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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).

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

The Heresy of Hell

I am currently preparing a snazzy new, annotated edition of Rev. Thomas Allin's 1885 classic, Universalism Asserted. Anyway, I just wanted to float one of Allin's objections to hell past your discerning gaze and see what you think of it.

Allin is very concerned with being true to the catholic faith of orthodox Christianity and perhaps his chief concern with hell is that it is, in his view, incompatible with orthodoxy!

At first blush that claim seems absurd, given that most orthodox Christians since the sixth century at least have affirmed eternal hell! So a little clarification is in order. Allin does not mean that those who affirm hell are unorthodox. Rather, his point is that eternal hell is a cuckoo in the nest that is a live threat to the rest of the chicks.

Perhaps an illustration: if hell continues to all eternity then sinners continue in their resistance to God for all eternity, sin continues forever, evil continues forever. As such, we end up with an everlasting cosmic dualism in which good and evil are co-eternal. Even if God can imprison sin in an eternal chamber in some corner of creation, he has not undone and defeated it, but merely contained it. But such an idea threatens to undermine some central Christian convictions about God and evil.

Allin also argues that a hell from which there is no ultimate restoration—whether that be eternal torment or annihilation—would undermine the doctrine of God (his love, his justice, his goodness, his omnipotence), the victory of Christ, the power of the atonement, and so on and so forth.

Of course, those who believe in hell also affirm God's love and justice, omnipotence, the atonement, divine victory, etc. But, Allin's point is that when they do so they either have to add in qualifications that serve to undermine the very beliefs that they affirm or they have to simply ignore the contradictions in their belief set and talk out of both sides of their mouth at the same time.

Given the oft-heard, though incorrect, assertion that universalism is heretical, what is interesting is that the heart of Allin's case, though he does not put it in these words, is that in order to maintain a consistent and healthy Christian orthodoxy one ought to jettison belief in eternal hell. Hell, in other words, is bad for orthodoxy.


Who said Anglicans were wishy-washy!

18 comments:

David said...

Yup... that looks about right to me! Thanks for sharing!

Keen Reader said...

I find it hard to imagine either heaven or hell, what they might actually be like as places. There must be some books I could read by those who have attempted to do so?

I don't just mean abstract propositions (heaven must have this, hell must be that) but what these places might actually look like, what things they would contain, how they would function, concrete attributes.

Robin Parry said...

Dante's "Divine Comedy" is pretty good for a mediaeval take on hell, purgatory, and heaven. That's full of concrete stuff.

Terry Wright said...

David Lawrence's Heaven: It's Not the End of the World has some good stuff in it, too.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Heaven-World-Biblical-Promise-Earth/dp/0862019508/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1427225823&sr=8-1&keywords=david+lawrence+heaven

Robin Parry said...

So it does.

Though, speaking for myself, I am very cautious about being too concrete about the new age. I think some kind of "fuzzy" is very appropriate.

Terry Wright said...

To be fair, I think Lawrence does acknowledge that he's speculating. But I found his speculations very interesting.

Eric McCarty said...

I'm looking forward to seeing Allin's book republished. His argument against the eternal coexistence of evil is, I think, underappreciated--even among Christian Universalists. He is pretty strong on the rhetoric, but given the subject matter, he has the right to be. He seems as mad about evil as the Father Himself!

Keen Reader said...

Thanks, the Lawrence book looks interesting. All other suggestions welcome.

Keen Reader said...

Oh, one other thing. Animals in heaven, yes or no? [Suggested reading on this would be welcome too.]

Robin Parry said...

Animals? Read Chris Southgate, "The Groaning of Creation." He says Yes.

James Goetz said...

I find it hard to believe that I used to attempt theodicy with the Western Christian tradition of hell....

Clarice said...

Fascinating. It makes so much sense. I have realized as of late that my belief in eternal punishment was more about my own selfishness than about me believing that it took away from the Cross (which is what I would claim). As far as hell being a place... I have always thought of hell being the total absence of God. God is light and goodness He is all that is wonderful He is love and light and purity and joy. So without Him none of these would exist and it would be... well hell. I do wonder about heaven and hell being an actual physical place. So interesting

Anonymous said...

There is a hell and this was proven to me in the summer of 1988, whilst eating a vindaloo currywith Robin at the Bilash in Botley. It also confirmed the existence of angels when the hot lemon towels appeared afterwards!!

Robin Parry said...

Ha!
Hello anonymous. You could be one of several people, but I am going to take a guess at Andy Hill. Right?

Anonymous said...

Aye spot on Robin!! Tis I, the Geordie one that speaketh in tongues of unrecognisable language!
Andy H

Solarize said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Solarize said...

LOL

Solarize said...

Now that my mind no longer fits into the 'reformed' theological box, I can actually agree with the spirit of truth and rejoice in my heart when reading this! Thank you Abba Daddy!