I have defended hopeful universalism often in the past where hopeful universalism is defined (not surprisingly) as the hope that all people may one day be saved. Needless to say, this is very different from the belief that all people will be saved. One can believe an indeterminate number of people will be lost. But even so, that does not change the fact that one ought to hope all are saved.
One reason this is important is because too often Christians become so focused on critiquing theologies of universal redemption that they convey the impression not only that they believe universalism is false but that they are happy that it is false. The attitude is caught in this facetious hymn of exclusion:
We are the choice elected few,
Let all the rest be damned;
There’s room enough in hell for you.
We won’t have heaven crammed.
(Unfortunately I can’t document the original source of these lyrics.)
So let me present a simple argument to the end that even if you believe universalism is false you ought to hope it is true.
(1) Since it is intrinsically good to be saved, I ought to hope that I am saved.
This first premise needs no defense. Of course each human being should hope that she attains intrinsic goods including, above all, that she is saved. Consequently, any person who expresses the hope in her own future damnation either does not understand what she is wishing for (e.g. she thinks hell is a “party”) or is confusing belief with hope (i.e. she is expressing the belief, rather than the hope, that she will be damned) or she is suffering from a deep self-loathing that leads her to think she ought to hope for her own damnation.
This recalls to mind a joke Stanley Grenz once told me. A young ordinand came before the dour ordination committee of a Reformed denomination. The committee began to pillory him with a dizzying range of questions. Finally the most stern of the bunch said “Young man, would you desire that you be damned forever for God’s greater glory?” The exasperated youth replied, “Sir, I would desire that this entire ordination committee be damned for God’s greater glory!”
Jokes aside, it surely is proper to hope that you attain intrinsic goods including, above all, salvation.
(2) Jesus taught Christians to love their neighbor as themselves.
(3) According to Jesus’ understanding, everyone is your neighbor.
(4) To love your neighbor as yourself means hoping that your neighbor attains every intrinsic good that you hope you attain.
(5) Therefore, you ought to hope your neighbor is saved.
(6) Therefore, you ought to hope everyone is saved.