To The Point: Universalism
Claim: A loving God would not demand payment to reconcile, especially with blood. What decent person demands restitution for a broken relationship?
Rebuttal: There is more going on here than reconciliation; there is also redemption (Gal. 4:5, Titus 2:14, 1 Peter 1:18) and ransom (Mat. 20:28, 1 Tim. 2:6, Heb. 9:15). The Jews could be set free from the law of Moses (Gal. 4:1-5, Heb. 9:16-27) by accepting Jesus as their sacrifice. An inheritance cannot be given without the death of the one making the “will”.
But why was it set up this way at all? Why was a will necessary? And what about Gentiles? In my opinion, it was because the earth God had given to Adam and Eve to rule was handed over to Satan when they sinned, including the human race in its entirety. This became Satan’s kingdom, which is why he could offer it to Jesus, who didn’t contest his ownership before the cross (Mat. 4:8-9). But Jesus bought it back with his own blood, because that was the price required to end Satan’s claim.
So the Gentiles were never part of the temporary system of redemption and ransom, but all are now able to come on equal terms to be redeemed and ransomed from Satan’s kingdom. Rather than this being a case of a “bloodthirsty god” or an abusive person who requires payment for the relationship, it is the rescue of all humanity from an evil abductor and hostile kingdom. It is Satan who is bloodthirsty and abusive.
Claim: No one can pay for someone else’s sins (Ps. 49:7), and Jesus was not being punished but only giving an example.
Rebuttal: John 15:13 is where Jesus said he did in fact lay down his life for others, and 1 John 2:2 states that he was “the atoning sacrifice… for the sins of the whole world”. Isaiah 53 clearly describes the punishment Jesus took for everyone. But this is not at all equivalent to one citizen taking a criminal sentence for another, but like a parent paying the penalty incurred by their child: the child is not liable or able to pay it yet the victim must be compensated. So it is with Jesus’ sacrifice: he paid what we could not. The price for our passport out of the kingdom of Satan and into the kingdom of God was too high for us.
Claim: God will forgive everyone because Jesus paid for all sin, whether they know he did or not.
Rebuttal: Scripture clearly states that salvation is by faith in the risen Jesus (Eph. 2:8-9). Those who rejected that payment in this life are all the more deserving of eternal separation from God, as stated in Heb. 10:29. As for those who didn’t know, see Rom. 1:18-32 and Acts 17:30. We also see in the Gospels and Acts many instances where God heard the prayers of those honestly seeking him and sent people to tell them the gospel. All who have the mental capacity to grasp the concepts of right and wrong must choose, and we can trust God to make sure all who seek him will hear the gospel. Jesus bought us all a gift, but a gift cannot be forced on anyone. And besides all of that, how loving would it be to give a murderer the same eternal life as their victim? Does love mean there can be no justice? Then what was this life for at all?
Claim: God would never base salvation on what we believe or which god we follow. What matters is whether we’re sincere and do good things.
Rebuttal: John 3:14-18 says the opposite: it is faith, not our own righteousness, that saves us. Certainly anyone who has reconciled to God through faith in Jesus will want to please him by doing good, and those who claim Jesus but do evil are either lying or very misguided. (see Rom. 6:1-2, 7:4-6)
Claim: As long as someone says they love Jesus and trust him to save them, they must be considered Christians, no matter what else they may believe or what other gods they honor.
Rebuttal: The gospel is not just believing in and loving any claimed “Jesus”. We must put our trust in the Jesus who died for us (Mat. 16:21, 17:22, 1 John 2:2, 4:10), who rose from the dead as predicted (Acts 17:30-31, 1 Cor. 15:1-5), who is God in the flesh (Col. 2:9), who was worshiped as God (Mt. 2:11, 14:33, 28:9,17, John 9:35-38, Heb. 1:6), and who will return for his people (John 14:1-3, Acts 1:11). God also said in the Old Testament that there is no other (Isaiah 42:8-9, 45:5,18,22, 46:9). So any God or Jesus who does not share all these attributes is a fake, and the true God/Jesus cannot be joined to the false.
Claim: A loving God would never send anyone to eternal punishment, not even Satan.
Rebuttal: By that standard, a loving God would never allow any temporary suffering either, even in this life. And Satan was the highest created being, perfect and beautiful, yet he rebelled against God though he had never experienced suffering and knew God was real. There is no excuse for that.
Claim: Temporary suffering will eventually get the lost to turn to God for relief, and then they will be saved.
Rebuttal: Would a loving God value a confession made under duress? Not even human courts accept this. And would a loving God say, “I’m going to torment you until you ‘cry uncle’”? This is not how healthy relationships work.
Claim: Nobody would choose eternal suffering over eternal bliss with God in heaven, so it would have to be God sending them there, not their own choice.
Rebuttal: There are sane people who hate God and have said they’d rather suffer for eternity than worship him. God has explicitly stated that he doesn’t want this for anyone (Ezek. 18:23, 2 Peter 3:9), but there has to be a place for those who do not want to spend eternity with him. And since God is the source of all good, then “not God” must be devoid of all good.
Claim: No one in heaven could be happy knowing their loved ones are in hell.
Rebuttal: So God is incapable of taking away painful memories?
Claim: If those who can’t understand the gospel will go to heaven anyway, this proves that accepting Jesus is unnecessary.
Rebuttal: No, it proves that God only holds us responsible for what we are capable of understanding. To do otherwise would make him unjust and unloving. And we can’t ignore the scriptures that say we must accept Jesus as the one who rose from the dead so we could be reconciled to God.
If Universalsim is true, then no one should ever have had to suffer at all, there was no need for Jesus to die or rise again, there is no need to spread the gospel, and there is no point in being a Christian at all. If what people believe is irrelevant then all Christian martyrs have died in vain, and every Christian missionary has only been needlessly laying responsibility on people.
If all gods are the same, then God is hopelessly self-contradictory and cannot exist; it is as nonsensical as saying I went to your house when I went someplace else, because all houses are the same since they all have four walls and a roof and people live in them. If we can join any god or belief with Jesus, then we should also approve of “marriages” with multiple partners all at once and never have any exclusive relationships.
If Universalism is true, then the Gospel is not, because they are mutually exclusive and cannot both be true at the same time. Not every “binary” is false or bad. And if the Gospel is true, then it is imperative that Christians try to convince as many people as possible to believe the same as they do. Universalism makes everything irrelevant and pointless.
(A conversation about both Calvinism and Universalism: Calvinism debate.)
(A technical article refuting Annihilationism: annihilationism critique)