What Is Universalism?
Sometimes called "restorationism"
Believes that all will be saved
Emphasizes God’s love at the expense of His justice
Offers a false hope
Is the doctrine of eternal suffering consistent with a God of love? This is the root question behind the heresy of universalism. Universalism, also called restorationism, teaches that God will save all human beings. One early proponent of this view was the Alexandrian theologian Origen (185–254 A.D.). Influenced by Platonic philosophy, Origen taught that God would eventually restore all of creation, including Satan, through Christ. Others, like seventeenth-century German theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher, taught that the bliss of heaven would be ruined for the redeemed if they knew other souls were suffering in hell.
The problem with universalism is that it emphasizes the grace of God at the expense of His justice. The Bible does use the language of universalism when it speaks of the offer of the gospel without limiting it to particular nationality or gender. The hope of the gospel is offered to “all” (Rom. 5:18). Those in view are “all who believe” (Rom. 3:22–23). There is no salvation apart from faith in Jesus Christ.
The Bible also speaks of God’s punishment as well as His love. Those who do not accept God’s grace by placing their trust in Jesus Christ will be condemned to eternal suffering (Matt. 25:41, 46; Rev. 20:15). God takes no pleasure in their death, but delights when a sinner repents and receives eternal life (Ezek. 18:23, 32).
Why Theology Matters
While some people belong to religious sects that teach universalism, many more are “functional” universalists. They have views that are consistent with universalism even if they don’t explicitly endorse this theology. According to George Barna, while 71 percent of Americans believe that hell exists, only 0.5 percent expect to go there. A growing number of evangelicals reject the church’s traditional view that the lost will suffer for eternity. Universalism’s ultimate appeal is its promise that all will be saved. But in the end, this is a false hope and a false gospel.
FOR FURTHER READING
To learn more about universalism, read But Don’t All Religions Lead to God?: Navigating the Multi-Faith Maze by Michael Green (Baker).