When two theological heavyweights clash with one another, the ensuing dialogue can be fireworks. But one can learn a lot about the state of the church from such disputes.
The immensely erudite and (apparently recently) idiosyncratic Eastern Orthodox David Bentley Hart published an extended essay, Tradition and Apocalypse: An Essay on the Future of Christian Belief (Listen to this summary in Hart’s own words). Hart has been one of the greatest theological voices undermining the pretentiousness of the New Atheist movement. In exposing the fault lines of thinkers like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, Hart’s Atheist Delusions has been regarded as one of the finest polemical works against early 21st century atheism.
Alas, Hart’s star has since fallen after his That All Shall Be Saved, a bold and dogmatically absolutist defense of a Christian universalism, which argues that while there is still a future hell and divine judgment, that experience of hell is ultimately purgative and redeeming, such that none are ultimately lost in the very end.
Like what former megachurch pastor and now California surfer and podcaster Rob Bell strongly hinted at, and what the author of the evangelical blockbuster novel, The Shack, William Paul Young finally came out and admitted, at least to a certain degree, the brilliant and exceedingly well-read David Bentley Hart has whole-heartedly endorsed a theological position that has historically been condemned by the vast majority of Christians. Hart does not care. Anyone who disagrees with him about universalism is effectively morally challenged, in his view, and he is not afraid to unload condescension on his critics.
That was just a few years ago. Now that this previous storm has passed, he has yet again triggered even more controversy.
1 Comment | tags: apocalyptic, david bentley hart, eastern orthodoxy, Gerald McDermott, Nicene Creed, progressive christianity, tradition, universalism | posted in Apologetics
What happens after we die? Is there a “heaven?” Is there a “hell?” If so, what does either of these look like?
The historical development of these ideas is the subject of Bart Ehrman’s Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife. Bart Ehrman is perhaps the world’s best known critic of evangelical Christian faith, having grown up in the evangelical world until he deconverted out of it in graduate school. His New York Times best selling Misquoting Jesus has made him one of most widely read biblical scholars in our day at the popular level, sought after by the media almost every time a major story arises within Christianity.
With such a title, Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife really peaked my interest. As you will read in this review, I really got into it and made dozens of notes. For over the past few years during the COVID pandemic, I have known of several friends who died of the disease, some of whom were at a relatively young age. I, myself, had a close brush with death about four years ago, after an automobile slammed into my bicycle on a busy road, throwing me back into the driver’s windshield. Thankfully, the only major injury I had was a concussion, that knocked me out cold for about an hour. The paramedics told me that I could have easily died, if the driver had hit me at a higher rate of speed. So, the topic of the afterlife is pretty pertinent to me, a lot more urgent than when I was a teenager, when I thought I was invulnerable to death.
2 Comments | tags: Albert Schweitzer, apocalyptic, Bart Ehrman, Harrowing of Hell, Heaven, Hell, Lee Strobel, Life After Death, michael heiser, Randy Alcorn, Walter Bauer | posted in Apologetics