If you want to see folk damned, there is something wrong with you! – Randal Rauser
J.I. Packer has long distinguished himself as among the foremost evangelical critics of universalism. At the same time, he also made the following admission:
“No evangelical, I think, need hesitate to admit that in his heart of hearts he would like universalism to be true. Who can take pleasure in the thought of people being eternally lost? If you want to see folk damned, there is something wrong with you!”
Packer’s certainly right about that. And yet, the disturbing truth is that many conservative Christians don’t
want universalism to be true. I wrote about this problem four years ago in “The very worst reason to reject universalism.
” In that article I noted that acerbic Christian apologist Ray Comfort repudiated universalism because it entailed that Nazis and pedophiles could end up in heaven. Yes, it does mean that. It also means that acerbic Christian apologists like Ray Comfort can end up in heaven. And even a few tentative apologists too!
I was reminded of this topic the other day while reading the following passage in Brad Jersak’s A More Christlike God:
“According to Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, moral outrage at others’ sin is often a confession of one’s own deeply repressed cravings. Do we ourselves need hell to keep our envy of sinners at bay? One pastor in my city even confessed that without the threat of hell, he would not be a Christian.” (20)
The notion that people are most vociferous against the sins with which they most struggle is so familiar as to be called a cliché. The pastor who regularly rails against “demon alcohol” or “lust” invites suspicions as to his own struggles.
What I find especially haunting is the suggestion that we might need hell to reassure us of our own life decisions to eschew certain temptations (and, dare we say it, our inherent worth and superior moral standing over the “sinners”).
Two of Jesus’ parables speak powerfully to this.