Richard Beck on Universalism as Biblical Truth

Everybody’s talking about universalism these days (because of a new book by Rob Bell called Love Wins). There are several kinds. One kind, and the one that interests me, does not deny judgment or hell. It simply says that there is redemption from hell. Hell is not the last word.

My mind is not completely made up. It may never be. Who ever said the answers to questions like these should be obvious? But, it is a good thing to question dogma with scripture. Let me say that again: question dogma with scripture. The problem is that dogmatists will call you a liberal or some other intended insult.

For a theological case for universalism, I recommend Gregory MacDonald’s The Evangelical Universalist (the real author is Robin Parry using a pseudonym). For a good, fast read on a biblical case for universalism, try this excellent post by Richard Beck: “Musings about Universalism, Part 6: Why Universalism is More Biblical.”

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8 Responses to Richard Beck on Universalism as Biblical Truth

  1. James says:

    Beck certainly makes an interesting case which may be more in line with Jewish thought than evangelical Christians. In relation to Bell’s new book, I read a rather lengthy (21 pages) review written by Pastor Kevin DeYoung that pretty much hammered Bell on a lot of details. While I don’t think evangelical Christianity has the inside track on what the Bible does and doesn’t say and what it all means, DeYoung makes some good points (assuming DeYoung is representing what Bell writes accurately) about Bell’s conclusions.

  2. DeYoung’s review I commented on at the euvangelion blog. Bell’s book and biblical interpretations may have major wholes. But that is beside the point. Robin Parry’s book (under pseudonym Gregory MacDonald) is a much more serious book. Bell is not a scholar. But DeYoung’s review is terrible. Several times throughout he makes dumb statements.

    For example, he wants to slam Bell on his use of tradition. So what does DeYoung argue? That Bell should look deeper and find that Augustine, Luther, and Calvin refuted universalism. In other words, DeYoung’s definition of tradition is, “The really old guys that I like are more important other really old guys I don’t like.”

    And DeYoung several times acts like Reformed theology is simply biblical theology. It’s like he doesn’t know the difference. For example, he faults Bell for not taking into account the discussions among Reformed thinkers about God’s will of decree versus his will of desire. Oh my, should people just take a class with DeYoung before reading their Bible? Maybe DeYoung should come to Society of Biblical Literature and give tips to all the scholars from Reformed theology.

    Suffice it to say, whether Bell’s book is good or not (and I suspect it is very uneven and could have benefited from some exegetical and theological editing), DeYoung’s review is certainly worse.

  3. James says:

    I suppose this means I’ll have to put The Evangelical Universalist on my reading list. Oh, and I’ll be able to start reading Yeshua in Context next week. Expect blog posts about what I read to follow shortly thereafter. 😉

  4. thelordsgoat:

    I like your screen name.

    In the first part of his article, Pink basically says, if we think justice is not consonant with the idea that God would send people to everlasting perdition, then we don’t believe in grace. He says this indicates we believe we deserve not to be sent to everlasting perdition and “deserve” is the opposite of grace.

    It is a terrible argument.

    What he is saying is, “It is God’s grace not to torture you eternally because he doesn’t like your unbelief.”

    No, we expect better from God than a whimsical decision to create beings, allegedly out of love, and then to give them a difficult test (faith in a world where God is hidden) and then if they fail, to torture them endlessly.

    So, I question two things: “torture” and “endless.” I am not against the idea of just retribution on wickedness. I believe in hell. I doubt the image of fire is to be taken literally (why don’t people take the other image, darkness, literally instead?). Whatever restorative justice occurs in hell (probably different for different people, different levels of evil), I am sure it is not arbitrary torture.

    I am against the idea of endless. I don’t know if annihilation is what happens to some or if all end up redeemed out of the pit, but I know that endless punishment for finite crimes makes no sense and cannot be called justice. We are not judging God when we say such things. We are denying that God ever stated he would endlessly torture people. It is not something we believe about God.

    But let’s not use the “grace” argument, that they disbelieve in grace who think people deserve justice. Reformed thinkers often absolutize the word grace so that if God does anything decent at all, it is “amazing grace.” The God so described sounds like a bad character who expects amazement if he is ever nice. That is not the biblical God at all, but the God of narrow theologians who have obsessed over an idea of merit.

    Derek Leman

  5. Wouter says:

    Here is another review on Love wins, He argues mostly on scripture.

    Myself I can’t see how universalism goes well with the bible, even in Becks article the scripture he uses to try support his position, is mere qoutes for support, rather than trying to get exegenical insight into the scriptures used. However Derek if you still stand by your chapter in the world to come, I can agree with your conclusion there, that eternal destruction and everlasting punishment seems to go against universalism ideas but that we can know that God will be a rigtheous judge. However I can support your Idea as well that it is not defenitely fire burning, but could just mean seperation from God. I tend to lean more toward annialation myself, as think this fits scripture better. But find it hard to believe eteranl punishment in the absolute sense of torture.

    I guess in Universalism different form purgratory in that all who haven’t believed will go to eternal damnation and the same seperation form God, which we call hell, then come back to heaven. Rather than just those who have mortal sin but believed, being cleansed by fire?

  6. Derek Leman says:


    Good thoughts. I know only one thing really, when all the dust settles: God is good and anything I try to figure out is only looking through a glass darkly.

    • Wouter says:

      I agree Derek, we can only know and proclaim what has been revealed. I believe God will be the most righteous and Merciful Judge.

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