George Sarris was recently interviewed about his new book, Heaven’s Doors. Below I’ve transcribed his excellent answer to one of the first questions people ask about Christian Universalism, “Why would anyone bother becoming a Christian now, if they’re guaranteed to become one later on?”
Eric Metaxas: Hey there folks. It’s the Eric Metaxas show and I am talking about Hell. It’s “Hell Week” on the Eric Metaxas show and my first guest this week is my old friend, George Sarris, who has a book out, Heaven’s Doors, in which he maintains that hell is real but it is not forever and ever. George, welcome to the program.
George Sarris: Thank you very much.
Eric: Your book, Heaven’s Doors, to some people is not just controversial but it’s heretical and damaging. And they say that your book could lead people not to take [hell] seriously and if it leads one soul away from being with God forever, that there’s nothing worse.
George: One of the key elements of Christianity is that the ends do not justify the means. Right, so if it’s true, you got to preach it.
Number two, the early church preached this [and] they took over the Roman Empire! It was not something that led people away from Christ, it was something that led them to Christ—understanding that God is really good. There are two great Commandments: you’ve got the great commandment to love God with all of your heart [and] you also have the commandment to love people—to love your neighbor as yourself. The biggest problem that I see within the evangelical world today is that we have changed the great commission from making disciples into making converts. And this whole idea of giving a fire insurance policy to somebody—I go in there, I get his name on a card, and I can therefore say, “Hey, this person is now a Christian, I can go to the next person.” I forget about them. I don’t have to worry about them anymore because, “Hey, I got them out of hell”. That’s [seen as] the only legitimate reason for being out there.
Third thing is, hell, in my experience, has been the greatest hindrance to the spread of the gospel, not the greatest help to the spread of the gospel. Eternal conscious suffering for anyone, is not good news! Whatever you say, it’s not good news, it is the most dreadful news ever announced.
There was a man by the name of Francis Xavier, in fact the film Silence relates a little bit to that. Francis Xavier was Portuguese and he was the first missionary to Japan and had a tremendous ministry over there. In 1552, he wrote a letter back to the Vatican, and this is what he wrote in part:
One of the things that most of all pains and torments these Japanese is that we teach them that the prison of hell is irrevocably shut so that there is no egress therefrom. For they grieve over the fate of their departed children, of their parents and relatives, and they often show their grief by their tears. So they asked us if there is any hope, any way to free them by prayer from that eternal misery and I’m obliged to answer that there is absolutely none. Their grief at this affects and torments them, they almost pine away with sorrow. They often ask if God cannot take their fathers out of hell and why their punishment must never have an end. I can hardly restrain my tears sometimes at seeing men, so dear to my heart, suffer such intense pain about a thing which is absolutely done and there’s no way that it can be undone.
That is not good news. That’s one of the reasons why the gospel has not made a significant impact in cultures that have a high view of relationships, like over in the Far East where your ancestors are important to you. Your family is important to you in the Middle East. Your family is important to you.
George: Well, it’s great to know that you’re going to get saved but what about my father? What about my sister? What about my uncle? What about my grandfather? My children? That’s not good news and that’s what keeps people away from God. The bottom line is to tell people that this god you’re telling them about (who’s supposed to be so loving) would either cause, or allow, billions of people to suffer consciously forever! That is just… He’s not a very nice God. The one thing that I always fall back on is, I know that God is a just God and that I can trust him.
The next post looks at whether George’s view is biblical…