Christianity Today, “a magazine of evangelical conviction,” reports a huge storm arising over a book not yet even published on the topic of Christian Universalism!
Baptist Pastor, Rob Bell’s forthcoming book, Love Wins, has stirred up a Twitter backlash regarding heaven and hell. This will seem weird to us, but many still have a need to damn people to eternal torment at the core of their faith. The idea that a loving God could redeem even the worst among us offends such a belief.
As I read about this, I muttered, “Oh, that we could evoke such a conversation among ourselves!” Universalism is the far more challenging part of “Unitarian Universalist.” While arguments over the Trinity might be the gate through which many come to us, it is the conviction that “love wins” that makes staying worth the while. And it is the hard part!
Even if we’re more sophisticated than thinking of justice as an “eye for an eye,” you don’t have to be orthodox to find the notion of an ultimate forgiveness, well, unfair. Tell survivors of the Nazi holocaust or the 500 year legacy of African American slavery that God will forgive “the master,” and you’re in for an argument that goes to the very core of spiritual reflection.
Years ago, I spent several spiritually painful hours with a parishioner who was among the Dachau liberators. He said, “I cannot stay in this church if I have to believe in Nazi salvation.” My heart was with him. I finally confessed, “I have no ability in me to understand how it could be so, but, my faith is in ultimate love. Any God worth considering cannot be one that creates us frail and then torments us forever for our sins, however grievous.”
In the 1840′s, our Universalist ancestors argued at length about this. The “Restorationists” (I’d put myself among them) argued for a period of purgation, in which atonement for earthly failing had to happen for salvation to be granted. There is something profoundly offensive, as the Ultra-Universalists averred, in a free-and-clear pass to heaven!
Well, that metaphysical argument may seem quaint, but we suffer still it’s impact: Many today yet argue the justice of a society divided into the righteous (my tribe) and the damned (everyone else). The twitter-blasts around Bell’s book suggest it’s not so quaint yet to many.
What say you? Does love win in the end?
To check out the debate, click here. Rob Bell’s video is really quite compelling.
May your ministry balance justice with mercy, mercy with justice. Somehow, love must win!
P.S.: A colleague sends this along, also worth your time: http://www.emergentvillage.com/weblog/Chad-Holtz-What-I-Lost-Losing-Hell.