The Catholic University of America

 Final Examination

Joshua Wise

for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Thursday, April 28, 2016
10:45 am, Caldwell Hall, Room 125
The Role of Hell in Various Universalistic Theologies with Special Reference to the Theology of George MacDonald
Director: Dr. Michael Root, Ph.D.
This dissertation examines the use of hell in three main types of Christian Universalism and evaluates this usage using five criteria: Consonance of the use of hell with paradigmatic elements of scripture, the permanence of hell, impetus for evangelization in light of the use of hell, hell’s discontinuity with creation, and the possibility of hell for persons other than Christ. The three models evaluated are the Pedagogical Model characterized by Origen, the Christocentric Model characterized by Karl Barth and Hans Urs Von Balthasar, and the Moral Impetus Model characterized by Hans Urs Von Balthasar and Raymund Schwager. These three models are demonstrated to each be strong in some areas of evaluation, but weak in other areas.
In response to the weaknesses of each of the models examined, the author begins to explore the theology of the nineteenth century author and preacher George MacDonald, who believed that Christ would save all people. A chapter is dedicated to exploring MacDonald’s theology of revelation as well as his theological anthropology. These two aspects of his theology are then followed by a description of his understanding of hell which answers many of the problems which exist in other models of hell. He is shown to be strong in the criteria of consonance with scripture, impetus for evangelization, hell’s discontinuity with creation, and the possibility of hell for those other than Christ.
To address possible questions of permanence in MacDonald’s theology of hell, and to work forward to bring MacDonald’s theology into dialog with contemporary discussions of universalism and eschatology, the final chapter takes as its point of departure the ancient image of the eschatological community of God going out to see the punishments of the damned and to rejoice over them. A theory of revelation as persons is put forward in continuity with MacDonald’s revelatory anthropology as a way to address problems of identity in the community of the blessed and the reality of hell. Drawing on Johannine and Pauline descriptions of identity change, the author demonstrates a permanence of final condemnation of the “old Adam” in the permanent presence of the blessed community.
More About Wise
Joshua Wise was born and raised in Southern New Jersey. He earned a B.A. in Biblical Studies from Eastern University in 2001, and worked for a decade as a software engineer. During this time he earned an M.A. in Systematic Theology from The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia in 2012.
He has worked as a research assistant, teaching assistant, teaching fellow, and First Year Experience Fellow at CUA. During that time he served as a student representative and co-chair to the Washington Theological Consortium and as a member of the School of Theology and Religious Studies Student Association for two years, first as Secretary and then as President.
 He has delivered papers on the application of fourth century Christological models to human experience in Virtual Worlds, and on the eschatology of George MacDonald. He has also edited a book on the intersection of theology and virtual worlds entitled Past the Sky’s Rim: The Elder Scrolls and Theology.
Outside of Academia, Joshua is the author and editor of the ongoing audio drama The Adventures of Lord Dinby Whitherspoon, Duke of Space, and an avid software designer. He lives in Laurel with his wife of six years, Sara.