Have Anglicans Given Up on Eternal Torment?
September 7, 2006 — 18:20

Author: Kevin Timpe  Category: Hell  Tags:   Comments: 5

To continue the recent discussions of hell, let me ask the wise folks of PB for their collective wisdom.
I was reading a recent article by Wilko Van Holten entitled “Can the Traditional View of Hell be Defended? An Evaluation of Some Arguments for Eternal Punishment” in Anglican Theological Review–not a journal I normally read, but I figured “What the hell?” (Ok, no more bad puns in this post, I promise).
Rest below the fold:


I found the following quite interesting. Van Holten is discussing the fact that in much recent literature on hell, the traditional view is rejected summarily.

The doctrinal report The Mystery of Salvation by the Doctrine Commission of the Church of England is no exception in this respect: after the brief observation that in the churches in the Western world there is “a growing sense that the picture of a God who consigns millions to eternal torment is far removed from the revelation of God’s love in Christ” (199) it goes on to affirm the doctrine of annihilationism instead (458).

Two questions. (1) Do any of you know if this is, in fact, a true description of the Commission’s report (i.e., that it recommends annihilationism)? (2) What, if any, is the authority of this Comission within the Anglican Fellowship?
OK, so these aren’t very philosophical questions. But I ask them nonetheless.

Comments:
  • Kevin, I could be wrong, but I seem to recall Keith Ward saying that reports of the Doctrinal Commission have no authority; they make recommendations about what one might believe that people are free to follow or not to follow.

    September 7, 2006 — 20:50
  • I don’t have much information in the way of the Doctrinal Commission, but I do know quite a few Anglicans. What is being preached/taught in most of their churches is annihilationism, or in some cases universalism. The line of reasoning is standard: a loving God would not send people to eternal torment.

    September 8, 2006 — 15:55
  • Kevin

    Thanks Ben and Bradley for your comments. I also asked the same question of a friend of mine who is an Anglican; his response was “Of course the Commission’s finding isn’t authoritative. Anglicans don’t believe in authority!” A little cheeky, to be sure, but I took this along the same general lines as your respective comments.

    September 10, 2006 — 11:35
  • Robert

    Part of the major dispute that is presently being fought in the Anglican Church is directly related to this question of authority. It seems that the authority of the Lambeth Commission, the General Convention, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the many other Archbishops is being questioned. Anglican’s are having to sit down to ask the question, “Who is in a position to tell me what not/to believe?” This is the exact issue that the Windsor Report (a must read!) attempted to approach and the next Lambeth Commission will surely be examining this issue very closely.
    As an Anglican I can testify that there are many parishes that have taken up an annihilationist perspective of the afterlife and there are also many that have taken what is a quasi-universalist stance. This is, in part, one signature of being an Anglican: diversity in the unity.
    I am unaware of any priests that still preach the fire and brimstone of Dante. The parishes I have attended have often rejected the liberal tendency to dismiss hell but have also dismissed the Medieval model as well. A perspective radically similar to that of C. S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce” (a perspective Pope Benedict has even acknowledged) is probably the primary view in the circles I have been a part of.

    September 12, 2006 — 15:49
  • Andrei Buckareff

    Kevin,
    The commission report does support some version of annihilationism. But the support is weak at best.
    I suspect that most of us who are Anglicans/Episcopalians reject the traditional view of hell in favor of annihilationism, universalism, or (my favorite) escapism.
    -Andrei

    May 25, 2007 — 9:22