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.”

About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
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7 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. Pingback: How Hell Elevates Human Dignity « The Return of Benjamin

  6. pickleman7 says:

    I am certain (for someone who has thought so much about the topic) that you have considered Revelation 14:11, which I have provided below in different translations and the Greek.

    Revelation 14:11
    KJV And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.
    NLT The smoke of their torment rises forever and ever, and they will have no relief day or night, for they have worshiped the beast and his statue and have accepted the mark of his name.
    NIV84 And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.”
    NAS95 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”
    WH kai o kapnov tou basanismou autwn eiv aiwnav aiwnwn anabainei kai ouk ecousin anapausin hmerav kai nuktov oi proskunountev to yhrion kai thn eikona autou kai ei tiv lambanei to caragma tou onomatov autou

    Do you see something here that I don’t? If their torment (and this is something that is experienced, so it cannot mean annihilation) is forever (and to say eiv aiwnav aiwnwn doesn’t mean “forever” you would have to go against nearly all Greek scholars), and if these same people have no rest day or night (they are experiencing torment all that time), what in this verse indicates to you that they will NOT suffer forever?

    Please deal with this verse only.

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