So, now to a few more detailed comments…
First, while some people here have read The Shack, I haven’t; and what little I’ve heard is not enough to even comment a little about. I know a compatriot of mine over at the Cadre was planning to report on someone else’s report about the “New Age” philosophy behind it, but his draft didn’t include a link and he stopped the draft before going into details. I’ll post a link to it when-if-ever he gets around to finishing and posting his entry.
Also, I haven’t yet read this seminary professor’s article, only the intro excerpted by Brandon; so take any following comments with that provision in mind.
In topological order through the introduction, my thoughts (not enumerated in correspondence with the professor’s tenets, btw) are:
1.) I didn’t know there were late 19th century universalistic creeds that emphasized doctrinal theology so strongly. Good job, guys, if so! (Other posters are more familiar than I am with those creeds and may want to comment on how closely the points represented by the seminary professor match those creeds.)
2.) Except where noted afterward, I would agree with the points listed by the professor.
3.) I would not EVER doctrinally, theologically, metaphysically, exegetically or in any other way pit God’s love vs. God’s justice. Ever. Period. (I am, however, aware that some universalists do so, agreeing with practically all non-universalists on this dichotomy.)
4.) I would agree that it is both unloving and (very strictly speaking) unjust for God to hopelessly condemn anyone; although very many non-universalists would also agree (maybe all of them, practically speaking, sooner or later) that such a condemnation would be unloving at least. However, I wouldn’t limit this evaluation in the fashion of point 2. (“to send people who live a short life”)
5.) While I agree with point 3, I also recognize a “not yet” component to the statement. (In the very typical “already/not-yet” fashion common to OT and NT eschatology.)
6.) I doubt point 6 is intended to dichotomize between “faith” and “God’s love”, at least in regard to this life; but I would emphasize that faith is crucial to the reconciliation being completed in the age to come, too. (It isn’t like redeemed sinners are supposed to still be faithless!) Point 6 is probably supposed to be talking about “faith” as doctrinal assent or somesuch thing, though. I don’t consider this to be as bluntly associated with criteria for salvation as many non-universalists do, whether in this life or in the next. (Though if anything, I would expect proper doctrinal assent to be more important in the next life than in this one! But the more important principle underlying this, is that a person should not rebel against however much of the light they’re able to see, which is a grievous breach of cooperation with God.)
7.) I would actually agree that the experience of Gehenna and hades is supposed to be both punitive and penal for at least some persons (obviously including rebel angels), as well as corrective, restorative, purifying and cleansing (including for the rebel angels). I don’t consider our God the consuming fire to be limited in duration, either. I do consider the punishment (if any) to be limited of duration, but only in the sense of God accomplishing His goals. In principle I accept that a sinner might never repent, and so the punishment of the sinner might in theory never end. I do think prophets of Judeo-Christian scripture have revealed that God will be ultimately triumphant in reconciling and saving sinners from sin; but I would be hoping in God, not the sinner, in any case.
(Note: some, perhaps many, universalists do however accept an exclusive distinction between punitive/penal and the other class of adjectives; largely because non-universalists introduce and insist on the distinction themselves. Though all of them may think only one-or-the-other could be and is found in scripture, and/or that there is some principle that necessarily excludes one set of goals from the other. I disagree with all that, but I may be unusual among universalists in doing so.)
8.) In regard to point 8, I do think that hades will cease to exist (at the general resurrection, if not later); but that the salting fire will not cease to exist (this being the Holy Spirit, the 3rd Person of God, in operation). Again, though, some (maybe many) universalists do believe that both will cease to exist.
9.) I have no opinion about whether universalism was the majority belief of the Christian church for the first five centuries; and my own universalism is not dependent on whether it was ever a majority belief among Christians. I do believe it is the teaching of the New Testament, and that it is at least foreshadowed (and sometimes taught outright) in the OT. There are certainly some universalists (including here on the site) who agree with this point; but I’m doubtful that it’s necessary for them as a belief, either.
10.) I would disagree with point 11: there is clearly a future judgment for everyone. And a present judgment, too. I would agree that in some ways there will not be a crisising for everyone. (Then again, I don’t hold that the crisising will necessarily be as extreme as the Biblical language tends to present it.) Some universalists do, however, believe there is not a future judgment for anyone.
11.) To point 12 I would have to say, “pfft!” Human institutions are as fallen as humans, but are no more automatically “diabolical” for that as any other human endeavor. Some universalists are this hyper-much against religious and governmental institutions in principle, though.
12.) “The community of faith” is an interesting phrase. If the professor means that most Christians (including most Protestants) have historically considered it some kind of heresy, I don’t disagree with that. But, despite centuries of practical teaching against it, the doctrine has only been formally anathematized by a relatively late Byzantine Emperor, whose authority to call such anathematization is certainly not recognized by any branch of Christianity today (especially Western Roman Catholicism and Protestants, but even including orthodox Eastern Christianity, which has more open universalists in its ranks than Western does, at least proportionately.) Neither the RCC nor the EOx agree that it should be dogmatically taught, of course. (Rather, both currently agree that it should not be taught as official doctrine. But both also currently agree that it may be apologized for within proper limits, and believed and hoped for, too.) The RCC and the EOx between them constitute a significantly large community of faith, I think! And in practice I think there are more Protestant universalists who consider it non-heretical (at least) than is publicly evident, official positions of denominations, conventions etc. notwithstanding.