Strong Views of God’s Love

What makes us universalists is not that we have unusually weak views of sin but unusually strong views of divine love and grace.  Where sin abounds grace abounds all the more.

I have argued that eternal conscious torment is not a just response to sin; and in the eyes of some, this amounts to an underestimate of the severity of sin. . . .  However, just because I do not think that a sin incurs infinite demerit, it does not follow that I deny it incurs very serious demerit. . . .

For the universalist, hell is something to be avoided at all costs, just as Jesus warned us.  To object by saying, “Well, if hell is not forever, it doesn’t really matter if someone has a spell there,” is like suggesting that because you will recover from the long and painful illness, it isn’t worth taking precautions to avoid it.  It is like telling an Old Testament prophet not to bother warning Israel to repent, because God will always restore them after the judgment anyway.  The prophet would reply that it is better to avoid the judgment in this first place, and the prophet is surely correct.  I wonder if I could pose a counter-question to our critics:  “Is it perhaps you who fail to take God’s love and grace as seriously as it deserves?”

It seems to me that the only major Christian doctrine threatened by universalism is the teaching that those in hell have passed beyond the point of no return; and, as this belief is quite detachable from the web of Christian belief without doing any damage to the rest of the web, I can only conclude that, although it is a widely held doctrine, it is peripheral in its structural role in Christian theology.  I can be removed and replaced without doing harm to Christian theology.  Indeed, if I am right, once we remove and replace it with a universalist view of hell, we have a much more coherent web of beliefs than we had before.

— Gregory MacDonald, The Evangelical Universalist, p. 165-167

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