I’ve sprinkled some of my thoughts on my understanding of eschatology over several of the last few articles. Part of that eschatology is my leaning towards hopeful Christian universalism. My understanding of “hopeful Christian universalism” is that it is the orthodox doctrine that God is fully sovereign and fully loving and that He can and will ultimately get what He wants without excluding individual free will. He wants all to be saved and he is able to accomplish his will without breaking our free will. The word “hopeful” should be defined in its biblical sense as “confident expectation.” It should not be defined as we often use the term. For example: “Gee, I hope I pass this test I didn’t study for!” I confidently expect this reality because it is founded in Scripture, supported in early church history, and echoed in philosophy. The word “Christian” indicates that this particular form of universalism is not an “all roads lead to God” or a “there is no objective truth” kind of universalism. It is distinct in that it says that God is both fully loving and fully just, that God will judge all, and that ultimately, God will save all, though some through “fire.” Mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13). Every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess gladly that Jesus is Lord (Isaiah 45:23; Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10). God’s justice is restorative, not retributive. Even when it seems retributive, it is really Him giving us over to our free will. But ultimately, He will restore all things. In other words, those who are saved are ultimately saved through Christ. Some scholars with a similar view prefer the term “ultimate reconciliation” so as to further separate itself from the baggage that comes with the “universalism” found in religious pluralism.
This article is not meant to be a defense of hopeful Christian universalism. It is meant to define it as I see it and then give you some resources to get started if you want to learn more about it. I’m not going to list every resource or link that’s out there, but I do want to help those who are honestly searching. I’m doing this because I’ve been asked by several readers to do so. So, I’ll now list some books, podcasts, websites, and YouTube channels that might be helpful to you.
Some Resources on Christian Universalism to Get You Started….
– There is a YouTube page called “Love Unrelenting”
– Peter Hiett has a great universalist YouTube channel
– “The Total Victory in Christ” is a good YouTube channel
– “Tommys Truth Talk” is on YouTube
– George Sarris has some really decent stuff on YouTube
– George Macdonald was an influencer of CS Lewis. His sermons are free online, but you can also buy them.
– John Wesley Hanson is from the same time period and has a good book on the history of universalism
– The most prolific and scholarly writer of the early church fathers, Origen, was a universalist. So was his predecessor, Clement of Alexandria. A few years later came Gregory of Nyssa, one of the writers for the Nicene and Apostles creed revisions regarding the trinity. I’ll post a short article from the Christian Universalist Association here.
– The philosopher, Thomas Talbott, has a great book.
– David Bently Hart takes a slightly more philosophical and historical approach.
– Dr. Brad Jersak has a three-book series called “A More Christlike…” that isn’t specifically about universalism, but it compliments the discussion. I’m a Brad Jersak fanboy (lol). He also has a book specifically on universalism that’s one of the best in my opinion.
– “A Larger Hope” is good one as well…
– Rob Bell asks more questions than he gives answers. Some people don’t like that, but he does it for a good reason. I’ll get into that more later. His book “Love Wins” is a great introduction.
– Counterpoint’s “Four Views of Hell” is worth reading.
– Brian Zahnd’s book on God’s wrath is a must to explain the “wrath” passages.
This should be enough to get you started on your journey. I don’t judge Christians who believe in eternal conscious torment. However, I don’t think it is the biblical view. I can understand the argument for annihilation, but I don’t think it is consistent with the character of God either. I don’t bind Christian universalism. However, I think that hopeful Christian universalism best explains the Scripture, the history, the philosophy, and the character of God. God gets what he wants. Love wins! – Jesse