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The final summing up of all this which is told us at Easter is: Jesus is victor! Jesus — is it not he who was born in humblest lowliness, who died on the cross crying the cry of a derelict of God, he who forgave sins but who collapsed under the burden of sin, he, the humble, smitten by his fate; and of all those laden with grief, is he not the most burdened man of Nazareth? And he is to be victor?

Yes, it is always a difficult, a dark word that scarcely can be tolerated by our ears — that word “resurrection.” That is to say, it is not necessarily hazy. What it really means is clear — too clear, plain — only too plain. It means what it says: something mighty, crystal-clear, complete. It signifies: that the world, that is life with its imprisonments and tragedies of sorrow and sin, life with its doubts and unanswered questions, life with its grave-mounds and crosses for the dead, a unique enigma, so immense that all answers are silent before it. Nothing, absolutely nothing can one do to stop it; everything is too insignificant to fill up this vacuum. Admit it; it negates everything; there is no way out! There might be  the possibility of a miracle happening — no, not a miracle, but the miracle, the miracle of God — God’s incomprehensible, saving intervention and mercy, the all-inclusive renewal that leads from death to life that comes from him, God’s creation-word, God’s life-word — and that means resurrection from the dead! Resurrection, not progress, not evolution, not enlightenment, but what the word means, namely a call from heaven to us: “Rise up! you are dead, but I will give you life.” That is what is proclaimed here, and it is the only way that the world can be saved take away this summons, and make something else of it, something smaller, less than the absolute whole, less than the absolute ultimate, or less than the absolutely powerful, and you have taken away all, the unique, the last hope there is for us on earth.

~ Karl Barth, “Jesus if Victor.” In Come Holy Spirit, 148-50.


  1. Haden wrote:

    Another good book to read is “Christ the Conqueror of Hell” by Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev.

    What I think is becoming apparent in the issue of “new universalism’” is that of scripture’s role in the Church’s theology. As long as people like Rob Bell or even an actual theologian within Protestantism continues to present a case for universalism to the Evangelical world, they will run into dead ends. I think the question that should be asked is “what has the Church said about Hell and eternity?”

    While I, being Eastern Orthodox, obviously have different approach to biblical exegesis per se, I find it humurous that so many are offended by something that isn’t a new discussion. Origen, St. Gregory, and even today, Metropolitan Kalistos Wares, have spoken about the issues of Hell, and what a Christian’s response is to questions concerning Ghandi or anyone else outside the Church.

    As long as Tradition isn’t brought side by side with scripture, then the Protestant Christian won’t find any need to know what a Church Father said about any issue. In a mindset coming from Sola Scriptura, Gregory or Basil or Antony or anyone pre-Calvin is just some dead guy.

    Something that you can see in the book I mentioned, is that when it comes to hoping for the renewal or redemption of all people, is something the Church has sung about for centuries!

    Anyway, I’ve stood on my soapbox.

    To end, here is a quote from Met. Kalistos Ware:

    Hell is not so much a place where God imprisons man, as a place where man, by misusing his free will, chooses to imprison himself. And even in Hell the wicked are not deprived of the love of God, but by their own choice they experience as suffering what the saints experience as joy. ‘The love of God will be an intolerable torment for those who have not acquired it within themselves.’

    Hell exists as a final possibility, but several of the Fathers have none the less believed that in the end all will be reconciled to God. 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. Until the Last Day comes, we must not despair of anyone’s salvation, but must long and pray for the reconciliation of all without exception. No one must be excluded from our loving intercession. ‘What is a merciful heart?’ asked Isaac the Syrian. ‘It is a heart that burns with love for the whole of creation, for men, for the birds, for the beasts, for the demons, for all creatures.’ Gregory of Nyssa said that Christians may legitimately hope even for the redemption of the Devil.

    Tuesday, May 24, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Permalink
  2. Scott C. wrote:

    Rob Bell says something in his book that sounds very much like the idea you quote from Kalistos Ware here. He uses the parable of the lost son to illustrate it: the son who never left is in hell at the party because of his attitude (to simplify). I thought of another E.O. sermon I’d read on this topic when I read that part of Bell’s book.

    Also, I don’t think Bell commits himself to certain universalism and comes across more as encouraging hopeful universalism. He says that universal reconciliation makes for a better story.

    Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

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