Better a universalist than a Calvinist

Roger E. OlsonRoger Olson asks How serious a heresy is universalism? Universalism, the belief that everyone will be saved, has been a popular topic of Christian discussion since Rob Bell was wrongly accused of it. Olson makes it clear that he considers universalism to be a heresy. But he concludes that there are different versions of universalism and some are more seriously in error than others.

He also makes it clear that he considers universalism, at least in some versions, to be a less serious error than Calvinism – or at least than some versions of Calvinism. He writes:

I’m not a universalist.  On the other hand, I’d rather be a universalist than a true Calvinist (i.e., a five point Calvinist who believes in double predestination).

Someone once asked me whether I would still worship God if somehow I became convinced the Calvinist view of God is correct.  I had to say no.  Sheer power is not worthy of worship.  Only power controlled by love is worthy of worship.

If somehow I became convinced that universalism is correct, would I still worship God.  Yes, but….

I would have to wonder how a God of love can enjoy love from creatures that is not given freely.  Of course, someone might argue that, in the end, every creature will freely offer love to God and be saved (e.g., Moltmann).  I would just call that optimism.  There’s no way to believe that true other than a leap of optimistic hope.

Indeed. Universalism born from optimistic hope may be unrealistic but it is not a serious heresy. Believing in a God who condemns most people to everlasting torment without offering to them the grace they would need to be saved is a serious heresy because it turns the God of love into a monster. Like Olson, I could never worship a God like that.

But read the rest of Olson’s post before condemning him.

0 thoughts on “Better a universalist than a Calvinist

  1. Arthur, I see your point. If God really is a cruel arbitrary tyrant who doesn’t allow me the basic right of choosing who to worship, then of course he will condemn me to eternal hell for refusing to worship him. Anyway I won’t have any real choice because presumably he will have predestined me for that. And I would prefer to be in hell by my own choice than be forced to bow before a cruel tyrant.

  2. Only God is worthy of worship. Question: if one rejects God why shouldn’t one go to hell?

    That people will be turned away by God on judgement day is clear. Who are you to declare God a tyrant because you don’t agree with what He has declared in His word.

    As to this so called ‘double predestination’, it doesn’t really exist. For it to exist would require a ‘middle’ neutral group from which one is chosen for heaven or hell. There is no mythical ‘neutral group’.
    But there is only one group, sinners, and we were all in it, bound for hell and God in His grace and mercy has chosen some to be saved. It can’t be earned and is not deserved by anyone.

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