Carson: On Banishing The Lake Of Fire


Joe gave me a scan of D. A. Carson’s chapter on universalism from his book “The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism”, Zondervan Publishing Company (February 1996):Carson-OnBanishingTheLakeOfFire.pdf (1.02 MB)


Thanks Alex and Joe! This is a book I wouldn’t purchase, but a chapter that I will enjoy reading.


I’m glad I could help you out Bob :slight_smile:

It’s good people are starting to publicly reject ECT, although it’s a shame they only go as far as, the slightly more merciful but just as hopeless, annihilationism. Hopefully these people will embrace EU when it has enough mainstream legitimacy…

I’m glad the fate of all the millions (billions eventually, especially considering all the miscarriages & abortions) who have never even heard of Christ, but traditionally should be going straight to ECT, is seen as something to actually be concerned about.

Well yes, God’s emphasis on love is a major reason :slight_smile:

Fortunately, I don’t think EU falls into this category.

I’m not entirely sure what he is saying here about being “indebted” to “traditionalism” :confused: However, I do think the “fresh questions” of EU does “call forth more light” than ECT :mrgreen:


Interestingly he is admitting here that both annihilationists and universalists can still be evangelicals! Like Packer, he sees the main (only?) argument is from the love of God. Whilst obviously I agree that’s a major argument, I also think it’s one of many. It’s interesting he then says only universalism “overly speculative” and “impossible to sustain in the light of specific texts of Scripture” :unamused:

I’d say there are “specific texts” and entire Biblical themes, that are make ECT “impossible to sustain” :neutral_face:


I read it as him saying the these are annihilationist categories. When he speaks of “this period of suffering” he is referring to those that hold to the view that: “the unrepentant suffer consciously for a while, and are then annihilated”.
I don’t see any reference to universalists here.


:confused: If everyone has repented and hell is empty, doesn’t that mean everyone has been saved and universal reconciliation has been achieved?


Yea, I see what you mean, but it’s a different spin- these folks in this scenario are under threat of annihilation, not ECT.


I agree, his main focus here is annihilationists and universalists just get a quick whack.


I think it’s good that the Bible translations have improved in this area, as it means less biasing of readers and makes it easier to see ECT doesn’t fit Scripture.

That’s a shame, as it’s very much related, and another argument why EU is true and ECT false. i.e. by most people’s sense of justice, sending billions (including abortions, miscarriages, babies, people with mental disabilities, people before Christ, people in areas not yet reached by gospel) to Hell for not believing something they never heard, isn’t Just :open_mouth: (I know the issue is complicated by original sin, but the shear number of people involved… I guess that’s why pre-Calvin(?), they had the concept of mitigation or post-death salvation)

I agree they are important questions.


Whilst I don’t hold “conditional immortality”, some of the points discussed are relevant to EU.

Funny, that came up today over on my Should we form universalist congregations? thread too :slight_smile: At least ECTers and EUs can both oppose this together.

It depends on which approach is taken: either the fire devours and utterly destroys the evilness in a person (e.g. purification) or the fire is just a metaphor for the pain, as Carson suggests. Anyway, I don’t think it’s annihilationism.

“Age” is better than rendering it “eternity”, although I’d go even further and say it’s best rendered “beyond sight”. I certainly agree with the questions posed.


I agree the life and the punishment don’t have to be the same duration as I believe aionios (the word mistranslated as “eternal”) is an undefined period of time beyond sight, rather an infinity. I’d also be disappointed if God permanently lost even one of His children, and I imagine He would be too, as He has a much bigger heart than me.

I totally agree, however, I find annihilationism only a slightly better fit, as God still looses many people I love, and billions more that He loves even more than the ones I love most dearly.


That’s a bold and somewhat suspect claim.






Well said, Pinnock!



We ought to try to worship God with heart, mind and spirit, which is always hard. If one aspect, in this case the heart, is missing, it is much harder, some say impossible, to authentically do that. i.e. ideally the Bible, conscience & reason should align.


No :frowning:


Just noticed this thread and wondered if Don Carson has changed his views since 1996. I know he laid into McLaren, Chalke and others fairly fiercely in his 2005 book “Becoming conversant with the emerging church”, but I wonder if he has published any response to Talbott’s “The Inescapable Love of God” or MacDonald (Parry)'s “The Evangelical Universalist”.


That’s an excellent question! I shall attempt to find out, maybe Joe will know :sunglasses:


Unfortunately Joe doesn’t know of anything more recent. Funny thing is if you Google “Don Carson universalism” you get Luke’s blog and the video he posted of Carson for me :mrgreen: ( comes 2nd & 3rd)

I’ve asked Luke the above question too, and am still looking myself.