From 3rd century theologian Origen to contemporary writer Rob Bell, Christianity has pondered the very real tension between God’s saving grace and God’s eternal judgment.
The narrative of Scripture and the historic creeds teach that our choices on earth have eternal consequences and that to reject the grace of God results in a separation from Him that also reaches into eternity—hell.
The question is understandable. “How can the God of love allow never–ending suffering to happen to his people?” The medieval imagery of the righteous as they watch sinners being tormented in the fires of hell is intrinsically repulsive. In reaction to this, Universalism holds that by the mercy and grace of God “ultimately all people will be saved.”
In our day, an awareness of other religious faiths and a declining interest in the very idea of hell results in “the positive affirmation of the love of God, rather than on the negative implications of the rejection of that love.” (Alister McGrath)
And yet, instinctively, we know that human actions have consequences. Without this truth, we have anarchy.
Mainline Christian thinking holds that Universalism results in a critically flawed moral framework and an inherently weakened mission. In the absence of accountability, why bother worrying about how we behave? Without the consequences, why care about the eternal well–being of others?
Ultimately, only God is judge. Perhaps Jesus’ brilliant answer to Peter’s question regarding John’s destiny can moderate any of our subconscious judgments towards others. “What is that to you? Follow me,” Christ said.
by Colonel Richard Munn