I've been quite interested in understanding Christian doctrine, but all of a sudden a family friend is believing in universalism. The reason he gives is that all men have been redeemed, and therefore everyone has a place in heaven. He says salvation is what you work out here on earth, just as Paul tells us, and it sort of establishes our place in heaven. So he is saying that everyone goes to heaven because Christ has redeemed all of us, but some of us don't have as good of seats because we didn't work out our salvation well enough. I feel like the main theme in this controversy is the correct definition and explanation of redemption versus salvation. If you could help me with that at all it would be most appreciated!
Thank you for your question. The beliefs of your friend do not correspond to biblical teaching. He may feel attracted to this kind of doctrine because it eliminates the question of evil and of God's judgment. He loves his dreams about salvation and redemption because they fit him, and to make sure it works he mixes them up with some Bible verses. It gives him the illusion that this is the right thing. But that's not how we are called to deal with the Bible. If he reads the Bible in depth he will see his dreams are not biblical. Perhaps he never suffered from injustice so far. When he will, let's see if he continues to hold on to his doctrine. What will he say when in heaven all his wrongdoers are sitting there, too? They will be there in perhaps less comfortable chairs than himself, but still in heaven. The question of evil is central in scripture just as is God's judgment. Jesus showed us a path to confront evil, but I'm not sure your friend wants to take that path. It's the narrow gate, while he wants to take the road that is wide and spacious (Matthew 7:13-14).
Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University. Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years. Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question for her leave it in the comment section below.