First, an update. As you will recall, in Part 2 we saw that Jamie Smith seemed to be thinking that the scriptural case for universalism could be “so easily refuted” that he was going to ignore that case (and that he was doing universalists who would appeal to such a case a “favor” by ignoring it), and we were asking (OK: with a bit of taunting thrown in) Jamie what decisive refutation he might have in mind. Well, Jamie has now responded (not just to my post, but to two other blog posts as well), but it looks like he’s not going to be telling us what (if any) refutation he might have had in mind, because he doesn’t specify it in his response, and its title would seem to indicate he’s not going to be saying any more on the subject: “Once (and only once) more on the ‘new universalism’.” You will also recall that in connection with my request, I had claimed that some pretty serious scriptural cases for universalism have been attempted. And Jamie does say this in response (it’s item 2 below that we’re directly interested in; I give the material before it to help set the context; there’s also a third item in this section; the parenthetical material and the stuff in brackets is all Jamie’s):
C. So I wish I had more retractions to make. You can chalk this up to either my stubbornness or my stupidity, or both. Just a few minor points:
1. Yes, the “new” universalism is not “new”–there are ancient streams of this. Yep, OK.
2. There are people who offer rigorous arguments, biblical cases for universalism, etc., etc. Turns out people have written lots of books on this. (Gee, really? Well, gooolllly…if only uh’d known…) Yep, got it. [See B.2 above]
Yes, of course, I see what look like marks of (very heavy) sarcasm here. I’ve always thought that I was reasonably adept at discerning what’s being communicated through sarcastic material, but in this case I’m quite unsure. I’m inclined to read these as retractions Jamie is making, throwing in some peculiar remarks, the intent of which I’d then be guessing is to diminish the importance of the points being conceded? (Yes, it is rather strange in that case, since he is on this reading diminishing the importance of how good the scriptural case is, when his very own view would seem to make that the centrally important issue. But in the context of his whole post, it might make sense, for it seems that he might be indicating that this whole topic is just extremely unimportant to him. So the strength of the scriptural case can be central, but if it’s central to an unimportant topic, at least to him, it’s still not important?) But who knows? Maybe these aren’t retractions, but explanations made through heavy sarcasm for why he is not making any retractions here?
At any rate, I’m inclined to just venture a guess that Jamie doesn’t really know of any really decisive refutations of the serious scriptural cases for universalism, but was taking it that there were decisive refutations for the best cases for universalism (perhaps because he was seriously in error about what the best cases were like).
If so, he is far from alone….
“In hope, the Church prays for ‘all men to be saved’.” — The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd. ed., entry 1821
As promised in the previous installment, we will now begin to look at the case against hoping that all people will be saved. As I’ve been asked: How can Christians possibly be against even hope on this matter? Well, as it turns out, in a post that has been noticed at, for example, The Gospel Coalition, James K.A. Smith has recently written up a case against this hope, “Can hope be wrong? On the new universalism” – which is quite interesting, given Plantinga’s recent expression of hope (that we looked at last time) and Plantinga’s very deep ties to the Calvin Philosophy, since Smith (or Jamie, as we know him) is a member of the Philosophy department at Calvin College.
Jamie recognizes how counter-intuitive his anti-hope stance will seem to some, writing this about what he calls the “‘at-least-I-hope’ strategy”:
Doesn’t it just name what all of us secretly desire? Indeed, wouldn’t we be quite inhuman if we didn’t hope in this way?
The basic type of explanation for why this hope is wrong given by the best of the no-hopers is that hoping that all will be saved betrays or constitutes an insufficient level of commitment to some view (often a theory of everlasting punishment for the lost, combined with the claim that there will indeed be some who are forever lost) contrary to universalism – and Jamie’s case against hope seems to be of this basic type. I will address this basic case (and also Jamie’s own use of it) in a later post.
Here I’ll clear the way for that by first registering a few complaints about some features of Jamie’s post that go beyond the basic strategy – in I think some unfortunate ways…