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The Story of Salvation: A Narrative Theology of Hell—Robin Parry

In this third talk of our Hope and Hell conference, Robin paints a sweeping picture of the story of salvation beginning with creation and ending with the eschaton. He then poses the significant question—which fits best into this picture—hell or universal salvation? This talk is quite awe-inspiring—not because it advocates universal salvation (which it does) but even more because it stretches our horizons beyond individual redemption into the purpose of the cosmos. In developing his theme, Robin draws heavily on the magnificent Patristic fathers and their grand conception of the irresistible goodness of God.

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The Story of Salvation: A Narrative Theology of Hell—Robin Parry

  1. 1. 3. The Story of Salvation A Narrative Theology of Hell GOSPEL CONVERSATIONS (July 2019)
  2. 2. Anendingthat fitsthestory  Everlasting hell and universal salvation are alternative endings to the biblical symphony  Which is most harmonious and which most discordant?
  3. 3. Creationand Eschatology  Creation is not simply about beginnings; it is also about endings  “From him and through him and to him are all things” (Rom 11:36); all things are also “for him” (Col 1:16)  Exitus et reditus: creation goes forth from God and returns to God
  4. 4. Whatendis creationmade for?  God is creation’s destiny (Rom 11:36; Col 1:16)  The “image of God” (Gen 1:26–27) is a status and a calling  Many church fathers saw humanity’s ultimate destiny as theōsis/union with God
  5. 5. Christ,creation, andeshatology  Human destiny is seen most clearly in Jesus  Jesus brings the human story to its destination (1 Cor 15:44b–49): glorification/resurrection/ascension  So which eschatology best fits the creation story?  Eternal hell implies either (a) a problematic doctrine of creation or (b) the eternal thwarting of God’s purposes in creation
  6. 6. Sinandthefall  Sin sets humans on a course away from God (the source of life) and towards death (Rom 6:23)  Sin affects all people (Rom 3:23)  Sin thus blocks the road between creation and eschaton
  7. 7. Sinandeternal hell  Doctrine of hell is built on a theology of human sin and God’s response  But does human sin, rather than God’s creative purpose, determine the destiny of the cosmos?  Is the Bible story one of ultimate tragedy (sin wins) or triumph (God wins)?
  8. 8. Salvation  The centre of the Bible’s salvation story is Jesus: Creation: God created all things through him Redemption: God reconciles all things through him (Col 1:15–20) Eschaton: God will one day unite all things in him (Eph 1:10)
  9. 9. Salvation: Incarnation  As fully divine, the Logos represents and reveals the invisible God to humanity  As fully human, the Logos represents all humanity before God  In his capacity as our representative he takes humanity beyond the roadblock of sin and death to eternal life
  10. 10. Salvation: Crucifixion  “For that which he has not assumed he has not healed” (Gregory Nazianzen)  Christ died for our sins, bearing their consequences  Then he was raised from the dead, defeating sin and death
  11. 11. Salvation: Resurrection andascension  In the resurrection, the salvation of all is achieved (not merely made possible)  The end is revealed in the resurrection  The resurrection is a promise of what is to come
  12. 12. Experiencing Salvation:now andnotyet  PAST: The Holy Spirit works to unite us to Christ in baptism, so we are joined to him and his life. We have been saved “in Christ”  PRESENT: The Holy Spirit works to transform us to become more Christlike We are being saved “in Christ”  FUTURE: The Holy Spirit will raise us from the dead, glorified We will be saved “in Christ”
  13. 13. Outsideof Christ  Not to be united with Christ is to remain in a mode of human existence determined by sin and death, which cannot lead to life  Is such a person currently saved in Christ? Yes and no  Will such a person one day actively participate in salvation in Christ?
  14. 14. Whatabout hell?  Bible: two roads with two destinations: life and death  Bible: avoid death and embrace life  Is this ‘second death’ an ultimate or a penultimate fate?
  15. 15. Istherehope beyond‘hell’?  Hell as a penultimate fate allows us to hold together biblical teachings on ‘hell’ with biblical teachings on universal salvation  Many in the early church did not think that eternal destiny was fixed at death.
  16. 16. Butisn’thell ‘everlasting’?  It is not at all clear that the ‘hell’ proof texts actually require an everlasting hell  Most are too vague (condemnation, death, destruction)  Even the explicit passages are unclear
  17. 17. Universalists believethat  All those created by God will be brought to that destiny for which God created them  All those whom God desires to save and whom Christ came to save will be saved  Christ, not sin, will determine the future of the cosmos  Everlasting hell is un-evangel-ical, for it thwarts God’s purposes in creation and salvation and seems incompatible with the God of the gospel