Roger 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.