Defenders of eternal conscious torment, or of annihilationism, each appeal to contexts. But in my experience, I have found that universalists are the ones keeping the most contexts in mind.
Dyer, TN (PRWEB) June 29, 2011
“It’s strange: for a Resolution supposedly addressing Rob Bell’s "Love Wins", there isn’t a single indication in it that the framers even read his book!”
In mid-June of 2011, a majority of representatives to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, agreed to a Resolution “On the Reality of Hell” (the text of which can be found at SBC.net.)
The resolution opens with an acknowledgment that popular pastor Rob Bell’s "Love Wins" has been making waves challenging “the church’s historical teaching on the doctrine of eternal punishment of the unregenerate”, by which the Resolution explicitly means “conscious, eternal suffering” of “the unconverted”.
After nine brief prooftexting elements, the Resolution concludes by “implor[ing] Southern Baptists to proclaim faithfully the depth and gravity of sin against a holy God, the reality of Hell, and the salvation of sinners by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.”
Jason Pratt, a Southern Baptist Christian apologist, isn’t impressed.
“The implication is that Rob doesn’t do all that in his book. But he absolutely does, on every point the Resolution implores about!
“What Rob also does, though, is teach God’s original persistence to save sinners from sin--just as Calvinists affirm. And he teaches the scope of God’s action to save sinners--just as Arminians affirm.
"That’s why technically Rob is a universalistic Christian, and not a Calvinistic nor (any longer) an Arminianistic Christian: because he agrees too much with both Calvinists and Arminians!
“But he is still a Christian,” Pratt insists. “And a Christian preacher, including in 'Love Wins'. He very strongly proclaims the salvation of sinners by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.
"That’s the key message to his whole book--including for his hope that this salvation from sinners doesn’t stop at death. It’s maximally evangelical, not only partially so.”
Pratt converted to Christian universalism himself in early 2000, long before even hearing of Rob Bell, or any other modern Christian universalists. Having extensively studied the Judeo-Christian canon, he takes issue with the prooftext list in the Resolution.
“I’m sure they were trying to simplify it down for a popular audience,” he allows. “But in doing so they’re ignoring the context of a lot of those references.
"It’s even a little humorous: several of those references actually testify to things like the salvation of rebel angels sometime after the Second Coming of Christ, and to Christ’s imprisonment of people who refused to bring hope of salvation to people being punished by Christ in prison!
“But while it’s funny,” he adds, “it’s also very seriously misleading to people. Defenders of eternal conscious torment, or of annihilationism, each appeal to contexts. But in my experience, I have found that universalists are the ones keeping the most contexts in mind--even though universalists do have sloppy defenders, too, sometimes.”
Pratt has composed an alternate Resolution, “On The Reality Of The Victory Of The Love And Justice Of God”, addressing each of the texts mentioned in the original Resolution, but more thoroughly so. “Obviously it’s longer: I’m going into more detail,” he explains. “But it’s only six and a half pages. I could have gone on for hundreds of pages!”
Pratt’s counter-Resolution invites readers to search into matters for themselves concerning the contexts of the unforgivable sin, the judgment of the sheep and the goats, the judgment of the lake of fire, and the topic of salvation from sin after death.
He wishes readers to resolve “not to bear false witnesss against Rob Bell”, and “to discuss and disagree respectfully among ourselves, whether Calvinistic, Arminianistic, or Universalistic, the scope and/or persistence of God’s great salvation of sinners from sin.”
Jason also invites Southern Baptist readers to visit the home page of this alternate Resolution (http://www.evangelicaluniversalist.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=1875 ) and register to show support for it.
Jason Pratt has been teaching trinitarian theology and historical Christian apologetics for years as an invited guest author at the Christian Cadre Journal, and at the Evangelical Universalist forum. His 800+ page philosophical apologetic for trinitarian theism (leading to an expectation of historical Christianity) can be found for free at both sites; as can his 480 page Gospel harmonization project (with historical apologetic notes). His epic fantasy novel "Cry of Justice" won the 2008 retailer-poll award for Novel of the Year from the Christian Small Publishers’ Association; a hard-back dust-jacketed edition can be ordered from most online stores including Amazon, B&N, Target and Wal-Mart. His 105 page informal critique and commentary of Rob Bell’s Love Wins can be found for free download as “The Prodigal Gospel of Rob Bell” at the EU forum (along with a more formal 12 page summary review.)
A copy of Jason’s alternate Resolution is also included with online versions of this article.