The issue at stake is not actually whether universalism rather than traditional theology is true, but rather, whether universalism can be brought under the umbrella of evangelicalism. Can this be treated as an intramural debate or not?
I contend that it can. At first, I had some doubts, but I am convinced that there is an exegetical case to be made for universalism. It can be derived from the text. For starters, the Hebrew Bible lends itself to the interpretation that there is no afterlife. The Christian scriptures introduce the notion of the resurrection, although this was already present in writings from the preceding two or three centuries. The question, then, is whether Christ not only offers eternal life for his own, but if he also threatens hell, a fate which was unknown in the Hebrew Bible, for those who reject him, or who have never heard of him.
I am sure that we could argue this forever, and it is not something that I expect to resolve. However, I would like to share with you this quote by Robin Parry, page 35,
If a traditional interpretation of a passage and a universalist one reach hermeneutical stalemate, then reason would lead us to prefer the universalist interpretation.I could also offer this parallel statement,
If a traditional intepretation of a passage and an abilitionist one reach hermeneutical stalemant, then pity would compel us to prefer the abolitionist one.But I can hear you answer back, not at all. In the case of the abolition of slavery, we live with the results. However, in the case of universalism, we don't know if we are condemning some to hell because we have failed to preach hell.
On the other hand, I argue back, the threat of hell keeps many people in painful and unhappy circemstance that they might otherwise escape. Whether hell exists or not, the threat of hell can cause a lot of suffering in this life.
I was raised to believe that the unversalist was the same as an atheist, but I argue now that it is not.