The‚ Global Dictionary of Theology: A Resource for the Worldwide Church lists fourteen general characteristics of those universalists who affirm the reliability of Scripture. In this post, I want to look at the first seven characteristics.
However, before we get into the characteristics, I also want to note several recognizable pastors and theologians that believed in universalism apart from a simple “hopeful” universalism.
Notable “Convinced Universalists” in this‚ vein include:
1. Friedrich Schleiermacher
2. John A. T. Robinson
3. Jack Hick
4. C. H. Dodd
5. William Barclay
6. Jacques Ellul
7. Jurgen Moltmann
8. Thomas Bradley Talbot
9. Paul Tillich
11. Gregory of Nyssa
12. William Law
The first seven general characteristics of Universalism include:
1. The grace of God and the love of God revealed in Jesus is the usual starting point and foundation of belief in universal salvation. God’s chief attribute is identified as love and this love is both invincible and inescapable (Rom. 8:35-39). God’s love for all people is without discrimination and it will not rest until all are reconciled to him.
2. The biblical texts cited in support of eternal conscious punishment are found in contexts of parable, hyperbole, and great symbolism. Therefore, they should be read seriously but not literally. These texts imply some kind of punishment after death but do not teach that this is everlasting.
3. Biblical warnings of eternal judgment are best understood to be just threats which will not necessarily come to pass.
4. God wills for the salvation of everyone. Verses used to demonstrate this, according to universalists are:
- Lam. 3:22; 3:31-33
- Ezek 33:11
- Matt 18:14
- Rom 11:32
- I Cor 15:27-28
- 2 Cor 5:19
- Eph 1:9-10
- Col 1:19-20
- I tim 2:3-6
- 2 Pet 3:9
- I John 2:2
In addition, God will eventually achieve what he intends to achieve.
5. God will finally be victorious, which means that postmortem salvation is possible. “Eventually the unbearable nature of the suffering of sinners in hell will destroy their illusions and convince them of their error, this leading them to repentance and reconciliation with God. Nothing in all of creation can separate us from the love of God (Rom 8:38-39) and this includes our own actions… In addition, the restoration of all things indicates universal restoration and so God’s work of reconciling the world to himself in Christ will continue until everyone has been redeemed.”
6. God’s patience is unlimited because he does not want anyone to perish but wants all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9) and “we should regard the patience of our Lord as salvation” (2 Peter 3:15). Therefore, God persists beyond the grave until his will has been accomplished. Why? His love never ends (1 Cor 13:7-8).
7. All will finally know God (Is 11:9; Jeremiah 31:31-34) because when Christ is “lifted up” he draws all people unto himself (John 12:32). In addition, everyone will eventually bow before Jesus as Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:9-11).