|Another name for those who believe in the Apocatastasis has been Origenists|
In Part VI, Engelder confronts the related error of apocatastasis, the eventual redemption and restoration of all the damned. This dangerous and unscriptural doctrine is the end of the road of the Hades Gospel.
[Note: Here is the link to the first (and introductory) post in this series: Prof. Th. Engelder on The Hades Gospel Part I: "The Hades Gospel", the second post: Part II, "The Argument in Support of the Hades Gospel,", the third post: Prof. Th. Engelder on the Hades Gospel Part III: "The Evil of The Hades Gospel" the fourth post: Prof. Th. Engelder on the Hades Gospel Part IV: "Some Remarks on the Question of the Salvation of the Heathen", the fifth post: Prof. Th. Engelder on the Hades Gospel Part V: "The Protestant Purgatory"]
He divides his critique into three sections. First he attacks on exegetical grounds, including an extensive discussion on the word "age(s)" means. He shows how that the denial of the eternality of damnation also undermines the beauty, surety, and everlasting nature of the promise of eternal life. Secondly, he attacks their elevation of reason over the Word of God [with a brief side trip to make the logical and historical connection between the belief in the apocatastasis and Pelagianism, and the dependence and example of Origen].
But it is a wicked business. "Men derive this dogma from their reason, their sense of justice, their conception of mercy. And men have not the right to use the argument under discussion. For what it amounts to is this: reason presumes to tell God what He must do in order to retain His character as a merciful and just God. And shall reason teach God ethics? Presumptuous reason is telling God that unless He conducts His judgment according to human standards, His conduct would be unfair, partial, unrighteous, unethical. ...Will a man judge God?" (CON. THEOL. MONTHLY, 1945, p.395.) These words were addressed to the Hades theologians, who demand, because of their "merciful" sentiments, that God must save half of the inmates of hell, Hades. They apply no less to the apocatastasis theologians, who because of their sense of "mercy and justice," require God to lead all the damned out of hell to heaven. And since the God of the Bible speaks a different language, they make out of the God of the Bible "a devil." Presumptuous reason will stop at nothing.
Thirdly, he finishes with a warning of how this teaching is dangerous to sinful man and encourages "carnal security" even more than the Hades Gospel.
The essay is full of excellent quotes, especially from Luther and Pieper. The true theologian is the one who trusts and submits to the promises of God in His Word. Those that try to go "beyond," "behind," or "around" the literal (intended) sense of the words of Scripture, are bound to fall into error and blasphemy. However, as we are listening to Engelder at the moment, let us end with words from him.
Reason blusters that a just God cannot punish the sinner with the damnation of hell. It is inconceivable that the rationalist would appeal to the justice of God in this connection, the divine justice and holiness of Him whose wrath is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness (Rom. 1: 18), who will render to every man according to his deeds (Rom. 2: 6), before whose judgment seat all must appear, that everyone may receive the things done in his body (2 Cor. 5: 10), whose judgment is righteous (2 Thess. 1: 5-9; Acts 17: 31), who will pronounce judgment without mercy (James 2: 13). And if carnal reason will not listen to the terrible (2 Cor. 5: 11: "the terror of the Lord") voice of God in Scripture, it should listen to the voice of conscience, which tells every man that he will be judged on the Last Day by Him who condones not one sin and cannot but execute the judgment of damnation against the unbeliever. Reason is unreasonable when it protests against the just judgment of God, for it can do so only by suppressing the voice of conscience and blinding itself. As long as men believe in a God and have a conscience, they cannot deny the reality of hell. Schaff Herzog: "The fact of future retribution cannot reasonably be denied by any except those who hold a pantheistic or materialistic theory of the universe."
[Here is a brief introduction to Engelder and his work.]
Below are all six of Engelder's essays, in order, linked to the online articles.
Part I: "The Hades Gospel"
CTM May 1945 (Vol. 16, No. 5)
Part II: "The Argument in Support of the Hades Gospel"
CTM June 1945 (Vol. 16, No. 6)
Part III: "The Evil of The Hades Gospel"
CTM September 1945 (Vol. 16, No. 9)
Part IV: "Some Remarks on the Question of the Salvation of the Heathen"
CTM December 1945 (Vol. 16, No. 12)
Part V: "The Protestant Purgatory"
CTM June 1946 (Vol. 17, No. 6)
Part VI: "The Hades Gospel and the Apocatastasis Gospel"
CTM September 1946 (Vol. 17, No. 9)
Need to Get Read Level: Pastors: 8/10 Laymen: 3/10
If you are a pastor who isn't comfortable speaking to this issue and the questions surrounding the life hereafter, then you probably need to, um, "supplement you knowledge" about basic Christianity. (Read: get it straight, fast. You should know this already!) There is a decent amount of German and other foreign language references in the article. However, the layman who is grounded in the Catechism and Scriptures and takes a plunge will indeed be rewarded with much good food for thought and reflection.