Hell and the Victorians: A Study of the Nineteenth-Century Theological Controversies concerning Eternal Punishment and the Future Life

Hell and the Victorians: A Study of the Nineteenth-Century Theological Controversies concerning Eternal Punishment and the Future Life

Hell and the Victorians: A Study of the Nineteenth-Century Theological Controversies concerning Eternal Punishment and the Future Life

Hell and the Victorians: A Study of the Nineteenth-Century Theological Controversies concerning Eternal Punishment and the Future Life

Synopsis

Oxford Scholarly Classics is a new series that makes available again great academic works from the archives of Oxford University Press. Reissued in uniform series design, the reissues will enable libraries, scholars, and students to gain fresh access to some of the finest scholarship of the last century.

Excerpt

Of all the articles of accepted Christian orthodoxy that troubled the consciences of Victorian churchmen, none caused more anxiety than the everlasting punishment of the wicked. The flames of hell illuminated vividly the tensions of an age in which men felt that old certainties were being eroded by new knowledge, and in which an optimistic faith in progress co-existed uneasily with forebodings of the consequences of increasingly rapid social change. A Bible whose Divine authority had been accepted rather than argued about was battered by the blasts of Germanic criticism and scientific theory, and the particular pattern of Christian orthodoxy which it had been assumed to uphold no longer carried full conviction. The distant and impersonal God, whose divine decrees of election and reprobation had the iron fixity and mechanical action of the laws of the Newtonian universe, was increasingly repudiated as an immoral tyrant; and the hell to which the wicked were consigned, far from being the declaration of God's omnipotent righteousness and justice, became a stumbling-block to Christian believers and a weapon of attack for secularists. Yet the need of hell as a moral sanction, and the underlying awareness that, however crudely expressed and distorted the doctrine might be, it did attempt to state something of importance about ultimate ethical values, meant that it could not simply be quietly discarded.

There was not simply criticism from outside, there was also a critique from within Christian theology. Theologians influenced by the pietism of Evangelicalism and Tractarianism, with its close links with the Romantic Movement, attempted to show how Christian eschatology and the Christian faith as a whole had to be given doctrinal expression in personal terms. If the critical study of the Bible cast doubt on the absolute authority of isolated, individual texts, it also meant the rediscovery of the biblical concern with the whole man, as opposed to the commonly accepted dualism of body and soul, and with a corporate as well as an individual eschatology.

Later in the century not only the doctrine of hell but also the very possibility of any future life appeared increasingly implausible. Evolutionary theory, which emphasized so strongly the continuity of . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.