This coming summer I’m going to be teaching some classes at the Pepperdine Lectureship entitled “Love Wins: Evangelical Universalism in the Churches of Christ.” For those of you unfamiliar with the Churches of Christ, my faith tradition, this is sort of a big deal. I don’t know if the topic of UR has ever been broached in such a high profile venue within my faith tradition. (Although Thomas Talbott did discuss universalism this last summer at a Church of Christ gathering, the Christian Scholar’s Conference at Lipscomb University. But Thomas is not a member of the Churches of Christ.)
As a part of these classes I’m going to set out some criteria for an evangelical universalism. The basic question will be: What sorts of things do we need to see from an “evangelical universalism” if it is to find a place within our faith tradition?
Borrowing from Robin Parry’s work, my tentative list for such criteria:
The vision of UR has to be grounded in the biblical witness.
Salvation has to be “in” and “through” Christ.
The death of Jesus is understood to be an atoning sacrifice for human sinfulness. (Point of clarification: Atonement doesn’t have to be limited to this view, but this view has to be included.)
Related to #1, all the texts in the bible regarding hell, Gehenna, judgment, and the lake of fire have to be included (and even emphasized).
The vision of UR must create energy, motivation and zeal for the gospel proclamation.
To be sure there are many background/creedal issues that could also be included. But all that will be assumed by my generally evangelical audience. So for them, I’m going to argue that if UR can clear these five hurtles it could properly be called an evangelical soteriology.