Review of The Evangelical Universalist, by Gregory MacDonald


The Evangelical Universalist

by Gregory MacDonald

Cascade Books, Eugene Oregon, 2006.  201 pages.

Several years ago, through reading the writings of George MacDonald, I became convinced that God will save everyone, eventually.  Now I believe that this view is the most consistent interpretation of the Bible.

Gregory MacDonald’s process of coming to believe in universalism was similar to mine.  He says, “Finding arguments for universalism convincing seemed to be a major and unwelcome challenge to my orthodox faith.  I was, and remain, committed to the truth of Scripture; so I thought that I ‘knew’ universalism was not true.”

However, he began to read articles and books that presented the idea that universalism is a biblical belief.  Similar to my own process of coming to this belief, the first step was the realization that there exist some intelligent and godly people who believe that the Bible teaches that God will save everyone.  This realization opened the door to question the interpretation that he had always been taught.

His description of his change of thinking also describes exactly how it was for me:

“My ‘conversion’ to universalism was not sudden but very gradual and, at times, anxious.  Such a departure from the mainstream view of the church is not something to be rushed into.  I do not expect readers of this book to rush to embrace universalism — in some ways I would be concerned if they did.  I do however wish to sow a seed of hope.”

It may come as a surprise to those brought up in evangelical churches (such as I) that some people believe that universalism is biblical. “I hope to show that, in fact, universalism is not a major change to the tradition and that it actually enables us to hold key elements of the tradition together better than traditional doctrines of hell.”

Gregory MacDonald reminds us, “even a commitment to an inspired Bible is not a commitment to inerrant interpretations.  Reason can play a role in exposing misinterpretations of the Bible.”

How is an evangelical universalist different from an evangelical or different from other universalists?  Well, such a person does believe in hell.  However, they believe “that one’s eternal destiny is not fixed at death and, consequently, that those in hell can repent and throw themselves upon the mercy of God in Christ and thus be saved.  Second, she also believes that in the end everyone will do this.”

Gregory MacDonald takes a very intellectual approach to this topic, and concentrates on the biblical backing for this view.  If you think universalism might have merit, but don’t understand how someone could claim the Bible teaches it, this might be the book for you.

As for me, I already had come to believe that universalism makes more sense and resonates with the body of Scripture.  But like Gregory MacDonald, I am not 100% sure.  This book helped clear up some of the discrepancies that remain in my mind and helped me feel that much more secure in this belief in a God who loves everyone enough to save them.  Truly, He is mighty to save.

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