Gene: “Isn’t the purpose of the Cross to save the world? Does the percentage change the purpose?”
While I am not myself a universalist I continue to be puzzled at some of the assumptions that non-universalist Christians have about the position. For example, in “Hell if universalism is true” I I provided one possible model for hell from a universalist’s perspective: a native healing circle. I wrote:
“Could it be that the restorative view of hell consists of a process by which victimizers are led to confront the full implications of their victimization of and injustice toward others (other human persons, creation, God) and themselves so that they are brought to a point of repentance, restoration and transformation?”
The first response came from atheist Jerry Rivard who wrote: “Now that is potentially consistent with a good God.”
That model does not necessarily make Jerry any more likely to become a Christian. But to the extent that it can be defended as a position which is consistent with Christian orthodoxy, it is one which should be invaluable to the Christian apologist. After all, the good apologist is all about removing stumbling blocks to faith. The apologist who believes God didn’t necessarily create the world in six literal days will not let people get away with rejecting Christianity because they don’t believe the world was created in six days. “That isn’t part Christianity,” he’ll say. “Many Christians believe the world evolved slowly over millions, indeed billions, of years.” By making that point he has removed an unnecessary stumbling block to faith.
By the same token, if universal salvation is consistent with Christian belief just like an old earth is, then this point should be made as well to remove another unnecessary stumbling block: i.e. the objectionable moral nature of a retributive hell. The point is not that the apologist has to be a universalist but rather that the apologist can point out “Not all Christians accept that hell is retributive. Some believe it is restorative.” Shazaam! Another stumbling block removed and folks like Jerry say “”Now that is potentially consistent with a good God.”
So why don’t more Christian apologists make this clear? Sadly, they think that an orthodox Christian cannot believe that hell is restorative. And why not? In many cases the objection is rooted in the assumption that the concept of universal reconciliation undermines the atonement. As common as this objection is, it is also very, very strange.
Picture the scene. A salesman is demonstrating a new household cleaner in front of a crowd of moms. “This cleaner will remove everything from your carpet.” he says.
“Everything?” the moms reply in skeptical unison. “What about ketchup?”
A squirt of ketchup in the carpet sample and a spray of solution reveals it removes ketchup.
“Grease?” the moms ask.
A smear of grease and a spray of solution later and the grease is gone.
The salesman grabs his Pug who obligingly opens its bladder on the sample. Spray. Clean.
The salesman splits open his hand and drips his precious AB positive onto the carpet. Spray. Clean.
“Wow,” the moms say. “It really can remove every stain.”
Now for the question. Do you think the moms will value the cleaner more highly because it can remove every stain? Of course.
So why is it that when Christians encounter the unviersalist’s claim that the atonement is ultimately effectual for all people the first question from many Christians is “So why did Jesus need to die?” Ack! That response is about as bizarre as the moms asking: “What’s the point of buying a cleaner that can remove every stain?”
Salesman. Face in palm.