If I had to guess, I think the most common objection to UR is that proponents simply aren’t reading their bibles. That proponents of UR are cutting out or reading around texts that clearly teach ECT.
Is that characterization true? Are proponents of ECT reading the bible while proponents of UR are not? Are proponents of UR letting their feelings get in the way of their reading of Scripture?
Here’s my take. I believe the exact opposite is going on. In my opinion, it is the proponents of ECT who are selectively reading Scripture and reading around texts that don’t jibe with their assumptions. If anyone is picking and choosing it’s the proponent of ECT.
How do I support that claim?
To start, for my part I willingly grant all the texts the proponent of ECT will point to showing judgment after death. I don’t have any problem with those texts. They don’t make me worry and I don’t read around them. In fact, I heartily endorse them. God’s judgment plays a part in how I think God will deal with sin, evil, and human rebellion.
But as I see it, those texts begin and end with declarations of God’s judgment. The point of departure for proponents of ECT and UR at this point is if God’s judgment lasts forever and for what ultimate purpose. The texts supporting the belief in ECT can’t, in and of themselves, answer those questions. Mainly because we’re now discussing the nature of God.
And when we step back and look at the nature of God we find something important, mainly in the Old Testament prophets: that God judgment does not last forever. God says, “Enough!” God “relents.” God’s mercy eventually overwhelms God’s wrath. Because of this, judgment is only ever a season with God. Importantly, the prophets teach that God relents because that is what God is like. “Relenting” is a part of God’s nature. Why? Because God’s mercy always triumphs in the end. God does not “treat us as our sins deserve.” This is a clear teaching of Scripture.
In addition, when we look at passages that do speak to God’s ultimate purposes concerning humanity and the cosmos we run up against those expansive “all” passages. As in Adam all died, all will live in Christ. After the fulness of the Gentiles all Israel will be saved. God will be all in all. Every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Through Christ God will reconcile all things to himself. Again, this is a clear teaching of Scripture.
So how do we read all these passages–about God relenting in judgment and God’s ultimate purposes for Creation–in light of the passages talking about judgment after death?
Well, it’s at this point where the proponent of ECT starts to fudge, read-around, and pick and choose. That is, the proponent of ECT will ignore, marginalize, or downplay these texts, forcing them to submit to a narrow interpretation of the judgment texts. But here’s the deal. Why do that? Why not read the entire bible and allow all the texts to mutually inform and reinforce each other? Why use some texts to aggressively silence other texts? Why not strive for a fuller, more biblical account?
The point is, I don’t quibble with the proponent of ECT about the texts regarding judgment and hell. I don’t avoid or read around those passages. I read them as they stand: warnings about God’s coming judgment. But I do go on to read the rest of the bible and that reading informs how I see the nature of God, the duration of God’s judgments, and God’s ultimate purposes for creation.
And this is why I think UR is more biblical than ECT.