The Evangelical Universalist Forum

UK Radio Show - On Universalism

In listening to the recording of this show it seems that a popular argument against Universalism emerges. Daniel Strange raises the argument that those who are in hell will not want to come out of hell. He then illustrates that there are people in the world whom we know this is true; though they are miserable and need help, you offer and they decline. If I am correct he uses C.S. Lewis’ analogy of people on a bus who see heaven and want nothing to do with it. Sin in this sense is self perpetual. … 4-3617.mp3
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On one hand people in hell don’t and would not want to be in heaven
on the other hand people in hell are tortured and would rather be in hell than in heaven.

There seems to be a few problems that follow.

  1. Evangelism seems pointless here. If indeed my neighbor is going to hell and he woud rather be there then be in the presence of God, then perhaps it’s the right decision for him.

  2. Everone gets heaven in the sense hell is what they want.

Raising the obvious illogic that people who are bound to a world of torture prefer being bound to a world of well being.

It seems this is a poor way of using biblical passages which over and over seem to paint a picture of an awful consignment.
lake of fire
weeping and gnashing of teeth
cut to pieces
just to name a few

How can this position be biblically defended?


I think that you make a sensible objection. Unless these people like weeping, gnashing, torment, etc.
They might be more tormented by the idea of heaven?

I suppose one could argue that they do not get heaven since hell is not what they want most. However, it still seems to fall short on the essence of warnings of hell. On the other hand one could argue it is heaven since it is the best they can possibly have.

So I suppose that objection 2 might not be accurate however objection one still seems to be inevitable for eternal torment subscribers.

If in fact people in hell, due to perpetual sin, prefer hell to heaven than it seems everyone makes the right choice whether they choose God or sin.

My point was that they prefer the pain of hell to what they perceive as the pain of heaven- they are in deception.
The lesser of two pains as they see it.
Just a theory.

I understand. I am not sure I’m making sense of it all but it seems your point is the original viewpoint of Daniel Strange on the recording. That is people in hell prefer the torment they are in to the torment they see in heaven. Thus they made the right choice being they are where they want to be given only two options.

Now if they are not blind (as you stated) and they see clearly then **it is illogical that they prefer the torments of hell to the blessings of heaven. **

Thus their deception keeps them prefering hell to heaven; they made the right choice according to their perception.

This raises an obviouse issue of why would those in hell even know about heaven to compare their consignment at all?


But why wouldn’t they? Seems like that’s getting into speculation that goes beyond what has been revealed.
Abraham and Lazarus depicts the sufferer as seeing Abraham…

I suppose when you think about it you may be right. Assuming it is correct it puts the position Daniel Strange (or C.S. Lewis) puts forth as sacrificing far too much to prove it’s point. It appears he’s sacrificing the severity of the wrong choice in order to maintain the reason people are there. I find this to be an peculiar being he is defending the Reformed position.

I would think those who hold to unconditional election would have no problems thinking the people in Hell want to be in Heaven because Hell is the righteouss just punishment for their wrong doing. Since they are reprobate and have sinned against a infinite God (which I believe Daniel Strange endorses in the broadcast) the reprobate thus deserves infinite punishment.

So it seems like he’s hitting the eject button here. Perhaps it’s like asking a devout hard line calvinist if God loves everyone in front of a public audience (watch em wiggle like a fish out of the water). Could Daniel be commiting this on the air in order to sooth the argument of the universalist.

My overall point I’m driving at is that if Hell is bad to the person then it seems the deception argument does not fly. If Hell is not that bad to the person then where is the real thrust in telling someone their going to Hell. It seems in this light there is no such thing as Hell.


I would argue that the scriptural presentation of hell isn’t a place people will want to be (i.e. Lazarus & the rich man).

That parable (although it isn’t technically the lake of fire, but rather “hades”) shows the rich man as one who obviously doesn’t want to be there.

The best thing that I have read on this is Thomas Talbott’s article “Freedom, Damnation and the Power to Sin with Impunity” (link from this page


thank you for the links. I’ll def. give them a read.

I am familiar with Talbott on some issues and I have a feeling I’m going to fall in line with him on this issue. When I listened to Daniel Strange, it reminded me of my father in law (a phd. from fuller) who argued that often christians want to turn Hell into club med.

I recently listened to William Craig debate Ray Bradley (Atheist) on the docrine of hell and Bradley’s opening comments are that Craig turns the horrors of Hell into soothing terms which makes it look like God sends his obstinate children to Hawaii. What is the driving force of this? Something does not compute. If Hell is an eternal Auschwitz, which is the just punishment they deserve, then why make it “not so bad”?


Lewis’ The Great Divorce is where the souls-on-a-bus image comes from. And Lewis is far, far, far more in-depth about why souls in hell might prefer it there, or why souls on ‘refrigerium’ (that’s visiting the outskirts of heaven on the bus, in the story) might prefer to stay on the bus or go back to the bus… or even poof right out of existence, rather than repent of their sin and their selfishness and their grudges etc. Literally the whole book is devoted to the topic (presented as a fantasy-dream.)

Among other things, Lewis affirms that sooner or later things are going to get a lot more harsh for the souls in hell (in at least two different ways) than the more-or-less mundane misery of selfishness they’re currently suffering. And one of those ways involves direct action by God.

(The book is somewhat infamous as Lewis’ attempt at reconciling his annihilationism with the hope of universal salvation taught by his Teacher, George MacDonald, who shows up in an extended cameo to dialogue with Lewis. CSL correctly represents GMcD as believing that if God has to eventually give up on the soul, then God will annihilate the soul; but incorrectly paints GMcD as having only a vague and/or weak hope for something better than annihilationism which the real GMacD firmly rejected. Both CSL and GMacD believed in post-mortem salvation, of course.)

Obviously, sin is self-perpetual, almost by definition. The key element in Lewis’ limited annihilationism, as in any non-universalistic soteriology, is that eventually God gives up trying to save the sinner from sin. (Or never intended to save certain souls from sin to begin with, per full Calvinism. Lewis was an Arminian-class soteriologist, though.)

If it wasn’t for God, our selfishness would be self-fatal. I think any orthodox soteriology (whether Calv or Arm or Kath, i.e. ‘katholic’ or universalist) agrees with that.

[ETA: originally I appended a question here about why this topic counted as discussing an objection to EU. Since then, the topic was moved to the general EU discussion forum instead.]

Actually, I don’t have a problem believing that God doesn’t have to go for maximum zorching in all or even most cases. There’s at least one biblical warrant for that as well: Jesus’ parable about the servants who were less culpable and so were less punished. (Notably it’s the errant Christian representative in the parable who gets the full zorching!! :open_mouth: :mrgreen: Something I assure you I keep well in mind…)

What I disagree with on both exegetical and metaphysical grounds, is the notion that God might settle for, say, Roman Catholic limbo, for any reason.

Is limbo still taught? I doubt it. Also, it is for unbaptized babies, as far as I know.

The pope convened a conference on this within the past few years (last year?) I don’t recall what the results were. Probably indecisive about whether to officially restrict the teaching or officially sanction it. If I wasn’t so lazy^H^H^H^Hbusy :mrgreen: , I’d poke around and see if I could come up with something more.

Limbo, however, isn’t only for unbaptized babies. It’s for righteous non-Christians, too. In effect it’s heaven without communion with God; this lack of communion being the only pain (thus being the lightest form of hell.)