((NOTE: This post is for the purpose of researching how people might attempt to invalidate the different pieces of evidence [ie. arguments] I use to fully support Universalism. Thus, I’m inviting people to rip them apart as long as your responses are well researched, well thought out, and concisely get right to the point.))
After reading the 19th Century scholar J. W. Hanson’s book Universalism: The Prevailing Doctrine of the Christian Church During Its First Five Hundred Years, I found a few things that I could think of no good arguments against.
Terms for Eternal Judgment
The Pharisees and Pagans wrote about eternal hell. The used two very specific Koine Greek terms to denote it, then they described it at length. Therefore, we’re certain that those two Koine Greek terms mean eternal hell. Jesus, however, used a different Koine Greek term to describe hell (technically, He used two). It’s a term the Pharisees and Pagans did not use for “eternal hell.” The term Jesus used combines the words “aionian” or “aion,” which means “age,” and then “judgment” or “punishment.” Bible’s translate aion judgment and aion punishment to mean eternal judgment or eternal punishment. But there are some major problems with that.
The typical argument is that when the word for “age” is used with something we know is eternal, such as life or God, then the word “age” means eternal rather than a period of time like the word “age” normally means. I have no problem with that. What doesn’t make sense is that we don’t know if death is eternal. In fact, we’re certain it’s not, because 1 Peter 3-4 says that Jesus went to the spirits in prison from before the flood and made proclamation to them, and then later in the verse, claims He saved them all. Why go to hell and proclaim you died to free the captives if you’re not going to free them? That’s like a slap in the face. “Hey, guys, I just died to save everyone, but sorry…you guys are stuck here for eternity. Have fun!” It only makes sense that He made proclamation to them so they’d accept Him. And if they were living in torment and knew there was a way to be saved out of it, of course, they’re going to take it. What idiot wants to stay in horrific torment when God’s right there saying He’ll take them to heaven?
That’s not the only problem, though. The words Jesus pairs “age” with are both corrective words. Paul uses the Koine Greek word for vengeful punishment only once when describing what he did to the Christians when he was persecuting them. Never again is that version of the word “punishment” used in the New Testament. Judgment is also a corrective word. Let’s first source its meaning from the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, the best translation research we have on the word “judgment” says that it is basically the same as pruning. It is defined as finding a problem that harms people and removing it so the people can grow/mature. So on a societal level, it’s reforming people who are harming others and the society as a whole, or removing them altogether. But on a personal level, it’s removing what causes a person to sin (ie. be disfunctional) so that they can grow and mature, becoming more functional in society). In other words, the Ancient Hebrews say judgment is a positive, helpful thing, even if it often hurts. They also say the word “punishment” is the same, and its root is the word “prune.” So we know the Ancient Hebrews were talking about correction when they used those words since those words are without a doubt corrective.
Jesus was using the same words as the Ancient Hebrews to describe hell to the Jews of His time. And sure enough, He uses the corrective version of those words “punishment” and “judgment.” I don’t want to argue about how those words are translated because most people haven’t truly done their research on those words, and if they have, they often haven’t looked at the more recent research out of Israel which is about 50 years ahead of our research here in the United States.
What I want to know is this: Why would Jesus use terms that were different than the recognized terms for eternal hell? And why did Jesus’ terms for eternal hell include corrective words when hell is supposed to be forever and have no corrective quality to it?
GREEK CHURCH FATHERS
The Greek Church Fathers wrote a few quotes we still have today which use the same terms for “eternal hell” as Jesus used, but in the same sentence or paragraph, they then say that hell is only temporary for purification purposes so the person can be saved out of hell and go to heaven.
Not only that, but 4 of the 6 schools of Christianity during the first five centuries taught Universalism, and only one taught eternal hell.
Also, some Church Fathers who were known Universalists and other people who were known Universalists were put on trial at times. They were tried for their heretical beliefs. However, never once was their Universalism brought into question. None of the councils had a problem with their being Universalists. In fact, Augustine and managed to get Emperor Justinian to make the council convene and told them to condemn Universalism. The council convened and then refused to condemn Universalism. That’s all quite peculiar.
If Universalism were a heresy, why did no one condemn it outright until Protestantism came about? Why did the Greek Church Fathers for the first 500 years say hell was temporary and to get people saved? Why did they teach that at their schools?
Let me know if you have any good arguments against these that actually disprove them.
Thansk so much!