The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Can you disprove this?

I’d like to see if anyone can find fault with these verses and the logic behind them in proving, through biblical texts, that hell absolutely must be temporary and for the purpose of saving everyone. I’m just trying to test my arguments so I can refine them and toss out any that are no good. I need to find the chinks in the armor since I’ll eventually write a book on this subject.

The Bible has a few verses that describe God’s nature. I wouldn’t call this proof-texting because these are about God’s nature, which is always the same no matter what the context.

1 - …for God all things are possible (in reference to saving mankind). (Matt 19:26)
2 - …he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Pet 3:9)
3 - The LORD does whatever pleases him in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all its deep regions. (Ps 135:6)
4 - For it is God who is producing in you both the desire and the ability to do what pleases him. (Phil 2:13)
5 - A man chooses in his heart, but the LORD directs his steps. (Pro 16:9)

Let’s take this step-by-step:

  1. We’re told that God’s will is that none perish but that all come to repentance (ie. - turn from their sinful ways). (2 Pet 3:9)

  2. Then we’re told that He does all His pleasure in heaven and on earth, in the seas and its deep regions (a figurative saying meant to show that He controls every little thing that happens everywhere). (Ps 135:6)

  3. And we find that for God, ALL things are possible (and in that verse, it’s specifically talking about saving men’s souls). (Matt 19:26)

  4. Then we’re told that He produces in us both the desire and the ability to do what pleases Him. (Phil 2:13)

  5. And finally, Proverbs tells us, “A man chooses in his heart, but the LORD directs his steps.” (Pro 16:9)

In short, if you believe all of those verses are accurate about Him, it means He absolutely must save all of mankind or the Bible is inaccurate about His nature, and He is not truly “Love” as the Bible says. Why would He go against His stated will and make people suffer in Hell forever (perish) when we’re told by Him (Jesus, specifically) that He can do all things (specifically, save someone whom it seems is impossible to save)? Is He just choosing not to save everyone for kicks and giggles? Does He make people suffer for eternity in hell to “show His glory,” as the Calvinist says, which makes absolutely zero sense being that it shows exactly the opposite? I really don’t think so. I think eternal hell doctrine completely destroys the integrity of the Bible and God’s character.

Is there any way to disprove that argument, or is that a pretty sound argument to prove that hell cannot be eternal and that God saves everyone?

  • Brian
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I touch on some of these issues in this thread. But here is the OP again. The discussion following the OP covered some revervations readers here had.

Revisiting a Syllogism That Supports Universalism

The following is a simple, clear syllogism supporting Universalism. This syllogism is an argument built on premises taken directly from Scripture. Although it has been posted here before, I repost it with a more thorough look at the key underlying Greek word for desire.

Premise 1: God desires all be saved. (e.g., 1 Timothy 2:4: “[God] who desires (thelo) all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”)

Premise 2: God accomplishes all He desires. (e.g., Isaiah 55:11: “So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire (thelo, from the Septuagint), And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”)

Conclusion: All will be saved.

Some have rejected the conclusion of this syllogism by contending that God has two wills, one akin to a determination but another to a commandment. They contend that God’s will or desire that all be saved is not something that God determines to happen but is instead more of a commandment that can be defied. Thus, they say, this argument does not necessarily hold.

John Piper has written about the subject here. The Greek word for will or desire in verses cited by Piper to support his case is thelema. That word has very different meanings. It can mean “determine,” in which case, if God determines it, it will happen. Humans are powerless to change whatever God determines to happen. But it can also mean “command.” Consequently, if it means “command,” what is commanded by God may not happen, for humans can and do freely choose to ignore commandments. So, here we have different interpretations, even opposing ones, depending on which definition is used: a determination is not a commandment.

To support his case, Piper’s points out Matthew 6:10, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven,” in which will, translated from thelema, seems to mean “determine” and 1 Peter 4:2, “so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God,” in which will, translated from thelema, seems to mean “command.”

There is a serious problem in rejecting the conclusion of the syllogism based on Piper’s logic that God’s will or desire does not necessarily mean that all will be saved. That problem stems from failing to observe the original Greek wording in the particular verses supporting the syllogism premises above. These verses do not rely on the word thelema that Piper uses to help establish the idea that God has two wills, but instead on the word thelo. Thelo does not have disparate definitions, as does thelema. The definition of thelo, especially when it refers to God, is “to sovereignly decide a matter” (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament). Thus, in this case, it does not refer to a commandment or anything else that can be defied.

But actually, one does not need to consult a theological dictionary to discern that the meaning of thelo when referring to God is a determination, not a commandment. One need refer only to the above Isaiah verse in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, or the Septuagint: “It [my word] will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire (thelo), And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

When thelo is the underlying word for will or desire, as it is in the verses supporting the syllogism premises, whatever God desires, He accomplishes. It is a determination. Thus, there is no rational basis to reject the conclusion of the syllogism–that all will be saved–in the language of the verses supporting the premises.


Thanks Lancia. I’m glad you pointed out Piper’s argument. I had forgotten about the Isaiah verse. That’s a great one to use.

Thanks, Qaz. I usually use the every tongue will confess verse, but I hadn’t coupled it with the other verse about not being able to confess Jesus is Lord without the Holy Spirit. However, I think that verse might be speaking about spirits rather than people. I say that because I’ve heard Atheists say that before and they’re clearly lying or being fecisious. I also say it because when I worked with people with multiple personality disorder, I’d often have to deal with demons and false Jesuses. One test for them was to ask them to say Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. Real alternate personalities could say it, as could angels, but demons of any kind could not say it, which is why 1 John says to test spirits that way.

Or it’s possible the verse is talking about people not being able to say Jesus is Lord honestly without the Holy Spirit. Hard to know for sure but it’s a fair point. Thanks!

One point made in the following thread re Phil.2:13 is:

“This only applies to those who are already saved.”

Is your argument still valid without your point # 4?

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I just now saw that you replied. Thanks!

Yeah, the Philippians verse is for believers, so good catch! Luckily, it’s not necessary for the argument, though.

As long as we have the verses that say God can do all things and that He does all He pleases and that His will is that all people repent, then the argument stands. I just added the Philippians verse to reinforce that God works within us at times, but you’re right, it’s for believers most likely.

Verses such as Proverbs 16:9, which says even though we choose with our freewill, God is the One who directs our path in life, only serve to support the position. So we know for sure God’s directing everything regardless of our freewill choices. In other words, He’s manipulating us through events around us and emotional pushes inside of us, most likely, in order to get us to use our freewill to make the choices He wants us to make in order to direct our path in life. It’d be like He’s placing the forks in our path of life in the for events that require us to make choices. And He tailor makes each event in such a way that He knows it will cause us to choose the path in the fork He wants us to take. It’s pretty elaborate but it’s what the Bible teaches when you really look at the verses and stories that display it. And it’s all to help us learn lessons so we can grow our hearts. That’s all.

There are two stories that really stand out to me that show how it works. One is the story of Ahab and the prophet Macaiah, where God is clearly shown using a demon (a lying spirit) to manipulate King Ahab in order to get him to attack the king of Assyrian so that Ahab will get killed. God literally said that, according to Macaiah. The other story is actually two stories about the same event where David takes a census. In one telling of the story, Satan tempts David to take a census, but in the other telling, it is God who tempts David to take the census after God’s already told David not to take the census. So clearly, God’s orchestrating all of this. How, then, could He let everyone burn in hell when He’s setting us up for our downfalls? It wouldn’t make any sense unless He was redeeming everyone. And why use the word “redeem” if He didn’t already once own us? (However, I can think of one argument against that last point, so it’s not really a useful point exactly.)

The pro endless punishment (ECT or CI) freewillists will contend that God will not force anyone to be saved, so some will be lost forever, either (A) because they reach a point of no return or (B) because they will choose to continually reject Love Almighty in “hell” (the lake of fire) for all eternity. As C.S. Lewis said, the doors of hell are locked - from the inside. The freewillies will also say that the verses you refer to do not support the position that God’s Sovereignty, Omnipotence & Omniscience will force people into heaven against their freedom of choice & that that would not be loving. God desires beings to love Him willingly, not as compelled robots or puppets.

2 Pet.3:9 says God desires/wills that none perish, yet people will still perish (e.g. Jn.3:16). Thus, in addition to the freewill objection, it will be contested that this passage does not support your conclusion.

Origen, I am a “freewillie” and contend that God will not force anyone to be saved. But it does not follow that some will be lost forever. I say that God will never give up on anyone. No matter how rebellious a person is, God will work with him until He repents. Eventually he WILL repent. God has as much time as is needed to accomplish that. If the rebel can hold out for eternity, then he is more powerful than God.

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Yes, I agree. God has all eternity and therefore is able to offer salvation an infinite number of times to freewill beings. I can’t imagine any rejecting Him an infinite number of times. What are the odds of that? Could you flip a coin a trillion times & have it land on tails instead of heads every time?

I believe it is all over the Bible. We’ve been discussing it for quite a while, actually, without calling it the AIO

Well… theoretically you could. But perhaps more fitting to the case: could you flip a coin for the rest of eternity and NEVER get a heads?

Sorry, I wasn’t alerted that you guys had replied.

Thanks for all the replies.

The freewillies forget verses like the one in Proverbs that says, “A man plans in his heart but the Lord directs his steps.” That displays both freewill and predestination control by God. He can control how someone chooses with their freewill just by manipulating their circumstances because He knows us so well. With my son, I can give him choices and know exactly which choice he’ll pick, so I basically just give him choices that will direct him to the choice I want him to pick. I didn’t force his freewill. I directed it because I know his heart so well. And God’s way more clever than me. lol

Regarding hell and God saving people out of it, near-death experiences show us how this works. One interesting fact is that Atheists are the only ones who end up in a painful difficult situation while dead (before they’re resuscitated). Everyone else, regardless of their religion or lack there of, ends up with God in heaven. But Atheists go through tailor-made situations that break their resistance to God fairly quickly. One Atheist said his near-death experience felt like it lasted a lifetime, but it only lasted a few minutes in our world. And God actually came and saved him from a pretty horrible situation. Every Atheist who has had a near-death experience has come back a believer. So hell seems to do exactly what the Greek Church Fathers like Clement and Origen described.

I would like to ask, where you get these ideas. Can you show the theology behind such thinking? Or where you came up with this idea?

I get it from putting the pieces together. I’ve read the research from hundreds of thousands of near-death experiences and read and watched several near-death experience testimonies. There are ways to tell if a near-death experience is legitimate or not, and several have doctors confirming they were dead.

When it comes to doctrine, I get that from verses in the Bible like the ones I posted originally in this thread. A lot of people who have a near-death experience get to heaven and say they remember being there before and choosing to come to earth to learn. This makes me think Jeremiah 1:5 - “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” Most say that verse means God knew who we would be after He created us, but the word “knew” in Hebrew means “intimate knowing” in this verse. He’s saying He had a relationship with Jeremiah before he was born. Near-death experiences confirm that idea. And no one would choose to come here to learn if they could end up in hell forever. But if they might end up in hell temporarily because it’s a failsafe to purify the rebellious, then they’d come here to learn. Tons of near-death experiences end up with the person seeing their life right before they chose to come here.

Paul says God’s judgments are unsearchable. The word “judgment” in Hebrew means the same thing as prune/pruning. It’s correctional. And then Paul speaks of the great consummation where Jesus hands everyone and everything over to God. And everyone in heaven, on earth, and under the earth is bowing to Jesus and confessing He’s Lord. Satan’s under the earth or on it, so that includes him. Everyone’s willingly bowing so everyone’s purified.

And that’s how it has to end, actually, for two reasons.

  1. In the Law, it says that if a man digs a hole and doesn’t cover it up and someone’s ox falls in it and dies, the person who dug the hole is responsible and must pay full restitution to the owner of the ox. God put the tree in the Garden and didn’t cover it up. He didn’t even try to convince Eve that Satan was trying to deceive her. So by His own law, He has to make it right. So He sent Jesus and saved everyone. Not just some, but all. Even those in hell and those who will eventually be in hell. And when you consider that our beliefs and choices are determined by who raises us, and that’s not anything we decided our self, how can we be to blame? And God says He directs our steps despite our freewill, so this is all His doing. There’s no way we can end up suffering forever according to scripture and NDEs (near-death experiences).

I’m just putting it all together. There’s more but I may have answered more than you intended me to already.

Yes, if the coin was double tailed.

A good point, Gabe!

So if determinism is true, we don’t have a choice. What we think is our free will, is in reality but the operation of a two-headed coin.

I have no idea… I mean, even a well trained dog isn’t perfectly obedient, so clearly there is choice involved. I see free-will, personally, as a spectrum. I don’t believe we are entirely free, but are more free than a dog. But this freedom doesn’t necessarily give us anymore contentment than that of a dog. I am not entirely sure why free will is a good thing and it seems any choice we make ultimately is made because we believe it is in our best interest. Whether it is or not, doesn’t seem to matter as long as we believe it is. This would seem to indicate that complete knowledge would, in theory, lead to complete morality, if there is an objective morality.

I’m going out on a limb here, but the way I see it, the only way is that we are totally free. Now given that that also introduces evil, like we have in the Adam and Eve story, we have to deal with it. But our dealing with it and Gods dealing with it may well not be the same. :grinning:

As I see it, to possess free will is simply to possess the ability to choose. If I am offered a choice of apple pie or blueberry pie, I will probably choose blueberry. That’s because I prefer the taste of blueberry. But my tastes don’t force me to choose blueberry. I might choose apple just for a change.

But my choices are not forced by my preferences, nor are they predestined by God. Nor are they random acts. My choices DO have a cause. I, myself, am the cause.

“You” may be the cause, but - tell me if I’m wrong - what is “you” is just the collection of molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles that have been a part of your being throughout your existence (which includes the history and effects of those particles). Perhaps there is also a supranatural essence of a soul/spirit that can also be included in “you.” But regardless, God is the creator of all that eventually became “you,” and God is the sustainer of all natural laws that led to “you” and your brain chemistry. Your brain chemistry is what directly affects any of your choices, so how is it that God is not ultimately responsible for every action that you take? Perhaps your soul/spirit affects your choices as well in some manner that is inconsistent with chemical laws, but once again, God is the creator and sustainer of any rules that govern the soul/spirit - and hence how is He not ultimately responsible for every choice that you make?

That is not to say that free will isn’t an observable aspect of creation. But it takes a finite mind with finite perceptions to be able to appreciate free will as an observable concept.