While at “The Christian Post” I came across a blog article by an apparently popular Christian author / speaker named “Ray Comfort” who claims to have written more than seventy books and who apparently hosts a TV show with Kirk Cameron, the one-time child sitcom star who grew up to become the protagonist in low-budget apocalypse movies. In other words, Mr. Comfort has some name-brand recognition and isn’t your average obscure wing-nut.
In the article, a rather eccentric engagement with Rob Bell’s new book, Mr. Comfort says the following:
In Love Wins, Rob Bell informs us that the Bible’s references God’s justice–to a place called “Hell” are references to a trash heap outside of Jerusalem. Instead of justice, loves wins, and Hitler will be in Heaven along with every evil unrepentant Nazi who threw Jews alive into ovens, buried them while still alive, tortured, raped, and murdered so many. Enjoying the pleasures of Heaven with the Nazis we will find every throat-cutting rapist, Joseph Stalin, Idi Amin, Mao Tse-tung, Uganda’s machete-wielding murderers, the man who cut the head off Michael Pearl, Osama Bin Laden, Pol Pot, Charles Manson, all 19 of the al-Qaeda 911 terrorists, and every child-molester that ever lived. They will all make it to Heaven, according to Rev. Bell.
Note that Mr. Comfort puts the word “unrepentant” in there. I colored it red so ya couldn’t miss it. Now I haven’t read Rob Bell’s book but I’ve heard repeatedly that he doesn’t argue for a universalism, at least not a dogmatic one. But even if he is a universalist, where would he ever say that people go to heaven unrepentant? The church has known many universalists, many of them pillars of the church like Gregory of Nyssa and William Temple. They have taken the view, ranging from an enduring hope to a strong confidence, that all will ultimately be reconciled to God in Christ so that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. I have never heard any Christian universalist claim that people are reconciled to God while still in unrepentant rebellion against him.
So what Mr. Comfort’s post really boils down to is this: he is intent on eliciting in his readers a sense of revulsion that Nazis, genocidaires, pedophiles and the rest could possibly be reconciled to God in Christ. And with that Mr. Comfort has drawn a line which is utterly inimical to the Christian gospel between those who were not too bad and so could be redeemed without offending our moral sensibilities — people like Mr. Comfort himself no doubt — and the real undesirables that we couldn’t possibly consider God saving.
There are many reasons one might reject universalism. Some of them are good reasons. Others not so good. But rejecting universalism because you are repulsed at the idea that it means God will save Nazis and pedophiles along with you must surely be among the worst.
With that in mind I offer Mr. Comfort and his ilk the following therapy: listen to the classic Lost Dogs song “Breathe Deep (the Breath of God)” 10 times and call me in the morning.