So, I just finished reading (rather quickly, I'll admit) Rob Bell's book, Love Wins. In his short, passionate book, he entertains several questions: what is the natural of eternal life? Who is going to be saved, after all? A few? Many? All? Only those who have explicitly given their lives to Jesus and can name the date? What does the idea of billions of people suffering in hell for ever have to do with the reality of God's love? Does "Love Win"? These questions, I gather, are pretty controversial. I just read that a Methodist pastor got fired for expressing some doubts about hell.
Is Rob Bell a Universalist? That is the question.
First of all, I have to say that I consider there to be (at least) two kinds of universalism. The first kind says that there are many paths to God, and one is just as good as any other. That view may be respectful to the various forms of religous beliefs, or it may not be, lumping together different and unique ways of expressing devotion to God as essentially interchangeable. There is another kind of universalism, though, which says, that God has revealed his love for us most perfectly in the death and resurrection of Jesus, and that somehow, through this action, all people will ultimately be drawn into this love.
That being said, I'm not sure that Rob Bell is a Universalist, really. He just expresses doubts about Hell, and he expresses a universal hope that all the people God loves will end up embracing God's love. He has questions. He doesn't have all the answers. And I'm not sure what is wrong with that.
"I don't know."
I don't know what God will do in the end. I know that God loves the whole world, the whole suffering, insufferable world, the whole mean and compassionate world. But I don't know what God will do in the end.
I lived in Japan for a few years many years ago. My work was to teach English as a second language. My work was also to share the love of God in Christ as well as I could. In my three years two or three people were baptized. And, in all humility, I don't think the failure of masses of people to suddenly become Christian is because they are worse people and more deserving of hell than people living in the United States. I don't think that most of the people who were swept way in the tsunami there deserve hell more than I do.
I'm not sure that I am a Universalist, but I do have a universal hope -- I hope that in the end, love wins over destruction, that all people will be embraced by the love that embraces them. And why is that a bad thing?
"I don't know."