It looks like the idea of Christian Universalism is back on the rise. I could’ve sworn that went away from the spotlight when theologians and pastors such as Francis Chan spoke out against pastor and author, Rob Bell.
For those of you who are not familiar with the idea of Christian Universalism, I want to break it down for you in the simplest terms possible.
In a nutshell, Christian Universalism is the belief that there is no hell. Or, if there is, it is a temporary place of punishment for those who refused to follow Christ during their earthly lives and after a set period of years, God releases them into heaven to enjoy eternal fellowship with God.
Basically, it teaches that it doesn’t matter whether or not you believe in Jesus; you’re still going to heaven.
My first discovery of the return of Christian Universalism came in the form of an article entitled A Biblical Case For Universalism: Beyond the Concordance published by Matthew Hartke on Fifth Act Theology.
For much of the post, Hartke argues that the language used by the prophets in the Old Testament is used in the continuing history of Israel and the world around it, and that God’s statements of destroying Israel and causing them to be slaves to Nebuchadnezzar and the surrounding kings is only a temporary destruction and that Israel, as well as cities such as Sodom, will be restored as time goes on.
To quote Mr. Hartke, “For the Old Testament prophets, the threat of everlasting destruction is always bounded by the ‘nevertheless’ of divine love.” This statement directly echoes the quote at the beginning of Mr. Hartke’s post. The quote, by John A. T. Robinson, states, “Hell, so limitless to the man who has chosen it, is still bounded by the ‘nevertheless’ of divine love.”
Now, on the one hand, I would agree with Mr. Hartke. God has promised restoration for His Bride, Israel, regardless of the fact that they have sinned against Him. He will repent, so to speak, of the judgment He has caused to come to pass on the Israelites for their disobedience. However, and I realize that Mr. Hartke is not done with His study on hell and the concept of Universalism, he does fail to take into account much of what the Psalmists have spoken regarding hell and judgement and the afterlife, as well as failing to take into account what Jesus and the apostles have stated regarding hell, judgment, and the afterlife.
As a stand alone article, his post rightly presents the truth of Christian Universalism, and he does what all good people do when they try to use the Bible to make their point: he neglected the parts of the Bible that clearly contradict his point.
So, as much as I would love for my particular post to be a stand alone article, I cannot allow it, because there is much to be discussed, once again, and much to shed light on.
Mr. Hartke, I hope you tune in during this series and I hope much of what we explore throughout the Bible and the words of the Son of God Himself will help you shape a more proper theology regarding Hell.