The universalism perspective sounds so appealing sometimes. It’s the idea that God’s grace will seek out everyone eventually and that in the end all will be saved, even those who reject Jesus Christ. I think if you’re honest with yourself it’s hard to dismiss this idea and you might even agree with me that it’s very attractive. Universalists will argue that there is no realm outside of God’s reach. This is a theological truth which has been passed down throughout history and it makes a lot of sense too. If God is eternal, all powerful, and truly omnipresent then He must exist everywhere, in every time. If there is somehow a place that God has no power then He must be something less than God, we would have to find a new name for Him.
So we have this concept of God; He’s everywhere, He’s all powerful (no matter where He is), and He’s also loving and “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2.4). But we also have this concept of Hell; a place outside of God’s Kingdom, a place of separation from God. When someone dies and goes to Hell they stay there forever and God either doesn’t have the power to or doesn’t have the will to save them from that place. Isn’t this a little contrary to our concept of God? I thought He had power everywhere and wanted everyone to know Him. Universalism, though in church all we hear is the negative side, has very good intentions. It doesn’t want to attack the truth of God, as we may have heard in the past, but it wants to harmonize our concept of God and our concept of Hell. It’s an attempt to rationally articulate this apparent contradiction. Universalism says that God has power in Hell (this definitely matches our concept of God’s omnipresent-all-powerful nature) and that God wants everyone in Hell to be saved (which matches His all loving nature) and He won’t give up until they are all saved. He can’t give up because that would imply that some force outside of Himself exercised sovereignty over Him… either that or He just stopped wanting everyone to be saved. Since God can’t give up He has to be victorious eventually, I mean, He does have all eternity to work on this salvation. So essentially this means that everyone will spend eternity in heaven and none will actually stay in hell (though some may go there until God wins them over).
I may be playing devil’s advocate (no pun intended) but what I really want you to see is that universalists aren’t abandoning scripture completely and they’re definitely not malicious. Their logic is simple and coherent and hard to deny. Even Karl Barth, though he wasn't a universalist, thought that denial of universalism was limiting God's grace (I'll cite that in the comments section). For us to believe in Hell, we have to find a new way of explaining things. We can’t just say “because God is just some people have to go to hell” like we have said in the past. This sort of justice is not the kind that sends a loved one to die so that all could experience eternal life. We need to be able to explain how a loving, all powerful, totally omnipresent God can exist at the same time as a place of eternal damnation. And we can’t just run to our Bible verses without really looking at what the whole Bible says about God. We have to actually make sense of the verses we’re brining up in light of our concept of God. Yes there are verses, even in the gospels, that mention eternal fire but does your concept of eternal fire harmonize with your concept of God? God must want there to be an eternal fire. If He didn’t want it to be there he’d eventually quench it as He is going to do with the hellish things that exist on earth. So why does God want there to be an eternal fire? Isn’t God going to restore everything? How does hell fit into total restoration?
I got more questions than answers. What are your thoughts?