A stunning reexamination of one of the essential tenets of Christian belief from one of the most provocative and admired writers on religion today
The great fourth†‘century church father Basil of Caesarea once observed that, in his time, most Christians believed that hell was not everlasting, and that all would eventually attain salvation. But today, this view is no longer prevalent within Christian communities.
In this momentous book, David Bentley Hart makes the case that nearly two millennia of dogmatic tradition have misled readers on the crucial matter of universal salvation. On the basis of the earliest Christian writings, theological tradition, scripture, and logic, Hart argues that if God is the good creator of all, he is the savior of all, without fail. And if he is not the savior of all, the Kingdom is only a dream, and creation something considerably worse than a nightmare. But it is not so. There is no such thing as eternal damnation; all will be saved. With great rhetorical power, wit, and emotional range, Hart offers a new perspective on one of Christianity’s most important themes.
In this provocative, informative treatise, philosopher Hart (The Experience of God) provides an emphatic, soundly reasoned case for universal salvation as the only possible theological position logically acceptable for Christian believers. Examining traditional Christian dogma about the existence of hell, the threat of eternal damnation, and the doctrine of predestination, Hart blames the widespread acceptance of these doctrines on bad translations and faulty interpretations of scripture, incoherent logic, and "communal self-deception." Instead, he argues that the "sheer moral hideousness" of these beliefs emphatically contradicts Christianity's fundamental claims about God's just and loving nature. Mincing no words, Hart declares his impatience with "twentieth-century biblical fundamentalism and its manifest imbecilities" and writes: "We should all already know that whenever the terms justice' and eternal punishment' are set side by side as if they were logically compatible, the boundaries of the rational have been violated." Lamenting that Christian tradition embraced Augustine's misinterpretation of the apostle Paul's theology of grace, Hart educates the reader on the lesser-known works of Gregory of Nyssa and claims his arguments in favor of universal salvation offer a more faithful, logical Christian theology. While Hart expresses doubts that his arguments will sway many Christians, his resounding challenge to orthodox Christian views on hell and his defense of God's ultimate goodness will prove convincing and inspiring to the open-minded.