The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Practical Barriers to Universalism

Universalists need more than moral scruples, wishful thinking, and pious sentiment to refute (1)-(3) below.

(1) Universalism undermines the urgency of the Gospel by implying that we can wait and see if there really is a biblically-styled life after death and then respond appropriately.
(2) Christianity enjoyed its original phenomenal growth primarily for 2 reasons: (a) it offered a loving community to the socially marginalized. (b) It made its adherents feel uniquely blessed by the eternal life that they–and not their unbelieving fellow citizens–would receive after death.
(3) On his deathbed, Comedian W. C. Fields was thumbing through his Bible. A friend asked him: “What are you doing? You’re not a religious man?” Fields replied dead-pan: “Looking for loopholes! Looking for loopholes!” Well, all such loopholes are ruled out by all the exclusivistic biblical texts, especially those that pair “eternal life” with “eternal death.” Or are they?
How would you respond to (1)-(3) above?

My own response begins with Elihu’s declaration in Job 34;12: The Almighty will not pervert justice." It seems inconceivable to me that misguided humans can do anything in their brief sojourn on Earth to merit eternal conscious torment. In my view the greatest barrier to the effective evangelism of thinking people is the portrayal of an unlovable unjust God in evangelistic preaching. So I reject (1)-(3) on the basis of a blizzard of contrary texts from Jesus, Paul, 1 Peter, and the Book of Revelation. I will post my rationales in the appropriate section.

Hi - well, a great portion of this Forum has been dedicated for years to answering those questions!. Have you browsed the archives using the search function yet? LOTS of information, many threads, questions debated and some even answered ;-).

OTOH if it is a new discussion that you are after, you may get some hits. Good luck!

Welcome, Donald!

Please consider my Is God Violent, Or Nonviolent?, which concludes with my viewpoint on Matthew 25:46, "Then they will go away to eternal punishment but the righteous to eternal life.”


About 10 hours ago i was reading a discussion here with that same quote by W.C. Fields:In a nutshell, universalism has...?

The same thread addresses the question, Does Universalism endanger people’s souls? Which seems to be related to points (1) & (3) of the OP, Does Universalism undermine the urgency of believing the Gospel? See, for example, Jason Pratt’s post:

BTW, Jason concludes that post with the following Gospel message:

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Origen, I think your reply misses the mark. Christians have told me that if they thought universalism is true, then they would no longer see any need to evangelize. Here is the proper response in my view. Sin still separates us from God and there is still a Hell to flee and a Heaven to gain. So the Gospel retains its urgency because an indefinite period of postmortem separation from God in some sort of Hell is horrible to contemplate and should be avoided at all costs, even if ultimate release is possible or inevitable.

In 5 point ECT Calvinism what is the urgency to preach the gospel? If all of the elect will be saved no matter what & all of the nonelect will be lost no matter what, then there is no urgency to preach the gospel.

In ECT Arminianism what is the urgency to preach the gospel? Will Love Omnipotent damn to ECT anyone who never heard?

Do you think those who never heard the Gospel will go to this “Hell” you speak of? If so, for how long? Will those who never heard be better off than those who heard & rejected the Gospel?

Does much evangelizing cause more harm than good? Yes. How many millions reject the Gospel because it is associated with a god who tortures billions forever or annihilates them into endless nonexistence? Hundreds of millions?

Are those who profess Christ only out of fear & for fire insurance really saved?

What are the statistics on those who profess Christ & later renounce Christianity?

As to evangelizing, IMO that’s a good idea if you are led to do so or are called to be an evangelist. Are all evangelists? No.

So why evangelize? Because Christ commanded it. Which is the same answer a Calvinist gave me.

In Catholicism & Eastern Orthodoxy is there an urgency to preach the Gospel or send missionaries to the jungles of Africa? Or is it more a case of evangelizing the world without words?

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This article from today’s Patheos Evangelical newsletter, might be interesting here:

Let me quote a bit from it:

CP: At a time when many churches are in decline or closing, how is it that First Baptist Dallas is celebrating its 150 anniversary and still going strong?

Jeffress: I think there’s one simple answer to that. We are a church that’s not built on a denomination or a church built on tradition or a church built on popular opinion. We are a church built on the Bible. The fact is, denominations change, culture changes, opinions change, but God’s Word never changes. I think the reason God has blessed First Baptist for these 150 years is, this is a church that has been dedicated to proclaiming the unchanging truth of God’s Word.

Now let’s look at some article insight:

So, what’s so wrong with the statement? I’ll ask it this way: if you would have sat down with the Apostle Paul, the Apostle Peter, perhaps even some early church fathers like Clement of Rome or Tertullian, and asked them what the church was built on, they wouldn’t have said ‘the Bible,’ and for a very good reason. ‘The Bible’ didn’t exist yet as we now know it, not being finalized in its canonical form until the 4th century. In the decades immediately following the resurrection of Jesus, even before the letters of Paul were written and the eyewitness Gospel accounts recorded, the church thrived and flourished not because of a book but because of an event.

In short, my issue is that I believe the church was originally built (and should therefore continually be built) on an event in human history: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Bible as we know it points us to the resurrection and testifies to the truth and power of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But make no mistake: Jesus and the Bible are not the same thing, anymore than I am the same thing as the birth certificate that testifies to my birth. The Bible contains the living words of God, but God is not a book. Jesus is not a book. A book did not die on the cross for my sins. A book testifies to the person that died on the cross for my sins and rose from the dead on the third day, and a book points the way to my salvation, but my salvation rests not in a book, but in a person. That is a subtle yet profound difference. As much as I value and cherish the book that teaches, inspires, convicts and edifies my faith, I worship the person the book points to, not the book itself.

Yeah, sure, but…what would Paul say NOW? Now that we DO have the bible? Of course he wouldn’t worship the written Word, but the advice he gave to young churches was advice he intended them to build on. We now have that advice - would he not want us to build upon it?

I think what the author is saying…is that there are preachers, congregations and churches, that do put the Bible - on a pedestal. Where it functions - sort of - as the object of worship. And in some cases, the author is probably correct.


Ah, the sin of bibliolatry! I would put the problem this way: NT texts on the inspiration of Scripture refer to the OT. The NT can’t comment on its own inspiration because it didn’t exist as an acknowledged canonical corpus until a consensus that already seems to have been achieved after 200 AD (not the 4th century). And no, Peter’s reference to Paul’s letters as “writings” (2 Peter 3:15-16) does not invest them with the high standing of canonical Scripture on the same level as the OT.

We need to recognize that we have access to the same Holy Spirit for insight into canonical writings as people did in the apostolic age and earlier. As for universalism, it seems culturally implausible that a persecuted early church would provide all the NT’s hints of ultimate salvation of unbelievers, when they are struggling to find converts willing to risk the sacrifice of spreading the Gospel.

Berserk, the angel said to Joseph, “You shall call His name “Jesus” (Saviour) for He will save His people from their sins.”—SAVED not from HELL but from SINS! Sin is doing that which harms people. God doesn’t want to see people harmed, and so He commands people not to sin. Moreover, He provided enabling grace (Titus, chapter 2) to overcome sin and to live righteously through the magnificent sacrifice of His beloved Son on our behalf.

The concept of salvation from hell is not found in the Bible; this concept results from human self-service. Such people see HELL as the threat, rather than SIN. They don’t want to stop sinning; they want only to be saved from eternal hell fire, which they think is the consequence of sin.

If the important thing in evangelism, were to be saved from hell, one would expect this to be found throughout the Bible. But in fact, the word “hell” does not occur even once in modern translations the Old Testament into English (for example the ESV, NASB, NIV, RSV, NRSV, and YLT) and the Old Testament comprises about 75% of the entire Bible.

The word “hell” occurs 31 times in the King James Version of the Bible. In each and every one those times, the NIV translates the Hebrew word “sheol” as “the grave” or “death” (usually “the grave”).


I don’t think Scripture separates the two. The consequence of “hell” is the result of a life lived in sin, rebellion & rejection of Christ. For a few examples amongst many showing that sin leads to “hell” see Jn.3:36; Rom.2:4-16; Gal.6:7-8; Rev. 2:11; 20:10-15; 21:8.

I looked up the passages to which you referred above, in John, Romans and Galatians.
I see nothing at all about “hell” in any of them.

Romans indicates future wrath, anguish, etc, awaits the wicked, which is how i am defining “hell” in this context. Similarly John refers to wrath as opposed to eonian life. Galatians speaks of reaping corruption vs eonian life. And Revelation refers to the lake of fire.