Three Biblical Arguments Against Universalism

Below are three biblical arguments against universalism (and an extra one for further reading!). While they offer more than simple proof texts, it would take a much longer article to develop them more fully. Even so, I trust that you will find them useful and persuasive. Let’s first look at some relevant context, and then dive into the arguments themselves.

Personal eschatology—the study of the final fate of human beings—should be embedded within cosmic eschatology, the study of the final state of God’s created order. God is redeeming the cosmos, and human beings within it (see ). Universalists and conditionalists both agree that God will redeem the cosmos as a whole. But universalists also claim that God will eventually redeem every human being that will have ever lived, while our claim as conditionalists is that God’s work of “new creation” purposefully excludes some human beings. Despite knowing enough about the immortal God and realizing that they ultimately deserve death they still reject him (). They disobey the gospel (; ; ), and so fail to respond obediently in repentance and faith to the knowledge of God and his offer of salvation (; ). They love sin rather than goodness, themselves rather than God, and are “disqualified regarding the faith” (; ).

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18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Romans 1:32

32 Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”

And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,

Romans 16:26

26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—

20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.

For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.

Book Review: Christ Triumphant

Thomas Allin. Christ Triumphant: Universalism Asserted as the Hope of the Gospel on the Authority of Reason, the Fathers, and Holy Scripture (Annotated Edition). Robin Parry (ed.). Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2015.*
Originally published in 1885, Wipf & Stock has released this new, annotated edition of Thomas Allin’s case for universalism. Editor Robin Parry (author of The Evangelical Universalist) has provided an introduction and extensive footnotes throughout, providing bibliographic and historical notations so that this work adheres to current standards of citation and clarifies some particular phrases and references relevant to the 19th century.
Thomas Allin (1838-1909) was an Anglican clergyman, and passionate advocate for universalism (or what he often calls the “larger hope”; Allin does state universalism is a hope, albeit a strong hope, but is not held as dogma). At the time of its publication Universalism Asserted, was among the most thorough examinations of final punishment from a universalist perspective. His three-part argument (examined from reason, historical theology, and Scripture) has been repeated by several authors since (e.g. Robin Parry, in The Evagelical Universalist, though, Parry assures me, he hadn’t actually read Allin until after writing TEU, so the similarities in argument are coincidental). Continue reading “Book Review: Christ Triumphant”

Book Review: The Evangelical Universalist

Gregory MacDonald. The Evangelical Universalist (Second Edition). Eugene: Cascade, 2012.*
In 2006, then editor for Paternoster, now with Wipf & Stock, Robin Parry published the first edition of The Evangelical Universalist (hereafter simply TEU) under the pseudonym Gregory MacDonald (combining Gregory of Nyssa and George MacDonald, both notable theologians who were universalists). The goal was to present a case for universalism which was compatible with evangelical commitments to the Gospel and biblical authority. In the preface to the second edition, Parry describes the reasoning behind the pseudonym, and the reasoning behind coming clean that he was the author of this volume. At the time (and to a signficant extent still now, a decade later) being a universalist was taboo in evangelical circles. Perhaps in the so-called “liberal mainline”, but certainly no conservative evangelical Christian who accepts the authority of Scripture could hold this position… right? Parry did not want to raise questions or criticisms for his employer, but, after a few years of blogging under the pseudonym, and interacting with various individuals, he did “come out” in 2009, and in 2012, Wipf & Stock/Cascade published the second edition, with a new preface by Parry, a forward by Oliver Crisp of Fuller Theological Seminary, as well as a few new appendices addressing concerns arising since the first edition, including a response to those who challenged his criticisms of Calvinism, a response to the Rob Bell Love Wins controversy, and a study guide for groups wishing to interact with the book together. Continue reading “Book Review: The Evangelical Universalist”

A Response to Four Views on Hell, Pt. 3 (Robin Parry on Universalism)

Ever read something you know you disagree with but still can’t help but admire the actual argument presented? That’s how I felt about Robin Parry’s presentation in the second edition of Four Views on Hell. Parry is an editor with Wipf & Stock Publishers (who published both Rethinking Books through their subsidiaries Cascade and Pickwick), and a friend of the Rethinking Hell project. Like John Stackhouse, he’s appeared twice on the podcast (here and the second as part of our series with Chris Date and the contributors to Four Views) and he was one of the plenary speakers at the second Rethinking Hell conference at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena in 2015 (that lecture is available on the conference DVD set). But of the four presentations in Four Views, I am inclined to say that Parry’s is the best in the sense of a well argued, compelling case. This isn’t to say I think he’s right, but simply that of the four authors, Parry has plead his case for universal reconciliation better than the other authors did for their views.
Continue reading “A Response to Four Views on Hell, Pt. 3 (Robin Parry on Universalism)”

Episode 77: Burning Love (and Consuming Fire), a Response to Robin Parry (Part 2)

Rethinking Hell contributors Nick and Allison Quient join Chris Date to respond to some clips from Dr. Robin Parry’s plenary speech at the 2015 Rethinking Hell Conference, in which he presented a theological case for universalism. This episode contains the second half of their two-and-a-half-hour discussion; listen to the first half in episode 76.
Continue reading “Episode 77: Burning Love (and Consuming Fire), a Response to Robin Parry (Part 2)”

Episode 76: Burning Love (and Consuming Fire), a Response to Robin Parry (Part 1)

Rethinking Hell contributors Nick and Allison Quient join Chris Date to respond to some clips from Dr. Robin Parry’s plenary speech at the 2015 Rethinking Hell Conference, in which he presented a theological case for universalism. This episode contains the first half of their two-and-a-half-hour discussion; the second half will be made available in episode 77.
Continue reading “Episode 76: Burning Love (and Consuming Fire), a Response to Robin Parry (Part 1)”

Conditional Immortality, Origen, and the Second Council of Constantinople

In the discussion regarding hell amongst evangelicals, Scripture should be our starting point and final authority. Of course, this doesn’t mean that historical theology is irrelevant. How the biblical texts have been interpreted throughout almost 2000 years of Church history matters in a very real sense. The Church Councils can be informative for our doctrine, but are not supposed to take precedence over Scripture. Sola Scriptura does not mean tradition doesn’t matter, but that Scripture is over tradition. But it’s worth looking at historical theology when trying to shed light on biblical interpretation when it comes to the doctrine of final punishment/hell.
In the discussion of final punishment, the Councils give us precious little to go on. However, some evangelicals have turned to the Second Council of Constantinople to assert that the early Church condemned all views other than eternal conscious torment. Continue reading “Conditional Immortality, Origen, and the Second Council of Constantinople”

RH Conference 2015: Breakout Audio!

Two weeks ago about 100 evangelicals gathered to discuss the perennially hot topic of hell. What transpired was, by all accounts, unprecedented. As Jerry Walls put it, “Historic? I’m not sure it’s too strong a word. I can’t think of anything quite like this!” Seldom, if ever, have passionate evangelical proponents of competing views on a controversial topic gathered with the express purpose of discussing (arguing about) it, while nevertheless voicing their critiques with respect and in Christian love, enjoying the kind of camaraderie, fellowship, and unity to which their Lord has called them.
We understand that there are many who would have liked to attend but were unable, and so we are making recordings of nearly all of the plenary and breakout presentations available for free or at a very reasonable price. We are publishing video recordings of all six plenary and four breakout sessions, as well as the concluding panel discussion between the plenary speakers, on a 4-DVD box set which you can purchase for $35 here: http://rethinkinghell.com/about/order-dvds. Video recordings of some of the breakout sessions will be available on YouTube in the “2015 Rethinking Hell Conference” playlist. And aside from the sessions which were filmed for the DVD set, audio recordings of all of the breakout sessions presented by their authors are available for free download below. Continue reading “RH Conference 2015: Breakout Audio!”

RH Conference 2015: Full Schedule!

With only a few weeks remaining until our second Rethinking Hell conference, taking place at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, we wanted to share the full speaking schedule with you all and invite those who have not already signed up to consider registering at a special discounted price of $50, which we can offer thanks to some funds that have come in to help scholarship registrations (use discount code RH2015  at the checkout page of the registration process at www.rethinkinghellconference.com/2015/).
Here is the updated full speaking & activity schedule for this year’s conference, along with some notes about our plenary & breakout session presenters: Continue reading “RH Conference 2015: Full Schedule!”

2015 Rethinking Hell Conference Announcement

After a successful and inspiring first conference in Houston last summer, we are looking forward to the prospect of more conferences both in the US and abroad! We are pleased to now announce the second Rethinking Hell Conference, which will take place at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California from June 18-20, 2015.


Our theme this year will be “Conditional Immortality and the Challenge of Universal Salvation.”
In selecting this theme, Rethinking Hell is promoting dialogue among evangelicals, by bringing our own view of conditional immortality (also called annihilationism), into conversation with universalism. Universalists believe that hell is a place of purification, out of which God will eventually redeem all who are sent there. This view has gained some popular momentum within evangelical communities since the publication of Rob Bell’s best-selling book Love Wins.
As well as the engagement of these two views, our conference will also facilitate a “trialogue” with representatives of the widely-held traditional view of eternal torment.
Continue reading “2015 Rethinking Hell Conference Announcement”