No Doxology No (eternal) Hell

No Doxology No (eternal) Hell

Posted on 19. Mar, 2011 by Tim Stoner in Articles, Blog, Christianity, Emergent Theology, Essays, Life, Love Wins

 

For years I have been troubled by something I could not quite put my finger on. I was unable to define what was producing this vague unease as I read popular Christian writings. It’s kind of like being asked to describe what color is missing in an abstract painting.

I felt this uncomfortable sensation again reading Love Wins. Finally, yesterday it hit me. The unexpected insight was as startling as Marley’s ghost making his dramatic entrance into Scrooge’s sitting room. So, I decided to step back a little from his book and look behind and underneath to address the cause for this persistent disquiet.

I felt its force almost 10 years ago when I made my way through A New Kind of Christian by Brian MacLaren. Its impact was so intense that it seemed to compel me to write a response. For months I worked on an extended essay that would eventually bloat out at 32 pages. It was a cleansing of sorts but of what was not always clear. I had specific disagreements and listed them point by point. But, having laid them out, I knew there was something deeper—something was dreadfully amiss. 

The phrase I would eventually borrow to describe my malaise was “a disquieting contrast” which is C.S. Lewis’s phrase for what he felt when he compared Christian literary theory and modern literary criticism. It was a “repugnance of atmosphere, a discordance of notes, an incompatibility of temperaments.” Christian Reflections, “Christianity and Literature,” (GR: William B. Eerdmans, Pub. Co., 1982) 3. 

A few years later, my essay was refined into The God Who Smokes (thanks to my sons, who encouraged me to heed the autobiographical muse rather than the inner academic pedant). Over the years as I’ve continued listening to the cutting-edge communicators within the church, that distressing “incompatibility of temperaments” has become increasingly apparent. Not till I was a third of the way through Love Wins that at last I knew what it was. It was reading the Church Fathers that provided the reference point.

As I tell my wife, Patty, when I’m reading those exemplary men, it’s not like stepping back into another century, it’s entering another world entirely. There seems to be so much more weight and gravity there. It is disorienting because it always makes me question the flimsiness of my own reality. All the great doctors and fathers and mothers of the faith do this to me. Their universe is drenched with God. They are these amazing God-entranced humans whose intellects were welded with white-hot devotion to a glorious and loving piety. In a word, they were holy; they were saints, and I am not. And, sadly, very few who teach today are, whereas, back in the day, most were. That is why it I am wanting to make them my good friends. Maybe their holiness will wear off.

Putting down St. Chrysostom, and Jonathan Edwards (who died right before the Revolutionary War and preached blistering sermons on Hell and sermons about Heaven that make your heart break with longing), it became obvious. What has been steadily seeping out of our discourse over several decades is the humble, awe-struck recognition of majesty. This did not just happen ten years ago. It has been disappearing for several generations. But it is in this most recent generation that the resultant lightness of God’s being and immateriality has become obvious, even to those who like myself are least situationally aware.

This is the golden anniversary of a bold, prophetic book written by one of the most popular preachers of his day. His name is A.W. Tozer and the book is The Knowledge of the Holy. He wrote it in response to an appalling condition in the church which he diagnosed as “the loss of the concept of majesty from the popular religious mind.” He was convinced that in his day “the Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshipping men.”

Tozer’s book reads as though it was writing today rather than in 1961: “This loss of the concept of majesty has come just when the forces of religion are making dramatic gains and the churches are more prosperous than at any time within the past several hundred years.” All is not what it seems, he warns. “But the alarming thing is that our gains are mostly external and our losses wholly internal; and since it is the quality of our religion that is affected by internal conditions, it may be that our supposed gains are but losses  spread over a wider field.”

What is so interesting to me is that Tozer is not dismayed by the assertion that God eternally punishes rebellious and unrepentant humans. He is not shocked or distressed by what Bell regards as appalling and inconceivable: that God is Someone from whom we need to be rescued. This is scandalous to sensitivities finely calibrated to sympathize with man and exclude God from the frame—sensitivities like mine and like yours.

We have all been made drunk on distilled spirits that have distorted our view of reality. Man is now great and God is made small; man’s rebellion is marginal while God’s infinite justice is monstrous. This is why Bell has to ask: “How could that God ever be good? How could that God ever be trusted?” In asking these rhetorical questions Bell discloses more than he realizes. He is unpacking for the world his view of God.

And fifty years back, with shattering lucidity Tozer reminds us that “What comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. . . . For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at any given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. . . . Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech.”

The reason Bell has to express his repulsion with biting sarcasm and ironic incomprehension is because his view of God has become so very, very flat. His God is bounded by a humanist, or humane frame. God is to be judged by the same standards that govern man. He must live up to our criteria for rightness and fair play. What we learned in Kindergarten applies just as rigorously to the Creator of the Universe as it does to any five year old playing in the school yard. God has been drained of transcendent majesty and replaced with a culturally-accepted deity whose goodness prevents him from punishing those who insist on rebelling against His love.

This is also why the only sins Bell finds distressing are horizontal, as if all that ultimately matters is whether I am greedy, mean, angry, abusive, fearful, or covetous. There is no mention of hating God, of loving ourselves more than Him, of ignoring God and refusing to submit to His commands. That we steal God’s glory for ourselves and want to be praised, honored and worshipped as little gods, does not crack the top 20 of big sins for which I should feel bad, much less repent. That we think about our own reputations but care less about whether Jesus is known, loved and served by those who have never heard of Him never ever comes up in the conversation.

In Bell’s cosmology God’s deepest longing and mankind’s greatest need is for humans to love each other and the environment well. “God has been looking for partners since the beginning,” he writes, “people who will take seriously their divine responsibility to care for the earth and each other, in loving, sustainable ways.” Love Wins, 36. I am hard pressed to come up with one Scripture that would support Bell’s reduction. But I admit, it does sound sweet, just like the idea of a God who is too nice to punish humans eternally.

The problem is that our view of God is not dictated by what is emotionally or even logically appealing. We do not have the freedom to make Him up as we go, or to redefine Him to make Him palatable to the fickle flights of public opinion. God stands over and against all our wishful thinking and shatters it with these words: “You shall not make for yourself an idol in any form . . . for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Dt. 5:8-10).

Tozer issues a warning: “Among the sins to which the human heart is prone, hardly any other is more hateful to God than idolatry, for idolatry is at bottom a libel on His character. The idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is—in itself a monstrous sin—and substitutes for the true God one made after its own likeness. . .  A god begotten in the shadows of the fallen heart will quite naturally be no true likeness of the true God.”

This brilliant teacher very helpfully simplifies a concept that we make unnecessarily complex: “The essence of idolatry,” he explains, “is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.” And this raises the obvious question: Where do we get correct thoughts about God? The answer is very simple: from reading His self-disclosure in the Bible, from beginning to its end—not just the parts in the middle we like.

Our conception of God will need to be imprinted with the full and unedited revelation of Himself. This will include the disclosure of His direct involvement in sending a flood, ordering the annihilation of seven Canaanite nations, burning two towns, punishing His people with the armies of Assyria and Babylon, and then fatally crushing His Beloved Son on the cross.

But it will not stop there, it will continue all the way to the end of the Epic in which it is revealed that this Son returns, revealing the blazing eyes of a Father at War. It will not shrink back from acknowledging that the Lamb who was slain will one day be the Lion who Reigns, from whose wrath men will free in terror. It will not close its eyes at the blood spattered vestments of this Warrior for Righteousness who “treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty” and on whose thigh are written the words: “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Rev. 19:15-16).

Why does a right view of God matter so much? Only a right view of God can produce a right view of self says Tozer. Only the person who has been overwhelmed with God’s beauty, majesty and transcendence can understand the significance of his failure to love and worship this God acceptably. And it is this conviction that drives the man to the cross for forgiveness and compels him to take up his cross and follow Jesus.

A right view of God alone makes the gospel intelligible. Tozer explains, “The gospel can lift this destroying burden from the mind, give beauty for ashes, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. But unless the weight of the burden is felt the gospel can mean nothing to the man; and until he sees a vision of God high and lifted up, there will be no woe and no burden. Low views of God destroy the gospel for all who hold them.” 

Contrary to what Bell implies, the higher the view of God, the more intense and the depictions of future judgment. Paul, Peter and John give us the most terrifying descriptions of an eternal, fiery punishment awaiting those who refuse to come to Christ, yet they are the ones who keep interrupting their letters with almost involuntary doxologies. They keep getting overwhelmed with God’s greatness, not man’s or creation’s.

John, the beloved disciple, “the apostle of love” is the most brutal and unflinching. He prophesies unapologetically that every man who rebels against the love of God and “worships the beast and his image” will be required to drink a cup filled “with the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of His wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur . . . and the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who received the mark of his name” (Rev. 14:9-11).

If you were to ask John, the apostle of love, “who wins at the end?” you would see his face suddenly enthralled with the majestic worth of his beloved Lord, and he would answer you without hesitation: “The Lamb wins, of course. The Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world, the one to whom cherubim, angels, elders and holy martyrs sing eternally: ‘Worthy are you to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength, honor and glory and praise—forever and ever and ever.’”

And it is only those who can sing that song that can recognize the wisdom and justice of an eternal Hell.     

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22 Responses to “No Doxology No (eternal) Hell”

  1. Mary Lago

    19. Mar, 2011

    This is just an excellent, excellent commentary. I have long thought that we Christians have lost our concept of the holiness of God, and our need to revere and fear Him. We are helpless without Him and absolutey need Him to save us from the ‘wrath to come”. The Bible is very clear about our sinfulness and the great impassable void it creates between us and God. Rob Bell doesn’t address this “Sin Question” If he honestly believes that Heaven is for everyone,.. then he has rewritten the Bible, and has come up with “The Gospel according to Rob Bell” He is one of those profesied in 2 Timothy 3 - they “have a form of godliness, but deny its power. Turn away from such people.”
    Tim, keep up the good work - keep standing for the Truth - God has given you the ability to do it - another “.. voice crying out in the wilderness”

  2. Rusty K

    19. Mar, 2011

    I am not interested in Bell’s shenanigan’s and as such, have no knowledge on that subject. However, based on your post alone, there is a sense that the pendulum does swing to the other extreme end. The overcompensated, ultra xenophobic God like the policeman that a parent would point to a child to make him shut up.

    Church as it is now runs like an industry. Depending on what Theistic figure the church workers can conjure up, forms of control over the congregation is maintained. Where is the gospel? Where is that justice that which will condemn “the others” and yet was fully satisfied at the cross? Can we let Jesus the true leader of the church run his business instead of men trying to assert their own forms of moralistic control over the population and no matter how pious and holy they sound it is all hypocrisy.

    Do not shackle what our Lord Saviour has unshackled, with the price of his life and death at the cross on that tree on Calvary on that day.

  3. Justin Mulwee

    20. Mar, 2011

    There are some good insights here and I’m no fan of pop Christian writers, but I take issue with part of your argument. If I may:

    “God is to be judged by the same standards that govern man. He must live up to our criteria for rightness and fair play … God has been drained of transcendent majesty …”

    “our view of God [should not be] dictated by what is emotionally or even logically appealing …”

    We may not be able to fully understand God, but if we have objective standards for moral good and fairness and God seems to break them, this is a problem. This problem causes many to walk away from Christianity. They question the apparent absurdity of eternal punishment for an honest disbelief, or even for some particular temporal sin.

    I think this questioning is warranted and deserves an answer. It is no good to simply respond as you have that God is somehow above the rules of goodness and logic, or to chalk up an apparently nonsensical view to “God’s transcendent majesty.” If God as we explain him does not make sense, or we cannot explain how our views of judgement and the afterlife allow for a God who is good in a meaningful sense of the word, people are justified in their disbelief.

    A view of God which seems both intuitively repulsive and logically unsound is probably untrue. If it is true, we need a better way of explaining it that resolves these problems.

    We also need to be more patient with those who don’t understand what we ourselves (Christians) have trouble understanding and articulating.

  4. Tim Stoner

    20. Mar, 2011

    Justin. Excellent response. You raise a very important point. I dismiss the apparent illogic and shock to our human sensibilities too readily. I too struggle with the appearance of cruelty and yet I acknowledge its rightness. I need to clarify how our diminution of God and our dismissal of the infinite significance of sin and its eternal consequences bears on our conclusion that eternal torment is a monstruous abuse. I shall come back to this later. Thanks for a very thoughtful corrective.

  5. Ken

    20. Mar, 2011

    I’m probably too simplistic for this whole conversation - I mean beyond this blog. First of all, let me absolutely affirm; “I believe God.” Having said that, I see little or no direct imperatives for us to make every effort to figure out the realities of heaven and hell (only but that they are real). Rather, I see that we are to make every effort to develop the character of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit in order that we may become effective and productive in our knowledge of Jesus Christ (e.g. 2 Peter 1:8). Effective and productive …

    Just the fact that learned theologians argue about the minutia and details regarding heaven and hell tell me that this remains a mystery, hidden in God. There is no clear definition, no clear orthodoxy on the subject contained in the scriptures. This is why Rob Bell and others are able to raise perhaps valid questions, but the very definition of “mystery” tells us there are no clear answers. Why do we wrestle with the mysteries while we so blatantly ignore the things He has so clearly revealed to us. Things like making every effort to develop the character of Christ (displaying the fruit of the Spirit). Things like loving God with our all and loving our neighbor as ourselves. things like blessing our enemies and praying for them. Things like not conforming to the ways of the world but being transformed by the renewing of our minds through being doers of the word and not hearers only. I once heard a message by Francis Chan where he said “The American church is a very difficult place to live out Biblical Christianity.” I tend to agree.

    “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and our children forever, that we may follow the words of the law.” (Duet. 29:29) Jesus summed up the words of the law for us. I say let’s work on that instead of trying to figure out God’s ways and thoughts which are infinitely higher than our ways and thoughts.

  6. Justin Mulwee

    20. Mar, 2011

    Tim, thanks for the reply and I look forward to hearing you further articulate your position. I’m not yet decided on just what my view of the afterlife is.

    One decent argument I’ve heard for why we deserve eternal punishment is that it is infinitely wrong to sin against an infinitely good being.

    Personally, I have less of a problem with the idea of deserving hell, and more of a problem with the idea that God will refuse the repentance of those who suffer in hell after death. Since part of his infinite goodness is not only his justice but his mercy, i.e. the reason any of us can go to heaven in the first place. It doesn’t make sense to me that God would say “no second chances” after death (and death is a pretty unpredictable event, even to the point of being apparently meaningless in many cases). Especially when he gives us all so many chances in this life.

    I guess the question is this: What’s so special about the moment of death that it suddenly cuts off the availability of God’s grace?

  7. Matt B

    20. Mar, 2011

    Tim, Does Bell ever step into the doctrines of election, foreknowledge or predestination?

  8. Tim Stoner

    21. Mar, 2011

    Matt, he may very well have but I’ve never heard him address these topics. I seems to me that he is pretty well committed to an Arminian perspective on salvation–it is totally, absolutely dependent upon our free will choice(s) to partner with God “and take seriously [our] divine responsibility to care for the earth and each other, in loving, sustainable ways.” (This is his description of what God has been seeking since the beginning of time– Love Wins p.36.) However, in this book, something unexpected happens, Bell turns out (secretely) perhaps to be more Calvinist that Calvin.

    One of the scores of questions he asks in the first ten pages is “What if the missionary gets a flat tire?” This is in response to Paul’s declaration that salvation comes from hearing the Gospel, which depends upon someone preaching it. The question is intended to humorously expose what he believes to be ludicrous: that the fate of others depends upon us. He later cites the Scripture that God wants all to be saved (I Tim. 2:3) and asks another question: “So does God get what God wants?” (i.e. Is He absolutely sovereign?). In answer, after summarizing various historical positions on the fate of those who reject Christ, he indicates that the “universalist” position (though he never uses that label) tells a better, much more loving and compelling story than the orthodox narrative of eternal separation (pp. 103-111). But, he concludes that “these are tensions we are free to leave fully intact” (115).

    Bell hints broadly, and winks coyly, but his book’s title makes his position unequivocal. Nothing, not even man’s sin is stronger than God’s love. At the end, not even man’s free will can withstand the unrelenting power of God’s love. So, good postmodern that he is, Bell fits into no nice theological box: perhaps he might be called a free-will predestinarian.

  9. Peter G.

    21. Mar, 2011

    @Justin, I like your question quite a bit: “What’s so special about the moment of death that it suddenly cuts off the availability of God’s grace?”

    I wonder if part of the answer to your question is that the Bible is comfortable talking about both the moment of death and the state/place of death. It can talk about each of these independently, but as concepts, I don’t know that Scripture would ever be happy divorcing them entirely from each other. I.e., they can be distinguished by not separated. Further, there seems to be an indivisible connection between sin and death (in both is senses) in the Bible too. 1 Cor 15 comes most immediately to mind, but also much of Paul’s argument in Romans runs its course on the tracks of this assumption. So, for the Biblical writers, it would be (I think) meaningless to speak of someone dying and then receiving grace. This is because death itself is seen as part and parcel of the judgment for sin. If they were going to be given a second chance, then, it would be a kind of incoherence to give it after death (i.e., after judgment). So the logic of Hebrews is pretty tight: it is appointed unto man to die once and then to face the judgment. In other words, the very fact of dying itself shows that a man is headed for judgment. Which of course raises the knotty problem: why do believers die? And that’s a good question. One I don’t find that enough Christians ever come around to asking but one that Paul felt the weight of himself enough to give a lengthy and involved answer in 1 Cor 15. The point is this: Paul kept sin and death much tighter in his thinking that (I find) many Christians do (myself included).

    I’ve written too much already, but there’s a little booklet that Leon Morris wrote a number of years ago that’s well worth a read. Here’s what he says at one point: “that death is more than merely the terminus of earthly existence, and the thought that this ‘more’ is closely linked with man’s sin runs through and through the New Testament. Death is not only an event, it is a state” (p. 5)

    If you get a chance, it’s worth your time: http://www.theologicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/wages-of-sin_morris.pdf

  10. Chris Thompson

    21. Mar, 2011

    great post. In my opinion one of the most powerful of your posts I’ve read. Resisting my normal penchant for turning the comment boxes into my own conversation, I’ve emailed you a response–let me know if this one comes through!

  11. Gerson

    21. Mar, 2011

    I hadn’t been able to pinpoint it out!… thanks!
    God is beyond humanistic motives.
    He doesn’t have to explain Himself to us!
    He’s the potter…who are we?..nothing but clay.

  12. Dwight

    22. Mar, 2011

    Thank you for making an abstract concept that once was accepted as the norm and has been lost come back on the page again.

    When the common becomes the norm, all things are reduced to the ordinary. Good and Great become the same as does nice and Awesome.

    I struggle with the use of the word Awesome as it is commonly used today. Lots of things are now awesome like a cold beverage, a nice experience or a car that is new.

    Very few areas of life are truly Awesome. It would be nice if God were Awesome again as the creator and for Man to be Awesome because we are created. Instead of the other way around which is what we seem most comfortable with.

  13. Jonathan Stoner

    22. Mar, 2011

    Keep writing. We all need to be reintroduced to the Word Incarnate and continue to be reminded who He is and what He is like because we have such short term memories.

  14. Danielle V.

    22. Mar, 2011

    Mr. Stoner,

    I followed your post through Jonathan’s facebook; thank you so much for opening up a much-needed venue of discussion on this. It is great to see Christians boldly standing up for the truth in the gospel, even when it seems unpopular to the masses. Below is a link to another commentary by Kevin DeYoung on Bell’s book that hits a lot of the same points as you do but chooses to expand on some different things (after all, everyone has to make choices unless they want to write a whole book). I’d be interested to know your thoughts!

    http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2011/03/14/rob-bell-love-wins-review/?comments#comments#comment-15784

  15. Tim Stoner

    22. Mar, 2011

    Thanks Danielle. I will read his response. I’ve heard a lot about it. Jonathan was the first to bring it up. I will let you know what I think.

  16. Tim Stoner

    22. Mar, 2011

    Dwight: In post modernity everything is important and (thus) nothing is important. Put another way, when all stories are equally significant no story is truly significant. Along those lines, when I was in a charismatic church context I remember thinking–when I heard one more declaration that “God told me”–when everything is SIGNIFICANT nothing is significant. I agree, we have devalued many words by careless use. And now we see the results of having emptied out the word “love” of real, substantial and costly weight. Like taking a silver dollar, scraping out 95% the precious metal and filling it with aluminium. Not worth much.

  17. Tim Stoner

    22. Mar, 2011

    Jonathan: Well, speak for yourself, I have no significant problems with memory loss. It’s just names, dates and other similar issues that I occasionally stumble over. And, of course also. . . . it will come to me.

  18. Becky N.

    23. Mar, 2011

    Just knowing that a book like “Love Wins” is out there is so troubling. What’s really “appalling” and “inconceivable” is that a church leader and teacher of God’s Word would be leading so many people away from the truth.

    By shrinking our awesome God down to someone who has to “live up to our criteria for rightness and fair play” and be a “culturally-accepted deity,” Rob Bell shows that he has been totally caught up in and deceived by our politically correct society where Christians have to present God as inoffensively as possible. To have a “higher view of God with its intense depicitons of future judgement” as you describe, is not a pleasant or comfortable way to present him to others. It’s far easier and more acceptable to present Him as loving, merciful, forgiving…SAFE. But as we know from “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe,” He is not safe, but He is good.

    Satan is definitely upping his efforts in his war for men’s souls. He has deceived even the elect as it says in the Bible. So now what will we say to the unbeliever who reads “Love Wins” and asks “Why should I confess that I’m a sinner or say I need Jesus’ forgiveness? Obviously I’m o.k. just the way I am. There’s no hell to worry about unless I’m Hitler or Manson or someone like that.”

    I love your part about getting back to the Bible, reading it from beginning to end to get our right view of God and the right view of ourselves. I have been trying to talk to an unsaved friend who has many doubts and questions about God and a lot of anger toward Him after losing his wife to illness. I finally asked him if he would read the Bible from beginning to end, I didn’t know how else to describe to him who and what God is. He said if I got him one he’d read it. Needless to say, I got him one. Your words have re-assured me that it was the right thing to do.
    It’s a Living Bible with study helps and guides for new or non-believers. May God’s majesty in all of His love, justice, mercy and power be revealed to my friend as he reads God’s holy, mighty and marvelous words.

  19. Jonas

    30. Mar, 2011

    Thank you, Tim Stoner. Thank you.

  20. [...] by Tim Stoner, author of “>The God Who Smokes. (You can read Stoner’s article here … and yes, that’s his real [...]

  21. Ralph Shoemaker

    01. Aug, 2011

    The very recent death of Rev. John Stott causes me to reflect briefly on three views among Christians of today which are in some disagreement with each other. Two evangelical views exist; annihilationism, which is the belief that hell is incineration into non-existence, which was favored by Stott, although he did not become an Adventist, rather than eternal conscious torment (the traditional Evangelical approach) as reflected by his dear friend Rev. Billy Graham, for example.

    The Roman Catholic Church encourages the belief in a third option, often called “Universalism.” For example, the Second Vatican Council maintained the doctrine that all will be saved in the Apokatastasis or Final Restoration of All Things.

    The following is taken from the constitution Gaudium et Spes (1:45, 2:57).

    While helping the world and receiving many benefits from it, the Church has a single intention: that God’s kingdom may come, and that the salvation of the whole human race may come to pass. For every benefit which the People of God during its earthly pilgrimage can offer to the human family stems from the fact that the Church is ‘the universal sacrament of salvation’ simultaneously manifesting and actualising the mystery of God’s love.

    For God’s Word, by whom all things were made, was Himself made flesh so that as perfect man He might save all men and sum up all things in Himself. The Lord is the goal of human history, the focal point of the longings of history and of civilization, the center of the human race, the joy of every heart and the answer to all its yearnings. He it is Whom the Father raised from the dead, lifted on high and stationed at His right hand, making Him judge of the living and the dead. Enlivened and united in His Spirit, we journey toward the consummation of human history, one which fully accords with the counsel of God’s love: ‘To reestablish all things in Christ, both those in the heavens and those on the earth’ (Eph. 1:10).

    … Moreover, by the impulse of grace, he is disposed to acknowledge the Word of God, Who before He became flesh in order to save all and to sum up all in Himself was already ‘in the world’ as ‘the true light which enlightens every man’ (John 1:9-10).”

    The following early Fathers of the Church are said to have taught that all will finally be saved.

    Pantaenus; Clement of Alexandria; Origen; Athanasius; Didymus the Blind; Macarius of Egypt; Gregory Thaumaturgus; Ambrose; Ephraim; John Chrysostum; Gregory of Nyssa; Gregory of Nazianzus; Jerome of Bethlehem; Evagrius Ponticus; Titus of Bastra; Asterius of Amasea; Cyril; Methodius of Tyre; Pamphilius Eusibius; Hillary of Poitiers; Victorinus; Macrina the Younger; Dionysius the Areopagite; John Cassian; Maximus the Confessor; Proclus of Constantinople; Peter Chrysologus; Diodorus of Tarsus; Stephen bar Sudaili.

    Hans Urs von Balthasar argued in favor of the doctrine; he has been called Pope John Paul’s favorite theologian and he founded a theological journal with Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict.

    In his encyclical Redemptoris Missio, Pope John Paul II expresses forcefully the same position defended by Balthasar. “If Christ desires the salvation of all and if there is a ‘real possibility of salvation in Christ for all humanity,’ hope for all is simply part of what it means to follow Christ.”

    I personally share this Hope - for if one such as I can be saved, then there is this same hope for all humankind. Without this Hope, Christ would have sacrificed Himself for naught. With the Grace of God shed abroad in all creation, all things are possible.

  22. Lawyer

    15. Aug, 2013

    Awesome. The truth is that, I had been fitting running a blog about this idea these days. You’ve prodded me to refine my line of reasoning.

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