One objection people have to ultimate redemption is an implication that my belief in it comes from deep-hearted compassion or sentiment not based in reality.
People will say something like, “Just because you want it to be true doesn’t mean it is,” as though my belief in ultimate redemption has more to do with wishful thinking than with truth.
Such an objection needs to be considered. It raises some ideas we need to be reminded of and may serve as an example of how our own experiences and biases influence our perspective. There are two main assertions in the objection and I want to address them both.
First, while I can’t say I would credit myself with deep-hearted compassion, I certainly hope my belief in ultimate redemption is somewhat motivated by a love for people; I hope all of us are motivated in some way by a love for people. However, my belief in ultimate redemption comes not from confidence in myself but from confidence in the character and nature of God. As we have said before, God’s salvation of the world has nothing to do with the goodness or importance of humanity; it has everything to do with the love and mercy of God. God’s love is everlasting; it never fails. His mercies are new every morning. Not even death or life, or anything in creation can separate us from His love. This is what the Bible teaches. This is what we sing and preach on Sunday morning, and I believe it.
Secondly, in response to the assertion, “You may want it to be true but that doesn’t mean it is,” I want to begin by saying I agree. Truth is truth whether or not anyone believes it. That which is true is true no matter if you or I or anyone agrees. What is not true is not true no matter how much anyone wants it to be true. To the issue in question, if people are going to be separated from God for all eternity, then people are going to be separated from God for all eternity, whether or not I, or anyone else, wants everyone to go to heaven.
To people who make this second assertion, however, it seems like my response should end there. Generally, all people want is for me to acknowledge, although I may want everyone to go to heaven, it doesn’t mean everyone will. What doesn’t seem to cross their minds is the opposite, and equally valid, assertion. That is, if God is going to ultimately redeem everyone, then God is going to ultimately redeem everyone, whether or not anyone wants some people to go to hell for all eternity. If God is going to save Hitler, then God is going to save Hitler and it doesn’t matter if you, or anyone else, thinks he deserves eternal conscious torment.
It goes both ways.
That the opposite assertion doesn’t cross people’s minds is understandable. Most people have been taught the traditional view of hell their whole lives, such that the possibility of it not being true is not even on their radar. People who have made this objection to me seem so unaware of the possibility that ultimate redemption might be true, that it’s almost like a light coming on when they realize the argument can go both ways. When it is suggested that Hitler may end up in heaven, they pause, as though they have to consider whether or not they would want Hitler to be saved.
Other people bring Hitler up before I do, and use the possibility of him going to heaven as a separate objection to ultimate redemption. You mean to tell me Hitler is going to end up in heaven?
It’s always Hitler.
Why do we bring him up? And can it be that God is going to redeem him?
Let’s consider that next time.
For now, truth is truth. Neither you nor I are defining truth; we are both exercising faith in what we believe to be true.
And I think both of us believe God is love, both of us believe Jesus is the only means of salvation, and both of us believe the gospel is better news that we could ever imagine.
Really good news, really.
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