I am reading the second edition of your book and will be discussing it in a Christians men’s reading group I belong to. I bought each of them a copy because, as I told them, I realize they reject Universalism, am somewhat certain your book will not convince them, BUT if they are going to reject Universalism, they need to make sure they understand exactly what they are rejecting - and not a mere straw man! One man read the book immediately, loved it, and submitted his recommendation to the group, which overwhelmingly wanted to read/discuss it!
My question to you, and I’m not quite sure how to word/phrase this, is if you have ideas/thoughts about the sociology - or maybe social psychology - of Universalism. What I mean is this: the stereotypical earthly tyrant rules, holds power, by force and/or it’s threat. Submit, don’t dissent, or you get whacked. Eventually, there is “peace” - or, rather, no apparent or visible conflict. Kill the opposition, and order is kept; destroy all who disagree, and you’re left with only those who can accept the system and structure. Some, in fact, may even grow to like it! Makes them feel safe perhaps…
The problem for God then, as I see it, is how does He avoid this very charge/accusation? Stated more starkly, as some have, does God really say Love Me - or I’ll kill you??
Now in observing history, and cultural phenomenon, it really does seem like there is a wide spectrum of how people respond to tyrannical power. On the one extreme is the attitude expressed on the New Hampshire license plate: Live Free or Die. Death preferred over submission. On the other side might be what is widely seen in the middle east; democracy disdained, complete willingness to submit to threat of force, always willing to follow the “strong horse”. (…not to get distracted by politics and such…)
One might be tempted to think that by NOW, with so many tyrants having been selecting for “submission traits” for all these eons, eventually the ability to achieve even the desire for freedom from tyranny would be extinguished!
I confess that I’ve been disturbed through the years at how many Christians are appalled that King Nebuchadnezzar would demand worship on threat of death – yet have no problems with a God who, in essence seems to offer the same sort of bargain. Is the biblical end of sin then really nothing more than God successfully eliminating His opposition? Selecting out those psychologically and culturally “designed” to tolerate such an arrangement? Keep the conformers, kill the “independent thinkers”.
I understand there are much better, more compelling arguments for Universalism; and you have made a great many of them. But don’t you think it’s reasonable for all ECT hell/or annihilation believers to face this problem as a direct reason to consider Universalism’s advantages? Given the utter absence of historical evidence that getting rid of opposition by killing them results in long term stability, certainly a reasonable Christian would then consider an alternative wherein God gets “rid” of the opposition by actually convincing them of the truth of His claims and thereby turns enemies into friends.
Of course I’d not expect my ECT/annihilation believing friends to warm to this idea at all. It may even offend them. But, logically, the fact that they are able to accept/embrace a God who kills those who “don’t sign up for His program” makes the theory pretty hard to refute doesn’t it? Smother it with words of “love” and “gave them a chance” and “it was their choice” all you want: in the end, if you don’t go along, BAM.
I’d be interested to know Tom, if any ideas of this sort have run through your mind and/or what your thoughts on the matter are.