Some of the things I may say about this book may seem heretical. For others, it may be comforting to know somebody else is thinking what you are. But for all of us, this book and my interaction with it will be challenging. This is an inescapable fact. As you may know, I have been studying eschatology (the aspect of theology studying the end times and what comes after) in my free time, specifically, heaven and hell and what each of them entails. Through any prolonged study of eschatology, it’s hard to ignore universalitic arguments – that all people will indeed be in heaven. One afternoon I was discussing some of my curiosities with my professor mk, and he handed me a book entitled If Grace is True. And wow, this book will pique your interest because it seems if loads of Christians are direly concerned with heaven and hell. If universalistic thought doesn’t get you riled up, just listen to the subtitle of this book co-authored by a pastor and a theologian – Why God Will Save Every Person. Because of the controversial nature of this book, and also the thoughts that have sprouted on account of it, I am dividing this review into several posts. Also I must mention, that this book review may be different than others before. I plan to interact with this book as we continue to think about heaven and hell together.
First, I want to share some initial thoughts upon finishing this book. I must mention that the idea of continuing revelation was quite prevalent throughout the book. Continuing revelation is the idea that the bible is not the last word, that God continues to inspire people in our age with new thoughts and ideas. For both of these men, they both suggested that their persuasion to universalism was largely due to continuing revelation to God. Thus, the authors are not likely to persuade you on a theological level, although they might, especially when we talk about the doctrine of atonement theology. However, the reader is able to discern that these men did not wake up one day and decide to start preaching this. And the reader is able to distinguish that the authors are not doing this for publicity. It is something they concluded after a number of different experiences and it is something they deeply believe, even with large amounts of backlash from their congregations, families, and colleagues.
In addition to the prevalence of continuing revelation, there also seemed to be a very low view of scripture. Don’t get me wrong . . . I don’t consider myself to hold the highest view of the bible, but I myself was a bit aghast at just how trivial the bible had become to them. For some, this may cause you to put this on your black list of books. Nonetheless, you must resist this temptation. These two men are Christians, at least as far as we have come to define Christians as being. Thus, although we may disagree when it comes to the authority of scripture, I still believe there is much to garner from their ideas.
And lastly, I’d like to point out that the authors recognize that this is not the most popular position among Christians today or throughout history. But there have always seemed to be Christians that still hold fervently to this view. We will look at a few of these perspectives in another day or two. For now, I will leave you with a quote from Jacques Ellul:
A theology of grace implies universal salvation. What could grace mean if it were granted only to some sinners and not to others according to an arbitrary decree that is totally contrary to the nature of God? If grace is granted according to the greater or lesser number of sins, it is no longer grace.