A Book Clearly Articulating the Truth of Christian Universalism
Raising Hell: Christianity’s Most Controversial Doctrine Put Under Fire, by Julie Ferwerda, published in 2011, is an outstanding book on God’s love, grace, mercy, and justice. The author of this excellent book is a layperson, not a seminary graduate. As a seminary-educated ordained minister, it is evident to me that she is a very serious and capable student of the Holy Bible which she believes is the Word of God. Julie begins this book with addressing the controversy in regard to hell: fact or fiction? This author has an excellent way with words in putting things in perspective. Thus, I love the title of chapter 7, “Satan wins, God loses?” This author is not the least bit ambiguous in stating that God wins, not Satan. According to so-called Christian Orthodoxy, God would like to save everyone, but God is either unable or unwilling to actually do so. Ferwerda makes an excellent point in part two that love does not fail based on I Cor. 13:8 which declares, “Love never fails.”
Literal-minded Christians, who believe in eternal torture in literal hell fire, actually believe that God is going to fail although they protest otherwise. But here is a syllogism meaning if one thing is true, that the opposite is also true: God is love—Love is God! The Bible proclaims, “God is love” (I John 4:8). So, since God is love and love never fails, then the only logical conclusion is that God never fails or gives up on anyone. This author makes this point with crystal clarity!
It is obvious to me Julie has devoted a great deal of time and energy to producing such a well-researched and written book—probably hundreds of hours! She is right on target in saying that we really need to understand the Hebrew Scriptures—The Torah which Christians know as The Old Testament, in order to be able to properly interpret and correctly understand The New Testament. This book lists helpful resources: online study tools which include movies, books in print, free e-books, articles, websites, and Biblical commentaries. She also suggests several different types of helps such as the Greek Interlinear New Testament and other Greek helps for readers who know no Greek. A very helpful suggestion this author gives, for readers who do not know Greek or Hebrew, is to compare and contrast the translation of any particular verse or word with several commonly accepted English translations of the Bible.
The only difference I have with this author is that she believes there is no hell while I do, but she makes it clear that she does believe there is accountability, for how we have lived our lives and treated others, in this life and when we face The Final Judgment. I believe the fire of hell is for the purpose of purification and, consequently, is neither literal nor eternal. While the actual English word “hell” is not in the Greek or Hebrew manuscripts, The King James Version, with which Fundamentalist Christians are most familiar, indiscriminately translated the Hebrew word “Sheol” and the Greek words “Hades” and “Gehenna” as hell. It is of the utmost importance to make the distinction. I address this issue only because I have found the most common objection to the wonderful truth of Christian Universalism is that those who hold to this all-loving conception of God are charged with not believing what the Bible says about reaping what one has sown, due to not believing in a literal hell.
Both this author and I believe in total accountability for the sins people have committed during their lifetime. No one can hurt other people with impunity! As Ferwerda stated, “No one gets off the hook.” God’s justice is perfect and, therefore, we can trust God to do the right thing and not to do the wrong thing which would be to destroy sinners or to torture them forever! God, who is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29) will consume sin and, thereby, purify sinners. This author and I are also in 100% agreement that Biblical fire is metaphorical, not literal. Thus, purification of sinners makes it possible for Christ to draw all to himself (John 12:32), for all to live in Christ (I Cor. 15:22), for God to become all in all (I Cor. 15:28), and for every created being in the universe to worship God and the Lamb eternally (Rev. 5:13)! Raising Hell is definitely worthy of a five-star rating.