Greetings! And welcome to the gamdalfsbeardblog. I am a self-identifying Christian, by which I mean I have devoted my life to imitating a crucified Jewish peasant, teacher, and miracle-worker named Joshua of Nazereth. (Joshua is better known in English as “Jesus.”) However, Jesus did not remain dead. I sincerely think that his buried body was resurrected from the dead into a new mode of life, and that it is God’s desire for everyone to share in this way of being.
On this blog, I seek to represent an ecumenical perspective mostly discuss. That is, on this blog, I try to incorporate ideas from all major sects of Christianity, including Protestantism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Roman Catholicism. In general, I like to focus on topics relating to Christian theology, inter-faith theology, politics and its relationship to Christianity, and the science and faith dialogue from an ecumenical perspective.
Although I am currently trying to branch out on topics, this blog actually started as a safe place for me to write extensively about my views on Christian universalism, which is the idea that all humans (and, depending on the universalism, all demons and non-human creatures, too) will ultimately be restored to a proper relationship with God. As I approach the topic, Christian universalism presupposes a number of important ideas.
One, universalism presupposes life after death. Technically, my version presupposes “life after ‘life after death'” (N. T. Wright). That is, universalism as I approach it presupposes resurrection. After a period of time being dead, I think that humanity will be brought back to some kind of physical life. There is no good philosophical reason (of which I am aware) to doubt the possibility of resurrection within a classical theistic framework. (I accept classical theism.)
Two, universalism presupposes the goodness of God. Because God is good on a level which we can understand and intuit, God does not want anyone to remain outside of his Kingdom forever, and if He can, will do something to help people. Help them from what?
Three, universalism — historically speaking — presupposes some sort of “Hell.” There are a number of ways to define “Hell” in Christian discourse. With philosopher of eschatology (eschatology traditionally discusses Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, and Judgment Day) Jerry L. Walls, I agree that it is unreasonable to think of Hell is “unbearable punishment” which “lasts forever.” If God is good on any sort of level, then even Hell is not a place where God exacts revenge on persons (Jean-Luc Marion). At worst, Hell could be some kind of quarantine that is “locked from the inside” (C. S. Lewis).
In contrast to the idea of Hell as an everlasting and final abode (a very typical way in which mainstream Christians have conceptualized Hell), one of the earliest Christian universalists — the philosopher Origen of Alexandria — believed that Hell was a remedial punishment. To put that in modern terms, Origen believed that Hell and Purgatory were the same concept. God sends people to Hell in order to purify (purge) them for Heaven. Gregory of Nyssa (sainted in Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism) was very influenced by Origen, and also espoused a Purgatorial concept of Hell. It is important to emphasize that, in order for universalism to be true within a framework that acknowledges Hell, Hell must on some level be an essentially remedial punishment. Not only must Hell be remedial; it must also be a universally (“universalism”) successful remedy for the malady of personal evil.
If you are following my description, you might be aware of the logical possibility that Hell could be a remedial punishment (a type of Purgatory), but not a universally successful remedy. Such a thought ought to be, to any remotely kind person, an “abominable tragedy” (David Bentley Hart). However, in my personal spiritual and intellectual journey, I currently struggle to deny or otherwise eliminate completely the possibility that, due to no fault whatsoever on God’s part, some persons might actually end up preferring Hell to Heaven. Naturally, I wish that everyone — even the Devil himself, if possible — will go to Heaven. But, as a philosopher, I simply do not see sufficient reasons to have a dogmatic confidence that Hell will be a universally successful remedial punishment. Will Hell be a strictly remedial punishment? I believe so. But will that remedy be successful for everyone? I simply do not see a way to be sure that it will. Perhaps some persons (again, due to no fault on God’s part), will choose Hell forever. However, it is also possible that, as Origen and Gregory of Nyssa taught, God’s purifying essence is simply so powerful and overwhelming that no one will possibly remain in Hell forever. This possibility should no be denied either.
Therefore, I have come to strongly believe that the best approach to Christian universalism is to hope that all persons will be saved without presuming upon it. Karl Barth (a Protestant), Kallistos Ware (an Eastern Orthodox), and Hans Urs von Balthasar (a Roman Catholic) all came to believe something similar. If you read some of my older posts, they will sometimes reflect different approaches to universalism. (I used to be more dogmatic about it.) In this “About” section, I merely wish to convey as clearly as possible where I currently stand on this and other issues.
If you’re interested in questions about Christianity, then I hope that this can be an insightful blog for you.