Christianity Today has put up
The question is pertinent because I myself have fully transitioned away from the exclusivist view of salvation that came from my Southern Baptist,
Now, on the surface, the answer might seem stunningly simple: because of the passages about judgment. For instance, Matthew 25.31-46, John 5.25-28, and Romans 2.6-11 point to a judgment at the arrival of the final eschaton that divide the lines between humans as those who sought what was good and those who sought what was evil. We have no Biblical mention of a further judgment that comes after that judgment. However, this answer is rooted in matters of epistemology and truth value as it relates to the theology authority of Scripture. My own rejection of universalism runs deeper than that.
So why is it that I think universalism is a problem of a deep error? For a long time, I could never express this beyond the type of answer I gave above. But it is recently that I came up with the reason. If universalism is true, then suffering for the sake of the Gospel becomes a deeper matter of injustice to those who suffer for its sake. Allow me to explain.
The idea of perseverance, endurance,
So, here is the premise: if God can and will redeem all people and if God’s people are called to suffer for the sake of the Gospel for the benefits of others, then God is asking others to take on a great pain and harm that will be otherwise accomplished without that suffering.
Imagine a boss telling his employees that they must spend the next six weeks working perilously hard in overtime, minimizing breaks, all for the sake of the companies future through a tough time they need to survive through. Then, when the deadline approaches, the boss simply presses a button on a computer that all their problems. The boss asked for people to make extreme sacrifices that could have been simply solved by pressing a button. Do you think this would be right? This scenario is much like the scenario that CU portrays: the call to suffer on behalf of the Gospel for the love of and service to others is not only unnecessary; it is deeply unfair to those who suffer.
This is not to mention that such a vision recapitulates the persistent nature of injustice in human societies: the suffering of some while those who do not suffer reap the benefits. The image of CU is actually more akin to the deep sense of injustice about Western liberalism: we will all be treated “equally” while there is the privileged class and the suffering class. But “equality” is not what Jesus preached, but rather a status reversal, where the first are last and the last are first.
On top of it, it trivializes the role of human sacrificial love. To suggest that God does what we can not is certainly an important part of orthodox Christian faith. But to suggest that what we do doesn’t REALLY matter for the sake of others is trivialization. One might be tempted to rationalize this to say “But the suffering was still good for your own soul.” But I find this to be the antithesis of Christian love, as it makes my suffering about my own formation, status, and achievement, rather than
In summary, it seems to be CU recapitulates the very problems of injustice that the world already faces. It is not a solution to the problems of human
Furthermore, there are the possibilities that the modern motivations behind CU are more antagonistic in its origins. It is one way that some people express not simply their love for all people, but their antagonism towards the ideas of conservative, evangelical theology. It is a way of escaping, if not even getting a social upper-hand upon, “evangelicals.” It is common that when our intellectual efforts engaged in for what ultimately amounts to antagonistic purposes that we begin to engage in cognitive polarization and dualism, where one seeks to look as unlike one’s opponent as one can. So, CU can be embraced because it looks so different from exclusivist portrayal in conservative evangelicalism. Thus, it is c
However, I think it is important to clarify that I don’t deem CU as heresy. I have a very narrow definition of heresy as pertains to beliefs which, if accepted, are diametrically opposed to the foundations of saving faith.3 Consequently, CU does not amount to my view of heresy. But, like the history of the Church, it operates more in the domain of
- To be clear, I still think there is salvation in no name other than through Jesus, but I imagine God’s work of redemption is happening at both the personal and cosmic dimensions rather than simply the personal. Thus, I can see people standing as God’s judgment who never personally believed in Jesus, although they themselves never experience the redemption in the present life.
- It also occurs in Revelation, although they emphasis there is encourage continued faithfulness rather than for the impact they would have in the present hostility of the Roman powers.
- I don’t think heretics are automatically “unsaved” in virtue of their belief as it is possible for people to have contradictory beliefs and attitudes, but I take heresy to be diametrically opposed to the basic apostolic proclamation and kerygma of the early Church.