Thursday, July 16, 2009

All Will Be Well. Book update.

Here is some more information about the forthcoming book.

The goal is to have chapters on different Christian theological thinkers who were (or arguably ought to have been) universalists. (By 'ought to have been' I mean that whilst certain thinkers denied being universalists, the logic of their 'systematic theology' pointed in universalist directions. I have people like Barth and Forsyth in mind.) The chapters would seek to show how universalism fitted into their wider theological ‘systems’, explore what aspects of their wider theology led them in that direction and to offer some evaluative comments on the strengths and weaknesses of their universalist theology.

In a nutshell, the thought is that instead of simply noting that they were universalists, or treating their universalism as an item on a list of things they believed, the aim is to treat it in its wider theological context so as to join the dots with the rest of each thinker's theological ideas.

So here is the outline

(Gregory MacDonald)

3rd-15th Centuries
Origen (c.185-c.254)
(Tom Greggs)

Gregory of Nyssa (330-394)
(Steve Harmon)

Julian of Norwich (c.1342-1416)
(Robert Sweetman)

17th-19th Centuries
The Cambridge Platonists – (Peter Sterry and Jeremiah White, 17th C)
(Louise Hickman)

Elhanan Winchester (1751-1797)
(Robin Parry)

Friedrich Schliermacher (1768-1834)
(Murray Rae)

Thomas Erskine (1788-1870)
(Don Horrocks)

George MacDonald (1824-1905)
(Tom Talbott)

20th Century
P. T. Forsyth (1848-1921)
(Jason Goroncy)

Sergius Bulgakov (1871-1944)
(Paul Gavrilyuk)

Karl Barth (1886-1968)
(Oliver Crisp)

Herbert Henry Farmer (1892-1981)
(Christopher Partridge)

Jaques Ellul (1912-1994)

John A. T. Robinson (1919-1983)
(Trevor Hart)

Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988)
(Father Edward Oakes)

John Hick (1922-)
(Lindsay Hall)

J├╝rgen Moltmann (1926-)
(Nik Ansell)

I am very excited about this project. To the best of my knowledge a project of this kind (surveying the theology of a range of universalists and almost-universalists) had never been attempted before.


Anonymous said...

Are you still looking for someone to write the Jacques Ellul chapter, or are you just trying to finalize who it will be?

If you can't find anyone else, I'll do it!!! :-)

Anonymous said...

Also, I'm interested that Oliver Crisp is writing the chapter on Barth. While I know he appreciates Barth, if I remember correctly he is also quite critical (of course, he was a student of Paul Helm - the uber-Calvinist!). The controversial character of Barth's supposed universalism likely falls outside of Crisp's desired it will be interesting to see how he treats it!

Pastor Bob Leroe said...

I'd like to see a chapter on Madeline L'Engle

Anonymous said...

In reading briefly articles by John Hick it is hard to imagine why you would have included him. By his own admission he doesn't believe in the divinity of Christ nor that Christianity is the only valid way to God.

Gregory MacDonald said...


Hi. That's a kind offer. I will bear it in mind. We have approached someone but are waiting to see if they have time to do it.

re: Crisp. He is not a universalist but he is not closed to the possibility that it might be true. He is, of course, a committed Calvinist but he has argued that there is a case to be made for Calvinist Universalism of a non-Bartian variety (see his article on "Augustinian Universalism"). He has published 2 or 3 times already on Barth's universalism. His basic argument is simply this. Barth denied that he was a universalist but in doing so he was simply inconsistent because Barth's theology is clearly universalist.

Gregory MacDonald said...

Pastor Bob

I know - it would be good. The problem is that we already have too many chapters and there are a bunch more we could have added but ... perhaps vol 2, eh?

Gregory MacDonald said...

Niblewill's Grace

Your point on Hick is well taken. In my book I classigy him as a pluralist universalist rather than a Christian universalist.

However, here is the logic: Hick's universalist case was made before his shift towards pluralism and the case he makes for it is, surprisingly, made on grounds internal to Christian theology. So he does actually make a Christian theological case for universalism even if he has subsequently accentuated his Kantian approach such that this earlier theology seems undermined (or so I think). His theology is ultra-modernist (rather than postmodern) and you are right that his Christology is not good. Very sad really. He was once an evangelical.

David W. Congdon said...

I second the desire for a chapter on L'Engle.

I'm actually really disappointed that Crisp is writing the chapter on Barth. While he does happen to have the one article that argues for why Barth is a universalist (logically speaking), he writes it more to show why Barth is wrong, not right. Crisp is a good guy, and I admire his work. But he is Barth's theological antithesis.

I would like to have someone write that chapter who will present Barth in as charitable a light as possible. More importantly, I would like someone who understands Barth's thought within its own internal logic. Crisp is a metaphysical essentialist who thinks Hodge and Turretin got it right. It's hard for a person like that to really appreciate the nuances of Barth's post-metaphysical actualistic theology.

Personally, the best person for the job is Bruce McCormack. He gave a lecture at Princeton Seminary in 2007 on Barth and universalism, arguing from Scripture that universalism is a valid option, and then showing what Barth offers to this conversation. He is the perfect person for the job. If not him, then Keith Johnson (currently at Wheaton College) would be a good choice. Ben Myers, obviously. And if nothing else, I would happily do it.

I realize it seems set in stone, but I don't think Crisp is right for the job. Sorry Oliver. It's not personal.

David W. Congdon said...

Let me just add that I am very, very excited about this book. It's a great idea, long overdue.

W. Travis McMaken said...

If space could be found, TF Torrance would be a good figure to include.

Gregory MacDonald said...

T F Torrance will probably be discussed by me in the introduction. We did discuss whether to give him a chapter but in the end backed off.

We may add a chapter on James Relly and his disciple John Murray because of their significance and because they represent a distinct Calvinistic mode of universalism