Author Topic: Universalism And The Church, by Carl E. Braaten (Summer 2020)  (Read 714 times)

Matt Staneck

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"Universalism And The Church: The Biblical-Christian Hope for Salvation Revisited" by Carl E. Braaten

Braaten begins by noting the recent David Bentley Hart book, That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation, but states that his piece is not a review of Hart's work. Braaten has himself engaged this topic over the years and makes use of renewed interest in the topic to revisit some old thoughts about it while attempting to forge some new ones. This article is at the Lutheran Forum website for free.

https://www.lutheranforum.com/blog/universalism-and-the-church-the-biblical-christian-hope-for-universal-salvation-revisited-summer-2020

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« Last Edit: July 11, 2020, 07:29:57 PM by Richard Johnson »
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Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Universalism And The Church, by Carl E. Braaten (Summer 2020)
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2020, 01:41:27 AM »
I remember years ago Martin Marty had an essay in the Christian Century where he argued that no one believes in hell any more. His simple logic (as I remember it): If you have held a match too long and had it burn your fingers, you know the pain of fire. If hell is a place where people suffer eternal fire and we have only a finger-tip-experience of that, we would be shouting at every unbeliever to get them to avoid that huge amount of suffering that comes from being sent to hell. Since he sees almost no one frantically and hysterically calling people, especially unbelieving relatives, to believe to avoid those fires, he was convinced that they don't really believe in hell.
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Re: Universalism And The Church, by Carl E. Braaten (Summer 2020)
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2020, 07:52:16 AM »
I remember years ago Martin Marty had an essay in the Christian Century where he argued that no one believes in hell any more. His simple logic (as I remember it): If you have held a match too long and had it burn your fingers, you know the pain of fire. If hell is a place where people suffer eternal fire and we have only a finger-tip-experience of that, we would be shouting at every unbeliever to get them to avoid that huge amount of suffering that comes from being sent to hell. Since he sees almost no one frantically and hysterically calling people, especially unbelieving relatives, to believe to avoid those fires, he was convinced that they don't really believe in hell.

An interesting argument against the existence of hell, but not convincing biblically or theologically.
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St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

Charles Austin

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Re: Universalism And The Church, by Carl E. Braaten (Summer 2020)
« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2020, 09:00:55 AM »
There’s a line in the old gospel hymn: “everybody talking ‘bout heaven ain’t goin’ there“
The corollary in A hymn that doesn’t exist Is  “the only people talking ‘bout hell fear they’re going there.”
Retired ELCA pastor. Iowa born. Now in Minnesota. Missing NY/NJ and trips to Europe. But the dining room at our "ranch" is now open and some activities - with virus restrictions - are returning. For which, thanks.

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Re: Universalism And The Church, by Carl E. Braaten (Summer 2020)
« Reply #4 on: July 12, 2020, 09:46:17 AM »
As I recall, Pr./Fr. Neuhaus argued that hell absolutely exists.  But he prayed hopefully that by God's grace through Christ it would be empty.  (He wrote this--or something like it--in Death on a Friday Afternoon.)  I believe that he was the target of withering criticism for this from some within and beyond the Roman church. 


His position was quite different from the perspective described by Pr. Stoffregen.  If hell is not real, after all, Christ's sacrifice and the whole Christian faith would make no sense.

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Re: Universalism And The Church, by Carl E. Braaten (Summer 2020)
« Reply #5 on: July 12, 2020, 10:32:15 AM »
Lucky me; as I guest preacher next week I get the wheat and weed text from St. Matthew.
Jesus talks about hell a lot.
Sheep/goats.
Wheat/weeds.
Left/right.

The last word of the text is “Listen.”

Peter (Not taking any chances, thank you Jesus) Garrison
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Re: Universalism And The Church, by Carl E. Braaten (Summer 2020)
« Reply #6 on: July 12, 2020, 11:52:41 AM »
An excellent review of David Bentley Hart's book can be found in First Things October 2019
issue.  Douglas Farrow  on pages 57 to 62 refutes the errors and shortcomings of Hart's
belief in universalism.

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Re: Universalism And The Church, by Carl E. Braaten (Summer 2020)
« Reply #7 on: July 12, 2020, 11:57:46 AM »
One of the problems some have with hell is balancing the justice of God with the grace of God.  It is felt that if God is a loving God it would be inconsistent for Him to then condemn any to eternal punishment.  We always want to resolve the tension by removing something so that it feels better for us. But then the justice of God is invoked easily when we have people who seem so montrously evil it would be inconceivable for them to go anywhere near heaven.  So I suppose the idea of annihilationism is then invoked, where God destroys the wicked and allows only the righteous to enter heaven.  That way we don't have to deal with the uncomfortable idea of endless suffering.  This seems to be the way the Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses solve the tension. 
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

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Re: Universalism And The Church, by Carl E. Braaten (Summer 2020)
« Reply #8 on: July 12, 2020, 12:19:42 PM »
W.H.T.Dau wrote the introduction to the English translation of Walther's Law & Gospel
in 1928.  Dau reminds us that Scripture teaches the Will of God is directed toward us
in two distinct ways.

His Holy and Righteous Will........in the Law
His Good and Gracious Will.........in the Gospel

Pastor Engebretson mentioned the tension this produces when God condemns unbelievers
to eternal punishment in Hell.

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Re: Universalism And The Church, by Carl E. Braaten (Summer 2020)
« Reply #9 on: July 12, 2020, 12:35:16 PM »
I remember years ago Martin Marty had an essay in the Christian Century where he argued that no one believes in hell any more. His simple logic (as I remember it): If you have held a match too long and had it burn your fingers, you know the pain of fire. If hell is a place where people suffer eternal fire and we have only a finger-tip-experience of that, we would be shouting at every unbeliever to get them to avoid that huge amount of suffering that comes from being sent to hell. Since he sees almost no one frantically and hysterically calling people, especially unbelieving relatives, to believe to avoid those fires, he was convinced that they don't really believe in hell.

Or else they sleep the sleep of atheism and choose not to hear God speak to them.  The issue of complacency wreaked havoc among the people of Israel.  It wreaks havoc over most people in general.  It is the Church that calls people out of their sleep of complacency through God’s word of law and the promises (the Gospel).   It’s a thankless job that the Church has been tasked to do.  Thankless for those who prefer to fall back into sleep again.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2020, 12:40:40 PM by readselerttoo »

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Re: Universalism And The Church, by Carl E. Braaten (Summer 2020)
« Reply #10 on: July 14, 2020, 04:29:42 PM »
I remember years ago Martin Marty had an essay in the Christian Century where he argued that no one believes in hell any more. His simple logic (as I remember it): If you have held a match too long and had it burn your fingers, you know the pain of fire. If hell is a place where people suffer eternal fire and we have only a finger-tip-experience of that, we would be shouting at every unbeliever to get them to avoid that huge amount of suffering that comes from being sent to hell. Since he sees almost no one frantically and hysterically calling people, especially unbelieving relatives, to believe to avoid those fires, he was convinced that they don't really believe in hell.

An interesting argument against the existence of hell, but not convincing biblically or theologically.


It's an argument against the belief in hell.


Biblically, we have two different images: one is "the place of the dead" = sheol in Hebrew, and Hades in Greek. The other is a place of punishment usually represented by Geheena, transliteration of the Hebrew for Valley of Hinnom, which is an actual place outside of Jerusalem. Our usual understanding of "hell," comes more from Dante's Inferno, than from Scriptures.
« Last Edit: July 14, 2020, 04:38:09 PM by Brian Stoffregen »
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Re: Universalism And The Church, by Carl E. Braaten (Summer 2020)
« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2020, 06:54:28 PM »
I remember years ago Martin Marty had an essay in the Christian Century where he argued that no one believes in hell any more. His simple logic (as I remember it): If you have held a match too long and had it burn your fingers, you know the pain of fire. If hell is a place where people suffer eternal fire and we have only a finger-tip-experience of that, we would be shouting at every unbeliever to get them to avoid that huge amount of suffering that comes from being sent to hell. Since he sees almost no one frantically and hysterically calling people, especially unbelieving relatives, to believe to avoid those fires, he was convinced that they don't really believe in hell.

An interesting argument against the existence of hell, but not convincing biblically or theologically.

It's an argument against the belief in hell.

Biblically, we have two different images: one is "the place of the dead" = sheol in Hebrew, and Hades in Greek. The other is a place of punishment usually represented by Geheena, transliteration of the Hebrew for Valley of Hinnom, which is an actual place outside of Jerusalem. Our usual understanding of "hell," comes more from Dante's Inferno, than from Scriptures.

It's neither an argument against the existence of hell, nor against the belief in hell.  Its an argument in favor of the hope of the reconciliation of all things in Christ.  He argues for it as something for which we can hope, as something that we need not rule out.  He also argues that it is compatible with the Apostolic Gospel itself.  He did not address the existence of hell in his article.

David Bentley Hart does not reject the existence of hell either.  What he rejects is the idea that an eternal hell and a loving, gracious, and omnipotent God are compatible.  Until the final eschatological reconciliation, he believes hell is very real.  Where Hart differs from Braaten is his insistence that the ultimate reconciliation of all with God is the only option.  Braaten rejects such a dogmatic conclusion, while arguing for a humble hope that all will be saved.
« Last Edit: July 14, 2020, 08:35:03 PM by DCharlton »
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