Can NT Wright Have It Both Ways?

On the issue of Hell, NT Wright seems to be on a lonely island. (Sophie Gerrard, Christianity Today)

Keith DeRose doesn’t think so. DeRose, a philosopher at Yale and correspondent with YFB, has posted a retort to Wright’s posture of both emphasizing the “Kingdom-Now” theology that he’s made famous, while holding onto a belief while holding onto a belief in a grim fate for unbelievers, set at their deaths. Among the strange (and not particularly biblical) claims that Wright makes regarding Hell is that the lost will devolve to a kind of subhuman state and will thus be beyond human pity.

There are other problems, too. Here’s Keith:

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God Is Not Eternal

Writing a book on the atonement is like peeling the layers of an onion. Everything theological dilemma you solve only brings up two more dilemmas. So it was that I needed to write a section in the book on God’s relationship to time, because it seemed to make no sense to talk about God’s relationship to Jesus’ crucifixion unless I could explain God’s relationship to time.

So a couple weeks back, I write a post arguing that God is not outside of time. When he read that, Keith DeRose sent me Nicholas Wolterstorff‘s classic essay, “God Everlasting” (in Contemporary Philosophy of Religion, New York: Oxford, 1982).

In that essay, Wolterstorff argues that God is not eternal, God is everlasting.

His argument proceeds thusly:

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Suspicions that God May Not Exist

Keith DeRose

Keith DeRose, philospher at Yale and running partner of Miroslav Volf, has a long and thoughtful post on “Delusions of Knowledge” that lead to a loss of faith. Worth the read, if you have the time — and don’t miss the comments. Here’s a taste:

However, over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with some people who did get to the point–often for years, during adulthood–of acting and talking as if they knew that God existed, but who later “gave up the faith,” as it’s often put (often by their disappointed relatives and/or former colleagues in the faith), becoming atheists or self-described agnostics. They of course didn’t take themselves to know that God existed at the post-crash time that I talked with them, but what I found most interesting was asking them what they now thought of their past selves. Did their past selves sincerely take themselves to know that God existed?

This tends to get complicated quickly. Though there are important differences among people I’ve talked to, they usually thought that there was some element of insincerity, lack of genuineness, or even phoniness, in the certainty they had earlier projected to the world. But it generally doesn’t seem to have been cases of straightforward deceiving of others: they often think that they themselves had been deceived about what was going on. That their earlier selves had been under a delusion of knowledge about God’s existence fits in quite well with the picture that many of these people have of their earlier, confident-sounding selves.

Often, their becoming atheists or agnostics was a process of becoming aware of the possibility (though some seem to think that deep down they always had this worry, in which cases the process seems to have begun by coming to face a possibility they had always been dimly aware of) that the certainty they seemed to feel was not an honest or genuine response to what experience of God they might have had, but was largely motivated by the desire for their experience of God to be genuine and/or was driven by social forces involving identifying with the believers (or at least folks they took to be believers) around them, and then that suspicion growing to the point that they felt the honest response was just to admit that they don’t, and never did, have any genuine knowledge of God’s existence.

Read the rest: God’s Existence and My Suspicion: Delusions of Knowledge – The Prosblogion.

The Post You NEED to Read about Universalism

It resides at Keith DeRose’s site.  Keith, often referenced by me, is a philosophy professor at Yale.  Keith has written publicly for years in defense of Christian Universalism, and he regularly corresponds with me privately on the subject.  Rob Bell, at least according to the New York Times, is unlikely to answer many questions on this topic in his forthcoming book:

Judging from an advance copy, the 200-page book is unlikely to assuage Mr. Bell’s critics. In an elliptical style, he throws out probing questions about traditional biblical interpretations, mixing real-life stories with scripture.

Much of the book is a sometimes obscure discussion of the meaning of heaven and hell that tears away at the standard ideas. In his version, heaven is something that begins here on earth, in a life of goodness, and hell seems more a condition than an eternal fate — “the very real consequences we experience when we reject all the good and true and beautiful life that God has for us.”

No such worries with Keith.  Keith deals straightforwardly and forthrightly with the biblical passages that affirm universalism, and those that contradict it.  No beating around the bush here.

I have taken a brief respite from blogging about the possibility of Christian Universalism as I put the finishing touches on my dissertation (due next Tuesday!).  But when I return to this topic, I will be thinking through the biblical witness on this topic, and I’ll use Keith’s manifesto as my ur-source.  So if all the Rob Bell brouhaha has gotten you thinking about Universalism, read this paragraph, and click through to the rest of Keith’s writing: [Read more...]


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