cover image That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, & Universal Salvation

That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, & Universal Salvation

David Bentley Hart. Yale, $26 (232p) ISBN 978-0-300-24622-3

In this provocative, informative treatise, philosopher Hart (The Experience of God) provides an emphatic, soundly reasoned case for universal salvation as the only possible theological position logically acceptable for Christian believers. Examining traditional Christian dogma about the existence of hell, the threat of eternal damnation, and the doctrine of predestination, Hart blames the widespread acceptance of these doctrines on bad translations and faulty interpretations of scripture, incoherent logic, and “communal self-deception.” Instead, he argues that the “sheer moral hideousness” of these beliefs emphatically contradicts Christianity’s fundamental claims about God’s just and loving nature. Mincing no words, Hart declares his impatience with “twentieth-century biblical fundamentalism and its manifest imbecilities” and writes: “We should all already know that whenever the terms ‘justice’ and ‘eternal punishment’ are set side by side as if they were logically compatible, the boundaries of the rational have been violated.” Lamenting that Christian tradition embraced Augustine’s misinterpretation of the apostle Paul’s theology of grace, Hart educates the reader on the lesser-known works of Gregory of Nyssa and claims his arguments in favor of universal salvation offer a more faithful, logical Christian theology. While Hart expresses doubts that his arguments will sway many Christians, his resounding challenge to orthodox Christian views on hell and his defense of God’s ultimate goodness will prove convincing and inspiring to the open-minded. (Sept.)