Today: A brief introduction to universalism. Next Post: We look at what Paul’s letters may have to say about universalism.
Universalism is the belief that all people, whether Christian or non-Christian, will ultimately live in God’s new creation.
Do universalists believe in hell? Yes. In fact, universalists believe that most people will eventually find themselves in hell. The question for the universalist is not whether hell exists, but whether hell is eternal.
For the universalist, hell is not an ultimate, eternal destination, but a necessary layover for those who refuse to die to themselves during their lives in this world. Hell is a refiner’s fire, a place where things that are self-centered and evil can be burned away, perfecting us and turning us into people that truly reflect the image of God. In the universalist way of thinking, everything that is good in each of us will be saved, and everything that is evil will be destroyed – suffering the “second death” in the garbage dump outside of God’s kingdom.
That is the short version, at least. I’m sure some people will vary on the details – but the general features are: (1) hell as a “refining process” after death and (2) an assurance that everyone will eventually be redeemed.
The down-side to universalism is that there is virtually no support in scripture for the idea that people can “return” from hell. The positive side of universalism is that there are some seemingly strong passages in Paul’s letters which suggest that “all people” will ultimately be saved.
In the next post, we’ll look at a few of those texts.