Salvation for everyone!

The following article was originally published on the Roads from Emmaus weblog in March of 2011. It’s been revised for this publication. This came up again recently in a conversation I was having, so I thought it might be interesting to revisit.

One of the theological questions that’s making the rounds these days actually made the New York Times last March and was also featured in a number of other publications around that time. One should always be suspicious when newspapers and television shows start talking about theology, because, well, newspapers and television shows seldom know anything about it. Nevertheless, this doctrine remains in theological chatter, and its suggester (I cannot really say “proponent”) Rob Bell also remains occasionally newsworthy, though it seems he’s content merely to ask questions and not actually give any answers. (Of course that sounds good in its way, but at some point, we have to have some answers if we’re actually going to live, to follow a path, etc.)

The piece of theology essentially goes this way: There really is no hell, and God is too loving to send anyone there. How could God possibly be so cruel to damn people to hell who accidentally happen not to believe in Jesus, maybe because they never even heard of Him? (Gandhi is of course the poster boy for the heaven-deserving non-Christian.) Or what about those who simply messed up? “…can a loving God really be so wrathful toward people who faltered, or never were exposed to Jesus?” The question, of course, assumes a certain answer—namely, that God will cut everyone a break, because He’s nice, and so everyone gets saved, no matter what. There are various names for this. Universalism is the most common, and it’s probably newsworthy because Moralistic Therapeutic Deism remains the dominant religious force in American culture.

The NYT defines the opposition to universalism as “traditionalist,” while those who embrace it are “liberals.” Those labels alone should let you know that the NYT doesn’t know what it’s talking about here.

After all, is someone like St. Gregory of Nyssa, a 4th century Orthodox saint, a “liberal” because he taught apokatastasis (the “recapitulation” of all things in Christ, which is something more than mere universalism because it works on a cosmic scale)? And is someone a “traditionalist” who insists that there will, like the Bible quite frankly says, actually be ramifications for how we lived in this life, for what we did with the light we were given? These labels make no sense, and they reveal rather the narrow theological lens through which this question is being framed, namely, a particular corner of Western Christian soteriology, mainly Protestant.

I have long believed that the God Who punishes people because they made Him mad is the God Whom atheists do not believe in. It seems some Christians don’t believe in Him, either. This is no surprise, and it’s a question that is many centuries older than these corners of Evangelical theology (and their recent occasional forays into liberal Protestantism) actually reveal. It’s not as if every “traditional” Christian for twenty centuries has believed in a God Who zaps the unrighteous and the ignorant, and now suddenly, we have this idea that perhaps God might love someone, might even be merciful(!).

Even though this question is really not a major one in Orthodox Christian circles, and even though it would be tempting to be triumphalistic about this (since we’ve always believed in God’s mercy), there have nonetheless been attempts to address this perennially Western theological question, such as Alexander Kalomiros’s “The River of Fire.” Yet Kalomiros really goes too far when he would seek to eliminate all language of God’s “wrath” or “punishment” from Christian vocabulary. (The best take I’ve yet read specifically on the question of apokatastasis is Metr. Kallistos Ware’s essay “Dare We Hope for the Salvation of All?”)

Let’s face it: It’s in there. Now, I suppose if you’d like to chuck the entire Bible and the whole Christian tradition, you can come up with something else. But then, let’s face it again: You’re not really a Christian, then, are you? Christianity is a revealed religion, not something some smart people made up to enslave millions and which us modern enlightened folks can just revise in order to enslave a few more millions (or maybe just get their money). (Or, if it is, I think I’ve somehow got into the wrong part of this Ponzi scheme.)

So what is one to do with all that embarrassing hell-talk in the Bible and in what really is “traditional” Christianity? For one thing, let us not assume that we have to look at the question of salvation in purely penal/legalistic terms. Yes, that language is in the Scripture, too, but so is a lot of other stuff about healing and mercy.

And let’s not forget glory.

I really think glory is the key question here. The afterlife—heaven, hell, whatever—is fundamentally about apokalypsis, the “pulling away of the veil.” On the other side of death, we will experience the glory of God. There are a lot of ways of describing that experience, depending on the capacity with which we receive it. But whatever we bring to that experience, we know that it will be essentially unmitigated. God’s glory will be revealed to all of us to the extent that we are able to receive it without being annihilated in the process.

For some, that revelation will be, ahem, pretty freakin’ awesome. For others, it will be pretty horrible. Why? Because one does not step into outer space without a spacesuit. Because one does not jump off a building without wings. Because one does not dive into the ocean without SCUBA gear. Whatever metaphor you want to use, the truth is that coming face to face with God is going to require some preparation, because we’re broken.

Now, God wants to fix that brokenness. He wants to provide the spacesuit, wings, SCUBA gear, etc., that will enable us to enter into the greatest of all adventures, beyond the most fantastic dreams of the human race.

But God is too loving ever to force those things onto us.

That’s really the crux of this matter. Ironically, the NYT’s “liberals” seem to believe that they’re preaching a God Who loves people too much to allow them to experience His glory as pain and suffering. But what they really want is a God Who will override the human will. They want a God Who will make you love Him, Who will make you be in communion with Him.

Or, at least, they want a God Who puts you into the Nice Place even if you proved your whole life that you really wanted to live according to the Other Place. In this model, salvation has nothing to do with communion with God but is merely about rewards and punishments.

But that’s not love, folks. Love sets you free. Love takes the risk. Love always gives freedom and never forces anything out of the beloved, even if it means losing the beloved. God loves us all too much not to let us fail.

But let us be clear about what failure is. It is not simply accidentally never having heard of Jesus. I’m sorry, but that’s really too arbitrary a criterion to be taken seriously. (If you want to dance with double predestinationism, then go ahead, I suppose: God damns certain people, maybe by never sending them a missionary, whether they like it or not. That being the case, let’s stay home on Sunday and watch morning political talk shows and football instead. Really.) Failure is also not a matter of having slipped up, having “faltered” and committed a sin. Sin does not keep one out of that awesome experience of glory. (If it did, again… “Meet the Press” and football!)

Failure is to choose darkness over light, again and again. Those who sit in darkness are given many, many chances of emerging into the light, so many that, by the time they cross over to the other side, it’s really clear that that’s what they prefer. They prefer pride over humility. They prefer indulgence over abstinence. They prefer the self over the selfless. This is not “faltering.” It’s our criminal justice system that beats you up when you falter. You can make one mistake and get sent to prison for years for it.

But God is not our kind of judge. He’s the kind that looks at a whole life and discerns what that person really wants, and then He gives it to them. All will be resurrected, and all will get what they really want. Some want communion, and they’ll get it. Others want self-sufficiency, and they’ll get that. Both will receive the natural consequences of going into the afterlife with those sets of equipment. God gives mercy to all, but He forces it on none.

So, yes, it really is all about mercy. God loves you too much to make you love Him. But He is also a consuming fire. So let’s make sure we’re ready for the flame.

35 comments:

  1. “The River of Fire” is usually one of the first things that converts read when they enter the Church, and it usually goes with an idealism about what the Church teaches and how clear everything is. While I think Kalomiros is basically correct in what he says, I don’t think he adequately prepares his readers and listeners for the juridical language that they will come across in Scripture and the Fathers (St. Philaret’s teaching on the Cross, for example, is pretty clearly juridical.) What people (including Moss) need to understand is that juridical language is used to express a deeper truth. Christ is not literally a judge, that is a metaphor that has been taken from human courts and used to explain a truth about what the Lord will do when He returns. Death was not literally a punishment, it was the natural consequence of what happened to man when he severed himself from the life-giving Trinity. But we can use legal language to help explain what death is and how the Cross reverses it. We can talk about death as a “punishment for sin” so that Christ can “take the punishment for sin” and thus “reverse the punishment for us” by releasing us into new life at Baptism and then at the resurrection of the dead.

    1. Yes, I found it interesting that Moss seems to assert that God handed out the punishment of death after the fall, which would indicate that he hasn’t quite jettisoned all of his Western theology. I know how hard it is to drop those habits.

  2. It would be great if you could follow up on this with an article about why the Church matters–really really matters instead of being a good suggestion. I can see a lot of people saying, “yes I want to choose the light… but why do we need all the funny hats?”

    1. And I don’t want to add to your workload Father Andrew, but as a former Protestant yourself, I’m sure you can relate to many who will read this great piece but then ask the question: What happens to the poor person stranded on a remote Pacific Island that never hears the Gospel? Like Mr. Boychuk points out, many deists want to know why do wee need the church if it can’t save the “lonely Pacific islander” so they come up with God must forgive all “good” people as the solution. I think a followup article on these two points would help Christians like myself in explaning to others.

      I think this is also related because many American/Westerners have rejected the wrathful God of Jonathan Edwards but have become non-church-goers, aka “Jesus and me”. I know this is now rambling, but the fundamental problem that every man must ask and answer is Who is He? Who do you say He is? The mere question sends shivers through my bones as I type.

      The answer? He is. Period. The Great “I AM”. “You are the the Christ, the Son of God.” And upon the rock of that confession the gates of death will not prevail against His Church which is His very Body upon which His members (the Church) receives into ourselves. Praise God at these mysteries. Praise God for His true Love.

  3. Since being new to the Orthodox Church I have been confronted with this question several times. How can a loving God send people to Hell? I’m such a legalistic kind of guy that I just accept the fact we are given the opportunity to reach God and there are always natural consequences for our decisions. I have even given props to the secular rock group Rush when they said, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

    I believe people (Christian and non-Christian) are always searching for God’s mercy, whether earnestly or just as a “get out of jail free” card. So, legalistically you could look at it in terms of how many chances do I get? Basically, that is what many are asking.

    I’m no mathematician so I had to break it down, for simple me. I looked at one source which said the average life expectancy of people in the U.S. is 78.2 years. So, if I have 78.2 years to live – most of those already wasted – and God would give me at least one chance a day to look to Him, which He does merely by His creation, I would have 28,543 chances. Now, Jesus was quoted in Matthew 18:21-22 as saying one should forgive another 70×7 which would only be 490 chances.

    So, to me, God is 28,053 times more merciful than we should expect. I know God is even more merciful than a prescribed set of numbers.

    I chose to decide and hope others will too. Glory be to God.

  4. “All will be resurrected, and all will get what they really want.”

    I think the claim of St. Gregory of Nyssa and St Isaac the Syrian would be that what ALL people really want is God, and that love of the world, love of selfish pleasures, etc. are all mere substitutes for God as a result of believing lies of the Devil and becoming slaves to sin. Even after becoming Christian we all have a hard time realizing that what God wants for us is what we really want. As CS Lewis says, we’d rather make mud pies than have a day at the beach.

    When that day of reckoning comes, yes, it will be very hard for those who have not yet sought their true desires and were satisfied with substitutes. But consider what happens when all substitutes are taken away, and all lies cease. The process might be exceedingly painful with weeping and gnashing of teeth, indeed a hell (outer darkness) that many also experience on earth, but in the end the darkness will serve as a backdrop to the Light that is their true desire. Somehow we all need the darkness in order to see the Light. “God has assigned ALL to disobedience so that He might have mercy on ALL.” (Romans 11:32) The eventual restitution of those who die without apparent hope in God’s mercy is the final working out of God’s will that all be saved. “Love hopes all things ….love does not fail.”

    I, for one, find this belief entirely consistent with my Orthodox faith.

    1. The Church throughout the centuries has not supported universalism in any form. Who, after all, are those to whom the Lord says, “Depart from me; I never knew you”? It’s certainly not to the demons He says this, since He tells them that they’re going to the place prepared for the demons, i.e., not for them (humans).

      Further, if we believe in universalism, then what really is the point in living a righteous life? Why be baptized? Why receive the mysteries? Why pray?

      We can’t presume to know exactly who will be saved, but we certainly cannot presume to know that all will be saved.

      1. Fr. Andrew asks: “If we believe in universalism, then what is the point of living a righteous life?”

        So do we only believe in living a righteous life because it’s our “get out of hell free” card then (i.e., extrinsic reward)? Or, do we believe in living a righteous life because we discover it is the only means to communion with Christ Who is our Life and an intrinsic good? My understanding is the Fathers of the Church allowed that no-one can be saved (i.e., perfected in theosis) by the fear of hell–only in being drawn by the love of God.

        I don’t believe, therefore, that this is the proper reason for rejecting universalism as dogma, Father. Rather, it seems to me the proper reason for rejecting universalism, except perhaps as a hope, lies in the Church’s understanding that humans genuinely have free will. Thus, as Bp. Kallistos (Ware) has written, “It is heretical to say that all must be saved, for this is to deny free will; but it is legitimate to hope that all may be saved.”

        1. Neither the Scriptures nor the Fathers make any bones about the fear of Hell being a legitimate motivator for Christians. Nevertheless, that’s not really the point I was making. Rather, Orthodox Christians cannot believe in universalism because it’s directly contrary to the revealed words of Christ Himself, Who explicitly says that there will be people who will be told “Depart from Me.” There need be no other “reason.”

          In any event, the point of living a righteous life is indeed to get out of Hell, and that is exactly the same thing as communion with Christ, because anything less than communion with Him truly is Hell. The only real difference is to talk of the point of departure or the destination. But the path is the same, and the motivation is the same.

      2. I agree that the fear of hell can be a legitimate motivator for seeking salvation, and the Fathers do teach this, but paradoxically they also teach no-one can be perfected in love who is being motivated (solely?) by the fear of hell. I guess there is fear of hell and there is fear of hell (in a different sense perhaps). I’m thinking also of a couple of quotes from some contemporary Elders of Greece to the effect that they were no longer afraid of being sent to hell, but were content to trust Christ’s disposition of them whatever that might turn out to be. It seemed to me it was an expression of humility and confidence in Christ and also a kind of peace that is lacking in what many folks’ understand by the fear of hell.

        Also, I’m curious if you believe that St. Isaac the Syrian was unaware of Christ’s teaching in Matthew 25? How do you account for his hope (and that of St. Gregory of Nyssa, who also must have been very familiar with the teaching of Matthew 25)?

        1. I honestly can’t account for it, but I am also not their judge. But what is worth noting is that the Church did not follow them on that score. No saint is infallible. The consensus patrum is not in favor of universalism.

      3. I think for me the issue is whether God’s mercy really is eternal. Clearly there are people who will wake up on the other side and find they have never pursued God, never been honest with themselves, never pursued their true hearts desire, substituting all sorts of worldly interests in His stead. God would have to say to them, “Depart from me I never knew you.” But if, as Orthodoxy teaches, all His actions stem from His love, He would have to say this out of love. The fact that His mercy never ends would require that those words would mean UNTIL you have been through My purifying fire, UNTIL you can meet Me face to face (“How can we speak to God face to face “until we have faces?” – CS Lewis). If it really is okay to HOPE for the salvation of all, then must it not be okay to read those words “Depart from me” in the above light? Otherwise it seems you are saying we really can’t even hope for the salvation of all.

        I do not see how believing there is an end to torment would take away one’s motivation to seek God. Jesus Himself said of the unforgiving servant, “the Master turned him over to the torturers, UNTIL he should pay all that he owed.” And of those sent to prison in Matthew 5, “You will not get out UNTIL you’ve paid the last farthing.” We certainly can’t assume Jesus was ineffective in His warnings because He implied an end to those torments.

        “. . . the point of living a righteous life is indeed to get out of Hell, and that is exactly the same thing as communion with Christ, because anything less than communion with Him truly is Hell.” I love how you put this. I believe a truly Christian Universalist would be in complete agreement: It is right to fear Hell in the afterlife. I would think the forceful removal in Hell of all one’s substitutes for God would be exponentially more painful than their voluntary removal through submitting to God’s ways during one’s earthly lifetime. Of course it would be much better to fear instead the loss of connection with Him, loss of His loving presence — that loss being Hell — in this present life.

        Forgive me, Father Andrew. I’m sorry to be so passionate about this. I listen to your podcasts and love what you have to say, but it is very hard for me to hear anything that implies God’s mercy ever stops, or that He could inflict the full heat of His consuming fire on any human being without a redeeming, loving purpose.

      4. For me the idea that God could maintain anyone in their torment (however self-inflicted it might be) for eternity with no redemptive purpose sounds more like vengeance than loving “unreservedly forever.”

        “But some people do not want that love, and He will not force Himself on them.”

        I was under the impression that Orthodoxy teaches that all men have that spark of desire for God. And I’ve been told by Orthodox priests that there is room in Orthodoxy for people who believe that the scorching fire of hell will burn away the dross to get to that part of the person who does indeed desire Him; that God really will accomplish His will that “all men be saved and come (freely) to the knowledge of Truth.” I know this can’t be taught as dogma, but for me it is central to my Orthodox faith. But I won’t belabor this anymore. I really don’t mean to be a pest. 🙂

        1. Just because one has a spark of desire for God does not mean that one is actually willing to act upon it. Again, God’s mercy is to give Himself to man, but if a man will not receive Him, He will not force the communion. For someone to say that they cannot believe that God wouldn’t redeem someone who doesn’t want to be redeemed is really to say that we ought to believe that God will override someone’s hatred for Him and force communion on him.

          The torment is nothing less than the experience of God’s love for someone who doesn’t want it. To remove the torment would be to remove the love.

          We really must stop thinking of suffering in the afterlife exclusively in terms of punishment.

      5. For me, too, Ann, this is a question of the nature and eternity of God’s mercy and good will toward sinful human beings, not of the real possibility of hell (even a never-ending hell) in the sense “gehenna” is understood in “The River of Fire.” I thank you for asking the questions. I suspect you are speaking for a lot of us.

      6. Karen, now where is that “like” button 🙂

        Dear Fr Andrew, I can’t resist:

        You say: “We really must stop thinking of suffering in the afterlife exclusively in terms of punishment.” and, “they cannot believe that God wouldn’t redeem someone who doesn’t want to be redeemed ..”

        To quote you again, Who’s saying those things? 🙂 I don’t ever think of hell or God’s “wrath” in terms of punishment. We are in full agreement that sin itself has horrific, natural consequences on our character when carried on unchecked, and it definitely can render a person incapable of receiving or seeking God’s love. Where we disagree is whether that is a permanent state!

        We are also in full agreement that God cannot redeem someone against his will. Clearly He cannot. Where we disagree is whether God is capable of bringing the depraved person, by the very nature of Hell and outer darkness, to the point where he sees clearly that God is His true heart’s desire. It seems to me that your position that “Depart from Me” is final because some people at bottom do not want God enough to respond to Him takes away even the possibility that one can at least hope for the salvation of all.

        So on this I will agree to disagree. 🙂

      7. So in typical Protestant fashion you are going to believe what you want to believe rather than submitting humbly to the doctrine of the Church? This may sound harsh but this appears to be exactly what you two are doing by affirming this doctrine.

      8. John, I would never affirm universalism as dogma contrary to the teaching of the Church. I think that is clear from my comments. I believe Bp. Kallistos’ (Ware)’s statements on this are where I land/rest. Do you believe St. Isaac and others like him who affirm this as a *hope* were acting like Protestants and not “submitting” to the doctrine of the Church?

        Further, what is key for me is not whether or not “gehenna” will contain more than the fallen angels in the end, but rather that the nature of “gehenna” is understood as it is in “The River of Fire” and not as some sort of “extrinsically imposed” active punishment from God as many Protestants seem to do.

      9. The Fathers as individuals are not infallible. It is okay to say so-and-so was a little overreaching in this aspect of his beliefs. We cannot affirm everything that every Father said otherwise we would live in a sea of contradictions.

      10. It seems to me that passing into error happens at the point of presumption–saying all *must* be saved, as Fr. Andrew distinguishes above. Even St. Isaac didn’t do that as I understand him. I agree with Fr. Andrew that Bp. Kallistos’ essay on “apokatostasis” is the best statement on this issue and where I land.

        As to living in a sea of contradictions if we accept everything every Father says, that is true, but also I don’t believe the Scriptures (nor the Fathers where they are inspired) are grasped nor correspond exactly with human logic either. There is a lot of mystery and paradox in God’s workings in the human soul and in human history, and I have seen a lot of damage done by taking a too rigid, linear (and ultimately also an unOrthodox approach) that many Christians can seem to do where statements are made making it seem very cut and dried who is going to be saved and who is going to perish. In such a scheme God can be made out to be very partial and unjust. That is what I don’t accept. Dr. Kalomiros does indeed overreach in his polemical approach vis-a-vis the West and its language of God’s “punishment” and “wrath,” but for me (and many others who have also grown up hearing rather Calvinistic heretical overtones in the stories of “salvation” in Christ they have been taught) that overemphasis has been mostly salutary in its effect.

  5. There were definitely trends within the Church towards universalism, especially as influenced by those Churches that read and received the Apocalypse of Peter as Holy Scripture.

    However, as Fr Andrew has pointed out, the universal, Orthodox and Catholic Church came to agree that such a viewpoint is incorrect and that the Apocalypse of Peter is in error.

    This is why it is not part of our Liturgical life or Scriptural readings, and why it has been left out of our broad canon of Scripture. By the same token, this is one of the primary reasons why “universalism” did not win the day for the catholic Church.

  6. Great article Fr. Andrew. Thanks for sharing it and for also reinforcing the truth that the Orthodox Church has never supported universalism.

  7. It is very different to “hope” for the salvation of all, and to “dogmatize” that all will be saved. The first is godly; the second, not. Indeed, anyone who will not pray for the salvation of everyone has “missed the mark” of being a Christian, due to their lack of love and compassion (i.e., suffering with and for) those who appear to be “hell bent” on, well, living in Hell (the mark, of course, being God’s own example in Christ Jesus). Which of us would want to spend eternity with the knowledge that even a single person was lost because we did not have enough compassionate love to pray for them. Truly, in the words of our Holy Father Silouan of Athos, “Love could not bear that.”

    Salvation, in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Faith of the Orthodox is about a relationship of love between the human person and the Most Holy Trinity. God cannot truly love us unless he also grants us the free possibility of rejection; with it, it we are mere slaves to his (in human language) self-gratification: “You will love me, like it or not, eventually.” A God who would create rational persons while denying them the ability to love (which presumes the ability to not love) would be a monster, not the self-revealing God of Israel and the Church. So, while we can recognize the fruits and presence of Divine Love and Love of the Divine in someone’s life, and thus — following the Fathers — “glorify” them as Saints, we cannot make similar pronouncements about any individual as definitively damned, for only God knows the depths of the heart and the scars of the wounds it has sustained. Just because this tends to scandalize us, doesn’t mean it isn’t the “God’s honest truth.”

    As Orthodox Christians, it is our duty and our joy to care about and pray for everyone. Few, indeed, are those whose eyes are so free of logs that they should spend their time worrying about the specks in others’ eyes. God himself has shown us the way, in that he “so loved the world,” that he “gave his only-begotten Son,” so that those who believe in him, i.e. respond to him in love, may be “saved.” That salvation begins here in this life. It is neither a mere reward, nor a stingy punishment, post mortem. It is the revelation of what “is.” If our hearts do not “burn within us” now, with love and gratitude, then they will “burn within us” later, with the bitter flames of hatred and resentment (ours, not God’s). This is why not all who say, “Lord, Lord,” will be saved and, also, why some who “have not the law” will be saved. We must have the humility to acknowledge that God is God, not us, and that we are utterly incapable of understanding his ways beyond what he has chosen to share with us. Adam and Eve tried… and failed, wreaking havoc throughout the created world. Let us pray for the grace to resist the temptation to the same sin of pride and self-determination.

    Forgive me, a sinner, for speaking up at such length.

    1. Father Theodore, from the depths of my heart–thank you. It was God’s merciful revelation of this truth to my heart (and his orchestrating my subsequent discovery of Dr. Kalomiros’ address “The River of Fire” online) that were the precipitating events that led me into the Orthodox Church. I don’t believe my case is unique. I have since drawn great comfort from the life and teachings of St. Isaac and St. Silouan. Pray for me, a sinner.

    2. Fr. Theodore writes: “Indeed, anyone who will not pray for the salvation of everyone has “missed the mark” of being a Christian, due to their lack of love and compassion (i.e., suffering with and for) those who appear to be “hell bent” on, well, living in Hell (the mark, of course, being God’s own example in Christ Jesus).”

      From Elder Porphyrios (as quoted in the book, Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit):

      “You are unable to be saved alone, if all others are not also saved. It is a mistake to pray only for one’s own salvation. We must pray for the entire world, so that not one is lost.”

      “I am not afraid of hell and I do not think about Paradise. I only ask Go to have mercy on the entire world as well as on me.”

      “We must not approach Christ out of fear of how we will die and of what will become of us. Rather, we must open our hearts to Him, as when we tug at a curtain and the sun immediately shines in. In this way Christ will come to us, that we might truly love Him. This is the best way.”

      From Elder Amphilochios of Patmos (same source):

      “My children, I don’t want Paradise without you.”

      1. I think there is some confusion here between what one can properly hope and pray and work for and what one can believe. It is one thing to say I hope for the salvation of all, but it is entirely another to say that I cannot believe God would allow anyone to suffer for eternity. The first is a pious hope, while the second is a dogmatic statement that is at odds with the Scripture and the Fathers. We are not wiser not kinder nor more loving than the saints.

      2. Father, sorry to confuse you (completely my fault). We do agree, I believe. My point was about prayer and longing, not dogma. I just decided to look up those quotes that had fed my earlier thoughts and which are in the tradition of Fr. Theodore’s statement about prayer for all. But, again, the context is prayer, not dogma.

  8. Father,

    While this is a great article, I’m not sure how what you’re saying is different from Kalomiros’ main point. He says it is about love; you talk of glory. Perhaps I’m missing something? Is it simply his rhetoric that you take issue with?

  9. I know this is a really late comment. However, just in case someone is looking, I would like to say that Kalomiros did not seem dispute the eternality of Hell and, therefore, does not appear to be in favor of dogmatic universalism. Nor does he see Hell as a mere temporary cleansing for reformation of the sinner but as the real experience of Heaven by the unrepentant. The difference suggested in the above article is only in degree, it seems, as to whether “wrath” or “justice” are appropriate concepts.

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