Rob Bell’s book Love Wins seems to have kicked up a lot of interest/discussion/name calling/heresy hunting about Universalism so I thought I’d have a go of putting my views in a blog. I am no theologian just an average Christian battling with his faith to make sense of it in the world in which we live so I won’t, hopefully, be using theological terms but ones that my brain can understand.
According to Theopedia “Universalism is the theological view arguing that all persons will ultimately be "saved". Some also teach that there is no such thing as a literal hell or eternal punishment.” and so that is the definition I’ll use. The problem, as I see it, starts with our perception of the nature of God. A Just God has to condemn sinners to eternal punishment (unless in their mortal life they ‘accept the Lord Jesus as their personal saviour’) but a Loving God has to draw all of His creation to Him. However God is both Loving and Just so neither answer can be correct.
For some years, influenced I think by C S Lewis’s ‘The Last Battle’, I have believed that non-Christians can enter God’s Kingdom but that they do so only because of the work of Jesus, an equal part of the triune God, on the cross. I couldn’t imagine a heaven that wouldn’t include people like former UN Secretary General U Thant or that great lover of peace and justice Gandhi. However, until recently that was as far as my thinking went, I still believed in eternal punishment in hell.
It was only when I started to think about God as not only the creator of everything but also the sustainer of everything that my view started to develop further. Could a loving God sustain someone in eternal torment? Was that even just? It doesn’t seem so to me so I had to develop a different view of hell.
In Revelation there are references to the second death and this to me is the key. Hell is not eternal torment but a second death were evil is permanently destroyed. What happens after death remains a mystery but I believe that those who, even then, reject God will cease to exist so that God can bring His creation to perfect fruition.
So are my view universalist? To me the answer is both yes and no. I believe that in the end God will draw all things to himself but in doing so evil will cease to exist.