Thursday, 16 February 2012

Love and Universalism

There’s a lot of stuff about Christian universalism around at the moment.  I guess some people have a real problem with it.  I would probably be accused of being a universalist by some, but I think I’d want to define what I mean by universalism a bit.  I think Jesus is the way,  the truth and the  life – but I think what Jesus did at the cross was much much bigger than traditional evangelical Christianity would have us believe.  I think the traditional view that everyone is doomed to hell and only by repenting from sin, saying a prayer and behaving like a ‘proper christian’ for the rest of their life can they escape God’s wrath is a deeply flawed view of the gospel.

God’s love is absolutely universal.  Most Christians wouldn’t disagree with that, after all Jesus himself said “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 (NIV).  God loves the world – not just a teeny bunch called ‘the elect’ or ‘the chosen’ or even ‘the Jews’, he loves the whole lot.  No-one is beyond redemption through God’s great grace demonstrated in Jesus – no matter what they’ve done.

God is a massively creative, supremely intelligent, overwhelmingly compassionate father; would he be satisfied with rescuing 30% of the sum total of the world’s population from eternal separation from him? (I’m not even getting into the existence or otherwise of hell in the classic Catholic sense – see my friend, Dyfed’s, blog for that).  The story of the prodigal son is the example of the father heart of God.  No punishment for sin there, just a welcome embrace and full restoration into the family.  No I think God’s plan for rescue is rather larger than 30%.  Can you see God accepting that the enemy gets 70% of all mankind?  (I’m totally guessing with the figures here but do you have any hard evidence that the total population of the world for all time is more than 30% born-again Christian – I bet it’s a lot less than that!)

Jesus comes and does away with the problem of sin.  He co-crucifies the entire creation in his own sacrifice on the cross, there are many verses in the New Testament about this but here’s the kicker for me “For the love of Christ controls and urges and impels us, because we are of the opinion and conviction that [if] One died for all, then all died” – 2 Cor 5:14 (AMP)

There’s also “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil 2:10-11 (NIV). If we include the character of Jesus into that statement we know that this won’t be a heavy hand crushing people to their knees and forcing a confession through gritted teeth – this will be a glad honest response to the glory of the risen saviour.

So am I saying everyone gets to spend eternity with God?  Not quite.  However I think the percentage that do is going to be more like 99.9999999999999999999% - I think there are some people who even if they could see God in all his glory and see the love in Jesus’ eyes, would still want to reject him.

Why bother to evangelise then?  Well perhaps we shouldn’t ‘evangelise’ – perhaps we should do what Jesus did. Love people.  Heal people.  Accept people.  Preach the kingdom.  Care for people’s ‘here and now’.  The fact that God doesn’t simply beam you up to heaven as soon as you believe is an indication to me that God completely cares about our ‘here and now’ life.  God created a world because he wanted a world, filled with people in union with Him. Planet Earth isn’t a maze in a laboratory and we’re not the rats.  This life is NOT a test where the good rats are those that go down the ‘Christian path’ and get to go home to the scientist’s home (Heaven) as pets and the bad rats that don’t find the route through the maze get a lethal injection in the back of the neck and are thrown into the incinerator!  God created us for relationship!  Those of us in relationship with our creator, our big brother Jesus and our Father and the wonderful Holy Spirit have the job of introducing people to him, by word and by lifestyle and primarily by demonstration of the love that motivated Him in the first place.

So if you believe in a hell and judgement version of Christianity I hope you’re preaching the Good News, the Gospel of Grace, not because of fear of eternal punishment but because of love for people and because God wants relationship with them now not just after they’ve died.

If you believe Jesus fixed the whole of humanity at the cross and we’re all in – then I hope you’re not ignoring the Great Commission because you think everyone’s eternal destination is assured but that you’re preaching the Good News, the Gospel of Grace, because of love for people and because God wants relationship with them now not just after they’ve died.

What happens when an unbeliever dies and if/how they get a chance to accept Jesus post-mortem I honestly don’t know; but what I do know with absolute certainty is that God is great and just and right and whatever he decides to do is going to be GOOD – it’s his nature.   

So the key really is: How do we treat the person in front of us?  I want to do what I see my Father doing, I want my friends and family and total strangers to be in the loving relationship with my Father that I have through Jesus and that means I love them.  Unconditionally.  Unreservedly.  Whether they reciprocate it or not.


  1. Great blog! I love your heart and I love having you as a brother. We share an amazing Papa!

  2. Great blog- puts into words lots of thoughts and wonderings. An insight into the Father heart and the greatness of God.

  3. like the way you think and will pass it on

  4. Well said, christian universalism rather than diminishing evangelism should increase the success of evangelism. Many people are turned away from the gospel because it is not such good news when the doctrines of penal substitution and eternal damnation imply such a legalistic wrathful version of God - for millions that is not a god worth believing in. Jesus showed God is not like that, a tragedy the church cannot believe it. But the doctrine of christian universalism may renew the church, there is a growing biblical, theological and general groundswell going on. Praise the Lord.