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Robin Parry is the husband of but one wife (Carol) and the father of the two most beautiful girls in the universe (Hannah and Jessica). He also has a lovely cat called Monty (who has only three legs). Living in the city of Worcester, UK, he works as an Editor for Wipf and Stock — a US-based theological publisher. Robin was a Sixth Form College teacher for 11 years and has worked in publishing since 2001 (2001–2010 for Paternoster and 2010– for W&S).

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Universalism in the USA

I have just been in the USA (West Coast) for a couple of weeks. I was in the Wipf and Stock offices in Eugene and then at ETS and AAR/SBL in San Francisco. It was exhausting but brilliant.

A few people have asked about some universalism stuff wot I was doing in the USA so here are my quick thoughts:

What struck me on this visit was how open (or, at least, non-hostile) many theologians appear to be towards evangelical universalism. I was not expecting as much of that as I found. Indeed, my impression from various conversations was that there is a lot of sympathy with the view even if many do not feel that they can go there yet. Even some pretty conservative theologians expressed real interest and cautious openness. And those that were against it were not calling me a heretic but simply mistaken.

I did a couple of filmed interviews on universalism (one for a documentary called Hellbound, due out in Dec 2012, and one for an online mini-doc for Christian student types). I was also on a panel discussion on universalism at ETS for over three hours. The topic under discussion was evangelicals and universalism. Here is what struck me — not a single person was aggressive or hostile. The disucssion, though not well attended, was all very gracious and a genuine and open discussion. It was ETS that instigated the discussion and invited me to participate. I thought that was brave and generous of them. My fellow panelists were superb.

One of the great delights was to have Edward Fudge there. He is such a lovely man and though he defends a view quite different from my own (his book, The Fire that Consumes, is the best defence of annihilationism) we get on like brothers in arms. He is a longtime hero of mine.

And, inevitably in the countless conversations I had the topic was brought up regularly (not usually by me) — clearly many people are thinking about it.

Of course, there are many who would resist any kinds of universalism and I don't mind that. But my impression was that there are many more open to the possibility of Christian universalism than was the case even ten years back. And that is not because Christians have gone all liberal but because the case has clear Christian theological merits. The reason that it is hard to kill universalism for good is that it arises from theological reflection on the gospel itself and so even when it is killed off temporarily it so easily rises again.

Anyway, I was not in the USA to do universalist stuff so these are reflections on stuff that happened on the side while I was there. The vast bulk of the time I was discussing book proposals with potential authors and hanging out with my wonderful colleagues at Wipf and Stock.

10 comments:

Kevin Miller said...

Thanks for the mention, Robin. Glad you got to meet Mr. Fudge. We found him a delight as well. Just a brief point of clarification--"Hellbound?" will be coming out in September 2012, not December. And you can look for a trailer in the first quarter of 2012.

Edward Fudge said...

Robin, thanks for the sweet mention. I share your feeling of closeness. and indeed we are "brothers in arms" who stand side by side against the traditionalist hell and against the notion that there is no hell at all. Glad you enjoyed your time in the US.I hope our paths will cross again.
Cordially, Edward

James Goetz said...

What struck me on this visit was how open (or, at least, non-hostile) many theologians appear to be towards evangelical universalism.

Awesome :-)

Alex Smith said...

Thanks Robin! How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! ;-)

Seriously though for many of my friends (& myself) who have been rejected from their churches for being EUs, your report is very encouraging.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this encouraging news, Robin.

Over against this, just wondering if Alex could briefly share with us his experience of being "rejected from ... churches" -- the other side of the coin.

James Goetz said...

Robin,

I also found astonishing amiableness from two former professors of mine who are credentialed ministers with the Assemblies of God (A/G). They wrote an endorsement for my forthcoming book on eschatology that proposes postmortem conversions, despite my need to resign my A/G credentials before going public with my recently modified eschatology. They of course do not endorse my theolgy, but they appreciated my book. :-)

Alex Smith said...

Anonymous, even though my family & I had to leave the church I'd been part of for about 16 years - over my belief in EU - and that was very painful, God still has looked after us in that the one we got invited to & now attend, has been fantastic. Others have had a harder road; some sadly loosing their jobs, as well as their churches, and I believe there's even one member who lost their marriage (church encouraged wife to split over EU! :( ).

Anyway, I don't want to highjack Robin's thread too much so maybe check out some of the Introductions on the Evangelical Universalist forum or email me (xzelan@gmail.com)?

Robin is there any audio recording or video of the ETS EU panel??

Robin Parry said...

Kevin — Thanks for the correction.

Edward – Amen. I hope so too. Look forward to the Movie.

Alex and co. Sadly universalists do continue to be rejected and this will continue to be the case within some evangelical churches. I am pleased that you have found a more welcoming church.

Alex — I think that there may be a recording but I am not sure. I think ETS record everything. Kyle Roberts at Bethel Seminary (the guy who convened the session) should know. Not sure that you'll learn much from it that you did not already know.

Robin

Alex Smith said...

Thanks again Robin, I've messaged Kyle on FB...

Anonymous said...

[ ... there are many more open to the possibility of Christian universalism than was the case even ten years back. And that is not because Christians have gone all liberal but because the case has clear Christian theological merits. The reason that it is hard to kill universalism for good is that it arises from theological reflection on the gospel itself ... ]

AMEN to that !