According to Rev. Gordon McKeeman, the Universalists introduced the belief in a God who loved so abundantly that he would drag “the last unrepentant sinner, kicking & screaming, into heaven.”
Wow! A God who loves so much, who wants joy and blessing for all people, even if we have to be dragged into it against our will. It is such a gospel of hope, in contrast with the harsh and judgmental gospel of Calvinism.
One of the questions another of my colleagues, Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed, asks is why didn’t Universalism spread all over this country? Who could resist a religion with no hell? Why was it so much harder to believe in a God of overwhelming love than in doctrines like the virgin birth or the resurrection? He answers his own question like this:
What we yearn for is unconditional love but it is contradicted by our experience. Instead, the principle message each of us received over and over again was this: behave and be loved, behave and be loved. The implication is: those who are good and compliant are loved, all others not. Universalism calls this “partialism.” In other words, people have taken their own experience of conditional, judgmental, imperfect human love and ascribed it to God.
What does it mean to believe that God is love? The phrase may have become so familiar that we almost don’t hear it anymore. One of the letters in the Bible says it, “God is love, and those who abide in love, abide in God, and God in them.” We can get derailed if we imagine God as an all powerful ruler sitting on a throne granting favors. Then, if something tragic happens to us, we feel that God must not love us. But if God is love, then the image of favor-granting dictator doesn’t work. God is more like the Sun, shining on everything and giving life to everything, no matter what, enabling all things to unfold in the way that they will by being alive.
Quote from Mark Morrison-Reed from “Dragged Kicking and Screaming into Heaven”