"Burning Love" (Rethinking Hell talk)

This is a talk I did at the Rethinking Hell conference in 2015 at Fuller Theological Seminary.


So good. Thanks for posting your talk!
Robin Parry said…
Thanks. I am glad you found it helpful.
Anonymous said…
Dr. Parry, pardon my intrusion, but I was told that in one of your books you address some of the strangeness in Revelation, specifically the part where God works directly with Satan. The person who told me this was unable to tell me in what book. I am hoping you might be able to tell me.

thank you for your time,
Robin Parry said…
Perhaps they refer to a section in my revelation chapter in The Evangelical Universalist. I briefly discuss Satan there
Young and Rested said…
Edward Feser just put up a Thomistic defense of eternal hell on his blog (http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2016/10/how-to-go-to-hell_29.html#more). I was wondering if you'd be able to comment on this approach. Here is the crux of his argument:

"Prior to death, it is always possible for the human will to correct course, for the reasons described above. A passion inclining one to evil can be overcome; a bad habit can be counteracted by a contrary appetite; new knowledge might be acquired by which an erroneous judgment can be revised. Hence, at any time before death, there is at least some hope that damnation can be avoided.

But after death, Aquinas argues, things are different. At death the soul is separated from the body, a separation which involves the intellect and will – which were never corporeal faculties in the first place – carrying on without the corporeal faculties that influenced their operation during life. In effect, the soul now operates, in all relevant respects, the way an angelic intellect does. Just as an angel, immediately after its creation, either takes God as its ultimate end or something less than God as its ultimate end, so too does the disembodied human soul make the same choice immediately upon death. And just as the angel’s choice is irreversible given that the corporeal preconditions of a change are absent, so too is the newly disembodied soul’s choice irreversible, and for the same reason. The corporeal preconditions of a change of orientation toward an ultimate good, which were present in life, are now gone. Hence the soul which opts for God as its ultimate end is “locked on” to that end forever, and the soul which opts instead for something less than God is “locked on” to that forever. The former soul therefore enjoys eternal beatitude, the latter eternal separation from God or damnation.

The only way a change could be made is if the soul could come to judge something else instead as a higher end or good than what it has opted for. But it cannot do so. Being disembodied, it lacks any passions that could sway it away from this choice. It also, like an angel, now lacks any competing appetite which might pull its will away from the end it has chosen. Thus it is immediately habituated to aiming toward whatever, following death, it opted for as its highest end or good – whether God or something less than God. Nor is there any new knowledge which might change its course, since, now lacking sensation and imagination and everything that goes with them, it does not know discursively but rather in an all-at-once way, as an angel does. There is no longer any cognitive process whose direction might be corrected.

But might not the resurrection of the body restore the possibility of a course correction? Aquinas answers in the negative. The nature of the resurrection body is necessarily tailored to the nature of the soul to which it is conjoined, and that soul is now locked on to whatever end it opted for upon death. The soul prior to death was capable of change in its basic orientation only because it came into existence with its body and thus never had a chance to “set,” as it were. Once it does “set,” nothing can alter its orientation again."

This explanation seems highly problematic to me. It brings up the obvious question of why God would allow anyone to become "set" in a God/good rejecting delusion. It also seems curious to me that the intellect and will would be able to be reformed but only when attached to a fallen, corporeal body. There's a whole bunch of other issues that I see as well, but I must admit that I'm no scholar so I'm cautious to claim that this system makes no sense.

It seems to be an interesting way to justify a belief that you already have, but I don't find it persuasive.
Robin Parry said…
Thanks. I love Edward Feser and would need to read his whole article and reflect on it to offer a proper response. It is certainly fascinating. (And being a fan of Thomas Aquinas I always take Thomistic stuff seriously.)

My initial reaction is this: I think your instincts are spot on. There is a major problem with God creating creatures will be be locked forever in a God-forsaking direction. A host of issues swirl around that, which I will not dwell on as I have discussed them in various paces.

Also, one wonders about how to give an account of Purgatory, which as a good Catholic Feser would affirm. Those there are disembodied but my understanding of purgatory is that they still have a lot of issues re: their passions, etc. that need sorting out. But lacking bodies how are such changes to occur? (I do not doubt that there are things that could be said here, but I suspect there will be issues.)

Further, if the disembodied soul has no passions to sway it, but is pure intellect, then I am unclear why God cannot simply correct the intellectual errors that led to their fixing upon a false god and redirect it that way. Feser's reasoning on why this cannot happen (see above) seems unpersuasive. He'd need to flesh it out and defend it to give it any traction.

Plus, I am not convinced that a disembodied soul would lack passions. That claim would at very least warrant exploration.

Finally, his comments on resurrection bodies are unpersuasive. In the scenario we have a disembodied that was fixed because it lacked a body now reunited with a body. This ought to unlock it again on the anthropological model Feser set out. The fact that our original body and soul came into existence together while in the resurrection case the soul went through a fixed period before being reunited to a body is not obviously relevant. It is a disanalogy, but why must my soul remain fixed now because of it? We deserve an answer to that Q or we have every right to say, "Nope."

In the end, I suspect, as do you, that the conclusion is given to start with and we simply need to construct an argument to prop it up.

So like you I am not persuaded. I'll try to find some time to look at it properly.

faithquestradio.com said…
Hello Sir,

I'd like to ask a few questions if I may, but I'm not sure if I will get a response here. Would this be the place - before I launch into my inquiries? Thanks.
Robin Parry said…
You are welcome to ask question. I do not promise to know the answers.
Jeff O'Neal said…
I looked you up to see if your theology was sound as I was contemplating buying your commentary on Lamentations from Logos/Faithlife. I have had an earful at the 40-minute mark of your 80-minute false gospel. I will NOT be buying any of your books or your theology. These teachings are accursed (Gal 1:6-9, cited below). It is despicable how you so sweetly and eloquently tickle ears and lull people into thinking they can do nothing worthy of condemnation – the god you dreamed up is just a big huggy-bear in Heaven – SURPRISE!
“And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.” (Is 66:24 ESV, typical).
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Mt 7:13–14).
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Mt 10:28 ESV).
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’” (Mt 25:41).
And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. (Mk 9:47–48).
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; (2 Pe 2:4).
and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Re 20:10).

Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Re 20:14–15).
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Ga 1:6–9).

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