Argument against universalism from


I got the following email today from . It argues against universalism. Countering his arguments is probably like shooting fish in a barrel, but I thought I’d post it for people to take a look at and discuss if they’d like. What surprised me the most was how he claims that God “rewards” those who make the right decision about the gospel - and here I thought it was grace and faith, rather than rewards and decisions. But anyway, here it is:


We hope you are as excited about Summer as we are here at We just finished a six week series on the existence and nature of Hell (in response to Rob Bell’s book, “Love Wins”), and we posted the series at and on our PCM Podcast Page. Along the way, we addressed a common objection that makes “Universalism” sound quite appealing…

OBJECTION: A Loving God would love all of His creation. He would make sure that everyone goes to Heaven (regardless of what they might believe in this life). A loving God would never limit Heaven to a select few and allow billions of people to suffer in Hell.

RESPONSE: In order to respond to this objection, we need to help our skeptical friends understand the nature of Heaven (and the nature of Humans). Heaven is the realm of God, and those who ultimately enter into Heaven will be united with God forever. While that sounds fantastic for some of us, it sounds ridiculous, boring or offensive to many who reject the existence of God and resist the notion that God has provided us with certain guidelines and obligations. If Heaven is inevitable, it is compulsory, and this type of eternal destination is contrary to the nature of God and the nature of human “free will”:

A Compulsory Heaven Would Eradicate “Free Will”
People who deny the existence of God, relish the fact that they have the freedom and ability to do so. Some of these same people, however, argue that a loving God would make certain that everyone goes to Heaven after they die. But this kind of “universalism” actually denies human “free will” altogether. If Heaven is the only destination that can possibly await us (based on the assumption that all who die eventually end up there) then Heaven is actually compulsory. In this view of the afterlife, we have no choice about where we end up; everyone is reunited with God. A compulsory Heaven actually denies the existence of human freedom, the very thing that those who deny God cherish the most. By offering (but not forcing) Heaven to those who freely choose to love the God who reigns there, God is actually honoring and respecting the “free will” choice of all of us. He is, in fact, treating us with the utmost respect and dignity; something we would expect if He is all-loving in the first place.

A Compulsory Heaven Would Embrace the “Unsuited”
But in addition to this, the concept of a Heaven that accepts anyone and everyone is counter intuitive and un-reasonable. Just think about it for a minute. Most of us would agree that a Holy place of eternal reward is simply not suited for people with a certain kind of character or for people with certain kinds of desires. All of us can think of someone from history who (by our estimate) is unqualified for eternal reward. Now we may not all agree on who should or shouldn’t be included in such a place, but most of us would hesitate while pondering the possibility that people like Hitler (or perhaps lifelong unrepentant pedophiles with murderous desires) should be rewarded eternally in Heaven. If there is a Heaven, it is surely unsuited for certain kinds of people and even the most skeptical among us would find someone that he or she would place in this category. A compulsory Heaven, including the most vile and dangerous people from history, is not likely what skeptics have in mind when they argue for a Heaven that includes everyone.

A loving God would make Heaven possible for all of us while respecting the free will desire of some of us. A loving God would reward those of us who have decided to choose Him while dealing justly with those of us who have decided to choose against Him. For this reason, Heaven simply cannot be the destination of every human who has ever lived. Heaven cannot be compulsory, but instead must be the destiny of those who love the God who reigns there and have accepted His invitation.

We hope this response helps you defend the Biblical Worldview related to Hell’s existence and the nature of Salvation. We’ve got lots of additional respources that can help you communicate the truth about Heaven and Hell:


Explanations like this get WAAAAAY too close to works righteousness for me. Additionally, with all their pelagianistic emphasis on “free will,” they ignore the practical effects of being enslaved to sin–is there any place for God appearing to someone and opening his/her eyes, like Saul on the road to Damascus? Or did God violate Saul’s free will? :unamused:


Yes, I’m noticing that a lot of people are all too quick to shift away from evangelicalism on all sorts of other doctrines in order to defend the traditional view of Hell. The idea that Heaven is for those suited for it, as a reward for proper decision-making, and Hell is for those unsuited for Heaven goes totally against all evangelical teaching (and against any possible interpretation of Romans 3:23 and a host of other scripture.)

I’m sure if you asked the writer of this article, he would defend that salvation is faith-based, not work-based, but I think for people like this, anything’s fair game when defending your view of Hell.


Yes, like fishing in a stocked pond.

1st, “IF” God does love all of humanity, and “love never fails” and “never gives up” and “keeps no record of wrongs” and… (1 Cor. 13 definition), then it sure doesn’t seem like God would give up on anyone or that His love would fail to reconcile anyone or anything.

2nd, “IF” humanity was created for relationship with God to live in paradise, then anyone who experiences that would realize by experience that such is what they were created for. And such wholeness would be great joy. It’s illogical to think that anyone created for relationship with God would not enjoy relationship with God once that is experienced.

3rd, UR’s primary foundation is all the scriptures that seem to affirm the salvation of all humanity, not upon logic, though UR is very logical. God’s sovereignty + God’s love for all humanity = God saving all humanity.

Human autonomy is very very limited. Frankly, we did not choose to be physically born, why would we then think being spiritually born again is based upon human will. In fact, doesn’t scripture indicate that being born of the Spirit is not based upon human will, but upon God’s will.

1st, I believe that salvation is by Grace and is not something that we “qualify” for by our actions or righteousness. It is by grace, undeserved, unmerrited favor. It’s not based on our goodness, but on the goodness of God.

2nd, UR affirms that we are all changed, delivered from evil, cleansed, purified, and healed by the presence of the Lord. It, the presence of the Lord, well, burns the hell out of you! God is a consuming fire. So everyone will be made right, healed, purified, forgiven, delivered from evil by the presence of the Lord.

A loving Father does not allow his children, especially a mentally handicapped child, to run off on his own, to harm himself. A loving father with the power to heal his child, will heal his child. We are children of God, created in His image, loved by Him. He is capable and has even expressed His will for all to be saved; why then do not people have faith in God to accomplish His stated desire.

Furthermore, the whole concept of “free will” is ludicrois. We do not have free will. We did not choose to be born in this present evil age, under the dominion of darkness, slaves of sin and death. Why then do we think that our salvation would be based upon our choice. Does a life guard only offer salvation to drowning people, or does he drag their butts to shore, knocking them out if necessary. In like manner, Jesus is the savior of all humanity. Some have enough sense about them to not resist being saved. Others are consumed with fear and thus irrationally resist being saved. But a loving and good lifeguard will pull them to shore though they fight him all the way.

God chooses when we’re born, live, die, where we’re born, live, and die, what talents, gifts, etc. that we’ll have, etc. etc. etc. In the scope of our lives, who we are, and how we live we choose 0.001 %; it’s illogical then to think that God leaves salvation in our hands.

Resisting the call and love of God is like resisting gravity. Ultimately gravity wins.


well said, Sherman. that’s those fish lined up and finished with one shot!


The whole libertarian free will argument really irritates me because it is so ILLOGICAL when one considers the facts, reality. We are simply NOT “Free Moral agents”.

  1. We are not “Free”; we are born slaves of sin and death, born under this present evil age, the kingdom of darkness, by nature enemies of God, spiritually, mentally, and physically handicapped, enslaved by death.

  2. And we are certainly not “Moral”! Actually we are selfish to the core! Everything we do, feel, and think is polluted by our selfish nature! Isaiah said is well when in God’s presence, though he was a prophet of God, he cried, “Oh God, it’s hopeless! I’m a Mess and everyone I know is a Mess!” (my paraphrase).

So we are NOT Free Moral agents. In reality we are born slaves of unrighteousness, slaves to evil from within and without, surrounded by death, bound in deception and lies, ignorant of just how wonderful God is! We’re so blind and ignorant, we don’t even know we’re blind and ignorant.

“Human Free Will” is the most illogical and unscriptural founational principle of Arminianism! Only those who have been freed from slavery to sin, can choose to not sin! Thus only the saved can choose righteousness. We are born dead in our sins; when was the last time you saw a dead man “choose” anything!

Well, I could go on and on. Like I said, the appeal to LFW really irritates me and sets me off.


Uhh…This is their argument? Seriously?

Sincerely, (not even close!) :unamused:


Even from the perspective of someone whose theology is heavily oriented to the importance of free will (namely me), this rebuttal can be answered very quickly:

1.) If human free will is so important to a loving God (as I agree it is), then God will keep on ensuring that a person has the free will to repent of their sins, even after death. But I often find Arminians denying human free will to repent after death, whether in defending eternal conscious torment or annihilationism. So, who exactly is respecting human free will more here?

2.) The whole presentation is gauged to a whiffly UU-type of “universalism” where repentance from sin is irrelevant to salvation. But Christian universalists (including yes even Rob Bell whom they were supposed to be discussing and answering) typically stress the importance of repentance in salvation from sin. Impenitence leads to punishment for as long as the person insists on being impenitent, including after death. Repentance leads to salvation from sin being completed in the person, and so leads consequentially to freedom from punishment–including after death. (Arm theology can only shut down that option by denying human free will after death, one way or another. Which is hugely ironic considering that they’re the big defenders of the importance of human free will in a loving relationship with God!)

3.) We would also “expect an all-loving God” to keep on persistently acting to lead sinners out of sin and into righteousness, post-mortem as well as pre-mortm. Arms can only get around this by either claiming God’s own free will on the subject is outright defeated by human free will; or by claiming that God is free to stop being all-loving. Both are denials of supernaturalistic theism; and the latter is also a tacit denial of trinitarian theism as the foundation of all reality (though it may still affirm the Trinity exists somehow as “God”.)

Admittedly, most “sceptics” may not be thinking in terms of being everyone being saved from their sins. But Christian universalists typically do (whether we’re more Armish, more Calvish, or a balance of both in our theology.) Whereas, I don’t perceive from PCM’s little presentation that they’re concerned with salvation from sin either!–only from hell.

Heaven may not be compulsory, but God’s love is compulsory if God is in fact all-loving–neither Hitler, nor sceptics, nor Arminians (nor Calvinists :wink: ) will be able to get away from that. And regardless of what an Arminian (or for that matter Satan) may wish to be true, we exist at all and have capabilities at all thanks to God’s continuous action. That isn’t ever going to change, not in this life and not in the Day of the Lord to come, not ever. If a sinner continues to exist after (or while) sinning, that’s because God continues graciously to keep them in existence–now or in the resurrection of the wicked to come, even if eternal conscious torment is true. If a sinner is annihilated out of existence (whether now or after the resurrection of the wicked), that is because God chooses to stop acting to keep them in existence. Our existence and capabilities, even what freedom of will we have, is itself “compulsory” to an important and substantial extent (even literally “substantial” in that we are not-God substances who have no independent existence of our own!)

I wish those Arminians, who are supposed to be the special guardians of the doctrine of God’s essential existence as love, would please be convinced of that.

(But then, to be fully and consistently convinced of that, would be to tread into universalism on theological principle. :wink: )