“Every statement of faith is subjective. That doesn’t mean we cannot be confident or certain about it, it only means that there is no way to objectively confirm or deny it in this life .” – Brook Potter
I am always encouraged by people discussing the taboo topics of Christianity. When people are discussing and debating issues like Hell, the Rapture and different types of atonement, it is a good sign that fear is no longer their primary motivator, and they are finally using their mind to evaluate what they believe. That is extremely healthy.
With that said, I can assure you there will always be a few that try to discourage the discussion and try the impossible task of disproving Universalism. Anyone who is honest, knows that it is impossible to disprove Universalism from Scripture, because Scripture can be used to support just about anything.
An honest person will say that they disagree with the position of Universalism, but ultimately it is nothing more than special pleading; that is, that they choose to interpret the verses that support their position as clearer and superior to the verses that support Universalism. And there is nothing wrong with a person choosing to do that, as long as they are honest about it.
The problem arises when they then try to use loaded questions, flawed logic and outright lies about Scripture to guilt and shame people to their position. Unfortunately, all too often, the people who try to make these arguments have no idea what Universalism is, or have even taken the time to read any Universalist works to hear their arguments. That brings me to the first point.
Before you say anything about Universalsim, Know what it is, and what it is not.
I recently watched a video, where a guy made the statement that there 4 types of Universalism. He didn’t really expand on what those 4 types where, but he was pretty certain that there were only 4 types. I must admit, that statement really stopped me in my tracks, because on my last count I knew of at least 12, and there are many more. Where did this guy come up with only 4?
So I went to Google, and I typed in “Types of Universalism.” Lo and behind, the very first title of the very first page was “Four Kinds of Universalism.” I’m pretty sure, that was the extent of research the person who did the video had done on the topic. I don’t think he even read the article, I think he just read the title, and now felt qualified to critique Universalism.
My point is, if you are going to critique any doctrine, be sure you actually know what it is, how people who hold that belief interpret the Scriptures that appear to contradict it and learn why people believe it, BEFORE you say anything. Otherwise, you’re going to start looking foolish.
Universalism is not the same thing as not believing in hell. So when a person starts to point out all the supposed hell passages as some sort of evidence against universalism, that person doesn’t know what they are talking about. Many streams of Christian Universalism do believe in Hell, but it is not a form of eternal punishment and torture, instead it is a place of temporary refinement and restoration.
When a person seeks to claim, that it’s Only through Christ we must be saved, as some sort of rebuff against Universalism, again, that person doesn’t know what Universalists believe. All strands of Christian Universalism believe that it’s through Christ that men shall be saved, they just disagree on the idea that it only happens in this life based on our choice or decision. A Christian Universalist can be described as Calvinist without limited atonement.
Know the difference between Born Again and Born of God.
If a person wants to argue against Universalism, it’s important to understand what the terms means within the context of their understanding. When a person makes an argument against Universalism, that says “you Must be born again!” they have not only shown that they don’t know what Universalist believe, but they are illustrating that they have never even consulted the Bible about what the phrase “Born Again,” means.
I’ve written about this subject and I’ve preached on this at many locations to try and give clarity, and dispel the confusion. If you have grown up in a Western Evangelical Church hearing the Phrase “Born Again,” then you’ve probably been taught that it means to “get saved.” In the mind of the Western church, being born again is synonymous with being saved.
However, that is not what Scripture teaches at all. Being “Born Again,” and being “saved,” are shown to be unrelated. The Scriptural use of Born Again speaks about the regeneration of Humanity, through Jesus Christ and the undoing of the work of Adam. Being Born Again means being restored to our original design. It has nothing to do with the Afterlife, and it occurred without anything to do with human response.
1 Peter 1:3 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be Born Again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
According to the verse above, we were “Born Again,” by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is no mention of Faith on the part of any human being to cause the Born Again experience. Further, there is no mention of salvation in these Born Again verses, they are entirely to do with the lineage of Humanity being transformed from the corruptible seed of Adam to the incorruptible seed of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:23 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.
What about Faith? Very simply, the Bible has another phrase to describe a person who has come to faith in Jesus Christ, and how little we hear it used is a good indication of how much we don’t understand about the Scriptures. It is the phrase that we should be using, but man-made traditions have won out. It is the phrase, “Born of God!”
1 John 5:1 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is “Born of God,” and whoever loves the [c]Father loves the child born of Him.
So when a person quotes John 3:7, out of the Scriptural Context, and says, “You MUST be born again.” They are speaking from their Evangelical Tradition of believing Born Again means Salvation, and not speaking from Scripture. There is nothing wrong with their Tradition, but it only goes to show how little they understand the Universalist interpretation and how little credibility they have to argue against it.
God Doesn’t send anyone to Hell.
When it comes to the nature of God, among other things, He is described as All-loving, and All-Powerful. These two attributes create a paradox when it comes to the question of Hell. If Hell is some form of Eternal Torture Chamber, then we have a real problem about the idea that God is All-Loving. How can an All-loving God send people to Hell?
The second part of that equation is simply this, that if God is All-powerful, and wanted all Men to be the Saved, why doesn’t he just save everyone? In other words, if God doesn’t save everyone, what is the reason? There are only two possible answers, either God is not All-Loving, or God is not all-powerful. There is no way around this dilemma.
With that said, most people would respond along the lines of Free Will of Man. They will say something like “God doesn’t send anyone to Hell,” or something like, “even the pardon of a King, if it is rejected, is as if he was never pardoned at all.” The problem with people who say these things, is firstly it’s not scriptural and secondly you’ll need to be a sociopath to think there is any earthly equivalent to eternal conscious torment.
To the first point, if you’re saying that “God doesn’t send people to hell, people choose hell,” I’ll simple ask you to look at the verses that people say are connected to Eternal Conscious Torment and see if people are going there willingly. Again, I’m not saying these verses actually talk about an eternal conscious torment, I’m just saying look at the language used to describe the people who are receiving their judgement.
Matthew 3:10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Matthew 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Luke 13:27 But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.
Revelation 20:15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
If a person wants to interpret these and many other passages as related to hell, there is no way they can say that God is not the one sending people to Hell. Not only does the language suggest a very violent throwing of people into this place, it says clearly that God is also the one responsible for what happens to the people there (Matthew 3:10). If these passages are about hell, God is sending people there and is directly responsible for what happens while they are there.
I’ve even heard one person say “I don’t believe God sends people to hell. I believe God sends the “old nature” to hell and if you’re not born again you’re still “in the old nature” and it’s “the nature” that goes there and if you’re attached to it; that’s where you’re going.”
Besides the fact that this comment is nowhere represented in Scripture, this statement in no way shows that God is not sending people to Hell. According to this logic, God has already condemned everyone who is not born again to hell. According to statements like this, the default position of humanity is destined to hell, because God is the one who put our “old natures” there. These types of comments do nothing to show that God doesn’t send people to hell, but confirm it.
The person who said this, obviously doesn’t know what the old nature was, or how bad it was. The Old Nature was impossible to be saved, which is why Jesus Christ destroyed it at the Cross, and remade humanity in his own design at his resurrection. If we were still walking around with our old nature, all the preaching, signs and wonder in the universe couldn’t get us to believe or express faith in Christ. To say that someone alive on the earth today, is still attached to that Old Nature, is the same as saying they are guaranteed hell.
On the Final Point, if people want to compare rejecting a pardon from prison or a death sentence, with rejecting salvation to end up Eternal Conscious Torment, there is something seriously wrong with your morality. Even if a prisoner rejects a pardon, they will spend a lifetime in prison. Even if a prisoner rejects a pardon from the death sentence, the execution is over within a seconds. In other words, the punishment being pardoned for is temporary.
To use those types of examples to contrast with the idea of an Eternal Conscious Torment view of hell, where there is no peace and no end to the suffering, is to basically be a sociopath where you just do not care about other people. The comparison is flawed, but more importantly, the idea of burning people forever in Hell, is not something that God conceived of.
Jeremiah 19:5 They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind:
Aborted Babies, Mentally Handicapped and Coma Patients
One of the biggest problems for the modern Evangelical ideas of Salvation is the problem of preaching to those who cannot be preached too. The unpreachable are not religious rebels who want nothing to do with God, but are instead those who cannot hear the Gospel and quite possible cannot offer any kind of faith response.
These people include aborted babies, the mentally handicapped, and people in comas. Quite simply, with the modern ideas of Salvation, there no answer for them. So instead, they make things up to protect their theology, but often times their reasoning is worse than the problem.
For instance, on the subject of aborted babies, some people would say that they automatically go to heaven to be with the Lord, because they’re innocent. Notice, they go to heaven because they haven’t done anything wrong, NOT because of the finished work of Christ. So this is a works-based salvation. Others say, “well they never reached the age of accountability”, which is something nowhere found in the Bible, but was made up by the Jewish Sages.
But by any of this logic, if aborted babies make it to heaven no matter what, then it logically follows that we should be aborting as many people as possible to get as many people to heaven as possible! If being born or growing up past a certain age puts people in danger of hell fire, it only makes sense that we extinguish their lives before that happens to guarantee a spot in heaven.
A similar problems can be seen with people in any of the other groups. If a person is alive but brain-dead, or in a coma and there is no way to guarantee any kind of faith response, what hope do those people have? Some may argue, well those are special cases! God will judge them differently. I would again remind those people that it is recorded in Romans 2:11 For there is no respect of persons with God.
The idea that people make it to heaven without preaching, saying a prayer or some other form of faith response, based on Christ’s grace alone, poses no problem to the Universalist. But if you are going to attack a Universalist for believing that the same grace extended to the unpreachable is extended to all people, then be sure you have some response to the problem of the unpreachable, even if your response is, “I don’t know.”
What if You’re Wrong?
The most foolish argument to pose to a Universalist, is the question, “What if you’re wrong?” What if the Universalist is wrong, and there is an Eternal Conscious Torment version of Hell? The answer is quite simple, nothing would happen if the Universalist is wrong.
Firstly, if the Universalist is wrong, and an Eternal Conscious Torment Hell exists, the Universalist believer in Jesus Christ is never in danger of going there, as no one is saved by their Doctrine of Hell.
And secondly, If the Universalist is wrong, then God is not as All-Loving and All-Powerful at the same time. It means the Work of Jesus Christ wasn’t as powerful as we thought it was, and that men’s free will is more powerful than God’s ability to keep them from such a place.
When a person asks this question against a Universalist, they are trying to suggest that somehow, by the Universalist’s belief, people are going to hell as a result. They think either people are going to hell by their teachings or from a lack of preaching to get the unbelievers “saved.”
Quite frankly, this only shows how little the attacker has thought about what they are saying, and reveals how little the understand about Universalism. Universalists understand that many people are suffering now on the earth. Their focus is not on the afterlife, but rather about making a difference right here and now for people. Many of them are active in counseling, deliverance and healing ministry because they want people to get out of the hell they are in right now, from a dysfunctional relationship with God.
Further, it’s hypocritical for a person who doesn’t believe in Universalism to spend so much time attacking Universalists. If a person really believes in Eternal Conscious Torment version of Hell, they should spend every waking moment trying to save the lost, instead of arguing doctrine with people who are already saved. Who has time to attack Universalists, if people are going to Dante’s Inferno every few seconds, and it’s your fault for not preaching to them?
The bigger culprit is the person who does not believe in Universalism, for acting contrary to their own beliefs. But it is evident by their actions that, even they don’t really believe in an Enteral Conscious Torment of Hell, even if they never admit it.
In my experience, those who attack Universalists, are those who have a vested interested in doing so. Some do so because it’s in their financial best interest. If you’re associated with Universalism, and you’re relying on people to support your ministry financially who may not have an understanding about this subject, chances are, you won’t be getting much financial support. So many ministers have a vested interest to keep quiet about their beliefs or actively campaign against the beliefs that may damage them financially.
Another reason people attack Universalists is because they cannot handle the idea that they have been wrong theologically for so many years. They would rather not have their name attached to all their books, articles and online schools, having shown them to be wrong for so many years. So rather than admit it, they generally dig in their heels and attack Universalism instead of encouraging debate.
On a final note, no one knows for sure what the afterlife is really like. You can study the Scriptures for thousands of years, listen to all the near-death experience videos, and even talk to as many people who have claimed to have gone to heaven or hell, and the fact is they all conflict. The only honest response to a Universalist, if you disagree with them is to say, I don’t know. But even with those reasons, that’s no excuse to attack Universalism. If we love humanity, then should we all not want to be Hopeful Universalist? …believing we will all make it in the end.