DBH and the necessity of universalism

As happens with many of us who begin to see the rationale behind universalism, David Bentley Hart has lately been introducing apokatastatis into more big picture discussions of Christian doctrine. For instance, yesterday at the Creation Out of Nothing: Origins and Contemporary Significance conference at Notre Dame, Hart gave a talk that began with creation ex nihilo particularly in regard to the problem of evil, a topic for which he has become somewhat renowned since at least his book, The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? But from there, he could not help closing the loop by bringing in a full discussion of eschatology.

Hart maintains that because creation is not theogany – not necessary to God’s nature or essence – it is theophany – a divine disclosure. Every act of history, no matter how cruel, can only be in some sense “an arraignment of God’s goodness”, for which no full answer is given “until the end of all things”. This leads to his characterization of the final judgment as a more full disclosure of Himself (starting at 9:25).

It would be impious, I think, to suggest that in his final divine judgment of creatures God also judges Himself, but one must hold that by that judgment God truly will disclose Himself, which of course is to say the same thing in a more hushed and reverential voice.

Even Paul in the tortured conditional voice of Romans 9 dares to ask whether there might be vessels of wrath stored up solely for destruction only because he trusts that there are not; that instead all are bound in disobedience and only so that God might prove Himself just by showing mercy on all. The argumentum ad baculum is a terrifying specter but it’s only momentarily conjured up so it can be immediately chased away by a more decisive and radiant argumentum ad veritatem.

The above quote only scratches the surface of his discussion on the topic, but I’ll leave the rest for you to find. He also covers a breadth of related topics, including his problems with original sin and a couple of other Reformed sacred cows (charitably, by the way). Be sure to keep an ear peeled to hear him glowingly mention this blog’s patron “saint” (let the reader understand).

Universalism is not merely a fond wish or an inconsequential theological conviction: the ultimate homecoming of all creation is nothing short of the terminus ad quem for all existence – not even merely the linchpin of the divine logic, but the goal toward which God’s mind is ever turning and toward which every act of divine will is directed. Universal reconciliation is required for the fulfillment of God’s very nature.

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