This week I heard from a very intelligent and respected senior member of the evangelical community in North America. Let’s call this individual Quentin (not the individual’s real name). Quentin has written a manuscript defending a Christian form of universalism, one that upholds the authority of scripture, the atoning work of Christ and all the other essentials. The only “deviation” from standard evangelical doctrine is that Quentin argues God’s grace will ultimately redeem all people. Quentin’s manuscript has a long list of blurbs by leading Christians, some of them name-brand evangelical, enthusiastically endorsing the book (though not necessarily agreeing with the conclusion).
You might think that publishers would be chomping at the bit to get a look at the manuscript.
You’d be wrong.
Quentin has been turned down flat on multiple occasions. Editors don’t care if Quentin makes a good argument or not. They’re worried about the taint of “heresy” from trigger happy pundits of an all-too-easily-manipulated conservative constituency.
This is where things get ironic. Back in 1994 InterVarsity Press published The Openness of God, a book that radically revised the Christian conception of God by arguing for an open theistic concept. Bouyed on by that success IVP published John Sanders The God Who Risks and Greg Boyd’s God at War in 1997. Since those early titles came out, too many books defending open theism have been published to bother listing here such as Boyd, The God Who Risks (Baker, 2000), Pinnock, Most Moved Mover (Baker, 2001), and the edited collection of essays between open theists and process theists Searching for an Adequate God (Eerdmans, 2000).
Isn’t that kinda weird? Quentin’s Christian universalism upholds a far more orthodox doctrine of God than open theists and has a much stronger tradition to which it can appeal. And yet it is somehow open theists who have become the risqué darlings of evangelical publishers while Quentin’s book is passed off like a hot potato nobody wants to touch.
Why are evangelicals more comfortable with a God who doesn’t know everything than a God who saves everybody?