Universalism is gaining more steam among evangelicals who seek to present a relevant gospel and influence culture. Popular megachurch pastor Rob Bell recently wrote a controversial book dealing with this subject entitled Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.
I have not yet read this book but have read numerous reviews and quotes. Here is one from Christianity Today, directly quoting Love Wins: “God has inaugurated a movement in Jesus’ resurrection to renew, restore, and reconcile everything.”
The article continues: “The prepublication buzz [for the book] centered on Bell’s flirtation with universalism. He makes the Universalist case most fully in one chapter, while avoiding the word Universalist. He points out the many New Testament passages that point in this direction, like ‘in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them’ (2 Cor. 5:19), and Jesus’ statement, ‘When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself’ (John 12:32). He adds to that verses about God’s omnipotence and God’s desire that all should be saved. And then he asks the arresting question, ‘Will God get what he wants?’”
These may be questions some evangelicals whisper but do not have the courage to ask in public. Because of this we need to be grateful to Rob Bell for being open and honest.
Bell is not the first high-profile preacher to go public with views that are congruent with a “gospel of inclusion”: Bishops Carlton Pearson and Jim Swilley have also gone public with views that are very similar.
At one time Carlton Pearson pastored a large church in Tulsa, Oklahoma with over 5,000 in attendance. But things changed quickly: “Due to his stated belief in universal reconciliation, Pearson was declared a heretic by his peers in 2004 and rapidly began to lose his influence in ministry with the Joint College of African-American Pentecostal Bishops. Pearson was recently the Senior Minister of Christ Universal Temple, a large New Thought congregation in Chicago, Illinois” (Accessed March 28, 2011).
According to the website for Now Ministries, Bishop Jim Swilley “provides oversight and covering to multiple churches and ministries throughout the U.S., the Philippines, and Uganda; as a visionary, his ministry is both inclusive and affirming, and His message is one of reconciliation and grace” (Accessed March 30, 2011).
The greater question is this: Should those of us in the evangelical camp who desire greater relevance, cultural penetration and influence seriously consider preaching a universal “gospel of inclusion” in which all human beings will ultimately be saved?
After all (some say to justify this position), preaching that Jesus died on the cross as our substitute so that we could be saved from the wrath of God is the same as saying that we need God (Jesus) to save us from God, which is the opposite of the God of love we are trying to portray.