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That All Shall Be Saved

Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation
Written by: David Bentley Hart
Narrated by: Derek Perkins
Length: 7 hrs and 3 mins

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Publisher's Summary

A stunning reexamination of one of the essential tenets of Christian belief from one of the most provocative and admired writers on religion today. 

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 this momentous book, 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.

©2019 David Bentley Hart (P)2019 Tantor

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  • Mary Benton
  • 24-11-19

The most important part...

For a book on such a weighty topic by an author of such exceptional knowledge and intelligence, this book was in real sense, entertaining. David Bentley Hart's incredible vocabulary and keen wit made what could have been a dry analysis a pleasure to listen to. The reading by Derek Perkins was also exceptional. I felt like I was listening to DBH himself, so fluidly did the words roll off his tongue. That said, I think it should be noted that listening to this book is quite acceptable if all one is seeking is an overall gist of DBH's thoughts on this subject. To really study them, one should have a readable copy (Kindle or hard copy). There is a great deal to reflect on here and to capture all of the references (Biblical and otherwise), one would have to keep pausing the audio to make notes.

I chose the former path - to listen and get the gist. I may still buy a copy to read. I certainly think it would be a worthwhile project but I must consider whether I would truly take the time to go through the entire book again (and again) when I essentially heard what I considered the most important part that I wanted to hear. I had already read some discussion of the book and wanted clarity about the part I considered most essential for accepting the author's premise.

While DBH's reasoning skills are extraordinary and quite persuasive, the part I needed to hear had to do with his opinion regarding the proper translation of the Greek term in the Bible that is typically handed on to us as "eternal". All of the reasoning in the world would, for me, have a tough time standing up to the possibility that it conflicted with what Jesus said. DBH indicated that he would have to abandon Christianity if it could be proved to him that the existence of an eternal hell was essential to the faith. I don't know that I could say the same thing. No matter how smart DBH is - or how smart I think I am (no comparison though, to be honest) - the God's Wisdom and Truth is greater. If I otherwise wholly believe in Christ and Christianity, I have to trust that what doesn't make sense to me can still be true and consistent with God as good and loving, even if completely mysterious to me.

I found myself reacting a bit to DBH's mocking tone about believing impossible things. Though DBH presents himself as a believer, it made me wonder if he was going to later produce books trying to convince me that there was no Virgin birth or that Christ did not really rise from the dead. Are these not "impossible things" to our human understanding? Yet I believe them - and I think for good reason - even though my mind cannot fathom them as truly "possible". Granted, I do not have the same "good reason" for believing in an eternal hell but neither am I going to toss out a Church teaching that seems to be supported by Scripture merely because human reason says it doesn't make sense.

I got what I came for. DBH produced - quite far into the book - a thorough enough discussion of the translations of the Greek to convince me that what has been translated as "eternal" is not and should not be unequivocally accepted as a proper translation. The Greek word may or may not mean a very long time but that is quite different from eternal. He also provided additional support to his argument by noting that some prominent Fathers of the early Church assumed that salvation was ultimately universal.

There is much else in this title that is worth pondering, e.g. punishment of the wicked as retributive vs. remedial, consideration of what the freedom in "free will" means, etc. It is definitely worth a read/listen by anyone with even the slightest interest in the subject.

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  • Timothy K
  • 08-11-19

Wind bag

Mr. Hart works hard to make his point, but all too often he tries to impress his readers with his command of the language. This leads to many passages with needlessly complicated words and phrases.

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  • Ropebender
  • 07-01-20

A hard book to listen to, and a hard one to ignore

Because of the deep nature of the theological material in this book, I think a print version is a better choice. The 30 second rewind is too much, and to give adequate study takes too much thought, too many pauses, and no way to fully absorb these controversial ideas.

Most Christians today would jump to quickly dismiss the book as claptrap. That is, unless they take the time to fully digest the logic presented. I personally thought I would immediately see through the anti-biblical beliefs of Mr Hart. Instead, I find myself wanting to discuss this with a few others. It's not easy to get past the overall logical points he makes.

There are some very angry reviews out there for this book. I fear most of them were written by people who never really tried to read the book with an open mind. It's really hard to do that when you have spent many years believing in an eternal hell for evil people.

Carefully read, Heart may shake those long-held views. But I recommend a print version of the book, so you can make marginal notes and use a big black marker over parts you don't agree with.

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  • Marc C.
  • 28-12-19

Thought-provoking with excellent narration

I greatly enjoyed listening to this book, and I plan to listen to it a second time. David Bentley Hart is not an easy author to read, and his vocabulary and erudition can make a book difficult to work through. I was very impressed with the narration here by Derek Perkins. He reads expressively, even with the most challenging vocabulary and detailed philosophical arguments.

Hart's argument in this book is compelling and addresses all of the key arguments that Christian theologians have put forward for an eternal hell over the centuries. He liberally appeals to the reader's (or listener's) instinctive sense of justice and morality throughout the book, but he backs up his frequent emotional appeals with cogent, well-argued philosophical and theological reflections. At the very least, his exposition of the views of some early Christian authors and the meaning of key Greek words in the New Testament opened a new vista for me about the core Christian message. What is salvation really all about, and what does it mean for individuals and all of humanity? The way he develops this point is deeply influential for me, and it will take a while to plumb the depths of meaning therein. I highly recommend this book, and the recording is excellent.

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  • Ed B
  • 07-10-19

Best Philosophical Case for Christian Universalism

Going back to the earliest sources of Christianity the author makes the best case for Christian universalism grounded in philosophy I have seen and I have read many a Christn universalist book. The dismissive air toward infernalist arguments is both succinct and charming.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-12-19

Can one Defeat God?

Hart is able to reveal a logical treatise that will leave the reader asking one’s self, “why did I ever believe in Eternal Conscience Torment?” To believe in ECT Hell is to believe in a god who can be defeated.... nicely done Hart!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-12-19

The Book Is a Masterpiece, the Reader Is the Best

Thomas Talbott once wrote, "If one is looking for an explanation of why so many within the evangelical community, even among the more elite scholars, are woefully ignorant of how universalist interpret the New Testament and put theological ideas together, one need only consider how few of them have ever encountered a vigorous and sustained defense of the doctrine of universal reconciliation. Hart gives that vigorous and sustained defense and more to anyone willing to withhold judgment until having heard both sides of this important matter.

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  • Rick Sailor
  • 11-10-19

A Hell of a Book

This is David Bentley Hart justifying his views on hell that he acquired in his childhood in the most intellectual manner possible. Yay? Now because it is Mr. Hart, there is much that is interesting. When Mr. Hart can actually stick to philosophy, it is interesting indeed. However, Mr. Hart has picked up the unpleasant habit of filling pages with invective against his critics. How can they be so stupid as to believe traditional Christian teachings? The problem with this is that while this fills up pages, it neither advances his argument nor unless you are an imbecile is it convincing.

My own impression is that his understanding is far too intellectual. For example if I have understood him correctly, he dispatches the standard Eastern Orthodox understanding of Hell by redefining freedom. The Eastern Orthodox would say simply that because we are endowed with freedom, we can indeed reject God for all eternity if we so choose. This is hell. Freedom for Mr. Hart is expressing one's true nature as a rational being and our true nature is expressed by union with God. Hence, because we are all rational beings, we must have this union with God. In fact, it makes God evil if God allows us to reject him. Hence, at some point this false will we have must be overcome and we will achieve union God with God. And we WILL like it. The problem with such thinking is that it does remove our choice in the matter. And if we have no choice, why is God waiting around to force this union? He can force it so why doesn't he get it over with. There need be no suffering at all. I want my union with God now! And worse, if I am a rational being, why do I choose evil in the first place? As any person with any self awareness knows, we often choose evil even though we know precisely that it is evil. If you have ever had an addiction, you know this in spades. Or if you have ever really tried to live your life to the ascetic rule of the Orthodox Church, this is pretty clear.

Anyway, this book brings up some very interesting questions about the nature of God. You may or may not find the answers satisfying. You will at least come away with the feeling you ought to read Gregory of Nyssa's writings. I know I did. So I would say this is rewarding reading but no where as good as either "Atheist Delusions" or "God Being, Consciousness, Bliss".

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  • Hayley
  • 24-05-20

DBH totally owns infernalist noobs

he just does it bro he does listen to the audio book bro it’s good

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  • Dennis
  • 27-04-20

An absolute must read for all serious Christians!

This book will make you think about what you think even things you do not realize you think that are completely illogical. The most thorough sensible logical explanation of all of the different theological positions I have ever heard, very well done. The last chapter beautifully summarizes the whole book!

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  • MR J.
  • 14-11-19

Brilliant and persuasive

Not an easy subject to be tackling, but DBH’s arguments are compelling and seem irrefutable. I have considered myself a ‘hopeful universalist’ for some time, but this book gives me more confidence, with sound theological, philosophical and historical backing, to ‘come out’ as a universalist. If you’re intrigued, on the fence, set against or already on side, this is a book definitely worth reading. DBH writes with his usual exquisite selection of words-I’ve-never-heard, but also with a fresh level of humour I’ve not previously noticed in his work. Well read for the audio also.

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  • Graham
  • 02-10-19

Graham Roberts-- great stuff!

Morally obvious. Meta physically necessary. Like he says - it shouldn't even need writing a book about, but I am glad he took the trouble. Plus, he is hilarious, in only that way which an exasperated, dry humoured, grumpy old git can be.. Excellent stuff all round. One more 'shadow' hurried away by the light of love and reason.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-05-20

An unflinching powerhouse. Wonderful.

I can't put into words what this book means to me. I found it life-changing. An inescapably coherent, demolition of a lifelong stronghold. Thanks for your efforts David Bentley Heart.

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  • D. Matcham
  • 05-10-19

DBH's latest classic.

Witty, erudite and above all convincing. Even if it won't convince everyone, the logical force of his argument (that if God is good, and if goodness means what we think it means, then eternal conscious torment is not on the cards) will make many people sit up and listen.

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  • John
  • 22-01-20

Universalism

A wonderful series of meditations on why hell as eternal punishment is absurd. I totally agree. I recommend to all to read and meditate on what DB Hart writes!