Sometimes people ask why I discuss the topics on this blog when it upsets some people― “Alex wouldn’t it be better to stay quiet for the sake of unity?”
I agree, unity is very important and that we don’t want division, especially over something that isn’t an essential doctrine of Christianity. There is some uncertainty about the future and I respect that many people prefer to spend their time and energy on other things. However, I’ll give a summary of why I bother, why I inadvertently upset some people when I occasionally bring up Universalism:
- I like it when people help me refine my views and so try to return the favour. As I think Universalism has more biblical support1 than either Annihilationism or Eternal Torment, I’d like people to at least understand and consider it. If they discover it’s mistaken I want them to point that out as I don’t want to believe a falsehood―truth matters a lot to me.
- I think some versions aren’t hallowing to God but bring His name into disrepute (e.g. if God doesn’t want to save everyone, then it’s questionable that He really is Love and The Father. Or if God can’t save everyone, then it’s questionable that He really is all-knowing and all-powerful. I’ve had Atheists point both of these out to me).
- Some doctrines of hell are an unnecessary (assuming Universalism is true) hurdle to non-Christians (an Australian survey2 found it’s in the top 10 reasons people reject Christianity).
- Some Christians insist their view of Hell is essential to being a Christian, which means they will try to ignore, silence, disown and ostracise Christians who hold a different view (e.g. despite being a member of a denomination for 15 years, I was asked to leave as I couldn’t be silent in public and private on these topics. Not only that, but the denomination convinced the next denomination I joined to do the same).I know many who have experienced this―this isn’t building unity and sadly results in some of our siblings becoming church-less or even giving up on Christianity.
- Some versions of Hell increase the “us vs. them” mentality (e.g. “some people out there are beyond hope, they can’t be helped or healed, not even by God” or “some people out there aren’t loved by God”) rather than unity (e.g. “everyone is loved and can―and will―be helped and healed”).
- I agree with people like John Dickson and Greg Clarke who say that, “Eschatology and ethics are intertwined”3 (e.g. if, contrary to Arminianism, one believes everyone can be saved and, contrary to Calvinism, is worth saving that affects one’s approach to practical things like mission, social justice and humanitarianism).
- I find the promise and prospect of seeing everyone saved inspires far more praise and worship (“the more saved the better”, implies seeing all saved would be the best).
- Like you, I am concerned about the fate of billions. On good days, we’re concerned about their fate more than our own. I find it encouraging (and I know others have been encouraged by this) to believe even non-believing loved ones aren’t lost forever.
- Sadly some of my friends have been psychologically damaged by fundamentalist teaching about Hell as children (I’m hoping to undo some of that damage).
- I think Universalism was the view of the Apostle Paul and many in the Early Church for almost 500 years, including the some of the greatest Church Fathers. I’d like us to reform back to their view.
Because of the points above, I’ve seen many people come back to Christianity and have their lives transformed, simply because they’ve found out there is a legitimate, alternative Christian view of Hell.
I believe Jesus revealed what we need to know of God. God’s incarnation joined Humanity to Himself so that everyone will eventually participate in His death, resurrection and ascension.
I hope that helps.
1. I think it also has far more support from reason and experience, plus a little from tradition, however as an evangelical, the biblical support is the primary concern.
2. Australian Communities Report 2012 by Olive Tree & McCrindle Research.
3. Dickson and Clarke, 666 And All That, p184.