The Evangelical Universalist Forum

All Will Be Well - Book update

Here is some more information about the forthcoming book.

The goal is to have chapters on different Christian theological thinkers who were (or arguably ought to have been) universalists. (By ‘ought to have been’ I mean that whilst certain thinkers denied being universalists, the logic of their ‘systematic theology’ pointed in universalist directions. I have people like Barth and Forsyth in mind.) The chapters would seek to show how universalism fitted into their wider theological ‘systems’, explore what aspects of their wider theology led them in that direction and to offer some evaluative comments on the strengths and weaknesses of their universalist theology.

In a nutshell, the thought is that instead of simply noting that they were universalists, or treating their universalism as an item on a list of things they believed, the aim is to treat it in its wider theological context so as to join the dots with the rest of each thinker’s theological ideas.

So here is the outline

(Gregory MacDonald) *

3rd-15th Centuries
Origen (c.185-c.254)
(Tom Greggs)

Gregory of Nyssa (330-394)
(Steve Harmon)

Julian of Norwich (c.1342-1416)
(Robert Sweetman)

17th-19th Centuries
The Cambridge Platonists – (Peter Sterry and Jeremiah White, 17th C)
(Louise Hickman)

Elhanan Winchester (1751-1797)
(Robin Parry) *

Friedrich Schliermacher (1768-1834)
(Murray Rae)

Thomas Erskine (1788-1870)
(Don Horrocks)

George MacDonald (1824-1905)
(Tom Talbott)

20th Century
P. T. Forsyth (1848-1921)
(Jason Goroncy)

Sergius Bulgakov (1871-1944)
(Paul Gavrilyuk)

Karl Barth (1886-1968)
(Oliver Crisp)

Herbert Henry Farmer (1892-1981)
(Christopher Partridge)

Jaques Ellul (1912-1994)

John A. T. Robinson (1919-1983)
(Trevor Hart)

Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988)
(Father Edward Oakes)

John Hick (1922-)
(Lindsay Hall)

Jürgen Moltmann (1926-)
(Nik Ansell)

I am very excited about this project. To the best of my knowledge a project of this kind (surveying the theology of a range of universalists and almost-universalists) had never been attempted before.


kcflynn said…
Are you still looking for someone to write the Jacques Ellul chapter, or are you just trying to finalize who it will be?

If you can’t find anyone else, I’ll do it!!! :slight_smile:

July 16, 2009 1:38 PM

kcflynn said…
Also, I’m interested that Oliver Crisp is writing the chapter on Barth. While I know he appreciates Barth, if I remember correctly he is also quite critical (of course, he was a student of Paul Helm - the uber-Calvinist!). The controversial character of Barth’s supposed universalism likely falls outside of Crisp’s desired orthodoxy…so it will be interesting to see how he treats it!

July 17, 2009 2:33 PM

Pastor Bob Leroe said…
I’d like to see a chapter on Madeline L’Engle

July 21, 2009 8:41 PM

Nimblewill’s Grace said…
In reading briefly articles by John Hick it is hard to imagine why you would have included him. By his own admission he doesn’t believe in the divinity of Christ nor that Christianity is the only valid way to God.

July 28, 2009 10:23 PM

Gregory MacDonald said…

Hi. That’s a kind offer. I will bear it in mind. We have approached someone but are waiting to see if they have time to do it.

re: Crisp. He is not a universalist but he is not closed to the possibility that it might be true. He is, of course, a committed Calvinist but he has argued that there is a case to be made for Calvinist Universalism of a non-Bartian variety (see his article on “Augustinian Universalism”). He has published 2 or 3 times already on Barth’s universalism. His basic argument is simply this. Barth denied that he was a universalist but in doing so he was simply inconsistent because Barth’s theology is clearly universalist.

August 6, 2009 2:35 PM

Gregory MacDonald said…
Pastor Bob

I know - it would be good. The problem is that we already have too many chapters and there are a bunch more we could have added but … perhaps vol 2, eh?

August 6, 2009 2:36 PM

Gregory MacDonald said…
Niblewill’s Grace

Your point on Hick is well taken. In my book I classigy him as a pluralist universalist rather than a Christian universalist.

However, here is the logic: Hick’s universalist case was made before his shift towards pluralism and the case he makes for it is, surprisingly, made on grounds internal to Christian theology. So he does actually make a Christian theological case for universalism even if he has subsequently accentuated his Kantian approach such that this earlier theology seems undermined (or so I think). His theology is ultra-modernist (rather than postmodern) and you are right that his Christology is not good. Very sad really. He was once an evangelical.

August 6, 2009 2:42 PM

David W. Congdon said…
I second the desire for a chapter on L’Engle.

I’m actually really disappointed that Crisp is writing the chapter on Barth. While he does happen to have the one article that argues for why Barth is a universalist (logically speaking), he writes it more to show why Barth is wrong, not right. Crisp is a good guy, and I admire his work. But he is Barth’s theological antithesis.

I would like to have someone write that chapter who will present Barth in as charitable a light as possible. More importantly, I would like someone who understands Barth’s thought within its own internal logic. Crisp is a metaphysical essentialist who thinks Hodge and Turretin got it right. It’s hard for a person like that to really appreciate the nuances of Barth’s post-metaphysical actualistic theology.

Personally, the best person for the job is Bruce McCormack. He gave a lecture at Princeton Seminary in 2007 on Barth and universalism, arguing from Scripture that universalism is a valid option, and then showing what Barth offers to this conversation. He is the perfect person for the job. If not him, then Keith Johnson (currently at Wheaton College) would be a good choice. Ben Myers, obviously. And if nothing else, I would happily do it.

I realize it seems set in stone, but I don’t think Crisp is right for the job. Sorry Oliver. It’s not personal.

August 10, 2009 8:47 PM

David W. Congdon said…
Let me just add that I am very, very excited about this book. It’s a great idea, long overdue.

August 10, 2009 8:49 PM

WTM said…
If space could be found, TF Torrance would be a good figure to include.

August 10, 2009 8:51 PM

Gregory MacDonald said…
T F Torrance will probably be discussed by me in the introduction. We did discuss whether to give him a chapter but in the end backed off.

We may add a chapter on James Relly and his disciple John Murray because of their significance and because they represent a distinct Calvinistic mode of universalism
August 12, 2009 6:28 AM

Have you ever read any of Gerrard W. Hughes’ stuff (the Jesuit priest)? I have always imagined him as a universalist from his writings (not that he’s ever published a theological treatise).

Incidentally, Fr. Oaks is a Jesuit priest. (And one of the world’s experts on Balthasar; so great job with picking him up for that chapter!)

For those who haven’t read Winchester yet (the author Rob/“Gregory” will be writing on), here is a link to a dialogue featuring him.

The text to Jeremiah White’s book (currently minus a key chapter unfortunately) can be found here.

Hi Robin: Out of curiosity, now that you’ve revealed your identity, will the newest book still be under the alias?

Hi Robin,

Are all of the contributing authors Universalists?

What you mean is his Christology is not orthodox, right? I hardly think that is a cause for sadness. People learn and grow. What’s sad to me is when people equate what they consider to be proper doctrinal interpretations with goodness or Godliness.

There is plenty in scripture which calls orthodox Christology into question so it should not be sad or surprising when someone comes to see things differently. AISI what’s important is that we have the reality of Christ operating in us, infinitely more important than being coerced to change the biblical phrase “Son of God” to “God the Son”.

Orthodoxy was the view that eventually “won out” in ‘official’ circles. It was not by any stretch of the imagination the only view, nor is it to this day. There were so many views and for so many years, that far from being the majority view, the orthodox view was only one of many for quite awhile. No one view was ever really fully ratified.

The interesting thing is that what we now call ‘liberal theology’ is actually closer to the original orthodoxy than what we now call orthodox. :laughing:

Denver - yes, the editor will be Gregory MacDonald (people have heard of him)
Jim - no, not all of the authors are universalists but all are willing to give a fair exposition of the universalism of their subjects.


when I said that Hick’s Christology is not ‘good’ I did indeed mean ‘not orthodox’ (and, in my view, therefore mistaken in some respects). However, from this you mistakenly assumed that I was equating sound doctrine with ‘godliness’ or ‘[moral] goodness’. The word ‘good’ has a range of meanings in English: For instance, we can speak of things/actions/people being morally good (‘e.g., ‘He is a good man’, ‘that is a good action’), instrumentally good (e.g., that is a good knife’), or ‘good’ in the sense of approved (‘his answer was good’) as well as various other ways. I intended no comment on Hick’s moral goodness/godliness. I don’t know him. I expect that he is a generally good bloke. What I meant was that I do not approve of his Christology. I think that it is, in some important ways, mistaken. I think that this has knock-on implications for other areas of his theology which can have damaging outcomes. So it is not good (in my view). But I am not taking any stance on his moral integrity.

Hope that helps


And who will write about Elhanan Winchester?:slight_smile:

Mr. MacDonal:

I am in the middle of your book right now. Thanks so much for hard work with the book!

The first paragraph about no longer wanting to sing hymns to God applies to me 100%. You took the words right out of my mouth.

I’ve read enough of your material to know what you meant :slight_smile: . My comment was mainly about your professed sadness concerning his unorthodox Christology - especially when a great case can be made that the scripture does not even support orthodox trinitarian doctrine. I in turn was giving my opinion as to what is really sad as it seems many evangelicals equate proper doctrinal belief with what is required to escape damnation. Even though it has been proven time and time again that the trinity is incomprehensible to humans.

I understand (I think) why it’s important to you for universalism to be orthodox. I (conversely) believe that orthodoxy is way off base when it comes to understanding/describing spiritual reality.

Bart Ehrman has some interesting things to say about how orthodoxy came about, in his book “Jesus Interrupted”.

It would seem to boil down to more or less of a “The victor writes the history” type of situation. The truth of the matter is far more interesting. In the early years of Christianity, what we now call “orthodoxy” (sort of) was in fact just one opinion among many in its proto-orthodoxy form. He also notes that what eventually became known as orthodoxy back then was much more like what we would call liberal theology now.

The orthodox label doesn’t impress me, personally. Biblical consistency does. For example, the ECT doctrine is a product of orthodoxy.

I’m not familiar enough with Hick’s view to pass judgment one way or the other on it specifically.

Mr. Hick came to reject Christian exclusivism as well as literal incarnation doctrine.

So clearly he said enough to deserve a good stake burning had he been born a couple of centuries earlier.

Yes, apparently he went ahead and taped the “kick me” sign to his own back… :laughing:

yep :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: