The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Constructing a document against Universalism

Excellent idea Luke. Looking forward to it!


That is a great Spirit to have Luke! Much appreciated.

I recall a great theologian of our denomination telling a story of a good friend of his in Seminary who, over dinner with several other friends, described and explained a certain doctrinal point which was particular to our denomination so well that the men were shocked to realize he had changed camps. “No, I’ve not changed my mind” he said, “but it seems best to present the subject in the very terms my friend would use and agree with.” — I’ve found that very hard to do in real life so I applaud you.

Also, along these lines I really like the Bell’s Hell’s brief essay on 7 myths of Universalism which Alex has listed in the sites heading. If you intend to debunk Universalism, best not debunk a Universalism that no one actually believes in…


I should have been clearer. I don’t believe in Universalism for any of the reasons listed. The God who will save all no matter the personal cost is actually worth worshipping. Luke might like to add The worthiness of God to his list.

What about that we also believe God is just and that his justice is about restoration? Something along that line? I also appreciate, Luke, you wanting to put the best arguments for UR forward. I think it will be as beneficial for you as it will be for us.


I do want the best arguments but not all arguments because this document will be aimed those who wish to be identified as orthodox Christians; holding Scripture as an authority, valuing Church history, affirming the Trinity and believing in Jesus for salvation. This describes Alex, so I’ll take him as a your bog-standard Evangelical Universalist, if he doesn’t think it’s a good argument for Universalism then I won’t include it.


“the worthiness of God” … to be worshiped?


Thanks for the heads-up, I’ll definitely take a look at them but wanted to gauge what this online community thought first.


Some great points I’ll process them after Masterchef.

May I ask who the people are, to stop me “looking over my shoulder”, in every conversation :wink:

Btw, I think you’re being very honourable in your approach, and I appreciate that a lot :sunglasses:

As you rightly point out, there are many types of universalism. I think over the years various people, like Packer & Wright have mainly critiqued other forms, however, I think it is now time to consider Evangelical Universalism.

Have you read “Bell’s Hells: seven myths about universalism” it is a excellent, succinct, clarifying article.

Oh and it’s probably really worth listening to at least one of Robin’s talks (e.g. Robin Parry’s 2010 audio talks on Christian Universalism), as he’s developed a few ideas since his TEU book.

Also I like the Introduction to “All Shall Be Well”, as I think that help put things into perspective for people, and Samuel Green thought it was a “good introduction”.

As far as I can remember, I’m yet to find anything I disagree with in Robin’s theology, which is why I recommend places he has explained things clearer than I could. There are many others here who are on my wavelength too.

Occasionally I like the sound of something, but am yet to be convinced it’s actually the case (e.g. most the early Church schools teaching universalism), so I don’t use that in my main arguments…


I’m using you as my bench mark because there are range of views on this forum, some I’d reject as thoroughly heretical and others positioning themselves as you have within Orthodoxy.

Just finished looking at the “Bell’s Hell’s” document, I appreciate it’s clarity, somewhat ironic given Bell’s lack of clarity!

Please post if you think an argument is unique to a particular poster but not the strongest or the best for Universalism.


While I agree simple statements may lack important nuances I don’t believe that complexity equates with plausibility. A reliable concept should be translatable into a number of different contexts. Not to create more work for Alex (Has that monster project finished? I hope so!) if he’s able to summarise where you’re going with your “Universalism from Trinity” argument I’ll include it. (I’d be also interested to know what Allan thinks of your “Universalism from Trinity” argument.)

Luke 13:22-30
Universalist #1:
Universalist #2: Parable about the ‘judgement of works’ but doesn’t include all aspects of salvation. (I wasn’t sure how to summarise the second half of your argument.)

Matt 25:46
Universalist 1: “aionios” does not mean “eternal” because it has a broad meaning 'a long time" which is narrowed by the eschatological context of the passage to mean “the coming age.” In addition the hearers/readers of the parable should identify with the sheep not the goats. Furthermore kolasis refers to a remedial not retributive judgement.

I don’t feel I’ve captured the essence of what you’re saying with these two passages, anyone else want to jump in with a summary of Jason’s argument.

Just a clarification:
I’d say on Matt 25:46 (and other places) that aionios does not mean eternal in the sense of endless, because its broadest and most literal meaning (particularly in Koine) is “pertaining to/ of the age(s)” which is an undefined or indefinite (not necessarily but possibly, long) period of time.
I understand that in some cases in some forms of Greek, aionios and aidios can both (especially aidios) carry the sense of perpetuity (constant continuance until no longer needed), but is still not necessarily endless (see the situation of the demons bound with aidios chains until the judgment.)

There is very clear scholarship verifying that aiwvios has “lasting for an age” as part of its primary definition. It would often be translated simply “lasting” as a more simple translation.
This is from perseus, … ek#lexicon

lasting for an age

(Show lexicon entry in LSJ Middle Liddell) (search)
αἰώνιος adj sg masc nom
αἰώνιος adj sg fem nom

**αἰώνιος **, ον, also α, ον Pl. Ti.37d, Ep.Heb.9.12:—
A. lasting for an age (“αἰών” 11), perpetual, eternal (but dist. fr. ἀΐδιος, Plot.3.7.3), “μέθη” Pl.R. 363d; “ἀνώλεθρον . . ἀλλ᾽ οὐκ αἰώνιον” Id.Lg.904a, cf. Epicur. Sent.28; “αἰ. κατὰ ψυχὴν ὄχλησις” Id.Nat.131 G.; κακά, δεινά, Phld.Herc. 1251.18, D.1.13; αἰ. ἀμοιβαῖς βασανισθησόμενοι ib.19; “τοῦ αἰ. θεοῦ” Ep.Rom. 16.26, Ti.Locr.96c; “οὐ χρονίη μοῦνον . . ἀλλ᾽ αἰωνίη” Aret.CA1.5; αἰ. διαθήκη, νόμιμον, πρόσταγμα, LXX Ge.9.16, Ex.27.21, To.1.6; “ζωή” Ev.Matt.25.46, Porph.Abst.4.20; κόλασις Ev.Matt. l.c., Olymp. in Grg.p.278J.; “πρὸ χρόνων αἰ.” 2 Ep.Tim. 1.9: opp. πρόσκαιρος, 2 Ep.Cor. 4.18.
2. holding an office or title for life, perpetual, “γυμνασίαρχος” CPHerm.62.
3. = Lat. saecularis, Phleg.Macr.4.
4. Adv. -ίως eternally, “νοῦς ἀκίνητος αἰ. πάντα ὤν” Procl.Inst.172, cf. Simp. in Epict.p.77D.; perpetually, μισεῖν Sch.E.Alc.338.
5. αἰώνιον, τό, = ἀείζωον τὸ μέγα, Ps.-Dsc.4.88.

What would be the Universalist argument about translation? A conspiracy, a gradual shift, a recent shift or a long running minority view? I’m aware that I’ve had this argument before were I’ve asserted that the majority, mainstream view over time has been to translate it eternal. How can I represent the alternative? I need more then a website, I need an explanation.

I know this isn’t a thorough enough answer, but from all the reading I’ve done on it, the “translation issue” appears to be a combination of “conspiracy” (though perhaps not on the actual translation front, and probably the smallest part of the equation), gradual shift in original and translation language usage (as well as the fact that Koine was a dead language that none of the original bible translators were aware of by the time medieval translation work was being done), and just the ordinary difficulties in translation between languages (not having exact equivalents in the translation language from the original).

But I think this is less a universalist argument than it is a matter of uncovered facts that have helped the universalist understanding of scripture. A.E. Knoch, for example became a universalist while (and as a direct result of) translating into his concordant literal version.

That sounds very reasonable Melchizedek, it also makes sense of why the English translations started with lots of instances of the word “hell” and removed them as scholarship improved. I pray that scholarship continues to improve!

I still don’t follow, and I’m not trying to be belligerent, what’s the explanation as to why “aionios” is commonly translated/understood to mean “eternal”? If either of you (or someone else) could have another crack at it I’d appreciate it!

Luke, Thanks, this sounds like a wonderful project and contribution! Universalist sympathizers like me may look to our sense of the broad themes of the whole Biblical story, but I agree that a more crisp look at the central arguments may be more helpful. My own best attempt at the succint case is found on my page as “Short Case for Universalism,” here Short Case for Universalism

The short answer is that aionios was used to mean ‘eternal’ in classical Greek, but not in Koine Greek. The original bible translators only knew classical Greek, and therefore weren’t aware of the difference in usage.

If I was to lay out an outline for why I believe that Jesus is the savior of all humanity I’d say.


  1. There are many scriptures that seem to affirm that God saves all humanity.
  2. There are a few passages that seem to affirm post-mortem repentance and salvation.
  3. Affirms that the atonement was for all humanity (not limited in scope).
  4. Affirms that salvation is by the Atonement (not limited in effect)
  5. Affirms that faith is a gift, not a choice. (We are responsible to use that gift, but it’s a gift none the less.)
  6. Affirms that punishment is remedial.

Character of God, I believe scripture affirms God to be:

  1. Just/Righteous,
    . a) temporal sins do not warrant endless punishment,
    . b) some sins are worse than others and thus warrant greater penalty,
    . c) scripture indicates people are judged according to the revelation they’ve recieved
    . d) judgment in scripture is consistantly tied with how we actually live not just what we believe
    . e) salvation is by grace for all
    . f) making things right implies reconciliation.
  2. Merciful - (God does not give us what we “deserve”.)
  3. Love - (God desires to save all.)
  4. Sovereign - (God is able to save all.) (Man is not “sovereign” in regards to salvation or otherwise.)

Hell - a tradition of men NOT strongly supported in Scripture

  1. Neither Sheol, Hades, or Gehenna imply specifically ECT.
  2. Tartarus would normally imply ECT but in the “1 and ONLY” place in scripture it is used:
    . a) not used to warn humans though it would have fit well if it were true.
    . b) is spoken of as a present reality, not a future judgment.
    . c) even the sinning angels consigned there are said to suffer there “until” judgment, implying a possible end.
  3. God did not inspire Moses to warn of ECT even once in the Law which established Isreals religion.
  4. Evidence suggests that Gehenna would better be understood as similar to purgatory and was used primarily as a warning for the Pharisees who tried to use it to control and denounce others.
  5. Evidence suggests that Rev’s Lake of Fire is even purgatorial.


  1. Consistantly in scripture is based on works, how we actually live (not on faith alone).
  2. For all humanity, not just unbelievers
  3. Can be understood as Retributive & Rehabilitative.

Scriptural Examples of Post-mortem repentance/salvation.

  1. Jonah, in rebellion, died, in Sheol, soul in torment, repented, turned to God, God heard him, saved him from Sheol.
  2. Paul affirms Baptism for the Dead.
  3. Peter speaks of Jesus preaching to the spirits in prison, so that they migh be judged and given life.
  4. Shammai, President of the Sanhedrin during the ministry of Jesus, spoke of Gehenna like Purgatory.
  5. Lake of Fire – nations & kings anti-Christ before, worshipping God after

I actually started studying UR, believing firmly in ECT. The more I studied the pro-UR passages, the more the context of those passages seemed to affirm that “All” really does mean “All”, as in everyone in particular. So I switched to studying Hell in scripture to affirm my traditional beliefs. Problems quickly arose and I saw my seeming “solid” scriptural foundation for believing in ECT crumble like sand before my eyes as I studied what scripture actually indicates concerning judgment and punishment for sin. This then freed me to accept in faith the many passages that affirm the salvation of all humanity, that God loves everyone & Jesus died for everyone. It also gave me a much greater respect of and love for God and a greater fear of judgment. Through faith in Jesus I access the grace and forgiveness of God today and eternal life, but to whom much is given much is required! I’ve also set aside judging others for I do not know what revelation God has opened to them. Instead I simply share my faith in Christ. If God reveals His grace and love to them - awesome. If not, I just pray for them and for me. Well, that’s the short of it.

You know, it seems to me that something so important as ECT would be spoken of specifically and repeatedly in scripture, especially in the Law, specifically named and explained in Hebrew and Greek text of scripture, plainly and repeatedly as it was in Egyptian mythology, Zorastrian (Babylonian) mythology, and Greco-Roman mythology. Shoot, it would be like Hell is in the 1610 Catholic Douay Rheims Bible, specifically mentiond 110 times. But it is not! It would at least be mentioned specifically as much as the 1611 KJV Bible which has Hell in it 64 times. But it is not! In fact, correct modern translations do not even have the word Hell in them!

On the other hand, the love, mercy, and righteousness of God is all over scripture. Spoken of specifically and repeatedly, using a wide variety of literature styles and language. His anger only last for a moment, but His love endures forever. Love never fails. For God so loved the whole world. God is love. The love, mercy of God is renewed every morning. Like God we should even love our enemies. etc. etc. etc.

Thanks Sherman for a strong and concise summary of the best reasons to embrace evangelical universalism.

I’d definitely add the argument of God’s will, and God’s will being done without fail.

In Isaiah 48, God says he will save rebellious Israel through the furnace of affliction. Why? Because God will not be defamed, nor will he yield his glory to another.

So here are two more reasons to reject ECT. It drags God’s good name through the mud, and paints Him as a failure. He cannot manage even his own children.