?
     
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  3. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    That question has been answered many times elsewhere on this thread. No need to repeat it here.
     
  4. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Not at all. Here's what the Bible teaches, as for example in Revelation 21:8: "But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."

    Revelation 20:15: "And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."

    2 Thessalonians 1:9: "They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might"

    John 3:36: "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him."


    The traditional Christian perspective, from the Church Fathers through to the Reformation and which the Reformers had espoused, is called "hypothetical universalism", which sits in between plain particularism (calvinism), and plain universalism (liberal heresy).

    Hypothetical universalism teaches that all can (or could have) been saved, but that not all are (or were) saved. We accept both parts of Christ's teaching: "whosoever believeth in me shall have everlasting life", AND, "I came to separate the sheep from the goats"... "narrow is the gate, and few there are who enter it".
     
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  5. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Friend, you are keen to quote this verse all by itself:
    2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
    You suggest that since God is not willing for any to perish, therefore He will save all. But notice the rest of the verse: He is willing "that all should come to repentance." By your logic, since God is willing for all to repent, therefore all do repent. But we know this to be false; the vast majority of humans do not repent despite God's willingness that they should repent. Isn't it possible, indeed even probable, that the vast majority will likewise perish even though God does not want them to perish?

    We cannot accurately gauge the intended meaning of this single verse without considering the context of surrounding verses and of the entire epistle.

    2Pe 3:1 This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance:
    2Pe 3:2 That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:
    2Pe 3:3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,
    2Pe 3:4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
    2Pe 3:5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:
    2Pe 3:6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:
    2Pe 3:7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
    2Pe 3:8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
    2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.


    Notice that Peter writes, just two verses prior to the verse in question, that ungodly men will be judged and will receive perdition (i.e., eternal damnation). Just as God destroyed the vast, vast majority of human beings in the flood, so He will consign the majority of humanity to eternal destruction in the lake of fire.

    We could also go further back in his epistle and see this:
    2Pe 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
    2Pe 2:2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
    2Pe 2:3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
    2Pe 2:4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;
    2Pe 2:5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;
    2Pe 2:6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;
    2Pe 2:7 And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked:
    2Pe 2:8 (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)
    2Pe 2:9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:
    2Pe 2:10 But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.
    2Pe 2:11 Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.
    2Pe 2:12 But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;
    2Pe 2:13 And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you;
    2Pe 2:14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:


    Friend, does it sound as if Peter is saying that God saves everyone? Is Peter saying that God overlooks unrighteousness and gives everyone a free pass to His eternal Kingdom? Not at all. Peter recalls that God has already shown a 'track record' of severely punishing and condemning unrepentant sinners and causing them to "utterly perish." In other words, Peter calls forth the context of the Old Testament as evidence against the proposition that 'all men will be saved because God wills that no one should perish.'

    "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to ALL people." Indeed, the good tidings (good news, gospel) is to and for all people. That gospel tells us anyone may repent and believe. It's good news because God isn't excluding anyone, Jew or Gentile, from the opportunity. Yet most will not avail themselves of this wondrous opportunity. Most will reject the gift.
    Joh 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
    We can believe what Jesus said, or we can believe the words of those false teachers whom Peter mentions in Chapter 2, verse 1.
     
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  6. Liturgyworks

    Liturgyworks Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I am afraid it hasn’t; I looked.
     
  7. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    Oddly enough, after reading the book, Martin Luther, CS Lewis and Hart are near in one accord in thinking that people would or could repent after death except that Hart says in the affirmative that all will. From what I gather this is also Gregory of Nyssia's view also.
     
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  8. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    ...which is universalism in a nut shell...
     
  9. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    But that has not always been the churches teaching nor is it any churches official teaching but it has been speculation and it, according to the councils, is something that can only be hoped for and not taught as 100% true if I can remember correct.
     
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  10. Liturgyworks

    Liturgyworks Well-Known Member Anglican

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    So how do you understand the Athanasian Creed? Or is it simply inaccurate? And are people saved after being damned or rather given an opportunity to repent?

    The view of CS Lewis was that the gates of Hell are locked from the inside, which is not the same thing. If you read the Great Divorce, everyone who takes a bus from the vast city of Hell to Heaven, where it turns out Hell was a microcosmic world in a cracked stone, decides to return to Hell for various reasons owing to their preferred sinful inclinations, except the narrator, who it emerges was not dead but merely dreaming. This gives us a valuable clue as to his theology.
     
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  11. Liturgyworks

    Liturgyworks Well-Known Member Anglican

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    @Lowly Layman, I have to confess I just don’t see how you can reconcile your position with the Formularies, and I also wish you would clarify the questions I have asked concerning your precise view rather than evading them. For example, the question you said had been answered elsewhere and repeatedly in this thread has in fact not been, and even if it has, your interpretation of universalism could be different from someone else’s.

    We have to drill down to details on how you interpret a vast array of scripture, creedal materials, the liturgy of the 1662 BCP - including the Litany, Commination and Quincunque Vult, as well as the prevailing traditional interpretation of the Church that Universalism is heretical and that if anyone is damned in the Last Judgement, they shall be cast into the Lake of Fire for all eternity. There are a number of positions, such as the hope all may be saved, that one can take, that fall short of full blown universalism, which in its most extreme form, which we see in St. Gregory of Nyssa, speculates even the devil might be saved.

    Also universalism seems to suck the wind out of the sails of evangelization. It’s kind of like Mormon proxy baptism; I feel like saying to Mormon missionaries at times “Why for goodness sake are you wasting my time when you can just proxy-baptize me after I am dead, and could be proxy baptizing people now? Get off my doorstep, get thee to your temple and start immersing yourselves, or else admit the truth: that your religion is absurdly self-contradictory, fit only for the naive, the deluded and the impressionable.”

    Mormons are nice people, but their religion is silly. And I live not in Utah but in another part of the land they wished to call Deseret, so they are present here in great numbers.
     
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  12. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    What is your position on the Athanasian Creed? It did not come from a council and the Eastern Churches are not wild about it.
     
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  13. Liturgyworks

    Liturgyworks Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Actually it is printed in Russian Orthodox Psalters and Greek Orthodox Horologions (books with the common of the Divine Office). The text is a variant form, and lacks the filioque, and I suspect it is an older form of the creed; it is available in A Psalter for Prayer from Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville.

    The only creed not used in the East is the Apostles’ Creed, and this is simply because it is descended from an old Roman baptismal creed and is thus specifically a part of the Western liturgical patrimony, like the Agnus Dei or Gloria. However, it contains no errors. The Eastern churches merely prefer to use the Nicene Creed for all occasions, presumably because their liturgy is otherwise longer and more complicated.

    I consider all three creeds to be correct and I think the Quincunque Vult is particularly useful for weeding out subtler heresies not specifically addressed by the Nicene Creed, just as the Nicene precludes Arianism. An Arian can easily confess the Apostles’ Creed because it lacks the phrases “Very God of very God” and “of one essence with the Father.” But that said, the Apostle’s Creed is effective in ensuring basic compliance and will weed out Unitarians, Ebionites and Gnostics; Arianism is a much subtler heresy than most people realize and did not exist when that creed was formed. And most people who confess the Nicene Creed probably do not realize the history of those clauses (which is not to say they are didactically ineffective or that the semantics are not understood, which is why most Christians instinctively bristle at any suggestion that our Lord is not God incarnate).
     
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  14. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    That is interesting to know about the Athanasian Creed without the filioque. At my parish we use the Nicene Creed every Sunday or I have yet to be there when a different creed was used.
     
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  15. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    I have already pointed out and discussed at length in other forum threads that Universal Restoration is found in scripture. Since the councils and creeds are to be believed based on their agreement with Scripture, they must teach it as well. As an Anglican, I adhere to Scripture, the Nicene and Apostles Creeds (as provided is Articles 7 & 8 of the Articles of Religion 1801), and the councils which produced them, ie, the first four ecumenical councils. I affirm the Athanasian formula (though I am not required to under the Articles) insofar as it rightly defines the Holy Trinity but I reject the anathema at the end as it runs counter to scripture. Universalism was the majority of the Church during those first 5 centuries, as St Augustine grudgingly admitted even as a particularist, and yet it was not until the sixth century that it was questioned. As papal errors began to infest the larger church so did the false doctrine of eternal damnation. And yet, it was not Universal Restoration that was declared in error only Origenism, an action which I support, since his followers taught the pre-existence of souls, reincarnation, and spiritual ressurrection, none of which have a basis in scripture. Universalism was the victim of guilt by association and the opportunistic Roman clerics who used the boogey man of eternal damnation to keep believers under their thumbs. Had Universalism been a real heresy, then Sts Jerome, Clement, Gregory, etc. would have also been condemned and not just Origen, as they taught Universalism. No, universalism is in perfect harmony with the Gospel because it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who is "the savior of ALL men, especially those who believe."
     
  16. Phoenix

    Phoenix Moderator Staff Member Anglican

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    This seems to run counter to the subscription oath made in 2015:
    Do you still stand by every clause of this profession?
     
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  17. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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  18. Liturgyworks

    Liturgyworks Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Where does he say that? Most of the Fathers I have read, including Sts. Irenaeus, Athanasius, Ignatius and John Chrysostom, are not universalists, neither were St. Cyril or St. Gelasius of Rome. Also, contrary to what Dr. Hart is lying about, the Eastern Orthodoc officially reject universalism (see: The Orthodox Church and The Orthodox Way by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware and Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky in Orthodox Dogmatic Theology). It is also the view of the Oriental Orthodox. Apokatastasis, or temporary hellfire, used to be the view of the Church of the East; the Catholicos who wrote the Book of the Bee wrote that people would receive “stripes” (lashes) according to their sins. This is no longer doctrine among the Assyrians, which is good, because it seems rather like Purgatory.

    Again, blaming it all on Rome doesn’t work because the Oriental Orthodox severed communion with him in 451, and have always believed in eternal damnation.
     
  19. Liturgyworks

    Liturgyworks Well-Known Member Anglican

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    @Lowly Layman

    Can you explain to me how you unfeignedly assent to the Athanasian Creed while outright rejecting its damnatory clauses? Because that makes no sense to me, especially since I myself did not have the option to dissent from the Black Rubric or the Filioque, but had to unfeignedly accept every jot and title in the 1662 BCP, which I did, willingly and in good faith. And with creeds, particularly, being able to strike out bits we dislike renders them pointless, for example, an Arian could just omit “of one essence with the Father” from the Nicene Creed.

    Also, the 1662 BCP does make assent to the Athanasian Creed mandatory. Article VIII in the 1662 BCP reads as follows:

    VIII .Of the Three Creeds.
    THE three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius' Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles' Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed; for they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture.
    __________

    That is the version of the BCP we subscribe to in the formula of subscription, not the American BCP (I asked if this was a possibility as I was more comfortable with aspects of the 1928 American Book unrelated to the creed). The Episcopal Church modified Article VIII, but we are bound by that of the Church of England in 1662.

    And note the language “thoroughly received and believed; for they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture.”

    What this means is that we cannot, under Article VIII of the Articles of Religion, deprecate, derogate, or disregard an article that we reject as contrary to our own personal interpretations of Scripture, but must rather accept the entire Creed as it is written in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.
     
  20. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Lowly Layman, do you agree or disagree with the following statement concerning the judgment and everlasting condemnation of obstinate sinners?

    The day of the Lord cometh as a thief in the night: and when men shall say, Peace, and all things are safe, then shall sudden destruction come upon them, as sorrow cometh upon a woman travailing with child, and they shall not escape. Then shall appear the wrath of God in the day of vengeance, which obstinate sinners, through the stubbornness of their heart, have heaped unto them, selves; which despised the goodness, patience, and long, sufferance of God, when he calleth them continually to repentance. Then shall they call upon me, (saith the Lord,) but I will not hear; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me; and that, because they hated knowledge, and received not the fear of the Lord, but abhorred my counsel, and despised my correction. Then shall it be too late to knock when the door shall be shut; and too late to cry for mercy when it is the time of justice. O terrible voice of most just judgement, which shall be pronounced upon them, when it shall be said unto them, Go, ye cursed, into the fire everlasting, which is prepared for the devil and his angels. Therefore, brethren, take we heed betime, while the day of salvation lasteth; for the night cometh, when none can work.
    Do you think it is possible to reconcile this statement with the belief that God will save all people?
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2019
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