“That All Shall Be Saved” by Religion Scholar David Bentley Hart

Author photo by Nicole Waldron

Hart’s book reexamines one of the essential tenets of Christian belief: universal salvation

The great fourth-century church father Basil of Caesarea once observed that, in his time, most Christians believed that hell was not everlasting and that all would eventually attain salvation. But today, this view is no longer prevalent within Christian communities.

In his most recent book, That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation (Yale University Press), David Bentley Hart makes the case that nearly two millennia of dogmatic tradition have misled readers on the crucial matter of universal salvation. On the basis of the earliest Christian writings, theological tradition, scripture, and logic, Hart argues that if God is the good creator of all, he is the savior of all, without fail. And if he is not the savior of all, the Kingdom is only a dream, and creation something considerably worse than a nightmare. But it is not so. There is no such thing as eternal damnation; all will be saved. With great rhetorical power, wit, and emotional range, Hart offers a new perspective on one of Christianity’s most important themes.

David Bentley Hart is an Eastern Orthodox scholar of religion, and a philosopher, writer, and cultural commentator. His books include The Experience of God and The New Testament.

Advance Praise for That All Shall Be Saved

 “[A] provocative, informative treatise…[Hart’s] resounding challenge to orthodox Christian views on hell and his defense of God’s ultimate goodness will prove convincing and inspiring to the open-minded.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“David Bentley Hart, the most eminent living anglophone theologian, asks the fundamental question: Is it possible that anyone is damned? Hart’s answer is no, and that negative is gorgeously elaborated in this book, with unmatched force and brio.” Paul Griffiths, author of Christian Flesh

“If everything and everyone are not finally restored, then God is not God. This is the simple core of Hart’s unanswerable argument, masterfully developed. He calls us back to real orthodoxy, perhaps just in time.” John Milbank, University of Nottingham

“David Bentley Hart never disappoints. Three years ago, he published a translation of the New Testament; now comes a ‘companion’ to take up a question that vexes many Christians. Does the New Testament teach that hell is everlasting? Hart is convinced, having wrestled with the language of the New Testament and plumbed early Christian thought, that it does not. In this original and lively book, Hart shows why most Christian thinking about eternal damnation is unbiblical.” Robert Louis Wilken, author of Liberty in the Things of God

“At last! A brilliant treatment—exegetically, theologically, and philosophically—of the promise that, in the end, all will indeed be saved, and exposing the inadequacy—above all moral—of claims to the contrary.” John Behr, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary

“Hart shows with great clarity why the idea that our ultimate freedom lies in accepting or rejecting God as one option amongst others is profoundly mistaken. This is some of the most exacting, perspicuous, and powerful theological writing I have read in recent years.” Simon Oliver, Durham University

The Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia is a research initiative, whose mission is to study the social consequences of theological ideas for the sake of a more just and compassionate world.