It’s All About “Eternal Hell” vs. “Restorative Love”
In my discussions with fine Christian folks of all stripes from across the world, I have gratefully discovered that most Christians are much more likely to embrace the concepts of Christian Universalism than any of us assumed they’d ever be.
When it comes right down to it, the vast majority of people simply don’t believe in an “eternal” hell. They do still believe in some form of divine judgment, but it is a finite judgement for nearly everyone I’ve asked.
So the question is: if we don’t believe in an “eternal hell”, what do we believe in?
In this article I intend to present some of the basic tenets of Christian Universalism for your consideration.
What is “Christian Universalism”?
Christian Universalism is the set of tenets which holds the following to be true:
- All humans are created in God’s image. Therefore we have a common parent in the family of God. (Gen 1:27)
- God is in ALL things, and ALL things are from God and belong to God. (Rom 11:36, Eph 4:5-6)
- God’s will is to save (heal/restore) all the world. (Jn 3:17)
- God is love, and there is no punishment in love. (1 John 4:18)
- The actions of God through Yeshua the Anointed absolved “our condition of sin”. (Rom 5:18-19)
- God taught us to love our enemies, therefore God must do the same. (Lk 6:27)
- Salvation is an unmerited gift from God: it cannot be earned so that no one can claim preference before God. (Eph 2.8)
- All is made equal before God, for God (Christ) is in all. (Col 3:11)
- All people are now baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor 12:13)
In short, Christian Universalists believe that God is one, and there are no other gods but God. (Deut 32:39) God is all powerful, and when God acted through God’s beloved Son, the Word made flesh, Yeshua the Anointed (Christ), he acted once and for all in the name of love and grace for the sake of salvation for all. (Heb 10:8-10, 1 Pt 3:18)
We believe that God is all-powerful and God’s love is irresistible, and that God’s will is for all things to be restored, refined, and reconciled unto God, even evil.
2 Corinthians 5
18. All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19. that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
Universal Salvation is the belief that all people, from all religions or spiritual beliefs (or lack thereof) are still loved by God and are saved. Be they Muslim, Hindu, Sufi, Buddhist or pagan, all of God’s Children are saved from the power of everlasting death.
However, for Christian Universalists, we do not believe that this means every religion is created equal, much less are beneficial. Some religions promote individualistic selfish interest, violence, and judgment of the “others” of society. Some branches of Christianity and Islam are guilty of this very perversion.
But we also believe that there are Great Universal Truths inculcated within all of the world’s compassionate religions which promote mercy, forgiveness, community, and humility. We hold these truths to be as inspired as our own traditions and just as relevant in the spiritual journey of humanity.
Of course, as Christian Universalists, we believe that the Word of God was made flesh in the identity of the man, Yeshua of Nazareth. We believe that the nature, will and compassion of God was most fully incarnate and expressed through this man’s life and teachings. Fully human and fully God, The Word and Wisdom of God showed us how to live and love as Children of God. And through the selfless nature of his exemplary death upon the cross, and though his subsequent resurrection, we find proof of God’s immeasurable love for his Children and God’s absolute victory over death.
The first instinctive reaction for many people when they hear that “all people are saved” is to assume this means we receive permission to do anything we want cart-blanche and without consequence.
They imagine the Hitlers, and Dahmers, murderers, molesters and abusers of this world getting “into Heaven” without any consequence. They just waltz in and “get” Heaven.
This couldn’t be farther from the truth and it would be a terrible mistake to think and act as such.
There will be consequences for all of our choices in this life. All of us, even for “believers”. We all will face God’s judgement someday, either in this life or the next.
For you see, God wants to reconcile the whole world to God, and for this to be accomplished all of our souls must learn to abandon thoughts of evil. Yes, we are all saved from death into life, and God must save/heal/rescue all of us from our sinful ways.
We must not confuse the forgiveness of sin with the restoration/reformation of the human soul. The former enables the latter to occur.
Yeshua’s exemplary sacrifice upon the cross demonstrated to the world three things:
- God loves us all more dearly than we can ever know.
- There is life in God after death.
- The Law of Moses has been fulfilled. The price of The Law has been paid, not to satisfy God’s need for retributive justice, but our own.
God does not desire “an eye for an eye”. That is retributive justice. God desires restorative justice, in which our broken soul is reformed and restored into the likeness of Perfect Love with God.
But what is the process of this restoration to God?
The following (seemingly terrifying) promise from Yeshua’s own lips describes the nature of God’s purification of our hearts and souls by divine fire:
“And (they) shall cast them into a furnace of purifying, refining fire there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
From the HELPS™ Word Studies:
In Scripture, fire is often used figuratively – like with the “fire of God” which transforms all it touches into light and likeness with itself.
God’s Spirit, like a holy fire, enlightens and purifies so that believers can share more and more in His likeness. Indeed the fire of God brings the uninterrupted privilege of being transformed which happens by experiencing faith from Him. Our lives can become true offerings to Him as we obey this imparted faith from God by His power.
Ebeneezer Scrooge and God’s Restorative Love
The key to understanding the nature of God’s judgement is to know who Ebeneezer Scrooge is. That’s right: Scrooge.
In Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol“, Scrooge, a faithless, heartless and brutal man, experiences this very kind of refining fire. He is tormented. He wails. He gnashes his teeth. But this is not a retributive torment, but a restorative torment. Through his being exposed to the devastating, uncensored reality of his life, Scrooge began to realize the true toll his choices had exacted upon his fellow man.
God exposes us to all of the horrible reality of our choices in our lives: past, present and future. The devastating fire of God’s love is a light so relentless that no darkness can hope to flee from it, even within the deepest recesses of our hearts.
In the face of the sheer uncensored consequence of our actions, our souls and hearts cannot help but to relent the stubborn struggle against the truth of God’s love and God’s will for us to love and forgive each other in kind.
This is the nature of God’s judgment for us all. Out of love, we will be made whole once more.
The best news of all is the revelation that, like Scrooge’s experience, this “refining fire” can be experienced in your life today. It doesn’t need to wait for some later “Judgement Day” revelation.
Is “Right Belief” a Factor In Our Receiving Grace?
No. Grace is God’s unmerited favor. There is nothing we can “do” to earn it; it is a gift from God. (Eph 2.8)
Therefore, Christian Universalists believe that even a declaration of faith, such as “I believe in _______”, is a work to earn righteousness and negates Grace. Statements of belief are not a factor in one’s eligibility to receive Grace. For example, to declare that “I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God and my Lord and Savior” is not a prerequisite for Grace and salvation.
Then Why Be a Christian at All?
We, as Christian Universalists, believe that this unmerited Grace for all people is a direct result of Yeshua the Anointed and his exemplary love for us and his selfless sacrifice upon the cross. We are grateful to God for his amazing love and this unmerited Gift, and we worship God’s son Yeshua as our Lord and Savior, the Word made flesh, as a way of showing our gratitude.
But our worship does not justify us to receive salvation, only Grace can do that. In fact, the act of worship is only for our own sake: to recharge in the spirit, to find support and solace in communion with our brothers and sisters. Worship is NOT for the sake of God, nor what he desires.
What Does the Lord Require? (Micah 6)
6. “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?
7. Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
8. He has told you, mankind, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
If “Belief” Is Not a Factor, What Is Our Christian Identity?
34. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
What we declare we believe, how we worship, who we worship, the color of our skin, the language we speak, our wealth, our poverty, our age, our history, even the gender of our lover… none of these things will define us as Christians or not.
Our Christian identity is found in whether of not we love one another as Christ loved us.
Is the Muslim who loves as Christ loved us my brother or sister in Christ? Yes, amen! Is the Buddhist? The Hindu? The Sikh? The Pagan? Yes, yes, and yes, amen!
What Is The Point of All This?
There is nothing you need to “do” to be saved! God loves you, and will restore us to God’s perfect love, every last one of us.
The point of all this, my dear brothers and sisters is freedom. Freedom from fear: the fear of death, the fear of damnation, the fear of failure.
Live life without fear, and you will empowered to love without fear!
And a world filling with people free of fear and loving and sacrificing for each other as Yeshua loved us and sacrificed himself for us, that is the key to the Kingdom on Earth. A new age where the values of Yeshua are the majority: selfless love, compassion, restorative justice, equality, and forgiveness.
We can do none of these things with fear in our hearts.