Friday, August 22, 2014

A Logical Problem of Universalism

If God is love, then He will eventually save all, according Christian Universalist (CU) Gregory MacDonald. He explains it this way:

“1. God, being omnipotent, could cause all people to freely accept Christ.
2. God, being omniscient, would know how to cause all people to freely accept Christ.
3. God, being omnibenevolent, would want to cause all people to freely accept Christ.
Now 1–3 entail: 4. God will cause all people to freely accept Christ. From which it follows that:
5. All people will freely accept Christ.” (The Evangelical Universalist, Introduction)

MacDonald is claiming that if God is all-loving and all-powerful (omnipotent), He will save all. If He has both the will and ability to save all, there is no reason why He won’t save all.

While Scripture warns us of the reality of eternal judgment, I want to demonstrate that the concept of “omnibenevolence” (Premise #3) is somewhat incoherent. What does it mean to say that God is all-loving?

This concept is not easy to define. Let me try to demonstrate. What if we define “all-loving” as the provision of maximum of love to the maximum number of people? This would suggest that if God saved ten billion, then He wouldn’t be all-loving, because He should have instead saved 100 billion. And if He saved 100 billion, why not a trillion, ad infinitum! From this, it would seem that even God cannot be maximally all-loving, since it would require a violation of logic.

Understandably, the CU will respond:

  • When we speak of “omnibenevolence,” we are not envisioning God saving an infinite number of people, but rather saving all that He has created.

But what does this entail? If it is not a matter of saving the maximum number of potential people, then would “love” require God to save all humans for the maximum amount of time – eternity? For instance, what would be wrong with God’s love if He only saved some for a thousand years and then annihilate them? If He is not bound to save the maximum number of individuals, why should love require Him to save for the maximum number of years – for all eternity? It shouldn’t!

Therefore, if God annihilated individuals after granting them a good life, would this violate the doctrine that God is love? Does this doctrine or attribute require God to maximally love each person? Scripture seems to uniformly assert that, while God loves all His creation, this will not prevent Him from also revoking His love. (Or perhaps hell is self-chosen by those who retain an intense aversion to the light – John 3:17-20. Is God required to transform these into different people?)

The CU will counter:

  • God is omnipotent (Premise #1). He therefore has the power to change rebellion into faithfulness. Therefore, there is no reason for God to revoke or limit His love.

Perhaps we have a mistaken understanding of God’s omnipotence. There are many things that God cannot do:

1.     He cannot sin.
2.     He cannot violate His Word or His promises.
3.     He cannot violate His nature. (This might also include violating logic.) For instance, God must punish sin. Therefore, He cannot forgive without the atonement of Christ.

Perhaps there are hidden reasons why He does not or cannot save all. Perhaps the CU presumes too much when he concludes that is no reason for God to revoke or limit His love.

But perhaps God will be more gracious than what He has indicated in His Word. Perhaps there are some loopholes in His promise of eternal judgment of which Scripture is not explicit. This might be the case. We are limited in our understanding. Scripture informs us that God has His secret things.

Nevertheless, we are bound to speak when Scripture speaks and to remain hesitant when Scripture is silent or obscure. Our faithfulness before God depends on this. God has been explicit about eternal judgment, and so must we.

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