Book Review: A Catholic Reading Guide to Conditional Immortality


Robert Wild. A Catholic Reading Guide to Conditional Immortality: The Third Alternative to Hell and Universalism. Eugene: Resource Publications, 2016.1

The official Roman Catholic teaching on the subject of hell is that of eternal torment. Despite this, some have suggested that it is theologoumena rather than dogma, similar to the understanding of hell in Eastern Orthodoxy, where universalism and conditionalism (CI) are both possible options. Fr. Robert Wild is a conditionalist Roman Catholic who advocates for considering both conditionalism and universalism as possibilities for Roman Catholics. He argues that conditionalism is the best understanding both biblically and philosophically, and that CI was likely the most widely held belief among the earliest Christians. He concludes that CI can, and should, become the dominant view again. He writes, “I have come to the conclusion that CI is the more probable answer to the question of the fate of those who remain adamant in their refusal to love… I am also convinced that CI was the most ancient belief in the early years of Christian reflection, that of the Apostolic Fathers and the Apologists… I believe that, eventually, CI will assume its original predominant place and become the main view of Christians.” (p. 175-6).

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  1. A free digital copy of this publication was given to the reviewer in exchange for a review. Many thanks to Wipf&Stock/Resource Publications. []

Book Review: Christ Triumphant

Thomas Allin. Christ Triumphant: Universalism Asserted as the Hope of the Gospel on the Authority of Reason, the Fathers, and Holy Scripture (Annotated Edition). Robin Parry (ed.). Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2015.*
Originally published in 1885, Wipf & Stock has released this new, annotated edition of Thomas Allin’s case for universalism. Editor Robin Parry (author of The Evangelical Universalist) has provided an introduction and extensive footnotes throughout, providing bibliographic and historical notations so that this work adheres to current standards of citation and clarifies some particular phrases and references relevant to the 19th century.
Thomas Allin (1838-1909) was an Anglican clergyman, and passionate advocate for universalism (or what he often calls the “larger hope”; Allin does state universalism is a hope, albeit a strong hope, but is not held as dogma). At the time of its publication Universalism Asserted, was among the most thorough examinations of final punishment from a universalist perspective. His three-part argument (examined from reason, historical theology, and Scripture) has been repeated by several authors since (e.g. Robin Parry, in The Evagelical Universalist, though, Parry assures me, he hadn’t actually read Allin until after writing TEU, so the similarities in argument are coincidental). Continue reading “Book Review: Christ Triumphant”

Book Review: The Geography of Hell in the Teaching of Jesus

Kim Papaioannou. The Geography of Hell in the Teaching of Jesus: Gehenna, Hades, the Abyss, the Outer Darkness Where There is Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth. Eugene: Pickwick, 2013.*
Kim Papaioannou has appeared on our podcast in the past, and is a notable advocate of annihilationism. In this book, Papaioannou examines specifically the teachings of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels which give a specific location connected with the post-mortem fate of those who reject God’s salvation using a detailed historical approach (reading Biblical texts alongside other Jewish and Early Christian texts). This limits the discussion to a manageable set of texts and ideas. He notes that within the Synoptics, the locations identified, and the descriptions and functions of those locations vary, so the sections are broken up by the various terms employed by Jesus (I. Gehenna, II. Hades, III. Abyss/Tartarus, IV. Outer Darkness Where There is Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth) and each chapter focuses in on a particular text (or set of synoptic parallels) where these designated locations are used by Jesus. Continue reading “Book Review: The Geography of Hell in the Teaching of Jesus”

Book Review: The Evangelical Universalist

Gregory MacDonald. The Evangelical Universalist (Second Edition). Eugene: Cascade, 2012.*
In 2006, then editor for Paternoster, now with Wipf & Stock, Robin Parry published the first edition of The Evangelical Universalist (hereafter simply TEU) under the pseudonym Gregory MacDonald (combining Gregory of Nyssa and George MacDonald, both notable theologians who were universalists). The goal was to present a case for universalism which was compatible with evangelical commitments to the Gospel and biblical authority. In the preface to the second edition, Parry describes the reasoning behind the pseudonym, and the reasoning behind coming clean that he was the author of this volume. At the time (and to a signficant extent still now, a decade later) being a universalist was taboo in evangelical circles. Perhaps in the so-called “liberal mainline”, but certainly no conservative evangelical Christian who accepts the authority of Scripture could hold this position… right? Parry did not want to raise questions or criticisms for his employer, but, after a few years of blogging under the pseudonym, and interacting with various individuals, he did “come out” in 2009, and in 2012, Wipf & Stock/Cascade published the second edition, with a new preface by Parry, a forward by Oliver Crisp of Fuller Theological Seminary, as well as a few new appendices addressing concerns arising since the first edition, including a response to those who challenged his criticisms of Calvinism, a response to the Rob Bell Love Wins controversy, and a study guide for groups wishing to interact with the book together. Continue reading “Book Review: The Evangelical Universalist”

A Response to Four Views on Hell, Pt. 4 (Jerry Walls on Purgatory)

The first edition of Four Views on Hell was structured quite differently from the recently released second edition. The original featured two versions of eternal torment (literal and metaphorical), conditionalism, and a Catholic purgatorial view. The fact that evangelical universalism was excluded, and purgatory was presented and a Catholic position shows how much evangelical conversations have shifted since that edition. At the time, few would have imagined that evangelical protestants would argue for universalism and purgatory (although, few would have considered conditionalism a valid option for evangelicals either). The landscape has changed, and now, it seems that some evangelical protestants are showing interest in the notion of purgatory, so a protestant argument for purgatory appears in the new edition of Four Views Continue reading “A Response to Four Views on Hell, Pt. 4 (Jerry Walls on Purgatory)”

A Response to Four Views on Hell, Pt. 3 (Robin Parry on Universalism)

Ever read something you know you disagree with but still can’t help but admire the actual argument presented? That’s how I felt about Robin Parry’s presentation in the second edition of Four Views on Hell. Parry is an editor with Wipf & Stock Publishers (who published both Rethinking Books through their subsidiaries Cascade and Pickwick), and a friend of the Rethinking Hell project. Like John Stackhouse, he’s appeared twice on the podcast (here and the second as part of our series with Chris Date and the contributors to Four Views) and he was one of the plenary speakers at the second Rethinking Hell conference at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena in 2015 (that lecture is available on the conference DVD set). But of the four presentations in Four Views, I am inclined to say that Parry’s is the best in the sense of a well argued, compelling case. This isn’t to say I think he’s right, but simply that of the four authors, Parry has plead his case for universal reconciliation better than the other authors did for their views.
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A Response to Four Views on Hell, Pt. 2 (John Stackhouse on Terminal Punishment)

John Stackhouse has been a faithful friend to Rethinking Hell. He has appeared on our podcast twice (Episode 3, and Episode 86). He wrote the foreward to the first Rethinking Hell book, Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism (Eugene: Cascade, 2014), and was a plenary speaker at the first Rethinking Hell conference in 2014 (that address was printed in our second book, A Consuming Passion: Essays in Honor of Edward Fudge. Eugene: Pickwick, 2015.). So Rethinking Hell contributors were pleased to hear he had been tapped on the shoulder to contribute to the second edition of Four Views on Hell.
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A Response to Four Views on Hell, Pt. 1 (Denny Burk on Eternal Torment)

In the discussion of hell, Denny Burk has a very significant advantage; his interpretation is the majority opinion. What cannot be disputed in this discussion is that over the course of 2000 years of Church history the majority (though of course not all) of Christian theological writing has presented that those who reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ will experience eternal conscious torment (ECT) in hell. But one of the things which becomes apparent in reading Denny Burk’s chapter in Four Views on Hell (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 20161 – for a chance to win a copy enter here) is that the scriptural basis for this view being the majority is far more flimsy than this view’s advocates would have us believe. Even though John Stackhouse, Robin Parry, and Preston Sprinkle pointed out several problems (there will be considerable overlap below) there is still much in Burk’s presentation to be covered.2
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  1. Many thanks to Zondervan for providing copies of this book to Rethinking Hell contributors. []
  2. The same can be said of the other contributions which will be reviewed in the near future []

Conditional Immortality, Origen, and the Second Council of Constantinople

In the discussion regarding hell amongst evangelicals, Scripture should be our starting point and final authority. Of course, this doesn’t mean that historical theology is irrelevant. How the biblical texts have been interpreted throughout almost 2000 years of Church history matters in a very real sense. The Church Councils can be informative for our doctrine, but are not supposed to take precedence over Scripture. Sola Scriptura does not mean tradition doesn’t matter, but that Scripture is over tradition. But it’s worth looking at historical theology when trying to shed light on biblical interpretation when it comes to the doctrine of final punishment/hell.
In the discussion of final punishment, the Councils give us precious little to go on. However, some evangelicals have turned to the Second Council of Constantinople to assert that the early Church condemned all views other than eternal conscious torment. Continue reading “Conditional Immortality, Origen, and the Second Council of Constantinople”