Our Hope and Hell series has raised a lot of interest; people like the ideas a lot but everyone has questions. We created a panel of three to address eight of these questions that our listeners sent in. In this talk, Ron, Andrew and Tony give their responses in a free flowing, exploratory and honest dialogue. Mark Ridgway facilitates the dialogue
As we continue to ponder the hope of ‘apokatastasis’, we confront some of the ‘so what’s’ beginning with evangelism. At face value, it looks like a doctrine of ‘universal salvation’ makes evangelism unnecessary – why preach if everybody gets saved eventually anyway? Tony addresses this question by first changing the question – and then building a far bigger picture of ‘salvation’ into which we can place ‘evangelism’.
Tony finally confronts the scary verses in this talk - the passages that at face value talk about hell, judgment and wrath. Traditionally they have so gripped the dark imaginations of the church that they have totally overshadowed the even clearer verses that declare universal hope. But we need to answer the question - What do the 'Bad News' verses really say about eternal hell? What do they really tell us?
St Augustine laid the foundations for the doctrine of Hell in his epic tome the City of God. But did he get it right? Tony gives a penetrating diagnosis of where Augustine's thinking had 'code errors' that distorted the gospel and predisposed him to the idea of hell as never ending torment. Unfortunately the church of Rome validated his thinking and excluded the broader eschatology that we are now beginning to realise was the orthodoxy of the Patristic Fathers.
In this talk Tony advances Gregory's picture of the Restitution of all things. The question of 'universal salvation' needs to fall onto a big eschatological landscape not onto a narrow one. Only then does it make sense. That is what Gregory does. Tony gives us a detailed summary of his epic eschatological vision of creation in 'On the Making of Man' which explores the profound implications of being made in the image of God.
Our second talk builds a richer view of 'judgment'. What house is God building? is a better question - and it immediately opens up a new view of judgment. Architects judge as part of their creative process. This positions 'judgment' out of the penal system and inside a creation system. Tony explores this new perspective in this talk.
Hell is the question we all avoid but it is the corollary of hope. How do we fit the two together? Is the traditional model of hell right? Or scriptural? Could everyone get saved in the end? Tony begins to address these vexed questions by first examining the landscape of the debate - the language and assumptions, the possibilities, the history and the problems of all the usual positions. He ends by suggesting a better question to frame our thinking.
Rikk finishes his series on Design as the new Theology in this talk. He spends time synthesising his argument thus far - that the language of design offers a fruitful lens to view the gospel because it makes sense of some of the deep paradoxes of creation like change and agency - in fact more sense than traditional theology does. Then he concludes with a breathtaking reading of Genesis through the lens of design - which leaves us with the picture of God as the original designer.
Rikk lays out the groundwork for why 'design' is a richer angle to understand God and His work than 'theology'. Design opens up a messier world and a world where change is a good thing - which in turn challenges our traditional picture of the omnipotent and unmoving God. instead we find a God who is dynamic and involved in life's dramas - in fact an incarnate God.
This series is deliberately provocative. Rikk takes us on a journey to rid ourselves of the prison of religious language and open up a broader, more accessible and more comprehensive vocabulary to both explore and express the wonders of our God and his working. He calls this 'the grammar of life'. Rikk has been on this journey personally - with great effect and he begins his talk with that personal experience.