“That is all I ask of Orthodoxy—to permit me to hope.” — Fr. Aiden Kimel
After a decade of catechesis and struggle under the guidance of my spiritual father, Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, and godfather, David Goa, I was chrismated into the Orthodox Church in 2013. To some, the tutelage of these sages already disqualifies me, the rhetoric of unity of the Church notwithstanding. But I knew this. I proceeded with eyes wide open into the Orthodox Church despite her conflicts and dysfunctions. I proceeded because I felt drawn from my Evangelical foxhole into the harbor of Christian Orthodoxy, where I was exposed to a more Christlike God.
A key factor in the move was the assurance of some key Scriptures, catechisms and liturgies, along with a number of significant Orthodox saints, hierarchs and theologians, that Orthodoxy permits me to hope—that I could believe and teach my basic conviction (published in Her Gates Will Never Be Shut) of a humble eschatological hope, the possibility in principle of universal salvation—without being branded a heretic.
Not that I make the bold claims of St Gregory of Nyssa or St Isaac of Syria (their revisedapokatastasis have never been anathematized). Nor do I insist on teaching the daring universalism of Fr. Sergius Bulgakov or David Bentley Hart as doctrine (although their arguments seem airtight).
My own project is far more modest. I ask and now assert that Christian Orthodoxy permits me to hope—permits a position elsewhere called “hopeful inclusivism.” Hopeful inclusivism says that we cannot presume that all will be saved or that even one will be damned. Rather, we put our hope in the final victory and verdict of Jesus Christ, whose mercy endures forever and whose lovingkindness is everlasting.
An incontrovertible fact of our tradition is that Orthodoxy at least permits (and may evenrequire) us to hope, pray, preach and work for the salvation of all. Some Orthodox (usually convert priests) insist, like the shrinking majority of my Evangelical brethren, on thenecessary and inevitable eternal damnation of the greater part of humanity. That position is permitted. It is easy enough to find the threat of eternal conscious torment within some of the Fathers, synods and traditions—even some Scriptures. But the infernalists cannot rightly deny the stubborn fact that Orthodoxy has and does also provide a harbor for those who ask only, “Permit me to hope.”
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