Why I Reject Christian Universalism

Rob Bell's book "Love Wins" opened the door to a lot of conversation earlier this year when it was released. Looking back I realize that the target audience for his book was not really those who believe but those who once believed and fell away because they could not embrace some of the fundamentalist dogma that they were once taught. In Bell's book he delved into some alternate (i.e. non-traditional) views of hot topics like hell and some of his views seemed to have come from Christian Universalism.

During the spring I had several conversations about the book and, during one such talk, I spoke to a person who did not know that there was a difference between vanilla Universalism and the Christian flavor of it. I shared that my understanding of the difference is not so much in the end result.. both flavors believe that all will eventually end up with God in heaven.. but with the means by which they get there. The Christian Universalists would say (generally speaking) that Christ redeemed all on the cross. The more vanilla universalists would say that God simply loves everyone and wills them to be in heaven.

So with that in mind I thought that I might proffer a few thoughts on Christian Universalism. Please keep in mind that my thinking is still evolving on some of these points.
  1. Firstly, I must say that I do not embrace it. The idea that unrepentant mass murderers will one day share a pot of tea with those that they murdered appalls me. The keyword here is unrepentant. I do believe in forgiveness, even for repentant mass murderers, but I think that we err when we lump the repentant in with the unrepentant.
  2. My view of Eternal Conscious Torment (Hell) is that.. as in the life that began when one is born.. torment always comes from within creation.. I do not believe that God torments anyone.. allowing torment or suffering is totally different that inflicting it.
  3. I reject the idea that some of them espouse concerning a purgatory type of post death life where people are given a second chance. That view depends on the idea that time, as we know it today, will continue after we die. More on that here.
  4. I question the idea (promulgated by the ancient Greeks) that all men are immortal. Now this gets me in trouble with all sorts of people and I have to say that I am not really dogmatic on this subject. Even so I do wonder if people who are not spiritually born here on earth possess anything that survives death. More on that here.
  5. I reject the idea that people are simply divine pets with no ability to really know God in a meaningful way. I think that man is created in the image of God and part of the dignity of our creation (unlike any other animal) is our ability to, by faith, know God this side of the grave. The emphasis here is a relationship with God before we die.
  6. In contrast Christian Universalism portrays God as a pet owner with an unrelenting purpose to be with His pets forever.. nothing His pets do can change His resolve.. He loves them unconditionally and does not care what they think about anything - including Himself, His Son's sacrifice and the afterlife. More on that here.
  7. Lastly, this approach is certainly the most generous of all orthodoxies toward atheists, agnostics and unbelievers in general. Yet this view makes a mockery of all sincere people who strive to follow God today by saying that things like love and faith have no eternal value except that they allow us to all get along better here on earth.
If you notice I have tried to stay away from arguing verses of the bible. I have found that line of dialog usually never goes anywhere because there are scriptures on both sides of the issues and they are generally interpreted from a personal theological perspective.

With that in mind I would appreciate any feedback that you might have but I have to say that I am probably not up to wrangling scripture verses as that tends to get contentious. Yet I would like to understand this issue better and invite you to share your views here.


  1. I think part of the problem here is a loss of any real sense of responsibility and justice. We see wrong doing as something we stumble into as a result of our upbringing and environment rather then a serious choice that has consequences.

  2. So how does God's sovereignty play out in this issue? I believe in predestination as espoused by the PCA church. God chooses those whom he will. Now the PCA certainly doesn't teach universalism, but that has lead me to ask this sort of question.

  3. @Scott - My thinking is that God predestines based on His foreknowledge.

  4. @Mike - Your feedback is representative a view that elevates humankind rather than make us pet-like victims.

  5. Divine pet? That's the first time I've heard that.

  6. Surprised that you did not read those original "Divine Pets" posts Brian. Maybe that was before you and I connected?

  7. If God predestines people to go to heaven, then why would them being repentant or unrepentant matter? Thanks.

  8. @Jenny - Thanks for the question. Repentance is irrelevant if God's foreknowledge of repentance is not a part of predestination. In my thinking it is inconsistent to separate foreknowledge from predestination.

  9. Very interesting Bob. I appreciate you giving your reasons and not throwing chapter and verse, it really doesn't help. So in saying that you don't believe that man in inherently immortal, you would say that unbelievers just die at death? Do you see some afterlife punishment based on the crime?

    1. Thanks Alice. My gray and non-dogmatic take is that the natural consequence of physical birth is a physical death and the supernatural consequence of a spiritual birth is eternal life after physical death.

  10. I like how you ask people not to use a ton of scripture quotes for the very reason you gave!

    As for this book and other like it that tend to be part of the Emergent Church as it is called, I have only read little bits but have known many who have not only read it but love this book and others like it. What I've found over the years is that they seem to move more adn more towards a non faith. In fact I saw a fairly "on fire" couple, youth group leaders who loved these sort of books end up many many years later now being not only non believers but dogmatic liberal secular atheists to such a point it is almost stereotypical! I find that interesting.

    My aunt used to say that if hell if not real then there is nothing to be saved from and Jesus died in vain! I have a Methodist friend who suggested that the hell we are saved from is hell on earth but as anyone who has read or looked at life can see, many many christians experience hell on earth through persecution. What could be worse than ones children sold into sexual slavery and taken from you, never to be seen again, knowing they are being repeatedly raped until eventually killed down the road most likely as the believers in Darfur, Sudan saw or the coptic christians in Iraq and Syria have had to go through?

    As a father though, I can't imagine allowing any disobedient child of mine to suffer forever and ever no matter how awful whatever they did but then again, that is the problem--I am not utterly 100% holy, not even close! I cant fathom how a totally just holy God can allow the unholy, unrepentant sin into his presence. If someone like my dad does not want to ever bow down to some so called god, as he himself would say, then why would God force him? So my conclusion is I really don;t know for sure but I gotta think Jesus felt destiny was so important he had to die for it!


I love to get comments and usually respond. So come back to see my reply. You can click here to see my comment policy.