Well, the issue of Christian universalism didn’t “pop” last year, as I had predicted, but Scot left a comment on another post saying that Rob Bell’s 2011 book will deal with the issue. That will likely bring it to the fore of the conversation in American evangelicalism. But I don’t want to wait till then to begin exploring the idea.
As with other theological issues I’ve addressed here — the atonement and same sex marriage, to name a couple — I don’t come in with my mind made up, although I am leaning toward it. Nor have I spent any time reading or really even thinking about it. But I do think that it’s important and deserving of ongoing consideration and theological reflection.
What I don’t think is very interesting to pursue is whether some individuals are submitted to eternal torment by God. If you think that, then you interpret the Bible very differently than I do and we probably disagree on just about everything. So this won’t really be a forum to debate what Hell is like, or even if there is a Hell or not — that’s ultimately irrelevant to the question, because there could be a Hell to which God sends no one. Nor is this really about annihilationism as a possible solution to the God-wouldn’t-send-anyone-to-torment-but-God-can’t-remain-just-and-let-everyone-in problem, although we may have to address it.
It seems to me that the big question is, Can you be a universalist and still be a Christian?
This raises all sorts of question about what is a “Christian.” And I suspect that we’ll also have to get into the metaphysics of “Heaven vs. Hell,” which will probably end up making this whole conversation moot (if, as I suspect, “Heaven” and “Hell” are concepts contingent on metaphysics, which I reject.
I’m sure that some of my readers have thought and read more about this than I have, so I ask you: have I got the opening question right?