I grew up in an Arminian tradition. Which is to say we strongly rejected the doctrine of election and double predestination. We took 1 Tim. 2.4 very literally (ESV): God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
So how do people end up in hell? Well, they choose to reject God. Human choice and free will played a big part in this; free will a huge part of Arminian thinking.
Trouble was, as my psychological training progressed, I began to realize humans aren’t radically free. Change is very, very hard and slow going. More, all the advances in neuroscience were putting huge pressure on radical notions of free will.
So I began to wonder, “Clearly humans have choice, and freedom of choice. But choosing is hard and takes time, especially if you’re dealing with an impoverished upbringing, addiction, trauma, ingrained habits, chemical imbalances in the brain, and genetic predispositions. Let alone being raised in a different culture in a different religion. So how, if God wants to save everybody, is all this going to get done before we die?”
The only option I could see is that God’s love and pursuit of us must extend past the grave. That, in words of the Song of Solomon, “love is as strong as death” and that, in the words of Revelation, Jesus “holds the keys to death and Hades.”
And this, it seems to me, is the key theological move for the doctrine of universal reconciliation. Many (if not most) Christians endorse God’s universal beneficence, but many (if not most) don’t believe in God’s post-mortem salvific activity.
All that to say, a lot of universalists place a big premium on free will (as opposed to the doctrine of election). Weirdly, I don’t. It was my rejection of radical human freedom that moved me toward universalism. In fact, as neuroscience makes more and more progress I think universalism is going to be increasingly attractive to people who strongly endorse 1 Tim. 2.4.
So what do you think: Is neuroscience, of all things, making universalism more attractive to people? Might this be one reason for the increasing popularity of UR?