So it begins.
A PROLOGUE ON ROB BELL FOR TOPICALITY’S SAKE OR SOMETHING
Rick Wade starts his 2012 article against Christian universalism, with a prologue discussing Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins”; so I’ll start my reply to RW’s article by stating my own position on RB’s book.
I think far too often RB is unfairly criticized for doing or ignoring things he doesn’t do or ignore; but I also think he is often criticized correctly for being (in effect) unfair to his opposition. More pertinently, I think everyone who notches him as a universalist is technically correct. (Although they should clarify he is a trinitarian Christian universalist, which they rarely do, which is unfair again.) On this I differ slightly with Rick Wade, who (in his first paragraph) thinks Rob Bell would be a universalist except for the problem of free will.
I agree with RW that RB claims, and seems (in the book) to think, he isn’t a universalist; but RW means that he isn’t sure Love wins – despite his own chosen title! Specifically, RW isn’t sure God succeeds in more than an ongoing stalemate with saving some sinners from sin. But RW does, in his book, strongly affirm both that God does intend and act to save all sinners from sin; and also that God persists at saving sinners from sin until He gets that done. Calvinists (broadly speaking) deny the former; Arminians (broadly speaking) including RW, deny the latter.
Both gospel assurances together, are minimum Christian universalism, where Christ (as RB affirms, including with a trinitarian Christology) is the agent of God’s salvation. I’m reasonably familiar with that, because I started out there myself, once upon a time, when I first became convinced that I should expect, as a corollary to trinitarian theism, both the scope and the persistence of God’s salvation of sinners from sin to be true.
Anyway, I appreciate that RW is trying to be fair to RB. Unlike RB, I do in fact believe that God eventually succeeds in saving all sinners from sin; but even if I didn’t think the Judeo-Christian scriptural witness reveals this in several places, I would still be betting on God to omnicompetently succeed at that. To slightly paraphrase Lewis from the Problem of Pain, when he wanted to disavow his own prior strenuous emphasis that a Christian should believe God will never give up acting toward saving sinners from sin: I don’t think it takes a particularly robust faith to trust that God (borrowing another related analogy from Lewis’ Mere Christianity) will checkmate His opponent sooner or later.