Answers to 21 Anti-universalist Objections

Steve Jones

Objection 1: If universal restoration is true, why be a Christian now?

Answer: We ought to follow Jesus, first of all, because it is the right and good thing to do. Second, that we might enjoy a purpose in our existence, an abundant life, a freedom from the tyranny of evil and an escape from the mundane offerings of this world.

Objection 2: If all will be saved someday, why evangelize?

Answer: See the answer to the first objection.

Objection 3: Without the threat of endless hell, some people won’t respond to God or seek to do good. If universalism were revealed true, many Christians would give up the faith and live ungodly lives.

Answer: Such people are unworthy of the Christian name. They obey God as slaves under the lash, not as children seeking to live in the Father’s love. I refuse to allow them to drive my interpretation of human destiny.

Objection 4: Doesn’t justice demand that some people pay for their sins forever?

Answer: No. The wages of sin is death — we’ll all make that payment. But if God wishes to pardon all, what slight is that to His justice? I am commanded by Christ to forgive all who have offended me. Is that an injustice? If not, then why would it be unjust for God to do exactly what He expects of me?

Objection 5: The Bible contains language of exclusion. Some will “not see life” or have “no inheritance in the kingdom.” Others will “go away into eternal punishment.”

Answer: Yes, but the Bible also includes language of universal inclusiveness. Paul said that “every knee will bow” and “every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Objection 6: True. But for the wicked, that confession will not come from the heart — only from the almighty, subjugating power of Christ.

Answer: A coerced confession would not be “to the glory of God the Father.”

Objection 7: Still, doesn’t a lot of Scriptural language rule out universalism?

Answer: Evidently not. Only a few centuries after Christ, we have records of many scholarly Christians who spoke the New Testament language, used the same “exclusionary” and “condemnatory” phrases found in its pages — yet, they were open universalists.

Objection 8: If the authors of Scripture were universalists, why didn’t they just say it plainly? Why do they write things so apt to be misunderstood?

Answer: The Psalmist wrote, “All flesh will bless his holy name forever and ever.” (Psalm 145:21) How much plainer can you get than that? The same kind of language occurs in the New Testament. It is true, however, that the Bible is not a universalist catechism or primer. The latter Scriptures give us a glimpse into the faith of the early church, but not a full explanation of everything Christians believed from the ground up. The New Testament is concerned mainly with (1) the proclamation of Jesus as Messiah, (2) the proclamation of the long-awaited kingdom of God, (3) the healing of problems in the early churches. It does not answer all our eschatological queries with unmistakable plainness. Besides that, Paul tends to be difficult to understand — even another biblical author thought so. (2 Pet. 3:15-16)

Objection 9: Aren’t you just projecting wishful thinking onto the Bible?

Answer: I may be. But a thing is not false simply because we would like it to be true. The Christian message is supposed to be good news. Why not embrace the best news possible?

Objection 10: What if you’re wrong about this? What if universalism isn’t true?

Answer: Well, then I’m wrong. Any person with an ounce of humility will consider this a real possibility about a given belief. No one is infallible. But if I am wrong, I would rather err on the side of mercy than wrath. I would rather be guilty of making God too loving than too condemning.

Objection 11: Doesn’t universalism minimize the seriousness of sin?

Answer: Jesus told us to forgive everyone who has sinned against us. Does that minimize the seriousness of sin?

Objection 12: What about sins that are “unto death” or that will never be forgiven?

Answer: It is within the power of God to punish these offenses without inflicting either eternal torment or annihilation.

Objection 13: If universalism is true, that means Hitler will enjoy the same eternity as the most pious saint.

Answer: Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more. That was the belief of Paul.

Objection 14: Are you denying that “it is appointed for men once to die, but after this the judgment”?

Answer: No. Some may have to face a fearful judgment on the other side of the grave and endure some retribution for what they have done. The universalist hope is that they will be reconciled eventually, that God may be “all in all.”

Objection 15: Isn’t the idea of reformation after death unbiblical?

Answer: No. It is biblically obscure, but not anti-biblical. Early Christians practiced a proxy baptism for the dead (1 Cor. 15:29). They also believed that after his crucifixion, Jesus preached to the dead imprisoned in hades (1 Pet. 3:19-20; 4:3-5). The Bible never tells us that it is “too late” for any change once we have died (contrary to the warnings of so many evangelists).

Objection 16: Jesus said that “God is able to destroy both body and soul in hell.” (Matt. 10:28) Doesn't that pretty much refute universalism?

Answer: To say that God has the power to do something is not the same thing as saying that He WILL do it. For example, John the Baptist declared that “God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” (Matt. 3:10) No one expected that to happen, of course.

Jesus' utterance is part of a send-off to his missionaries who were ready to preach the kingdom of God and face severe opposition. The point was this: Do not be consumed by the fear of men, but instead fear the one who truly holds the power of life and death. It need not be viewed as a definitive statement of “what happens when non-Christians die.”

Objection 17: Won’t people live carelessly if you teach such a thing?

Answer: I can’t help that. People live carelessly under the threat of endless torments, too.

Objection 18: Doesn’t universalism encourage the unbiblical notion of the “immortality of the soul.”

Answer: Some universalists believe in the immortality of the soul (as do many non-universalists). Some don’t. My opinion is this: The eternal life to come will be the result of the resurrection, the gift of Christ — not some undying component in the human personality.

Objection 19: Most Christians throughout the course of church history — and even today — would strongly disagree with you on universalism.

Answer: Majority vote does not determine truth. More often, it’s the other way around.

Objection 20: Calvinists tell us that God does not love all people.

Answer: He surely must. Jesus told us to love all people, even our enemies, and to do good toward them. God’s love is perfect and, therefore, must surpass ours — not fall below it.

Objection 21: Won’t the inclusion of everyone diminish the significance of salvation for the saints?

Answer: Why would it? Generally speaking, a big party is better than a small one.