We all have a bias. The important thing is to recognize your bias and be able to defend or explain it. As a 'critical realist,' I spend a good deal of time and energy studying my biases - how they emerged, and how they influence my thinking. Rather than pretending to be perfectly objective, I confess that since my early days as a terrified infernalist, I have developed a strong preference for hope. I hope in the Good News that God’s love rectifies every injustice through forgiveness and reconciliation. The Gospel of hope that I can preach boldly is this:
God is not angry with you and never has been. He loves you with an everlasting love. Salvation is not a question of 'turn or burn.' We’re burning already, but we don’t have to be! Redemption! The life and death of Christ showed us how far God would go to extend forgiveness and invitation. His resurrection marked the death of death and the evacuation of Hades. My hope is in Christ, who rightfully earned his judgment seat and whose verdict is restorative justice, that is to say, mercy.
Hope. That is my bias, and I believe that Scripture, tradition, and experience confirm it. I want to explain and validate my hope in those contexts. This book will address the central problem of this 'heated' debate: not infernalism versus annihilationism versus universalism, but rather, authentic, biblical Christian hope vis-à-vis the error of dogmatic presumption (of any view). Hope presumes nothing but is rooted in a deeper confidence: the love and mercy of an openhearted and relentlessly kind God.
In short, I do not intend to convince readers of a particular theology of divine judgment. I hope, rather, to recall those relevant bits of Scripture, history, and tradition that ought to inform whatever view we take on this important topic. That said, the data summarized in my book, Her Gates Will Never Be Shut, did lead me to four conclusions, which you may or may not share after all is said and done:
1. We cannot presume to know that all will be saved or that any will not be saved.2. The revelation of God in Christ includes real warnings about the possibility of damnation for some and also the real hope that redemption may extend to all.3. We not only dare hope and pray that God’s mercy would finally triumph over judgment; the love of God obligates us to such hope.4. Revelation 21–22 provides a test case for a biblical theology of eschatological hope.
To summarize my proposal, I quote Hermann-Josef Lauter.
'Will it really be all men who allow themselves to be reconciled? No theology or prophecy can answer this question, but love hopes all things (1 Cor 13: 7). It cannot do otherwise than to hope for the reconciliation of all men in Christ. Such unlimited hope is, from a Christian standpoint, not just permitted but commanded.'
Adapted from Brad Jersak, Her Gates Will Never Be Shut (Wipf & Stock).