Romans 10, Inclusivism, and Universalism

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One of the most common questions I've heard from Christian undergraduates is whether people who have not heard the gospel could be saved and whether people who are genuine followers of the truth within another religion might be saved. There are two separate questions in here, and I want to separate them out and then look at how Romans 10 gives an answer to both questions that's really hard to resist without simply denying what Paul is saying.

First I want to distinquish between the two views. Universalism is the view that everyone will be saved. Universalists may think everyone will be saved on the basis of their religion's own merits. This is the position of many Unitarian Universalists. Some call it pluralism, and others call it inclusivism, though both words have also been used to describe other views. I'll henceforth call it inclusivism. Those who call themselves Christian universalists generally think everyone will be saved on the basis of Christ's death. That's what's Christian about it. The inclusivist view considers each religion's own basis for salvation as the basis for its members' salvation. Such a view is really unworkable without a radical relativism about religious truth, which is itself philosophically unworkable, for reasons I'm not going to bother dealing with in this post. I just consider that to be the assumption behind any reasonable discussion about religion. On those grounds alone I think the view is a dead end. Still, the passage I'm about to consider resists this view quite plainly, so I'll resist the urge to explain philosophically why inclusivism makes no sense. My main concern in this post is with how Paul's line of thought in Romans 10 resists both inclusivism and Christian universalism, which is generally exclusivist on that issue. I think most non-universalists have never encountered an exclusivist unviersalist, so I'm going to spend a little time explaining what the view is and why most passages used to argue against universalism don't really say anything about universalism at all but just conflict with inclusivism. Then I'll move into Romans 10 to show why both inclusivism and exclusivist universalism are at odds with what Paul says there.

Christian universalism can agree fully with Christianity's metaphysical claims. Christ is Lord. Trinitarian conceptions of God are correct. Christ's death provides the atonement available to all. Where it differs from what I call the traditional Christian view (though universalists claim support within the tradition) is simply in its claim that the atonement is not limited to some. In its availability to all, it actually applies to all in the sense that all will be saved. Anyone who really denies the Reformed doctrine of limited atonement is a universalist of this sort. (See my post on limited atonement for my arguments for this, which really amount to claiming that most people who think they deny limited atonement just misunderstand it and have done no such thing.) If the atonement is not limited in its application, then Christ's death applies to all, and all will be saved. If it is limited in its application, then not all will be saved, even if the offer is to all and potentially applies to all (both of which are part of what the doctrine of limited atonement historically states, some Calvinists' and many Arminians' claims to the contrary notwithstanding).

Since I'm submitting this to the second Carnival of the Reformation, which has a Solus Christus theme, I want to point out that inclusivism clearly violates Solus Christus. It denies that Christ's death is even necessary for salvation, since all religions are equally true. Technically speaking, Christian universalism of the exclusivist variety does not deny Solus Christus. Christ's death is necessary for salvation and the basis of the salvation of every person who will be saved. This is one of the mistakes of those who argue against it. They confuse it with inclusivism. I have two points in this post, really. One is to argue against inclusivism and Christian universalism on the basis of Romans 10. One thing I want to acknowledge that most people don't understand, though, is that, while inclusivism is at odds with Solus Christus, exclusivist Christian universalism is not. It's just that most people who hold to Solus Christus also hold to non-universalism about the extent of salvation. It's important to see that a different view about the extent of salvation does not amount to disagreeing with the basis, which is what Solus Christus is about.

I could use almost any chapter of Romans against inclusivism. What I want to spend most of my time arguing is that Christian universalism does not fit with the flow of thought in Romans 10:13-15. Since I'm using that passage, I'll first look at inclusivism in relation to Romans 10,but I will be spending more time on exclusivist Christian universalism. I think the best representation of this position online is from Keith DeRose, a philosopher whose work I greatly respect who occasionally comments on this blog, usually to correct my biggest blindspots in a way that often helps clarify my most uncareful statements. Keith's view is what D.A. Carson calls the postmortem evangelism view. He doesn't believe anyone is saved apart from Christ. More strongly, he doesn't believe anyone is saved apart from explicit belief in Christ (or at least he leans very strongly toward this kind of exclusivism). He just doesn't think this explicit belief has to happen before death, and he thinks everyone will at some point believe after death. In this Keith is an exclusivist. He is right to point out that many passages commonly used against universalism don't actually count against universalism. They are particularly opposed to inclusivism.

That's why I want to focus in on one passage that doesn't seem to me to make sense if the universalist view is correct, even when it's held (as Keith holds it) within a more general exclusivism. It's more obvious how this passage counts against inclusivism, but I think it refutes universalism also. I don't want to say that I don't think there are other passages that count against universalism. I think there are others, and a lot of it has to do with comparing passages. I do want to say that most of the famous prooftexts are easier for exclusivist universalists like Keith to deal with than most non-universalists will admit, so I urge caution in that area.

One thing I find most notable about Keith's treatment of this issue is that he mentions Romans 10 only with respect to one verse and then says, "Romans 10:9 includes no fine print to the effect that the confession must take place prior to death to be effective, and, as we've seen, there's next to no good Scriptural reason to deny further chances." I don't think Keith has dealt with the remainder of Romans 10, the argument I'm about to present. Perhaps he will chime in here in response, but for now I'll simply move through the line of reasoning Paul presents.

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?" (Romans 10:13-15a, NIV)

This is all in the context of Paul's anguish at the beginning of Romans 9 that some of his Jewish brethren have rejected their Messiah and will be lost. He says he would give up his own salvation for the sake of theirs, reflecting a similar statement by Moses when God threatened to destroy all of Israel except Moses. Paul now says that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, which they can't do unless they believe, which can't happen unless they hear the message, which can't happen unless someone is sent. Inclusivists insist that this passage doesn't say anything about those who don't call on the name of the Lord. Fair enough. It merely talks about what must be true for people to end up being saved as a result of believing. That's technically true. It doesn't say anything explicit about those people. However, it seems to me to be quite plain that the point of this passage is to contrast those who believe and are saved with those who do not and are not. What would be the point of emphasizing the path from hearing the message preached to belief to salvation unless the result of that path only comes from this particular path? Universalists who hold to exclusivism agree. Since few inclusivists really think they can find support in the Bible, I'm not going to press this further. There are just too many statements in the Bible that conflict with inclusivism, and my primary purpose isn't to refute inclusivism but to show that inclusivism and universalism both are at odds with Paul's assumptions in this line of thought. What I'll now say about universalism entails the falsity of inclusivism anyway, so I'll leave it at that.

So let's go through Paul's reasoning again. He says that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Universalists might agree and then say that some will do so after death, including everyone who fails to do so before death. Paul says they need to believe in him to call on him. Again, universalists say that will happen after death. Paul moves on to say that they first need to hear before believing. Again, universalists say that will happen after death. Paul continues his argument by saying that people first need to be preached to, or they won't be able to believe. Again, that might happen after death. Then Paul asks how they can preach unless they are sent. Now we have a problem.

What is the point of Paul's claim that people must be sent if people are to hear the message and then believe? If they can hear the message after death, why send people to preach it? Some universalists respond that the point of believing now is to take advantage of the current benefits of Christ's death for those are are already in a relationship with him but that some won't do so until after death. But why the urgency? Why the whole line of reasoning to the result of the importance of preaching if the original statement and all the following statements are all about something that might happen after death? Some universalists, Keith included, will insist that there is punishment after death, and it might not be a short or light punishment. Repenting and believing now is therefore an urgent thing to avoid such punishment. There can be a call for urgency even if universalism is true.

But it seems to me that what Paul is saying amounts to the claim that people will not believe and be saved unless someone is sent to preach to them. That seems to be the whole point of this line of questioning. He seems to be rejecting the universalist view by implication, since he's assuming that there is no other way for people to believe without hearing, for them to hear without the message being preached, and for the message to be preached without someong going. He's assuming that people need to go to the unbeliever now with the message, or they will not believe. If a message could be preached to people after death, with a response of believe that would lead to salvation, then what of the tight connection Paul makes between the missionary effort as the only possibility for belief? Paul seems to be assuming here that there is no such possibility. It's not that evangelism is logically unnecessary if universalism is true, because evangelism could avoid the punishment after death before repentance. It's that Paul's line of questioning seems to entail a logical connection between each item in the list and the previous one (belief, hearing, preaching, going) that he seems to be assuming that the first item in the list will simply not happen without the final item. That seems to preclude the possibility of repentance after death.

It's partly for this reason that I can't read the passages Keith quotes in his argument for Christian universalism in the way he does. It just seems at complete odds with Paul's assumptions in this section. He doesn't argue for the assumption, but he assumes it. Unless Paul is inconsistent (as some scholars have actually asserted but I think highly unlikely for such a sophisticated thinker even if you deny inerrantism) those passages have to be read with this in mind.

As I said above, I think there are other biblical reasons for denying universalism. I take issue with a couple of Keith's arguments against some of the traditional passages to support this, and there are some important lines of reasoning that involve taking what the Bible says about one thing in connection with what it says about another (e.g. eternal punishment, which he takes not to mean eternal but simply of having an intensive quality, vs. eternal life, which seems to imply genuine eternality and is placed in specific parallelism with eternal punishment; also, compare the language used with regard to Satan's punishment with the language used with regard to human punishment, though this won't apply to those universalists who think Satan will be saved ultimately, which will mean turning to what the NT says about the impossibility of repentance for those who aren't humans). To argue for any of that would take a whole series of posts if I wanted to do it adequately. Perhaps comments will bring these issues out, and perhaps I'll end up continuing on with other posts to make this a series. My main reason for this post was to make one simple point. The universalist view, while easier to maintain biblically without inclusivism, is still hard to maintain in the face of Paul's line of thought in Romans 10:13-15.

The other place I would differ from Keith is that if I were to convert to universalism I would take a much more Calvinistic view of God's sovereignty in human salvation, as some universalists do. It's basically Calvinism without limited atonement. God saves everyone, choosing to save each person, seeing them through to the point of salvation without allowing ultimate resistance to his will, and all end up saved. Once you deny limited atonement but retain Calvinist views of salvation, this is the result. I'm so convinced that the Bible supports those other things that if I were to go universalist I'd naturally hold that sort of view. So Keith's more Arminian/libertarian mode of universalism is not the one I'd go for. Other than that issue, I think Keith's exposition of universalism is one of the best I've ever seen, and I highly recommend it for those who want to understand what one of the most careful universalists, who wants to see his universalism as part of a biblical orthodoxy (and as far as I can tell consistent with what the best defenders of inerrancy would hold about the authority and infallibility of scripture), will say.

My conclusion is that the mere occurrence of Christ's death is not sufficient for salvation, though it is necessary (and Keith agrees with me on that, which is what makes him not an inclusivist). I further want to argue that Romans 10 requires actual belief in Christ. Keith doesn't disagree, but he thinks that might be after death. What I'm finally arguing, though, is that his view can't be right if Paul's argument here is to be taken at face value. Perhaps Keith has a response to this, but I've never seen a universalist interpretation of this passage that satisfies me.

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Suppose you throw reincarnation into the mix. Not that I believe this, but couldn't this save Keith's model from your objections?

Say that when an unbeliever dies, God reincarnates the unbeliever. Thus unbelievers are still given another chance (or many chances, depending on what they do with their next life) "after death", but missionary effort still needs to be made as the gospel is still only ever presented here on earth.

Combined with God's sovereignty (sp?), God could ensure that all are eventually saved. This could dovetail nicely with post-millenialism as well.

To deal with your objections more seriously...

If I were Keith, I'd argue that Romans 10 is an arguement by way of an impossible hypothetical. Since it is impossible that all shall not be saved, then logically someone must be sent. Paul thus argues that the readers be the ones who are sent.

I read a number of biblical passages in this manner. For example, the salt and light passages. If salt loses its saltiness...but wait a minute, salt can't lose it saltiness. So quit pretending like you are unsalty and recognize that you are having an impact on the world around you. Act accordingly. No one hides light under a bushel. No one. You're light. You aren't hidden. A city on a hill can't be hidden. *Can't*. So stop pretending like you're hidden. Etc. One could easily argue that Romans 10 sets forth a similar arguement.

If this is the case, then why the urgency in the passage? If all will eventually be saved, then why the hurry? In this case, the urgency is not for the sake of those hearing the message (as they will eventually be saved one way or another), but for the readers of the letter. This is similar to Mordecai's urgent warning to Esther: if you don't do it, salvation for the Jews will come from somewhere else, but woe to you and your family if you were meant to do it and you passed on your responsibility.

The reincarnation thing may be a logical way out, but it doesn't seem to be a biblical option. Keith gets out of the "die once and then judgment" thing by saying something might happen in between, but if the thing that happens in between is a lot of dying and living again and dying and living again, then it seems totally at odds with the point of that verse.

I'm not sure I agree that the passages you cite are merely hypothetical. They seem to me to be of a piece with the Hebrews falling away passages and the parable of the soil. In one sense, I agree that it's impossible for a genuine believe to fall away. At the same time, I think these passages are intended as a genuine warning to people who consider themselves to be genuine believers and from all appearances are but who have not genuinely committed themselves to Christ and have not had a genuine work of the Holy Spirit leading them to act the way they are. I've sketched this out roughly here.

I'd be inclined to say the same thing about taking any passage with such urgency as merely hypothetical. This is a little different because the urgency isn't wholly hypothetical, but it seem selfish if it's just saying that I should do this so someone else doesn't get the joy of experiencing it, and to some it just feeds into their natural laziness by allowing them a way out with the same effect. I just don't think that fits with the intensity and urgency Paul displays here, especially given that it's so strongly tied up with his overall argument that starts with the Jews' by-and-large rejection of the gospel. This is one of the main reasons the universalist interpretations of Romans 11 don't seem to me to fit with what precedes that chapter.

The urgency of the missionary cause is independent of the truth of universal salvation. Its urgency stems from the fact that God has ordered Christians to spread His Word.

The belief that universalism somehow undercuts the command to spread the Word is odd. Imagine a preacher learns of the truth of universalism. Would he say "God, since you are going to save them, why should I bother preaching?" Would it not make more sense for him to rejoice and redouble his efforts? He is assured of victory.

I think a lot of people would be disappointed to think there is no hell. It is a comfort to know that those smug sinners will be howling one day.

What kind of place would heaven be if it let just everyone in?

I think you're wrong. Most people really would prefer a God who didn't allow something like hell, but that's one place where we just don't have godly motives. We don't understand justice. We don't understand how the book of Revelation can display the God who takes no delight in the death of the wicked in some other sense somehow delighting in the just judgment of those whose flesh is metaphorically eaten by the birds carrying out the judgment of Christ on the wicked. It's not an image we can really identify with. Those who think they do are usually captured by revenge and not justice. I don't think we can begin to make philosophical or theological declarations based on what our human perceptions of justice, mercy, or any other category that we only know in part due to our fallenness.

I understand the gospel call would still be there, and I explained in my post why it should be if universalism is true. I don't understand why there's such urgency in the words of Paul who had just said that he'd be willing to give up his own salvation for his Jewish brethren were such a thing possible. He's that concerned about it, and that seems way too strong for some hypothetical "what if people did go to hell instead of what God is doing" kind of thing. I don't think the call to evangelism is undermined. I do think the urgency in Paul's description of it here would be.

Thanks for the kind words, Jeremy. As is generally the case, at least in my opinion, our often very sharp and important differences are so interesting because they take place against a background of important shared beliefs. I guess that�s why I find myself frequently visiting your blog � and occasionally commenting.

On the issue you raise here, I guess the important thing is to point readers to Appendix A of my on-line defense of universalism. That�s where the material is that�s most relevant to your current post. (I take it you realize this; just telling other readers who might be interested in looking, but not interested enough to read my whole web page on universalism.)

I point out in Appendix A that there are plenty of resources available to universalists to answer questions like the ones you raise in your paragraph that begins, �What is the point�. As you acknowledge at the end of that paragraph: �There can be a call for urgency even if universalism is true.�

So I guess the key to the difference between us is what�s in your next paragraph (beginning with �But it seems to me�). I�m not sure I�m seeing the problem. Though I believe that *eventually* all will be saved, I recognize that as the term is used here in Romans, some are not yet saved. How can they get to be saved? Even given all my relevant views (especially, that is, even given that I believe that eventually all will be saved), I�d be tempted to put the matter exactly as Paul does: �Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?�

God could, of course, tell people about Himself directly. There does seem to be some kind of causal necessity being hinted at in the passage, but it�s only a necessity given that certain facts hold � like that God isn�t about to get into the business of directly revealing Himself to everyone. Given such facts, if nobody tells folks, they won�t believe. For all I know and for all I claim, such a necessity will continue in the life to come, so it will continue to be the case that non-believers won�t become believers without their being told by other people. In that case, I don�t see that I have any trouble with the passage.

But, really, even if those facts do change and the limited causal necessity ceases to hold in the life to come, this passage doesn�t seem to me that troublesome. The limited causal necessity holds *now*, and that�s all I think we need to make sense of the passage. A perhaps useful parallel: Before I was old enough to get any job besides a paper route, my Dad decided not to get me a 10-speed bike, but to allow me to buy it for myself if I made the money. He knew that in a few years, I�d be able to get any of a number of jobs by which I could make the needed money. But that was several years off. At the time, the only way for me to get the money was to do a paper route. Couldn�t he have sensibly asked, �How can you get the money if you don�t take a paper route?�? *Present* causal necessity suffices for such a question. (If I had replied, �I could wait a few years, and then get another job,� he could have answered, �I meant how can you get the money now.�) Similarly, I�d think, for Paul�s above questions. It is a matter of great importance and urgency that people accept Christ in this life, and sooner rather than later � we�re agreed that universalism can accommodate that. If sending people to preach is now the way to achieve that important aim, Paul�s questions seem to make perfect sense, even given universalism. Or so it seems to me.

Well, one of the reasons I wrote this was to see if I could draw out a response from you, and I'm glad to have it now.

I'm not sure if I have a good response to what you're saying, but I do have some thoughts about what seems odd to me here. I'm the Calvinist here, and you try to distance yourself from compatibilist notions of freedom when you explicate your universalism. Yet your response seems to me to be so similar to the response of Calvinists like J.I. Packer to the objection that Calvinism makes evangelism pointless. That's one of the reasons I'm not inclined to disagree outright and will need to think this through a little more to see what's going on here. It makes me think that the compatibilist universalist might be able to get away with this sort of response fairly easily, but can a libertarian about human freedom? Is there something that's ifferent here from the Packer line that makes it ok for a libertarian to say this sort of thing?

Just a thought about the "postmortem evangelism" idea: Wouldn't James 2, where it says that even the demons believe that there is one God, and tremble, be an argument against that view?

In particular, it seems obvious to me that at some point everyone after death will ADMIT that there is one God, and that Christ in fact was who he claimed to be, etc. But the James passage indicates that mere acceptance of those points as fact (as the demons do) is not saving.

I suppose this isn't an argument against the view entirely -- but rather, I guess I see the relevance as this: You could argue that it will be obvious to everyone once they are in hell that Christ was who he claimed to be and that he in fact is the only savior. If belief that those things are true is the only requirement for being saved, then certainly, everyone who dies will be saved. But the James passage indicates that mere acceptance of these things as fact is not sufficient for salvation. Thus the fact that people will recognize those things as true after death does not necessarily mean they will be saved.

It undermines Keith's argument that Philippians 2 supports universalism by showing that even if all believe that doesn't mean they're saved. Of course, Paul uses the word 'believe' only for those who will be saved, while James uses it more expansively, but then Paul doesn't use that word in Phil 2 to describe the people who will acknowledge that Jesus is God. I don't see how it could mean anything more than that, though.

If belief that those things are true is the only requirement for being saved, then certainly, everyone who dies will be saved. But the James passage indicates that mere acceptance of these things as fact is not sufficient for salvation.

The Romans passage in question (10:9) doesn't lay down a belief requirement as the "only requirement for being saved"; it lays down two requirements, one of which, but only one of which, concerns a piece of propositional belief, and suggests that the two are jointly sufficient. Thus, there's no conflict, even on the surface, between it and James 2:19 (though surface tensions (at least) between James and the Pauline books are generally easy to find). The other condition in Romans 10:9 is a confession condition, which the Philippians passage seems to tell us will be met by everyone. If both conditions are met by everyone, it would seem that everyone will be saved, and James's indication that the belief condition (actually, he speaks of belief in a different proposition, but let that slide) is not by itself sufficient does not upset that seeming.

Still, I'd like to stress that, as I say in the relevant section of my web page on universalism (section 7), I don't mean to be leaning on this argument (from Romans 10:9 + Phil. 2:11) for universalism.

I guess the issue is over what counts as belief and confession in Romans 10, just as it matters what counts as belief in John 3:16. Obviously belief in John 3:16 means more than James means by the same term. There are so many different formulations of these things with slight variations that seem in conflict if you take them at the surface reading and then put them up against each other. For instance, Mark 16:16 (and I realize that many people don't consider this to be part of the original text, but interpreting it presents problems that will also come up in other places; it's just helpful in having a few in one place) says that whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but it also says that whoever doesn't believe won't be saved. What about the person who believes but isn't baptized? Is there no such person? Is that person assumed to be in one of the categories it does mention explicitly, or is it indeterminate? Is there purgatory for that person? Or is it just that this isn't supposed to be an exhaustive account of the necessary and sufficient conditions for salvation?

Romans 3:23, 26; 4:24 all list those who believe or have faith as being saved. Others list faith or belief in addition to something else. It seems to me that the easiest way to avoid attributing contradiction to such a systematic and careful thinker as Paul is to notice that he often will say something more fundamental about who is saved. He says that we are saved by the work of Christ, because of Christ's transformative work in our hearts, because we are, in short, in Christ. Belief is an effect of that, as are baptism and confession. All those who are being saved through being in Christ will believe, and no one not being saved in Christ is currently believing, so it's true to say that all who believe will be saved. That doesn't mean that belief is ultimately the basis of salvation. I don't think Paul would ultimately accept that.

What this does, though, is it gets around the Romans 10 + Philippians 2 argument. For that argument to convince me, there would have to be a clear sense that Romans 10:9 is giving sufficient conditions for salvation and that the belief and confession in the two cases is meant in the same way. I'm not conviced of either. As you said, you didn't rest your case on this, and there are many things you say that I didn't try to address, but I do think what I'm suggesting should undermine the Rom 10/Phil 2 argument.

Yes, it's largely because of the potential for slippage in the key terms that I thought it unwise to rest on this argument.

But James 2:19 does really seem to me to have very little to do with any of this. What it is saying is insufficient is just a belief that monotheism is true. Nothing even specifically Christian in the belief mentioned -- indeed, what's called to mind by the passage, probably intentionally, is the well-known Jewish declaration of monotheism. So that verse seems to have very little potential for interaction with Romans 10:9, which is about an important specifically Christian belief (and still doesn't assert that even that belief is sufficient), and even less for interaction with John 3:16, which isn't even about any "belief that" a proposition is true, but "belief in" the person of Jesus Christ. (Though be warned that I am now just working from translations.)

They all use the same word family for belief and faith, sometimes with a verb (pisteuo and sometimes with a noun (pistis). I don't know of any passages with anything commonly translated by 'faith' or 'belief' that isn't from that root. If you're worried about prepositions, I'm not so sure about that.

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?" (Romans 10:13-15a, NIV)

The above that you have shown is true,Its also true that there will be a resurrection of the just and the unjust. I dont think there will be a resurrection of the unjust, just to be told they will go to hell.
Let me ask you something, if you were created Judas, and he was created you, whould you have done things differently? I doubt it.


Dennis, I can't understand your argument without some sort of Cartesian view of the soul. If you hold the Christian view that we are incomplete without our body, it makes a lot more sense that judgment would require the complete person to be whole in order to face judgment.

The hypothetical "if I were created Judas" makes no sense, because the being you're describing wouldn't have been me. It would have been Judas. Still, your point is highly biblical if it's simply that no one can achieve anything of spiritual value without God's grace. Of course, not everyone has received that grace, e.g. Judas, and that means there really are two different categories of people -- those who have received God's grace and those who haven't. Pointing out that those who have received God's grace would have been different had they not received God's grace doesn't go very far toward showing that everyone will receive God's grace at some point.

I haven't heard much in the above discussion regarding God's love. The bible is clear that God is love. True, he is just and holy as well. What I appreciate about the Universalist position is that God was able to come up with a plan to fulfill all of His attributes.

It seems to be quite a stretch that it is loving for God to eternally condemn a native american who died in the year 500 A.D. Obviously that person had zero chance to believe. As a father myself, I couldn't picture ever wanting the eternal punishment of my offspring no matter what they did. Rather, "those that He loves, he disciplines".

Also, what about the spirits that Christ preached to who were disobedient in the time of Noah? They were to be judged according to the flesh, but live according to the spirit.(I Peter 3:18-20a and 4:6).

I know love and mercy aren't exactly the same thing, but how does love bring something to this discussion that mercy doesn't? There's been lots of discussion here about mercy. I can't think of much that would have a huge effect on the outcome of the dicussion that bringing love in would change, particularly given that the Bible seems to discuss God's love in a way that doesn't allow us to assume the words for love are used univocally with God's love being expressed in the same ways with every person or category of person. For example, there's the special love for the elect people of Israel, the saving love for those who believe in John 3, the sovereign love and care for all creation including animals that presumably will not be resurrected at all, etc.

I'll repeat my main point regarding the kind of argument you're giving in case you missed it in the comments above. I said: "I don't think we can begin to make philosophical or theological declarations based on what our human perceptions of justice, mercy, or any other category that we only know in part due to our fallenness." Love counts as what I refered to as "any other category that we only know in part due to our fallenness".

I'm responding to the I Peter 3 and 4 issue in a separate post. It's not up yet, but this link will go to it once it's published.

Regarding Romans 10 and its so called assumption against Universalism,i would like to say that those who think they are saved on the basis of being lucky enough to be born in the right place at the right time, to get the Gospel, should give thier heads a shake. (question) If you were born Judas and he was born you, would you have done things differently ? I doubt it. The Bible says that Satan got into Judas to carry out Gods plan. God does what he wants, some he gives the Gospel to and others he dosent. Its not thier fault.

It's not their fault what's happened to them, but it is their fault what they do with it, and Romans 1 says everyone is without excuse. Therefore it's not an excuse that someone hasn't heard the gospel. It's not the sin of not hearing the gospel that could condemn someone to hell. It's the sin of rebelling against God, which we've all done.

I know I'm incredibly late to this.

If someone holds that believing now in this life will avoid future finite but severe punishment, why can't belief in the next do the same? They aren't consistent.

I'm not sure what you mean about consistency, but I think I know what the first claim you're making is supposed to be. You're wondering why it's urgent on the DeRose view if belief in the next life can avoid the finite but severe punishment. If that's what you mean, then you're right that someone could easily believe at the very beginning of their existence in hell and thus make their stay in hell very short. But that's not likely among those who in this life refuse to accept the gospel, according to DeRose. He in fact thinks most people in hell will experience a very long time before eventually giving in and accepting Christ's lordship over their lives. The sort of people who make it there aren't the sort who will submit to God quickly, at least not with the right motivations. Saying the words for the wrong reasons wouldn't be enough.

Jeremy: In case you'd be interested in taking a look, I recently put up three posts on universalism ("'The Problem with Universalism'?", "Hoping that Universalism Is / Will Be True", "Underground Universalism?") over at GOTT:
These aren't discussions of the scriptural case for & against universalism -- that's in the "Universalism & the Bible" web page you already know about. But they discuss related issues concerning universalism.

Thanks, Keith. For ease of finding at later times, here is the link to the third post. The links to the first two can be found there.

Thanks, Jeremy.
Actually, the third post, and the one with links to both of the other two, is the one at:

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