Jesus Creed is running a series of posts on the the topic of hell, based on Gregory MacDonald’s book, The Evangelical Universalist which defends “Christian Universalism.” MacDonald is arguing that one could be an evangelical and still be a universalist.
My first question is, Why would you need to be an evangelical and a univeralist? If everyone goes to heaven anyway, there is no need to be an evangelical on earth.
Jesus Creed defines MacDonald’s “Christian universalism” this way:
Christian universalism believes in all the classic evangelical and orthodox doctrines (Trinity, creation, sin, atonement, return of Christ, salvation through Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone) and also in hell. But, and here's the big but, one's eternal destiny is not fixed at death so that those in hell can repent and trust in Christ, and in the end all will make this decision without coercion.
Right away we notice that apparently hell is not one of “all the classic evangelical and orthodox doctrines.” It is an addition, an “also.” I think that would come as a surprise one to the host of evangelicals and orthodox people who preceded this modern tinkering with hell.
I won’t respond to each point, but let me make a couple of comments which actually predate this post and was the fodder for another post that may eventually appear.
One commenter suggests, “Jesus only talked about Hell to religious folk, and it seems today the issue only comes up when we talk about the fate of non-believers.”
Yet even a surface reading of the NT shows that the “religious folk” were “non-believers.” That was exactly Jesus’ point in passages like John 8. Pretending like they are two different groups is hardly a reasonable proposition.
But here are two more concrete observations. First, I have never seen anyone argue for universalism or the lack of eternal, conscious torment starting with the text and building on the text. In other words, the arguments against the biblical doctrine of hell as eternal conscious torment always begin with emotion. This is seen in the second post at Jesus Creed which talks of the problem of justice and the problem of joy.
These arguments, in effect, assert the authority of emotions (tainted by sin) and human depraved intellectual ability over the revelation of Scripture. It says, “We know the Bible says that hell is eternal conscious torment for unbelievers, but we don’t think that’s just and I am uncomfortable with that, so it can’t be true.”
This is exactly the reason why no less than John Stott became an annihilationist, which is the idea that unbelievers cease to exist.
Which brings me to my final point of this post. Why does the Bible have such strong warnings about not existing? If hell is simply annihilation, why do we need to preach the gospel to every creature? Why do we need to cut off our hand or our foot, or pluck out our eye in order to avoid non-existing?
People say, “Well existence is better than non-existence, and therefore heaven is better than annihilation.”
But friends, how would anyone know that? A non-existent person has no consciousness.
The warnings of Scripture and the gospel mandate to preach the gospel to every creature make clear that “Christian universalism” is not Christian at all. It is old heresy relabeled and reargued to salve someone’s conscience.
It does nothing to promote or honor the glory of God. And it certainly does not reconcile with the Scripture.
I haven’t devoted my life to telling people about the dangers of non-existence. I haven’t devoted my life to telling people it’s all okay because we will all be in heaven anyway. The Bible gives no room for such thought.
And neither should those who claim to believe it.
Is it really asking too much to believe that a God of justice will do nothing wrong, and that therefore eternal conscious torment is not only real, it is also just.
And if you don’t think so, then the problem is with your sense of justice.