Reconciliationism, A Better View Of Hell: Reconciliationism And Eternal Punishment -- By: Shawn Bawulski

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 56:1 (Mar 2013)
Article: Reconciliationism, A Better View Of Hell: Reconciliationism And Eternal Punishment
Author: Shawn Bawulski

Reconciliationism, A Better View Of Hell:
Reconciliationism And Eternal Punishment

Shawn Bawulski

* Shawn Bawulski is assistant professor of theology at LCC International University in Klaipėda, Lithuania.

What should a successful doctrine of hell look like, and what should it do? These are difficult questions. By way of beginning to offer an answer, I suggest that for any view of hell the following set of desiderata should be met. The first is compatibility with the scriptural passages that teach on hell, eternal punishment, and judgment in the life to come. The second desideratum is compatibility with passages that speak of the cosmic and universal reconciliation and consummation of all things in the eschaton. The third is that an eternal cosmological dualism between good and evil must not be entailed. The fourth is this: affirming that the punishment for sin must be infinite.1 The fifth desideratum of any view of hell is that it must be able to give a satisfactory account of God’s love. The sixth and final desideratum to be met is compatibility and harmony with other eschatological themes and with one’s broader theology. Sadly, space limitations will restrict this essay to consideration of only the first three, leaving those that remain for the (near) future.

From the exegetical and theological considerations that give rise to these desiderata, one view arises naturally and is, I argue, successful at meeting these criteria where other views fail on one or more points. First I will briefly sketch reconciliationism and then I will examine it in relation to the first three desiderata.

I. Introducing Reconciliationism

Reconciliationism is a somewhat inferential position, seeking to synthesize broad, seemingly disparate theological strands flowing from eschatological pictures given to us in Scripture—for example, how the finally impenitent will be thrown into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, while at the same time God will be all in all and every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord (Matt 8:12; 1 Cor 15:28; Phil 2:9-11). The way forward must be forged by responsible inference, putting together doctrines taught more clearly in Scripture, because in this age our view of the eternal state is somewhat fuzzy; we are given glimpses of that future reality but it still has elements of mystery. When it comes to many issues of eschatology, we only “see in a mirror dimly” (1 Cor 13:12), but we do see a bit, and we can, with rev...

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