One of the major things that has led me to Universalist thinking is simple: a contemplation of eternity.
The classic response to someone who is considering Universalism from an Anti-Universalist is, “well God is both just and loving and so God must punish an unrepentant (unsaved, nonreligious, unbaptised, ) person forever.”
There are many things wrong with this concept of justice, I will name a few.
This assumes a retributive view of justice under most formulations. The goal according to this view of justice, it seems, is to balance some abstract scales of justice. Because if there were any concept of reconciliation to this, they would have to admit that the punishment must be temporary and not eternal. Which brings up an interesting point - how can an infinite punishment balance the scales of a lifetime of sin, or a lifetime of having a fallen nature, etc.?
Why forever? I have never heard a convincing explanation of this. Some have suggested that it’s because they have committed an infinite crime, because they have sinned (not believed, etc) against an infinite God. But how? Any sin or period of disbelief that takes place in our lives on earth must in fact be finite. Our being born fallen and living with a fallen nature (whatever that means) must be finite. Everything about our lives on earth is finite.
On a slightly more subjective note - A simple meditation on what eternity means and allowing that to bump up against the ceiling of our imaginations should make a Universalist out of anyone. Could a truly Loving moral Being (or even a moral energy) subject a person to torture forever? Never giving that person reprieve, ever. It is such an order of magnitude larger than any punishment I can even imagine that there is just no conceptual way that eternal punishment is true
And finally, why must God punish at all? I cannot think of a single reason why God could not simply choose to forgive. As such, God chooses to put the reconciliatory justice of the unity of God’s creation over the sin/disbelief/violence and chooses to renew and restore the person into God’s family. I am not suggesting that this is what God does - in fact it seems the parable of the Prodigal Sons suggests that Jesus believed God to be more of a patient Being waiting for the change of heart of the person. But I do think the logic of the concept that God must punish sin or disbelief to be simply wrong.
So - is there any explanation as to why God must punish? Or why God must punish forever?
I would appreciate your thoughts.