I should explain. I am in the process of preparing a kind of “interim report” on my recent book That All Shall Be Saved, in preparation for a number of public events, and perhaps in anticipation of a second edition of the text. And the editors of Public Orthodoxy have kindly offered me a venue in which to issue installments of that report, in the hope of refining it in the process. A good part of that report will consist in a kind of itinerary of its overarching argument. When writing the book, I had not properly appreciated how deep an emotional attachment some of us have to the idea of a hell of perpetual torment for the derelict and unenlightened. And so I had not imagined that the final product would provoke critiques so dazzlingly unrelated to my actual argument that I would be obliged repeatedly to recapitulate the book’s basic structure. Such, however, has been the case.
In the normal course of things, of course, an itinerary begins at the beginning and ends at the end. But I want to leap ahead. The book is organized around roughly half a dozen themes, the last of which concerns the nature of human freedom and attempts to defend the reality of an eternal hell as a correlate of that freedom. This part of the argument has proved the most difficult for some readers to grasp, and so I want to dilate upon at a somewhat more deliberate pace than the others. Hence it is also the one with which I should like to begin.Continue reading