Bishop Curry’s royal wedding sermon caused quite a stir—many loved it (e.g. Bishop Michael Curry reached two billion souls with the love of Christ), some condemned it (e.g. A star-turn offers the world ‘Christianity-lite’). One thing that caught my attention, was that he repeatedly said that Jesus “died to save us all!” (he also tweeted it) Was he promoting Universalism, the belief that Jesus will save each and every person who will ever exist?
To figure that out, first we must ask, did he exclude anyone from the “all”? For example, did the “us” before it reduce the scope? Probably not, as he said:
God is the source of us all
And based on passages like Colossians 1:16, most Christians believe God is the source/Creator of everyone who will ever exist. It was also unlikely he was just thinking of the 2 billion people who were listening, as in the next sentence he said that God’s love embodied will result in:
a new world, a new human family
In fact, he mentioned human/humanity ten times in a 13-minute talk:
Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in all of human history … fire was one of the great scientific and technological discoveries in all of human history. Fire, to a great extent, made human civilization possible … made human migration around the world a possibility … the human ability and capacity to take fire and use it for human good … one of the greatest discoveries of all of human history … if humanity ever harnesses the energy of fire again, if humanity ever captures the energy of love, it would be the second time in history that we have discovered fire.
So assuming he thinks God wants “to save” everyone (1Tim 2:4), does that mean he thinks God will actually succeed? That’s harder to figure out but I think there are clues. Will our enslavement to sin stop God? Well, Curry sounded very optimistic when he said:
There’s power in Love to … liberate when nothing else will.
Will our spiritual and psychological delusions stop God? Again, Curry doesn’t seem to think so:
There is a balm in Gilead [Love] to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul… There is power in Love to help and heal when nothing else can.
Remembering that when Jesus healed during His ministry, He was primarily interested in people’s spiritual health—their “sin-sickness”—although He healed people physically too to demonstrate that He could do the former.
Are death and hell a hurdle for God? Probably not, as Curry said:
There’s power in Love to lift up [John 12:32] … when nothing else will.
Maybe Curry forgot about God’s justice? Well, five times he said love can be redemptive and four times he mentioned its sacrificial nature (1John 3:16)—explicitly in regards to Jesus’ death, which traditionally Christians see as fulfilling justice. He also proclaimed:
let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook.
Additionally, he talked about hospitality and addressing poverty—both commonly associated with justice in the Bible.
What about those who don’t want to be saved? Curry talked about Love transforming everything (you, your neighbours, the entire world) and even quoted Jesus who said: “you shall love God … with all your mind” (Mt 22:36-40, noting that “shall” implies something will happen in the future).
He also sees Love bringing Shalom.
we will lay down our swords and shields—”down by the riverside to study war no more”
However, that Shalom can only fully arrive when the last person in hell stops hating God.
There was one other statement that Curry made that I thought was at least suggestive of Universalism:
We were made by a power of Love. Our lives are meant to be lived in that love—that’s why we are here. Ultimately, the source of love is God himself—the source of all of our lives.
If a luthier creates a guitar to play music, then the assumption is that it will fulfil its purpose. Likewise, as God created humans to love, it is perfectly reasonable to think that will happen eventually.
Rather than Universalism, was Curry actually preaching Pluralism—the belief that sin doesn’t matter for “every road leads to heaven”? I don’t think so. He made statements such as Jesus “died to save us”, “Love is the only way”, our “sin-sick soul” needs healing, and we need to be liberated by God (the Bible says we are enslaved to sin). Similarly, he discussed the need for transformation, which implies that all “roads/states-of-being” aren’t equally good.
So was Curry preaching Christian Universalism at the royal wedding? For the reasons I’ve given, I think he was, although it may not have been intentional. Often enthusiastic preachers who promote both God’s love for everyone and God’s infinite ability, end up preaching what is essentially Universalism.