DB Hart: a heretic?
Apparently DBH came out as a universalist recently—well, somewhere he claims he always were and never concealed it, but it seems way too concealed in his thesis (maybe not to get in trouble?).
Its a bit sad, and he sounds like the perfect heretic: choosing only one Father (and Origen), disregarding a council as “imperial”, making his own translation of the NT (I'm curious to read it, but there will definitely be a bit of salt by my side).

I'll think over the arguments he lays here and try to think of something, but I'm curious if any of you guys can respond to it—there is really only one or two good arguments, so it shouldn't be that hard. Also, is he being serious that in Eastern tradition there is no theologian (or Father) who claims hell is eternal? Even if Easterners think there's one or two guys in hell, because apparently Easterners are so optimistic, don't they have it in their tradition, their prayers, etc.?

I think it's a pretty bold claim to say that in Eastern Tradition there is no father or theologian that claims hell is eternal. What about the undivided fathers of east and west,including the much maligned by Orthodox St. Augustine?

Maybe the eternity of hell was a given, I mean,in scripture it's pretty hard to make the case that Our Lord was talking about going into the " everlasting fire" prepared for the devil and his angels as being negotiable as a fire that will end. My opinion on the matter is that in modern Orthodox circles---especially amongst academic theologians and popular figures--- universalism is a big thing, but just whether it is actually the common opinion of ALL Eastern fathers and theologians is kind of hard to believe.

I remmber the tragic downfall of Father Alvin Kimmel too ( of who this case reminds me) ; he started Protestant, argued his way into Catholicism, went with Russian Orthodoxy, and now he's retired and writes on the blog Eclectic Orthodoxy on everything from universalism to how modern theologians and scholars deny that creation ex nihilo is even part of the Bible! The  paths people take!

Here is one of Father Kimmel's posts touching on the subject.

The difference is that,as far as I know in the Catholic Church the eternity of hell is a settled issue. Maybe it's not in the murky world of Orthodoxy.
Good, FB. Oddly, this was precisely the same website where I found some comments of Hart himself.
To be honest I never went looking for Patristic doctrine on hell, and I'll hardly join in a debate with Patristic scholars, but something is fishy when one picks just a minority of the Fathers to make this bold claim that seems to fly on the face of a lot of scripture and the Western tradition. About Origen: though he was important early on he was not very popular in the seventh century. Here's what St. Maximus the Confessor, defender of orthodoxy, who died in communion with Rome but not with Constantinople, said ”To him the servant of God [St. Maximus] said in the presence of all, 'Anathema to Origen and all his doctrines and to all of the same mind!'”

Another point Hart seems to have a problem with is the necessity of baptism. Apparently a lot of Fathers (not only the St. Augustine scapegoat) defended it. He also mocks missionaries (like St. Francis de Sales) converting people, for their salvation. Well, when one complains about missionaries I guess its over.

Though I like Hart's prose, I must admit his reliance on scholars is a bit disappointing. Its a shame, the East had this fame of having theologians separated from scholars while in the West we mixed the two and ended up calling guys like Küng, Kasper, Rahner, et al., theologians, all the while neglecting the real theologians (in the proper, one could even say Eastern, sense): the saints, the monks, etc.

I actually have a fair amount of sympathy for the Patristic belief in apocatastasis, which is so much more compelling than the milquetoast universalism of the outdated liberal Protestantism that I suspect exercises a subterranean influence on many theologians, but those who set themselves up as defenders of this belief really do themselves no favors when it comes to the sort of rhetoric they use. Generally, the only "argument" one sees is the accusation that opponents of a belief in universal reconciliation get off on the idea of others suffering or else that they believe that God's grace "isn't enough." Needless to say, I think a position that has been almost universally held by the majority of orthodox Christians in both the East and the West deserves more respect than that. Hart thinks that Tolstoy is a better writer than Dostoevsky, which is really all you need to know. 
Modern Orthodoxy cannot any longer claim to have theologians separated from scholarship. One criticism of hardline Orthodox is that many in the West have followed the intellectualism of the so called Parisian Orthodoxy of men like Schemann, Bulgakov et al and their heirs in places like St. Vladimirs seminary in the US. It's pretty much the Orthodox version of the modernist school where you have a lot of bad mixed in with a bit of the good. The influence of the so call Paris Orthodox School  in modern Orthodoxy,especially amongst Western converts, cannot be underestimated. It's immense. This school seems to lean heavily in the direction of universalism.

I too love the idea of a restoration of all things in Christ, and I love how in the Slavonic a saint is a " prepodobny" one " in the original likeness", like Adam in paradise, but I don't think that a restoration of all things necessarily means even hell is destroyed and the demons are set free.

Who really likes to think about hell? I know I don't, but at least as far as Catholic teaching goes I'm pretty sure it's settled that it's eternal, not to mention the clear sense of scripture seems to point in that direction. The problem with some of these scholarly types is that they can just make things murky in order to justify whatever position they want to hold.

Modern scripture scholars and theologians are masters at this sort of thing,where they systematically dismantle the clear sense of some passage, cast aspersions on the integrity of various fathers or whatever,and than claim that their pet theory is really what is supposed to be meant. Men like Alvin Kimmel took that route and ended up in aesthetic Christianity as a facade but with interior skepticism about practically everything. He also lost his son to suicide and so I guess he has a lot riding on universalism from a psychological standpoint.

As an aside I'll say that anyone thinking of leaving Rome for Orthodoxy ought to take a long hard look at things. The grass is not greener in Byzantium or its heirs. In fact I tend to think that modern Orthodoxy, with the popularity of the Paris school and  those under its influence,will eventually become pretty much Eastern Rite Anglicanism, with all that entails.

Oh, and if anyone is interested in the Optina Elders book about Barsanuphius there's a whole thing about Tolstoy. Apparently he would occassionaly come to Optina for spiritual direction, but as he lay dying Elder Barsanuphius ( who was later made a saint in Russia) offered to hear his confession and give him the Orthodox version of the Last Rites but he refused,making without the sacraments. The episode haunted the Elder deeply and often when talking to others he'd sadly say that he felt Tolstoy probably lost his soul.


Good thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

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