A blog post by David Shibley this morning, stated, “Today, we're battling a surge of teaching espousing universalism. This is the belief that all people will eventually be saved. And this teaching is never a friend to evangelism or missions. Instead of a loving yet firm rebuttal (which, I pray, this post will be), there is an eerie silence, even among many staunchly evangelical preachers. “It is a time to speak truth, as God gives us to see the truth. Universalism is an ancient heresy.”
Although this has been my observation for several years as well, I must confess that I have been in the “eerie silent group of evangelical preachers.” I want to repent and begin, as the opportunity arise, to “admonish” brothers and sisters in the Household of Faith about the dangers of this heretical teaching. By the way, I want to do this by the empowering of the Holy Spirit so that I comply with every facet of the meaning of the word admonish, which in the Greek is to, “confront with truth in love for the purpose of change.”
The teaching that all will eventually be reconciled to God and saved eternally regardless of life lived or faith professed during this lifetime caters to the sentimentalities of people who are troubled by the idea of eternal torment in hell. Without question, there is nothing pleasant or happy about the destruction of the wicked. On the other hand, from God’s perspective as revealed in Scripture, there is nothing pleasant or happy about the treasonous and destructive nature of sin and rebellion either. Such bad news is what makes the good news of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ so amazing. As professor James De Young asserts, “Universal Reconciliation is biblically groundless and is untethered from the historic teaching of the church. Further, it offers false hope to the lost and, in turn, undercuts the church's commitment to missions.”
Australian Gary de Vries lists several varieties of universalism:
- Universal Reconciliation: This view maintains that Christ’s death accomplished its purpose of reconciling all mankind to God. Whatever separation exists between man and the benefits of God’s grace is subjective in nature, existing only in man’s mind. Reconciliation is an accomplished fact.
- Universal Pardon: This view maintains that God, being loving, will not hold unswervingly to the conditions he has laid down. Though threatening eternal punishment, he will in the end relent and forgive everyone. God will treat all persons as if they believed.
- Universal Restoration: At some point in the future all things will be restored to their original and intended state. Full salvation may be preceded by cycles of re-incarnation or by some purgatorial period at the beginning of the life hereafter.
- The Doctrine of a Second Chance: Maintains that the work of Christ is sufficient to secure the salvation of the elect, but salvation is effectually secured by the means of faith (Romans 10:10–13). All people, even those who have heard and rejected, will be confronted with the claims of Christ in the life to come. Everyone given such an opportunity will of course accept it.
Many adherents prefer different names for universalism such as the gospel of inclusion, the greater faith, the larger hope, the victorious gospel, etc.
The late Gary Amirault, on the opening page of his website – The Tentmakers – says, “The Bible, correctly translated teaches Jesus Christ, the Chosen One of our heavenly Father will save the whole world. Hell will be empty when Jesus and His believers (His called out ones) are finished. That is the growing view of Bible scholars, translators, Bible publishers and ministers of grace. Hell is leaving the pages of many Bible translations. Jesus Christ is becoming “Lord of all. Experience your heavenly Father’s and Son’s unfailing love for you. Be set free from the fear that you or a loved one may be eternally damned to Hell. Beloved, because you ARE loved, now you can BE LOVE.”
In this age of “tolerance,” diversity, relativism, and creature comforts, the idea that ultimately everyone will be forgiven fits right in. Universalism is a theology of tolerance, of ease, and comfort. It feels good.
Daniel Strange observes, “Doctrinally, issues surrounding the love of God are central in this debate. The type of universalism being described here claims that if God is love, and if the Christian hope is one where God is to be ultimately triumphant and victorious, then all his actions must be compatible with his love—including his holiness, wrath, and justice. As a result, any account of hell must be a manifestation of divine love and mercy. A fundamental assertion here is that the purpose of all divine judgment and punishment is never exclusively retributive, legitimizing hell being populated; rather, it is ultimately always concerned with correction, purification, and rehabilitation. Not only every individual passage of Scripture, but the entirety of the plotline of the Bible, must be read through this lens.”
But in reality universalism disparages the love of God by rejecting, in the end, the value of the greatest act of God’s loving, namely the redemption secured by the sacrificial, substitutionary, atoning death of Jesus Christ. Ultimately the person of Jesus Christ is disparaged. His death and resurrection do not make a difference in the end.
Universalism distorts evangelism by diminishing the urgency of the proclamation because all people will ultimately be saved anyway.
Universalism taints society’s own sense of justice and retribution. Universalism teaches that even the most incorrigible of persons like Hitler, Pol Pot of Cambodia, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, etc., who were wicked till the moment of death, still will be accepted one day into God’s heaven.
Paul Young, author of “The Shack” from which the movie by the same name was made, wrote another book, published in 2018 titled, “Lies We Believe About God”. There are 28 chapters in the book citing the 28 so-called lies we believe about God. In this book he comes out of the closet and reveals himself as a full-blown believer in universalism.
I have read the book twice and here’s some of the assertions Young makes:
All people are “fundamentally good” and not sinners (ch 2, pp. 34-35); no one has ever been separated from God (ch 27, p. 232); Not everything is in God’s plan, that he is not in control of everything (ch 3, p 38-39); every human being is a child of God already saved and reconciled to God (ch 5, p. 55; ch 13, p. 118; ch 24, p. 204-206); the God of the evangelical Christian faith is a “torture-devising God” (ch 15, p. 132); Hell does not separate anyone from God (ch 15); the death of Christ was not in God’s plan but was man’s idea (ch 17, p. 149); he claims that if God originated the cross then the sacrifice of Christ on the cross was “cosmic abuse”; that God is “cruel” and “monstrous” for creating the cross to “torture human beings” in an “abhorrent manner” (ch 17, p. 149; ch 19, p. 169-171); he believes that God will save people after death (ch 21, p. 186); that death is not a barrier to make a postmortem choice to accept the love of God and relationship with him (ch 21, pp 183, 184, 186).
Universalism is a false and dangerous, unbiblical doctrine. Nevertheless, many find it comforting to think that no one will go to hell forever– especially ourselves. It means that we will escape the judgment of damnation. It means we are safe even in our imperfections, our sins, our rebellion, and our blasphemies. It means we can offend God outright, reject Him boldly, and not worry about our salvation - because we’ll all be saved no matter what they do in this life.
Yes, that the gospel of God is lavishly and wonderfully universal in its scope is a truth in which we rejoice and proclaim. Such a breadth is attested by the apostle John, who sees “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Rev 7:9).
But ultimately God’s love is not inconsistent with hell being populated for eternity by those creatures who habitually rebel and assert “not Your will, but mine be done!” Given the sinfulness of sin, the fact God saves one of his creatures - let alone that great multitude no one can count - is an act of sheer mercy and grace. The cross of Christ is where is we see God’s retributive wrath and mercy meet such that God’s justice is satisfied. This is the heart of the gospel we are to proclaim to all and for all who will come.