Christian Universalism Pt. 1
I have far too many ‘series’ on the go at the moment, so I won’t draw this one out, and I will keep it very basic. But the question of Christian Universalism or Allversöhnung has been exercising me greatly of late. And it’s an important question for me. My own particular Christian background has strongly anathematised any leaning in a universalist direction, and to flip over to ‘the dark-side’ on this one would deserve at the very least a merciful bullet in the head from an elder or two. So, my procedure was as usual: read everything you can get your hands on that is even partly related.
However, the evangelical in me will always start off with the scriptures, at least as a practical first-step. Off the top of my head, I listed a few that could both speak against and for Christian Universalism. I didn’t initially try any serious exegesis, I simply listed them next to each other, and it made a real impression on me. Here, first, are a couple of texts that would, certainly at first sight, speak against Universalism.
“… Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' Then he will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Mat 25:41-46)
“… when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might …” (2 Thess 1:7-10)
Particularly striking is the word ‘eternal’ in both of these passages. In the light of such verses, one also ought not to drive too strong a wedge, as I felt von Balthasar was in danger of doing in Was Dürfen Wir Hoffen?, between pre- and post-Easter perspectives on Universalism.
… Part II briefly looks at scriptures that would seem to affirm Christian Universalism.