In the final analysis both Arminianism and Calvinism wittingly or unwittingly bend Scripture to fit their model of salvation. Of course everyone knows that faith must also be reasonable. Thus we might stretch our interpretations of Scripture to fit the best models available to us. Furthermore, since Arminianism and Calvinism are both considered orthodox and commonly accepted, perhaps that is why followers of Jesus Christ have not been able to find unity even on the critical doctrine of Christian salvation. Yet I am convinced the Biblical view is that Christ is the savior of all mankind. Let's take one last look at our Salvation Evaluator matrix.
SAVIOR OF ALL
Let's note the strengths and weakness of each view.
PART for PART: REJECTED BY ALL
The weakness in this view is seen by nearly everyone and the view is rejected.
PART for ALL: ARMINIANISM
This is the most common view found in Christendom. However, the idea that mankind has a free will to choose faith is simply not supported in Scripture and misses the good news that we are saved instead because of God's free will. Many proponents reason that the existence of free will is implied by the fact that we are commanded to trust Jesus. They reason that if God asks us to do something then we must have the ability to do it. Yet has anyone, except Christ, demonstrated the ability to obey God's commands without sin? Arminian reasoning also neglects the clear Bible teaching that we are spiritually dead unless we are individually made alive by the Holy Spirit. A dead person is not free to do anything. We must be born again for spiritual life to begin. Moreover, grace would not be grace if any condition of salvation rested with the individual person. These compromises are bad enough, but the greatest was admitted by C.S. Lewis when he said that God arrested his sovereignty to allow for the "possibility" that people would choose or not choose him with their free will. Arminianism is guilty of deposing God to make way for free will so that man can be god of his own salvation. Adherents of this view are guilty of exalting their free will over the glory of God's sovereign grace and are in fact worshiping an imaginary god. Consider the difference between two simple testimonies. One man claims he is saved because he chose Christ. Another man trusts that Christ chose him. Which testimony gives praise to God's grace? Friends, there is no Biblical defense that God is not sovereign or that he ever momentarily ceased to be the God of our salvation. This is good news for us because God's gracious choices are trustworthy!
ALL for PART: CALVINISM
There are very few true Calvinists, but most modify their position in some way allowing for a free will choice of faith. Once while in an "iron sharpening" session with a brother, he asserted that the two great pillars of the church are God's sovereignty and man's free will. I am sure he is not alone in that assertion. But those are hardly the two pillars of the church. The companion truth to God's sovereignty is not man's free will, but instead man's responsibility for his sin. Some oppose the idea that God is sovereign over both good and evil, claiming that then we would no longer responsible for our sin. Yet the Scripture is clear in Romans Chapter 9 that both are true: God is sovereign over sin and we are responsible for our sin. Those who continue to object to this truth must simply answer God's question to them in Romans 9:20. Yet, true Calvinists are commended for holding fast to the sovereignty of God. However, they also hold to the indefensible position that Christ effectively died for only a subset of mankind. As such they undermine the incarnation and the very person of Christ and his vicarious atonement. The critical heart of salvation is that the death of Christ on the cross serves as a substitute for the death we deserve. We all deserve an eternal death penalty for our rebellion against God, but Christ literally died in our place. Holy God cannot overlook justice, but justice was satisfied in our Heavenly trial by the death of Christ. So we ask: did Christ represent all mankind on the cross, or only a subset of mankind? The Scripture is clear in Romans 5 that Jesus has replaced Adam as the new federal head of mankind and so he represents ALL. I have focused on this point in my article, Romans 5:12-21, Out of Control Optimism Part 7, Many = Many = All = All. There is absolutely no Biblical defense to see it any other way. The Calvinist is likewise just as misguided as the Arminian. The Arminian view ultimately deposes God from his sovereign throne, while the Calvinist view undermines the greatest work of God the Son: his incarnation and substitutionary atonement for the sins of all mankind.
ALL for ALL: CHRIST SAVIOR OF ALL
Likewise there are few Universalists, sometimes known as Restorationists. Someone once suggested that the majority of unbelievers are Universalists. However, the truth is that the majority of unbelievers are Arminian or Calvinist in theology. If they believe God exists at all, they think he is a good guy that will save those who make the grade or those who choose God with their supposed free will. They believe that everyone has the ability to choose to trust Jesus and live a good life. Since they imagine themselves better than Hitler and other evil people they hope to meet the condition of being "good enough" and pass the test. Or if they realize that they failed the test, they somehow imagine that they are the subset of students given the gracious gift of a passing grade while the rest are flunked.
Furthermore, the few Universalist theologians that do exist are not unified, each interpreting the Scripture in different ways as summarized in the Wikipedia article "Christian Universalism." This article categorizes Universalists as evangelical, charismatic, and liberal, each answering the difficult question of Hell and eternal damnation in different ways. For example, many Universalists explain away Hell suggesting that Luke 16:19-31 is merely a parable, which we have already concluded is unbiblical.
Three Christian Universalists that have caught my attention are Madeleine L'Engle, John Wesley Hanson, and Abraham Lincoln. L'Engle had a simple confidence that the grace of God would somehow answer our unanswered questions in the end and be victorious for all mankind. Sadly she was rejected by mainstream Christianity for her beliefs. (As an aside, she has always made an impression on me ever since my 6th grade atheist teacher read A Wrinkle in Time out loud to the class.) Hanson on the other hand is a well thought out evangelical Universalist theologian, most noted for his classic work, The Greek Word Aion - Aionios Translated Everlasting - Eternal in the Holy Bible Shown to Denote Limited Duration. This classic work is available for free from the U.S. Library of Congress website and also from my website. He was likewise rejected by "orthodox" Christianity. Dr. Heleen Keizer has also written a dissertation proving the same titled, Life, Time, Entirety - A Study of Aion in Greek Literature and Philosophy, the Septuagint and Philo. You can read her 315 page dissertation online or an abstract of her conclusions from my website. Finally, Abraham Lincoln is known and respected by all, yet few know that he also held to Christian Universalism.
Sadly one can believe variations of Arminianism, Calvinism, or even try to stand on the mystery in the middle and be accepted in most churches today -- as long as you believe that the majority of mankind will be eternally damned to the Lake of Fire. This is a most curious and even pitiable indictment of present day orthodoxy. Arminianism and Calvinism vehemently oppose each other, yet adherents could happily attend almost any church while holding either view as long as they agree that most of mankind is eternally damned. How can Christian love of the truth withstand this terrible inconsistency yet be unwilling to consider that Jesus Christ did ALL for ALL mankind?
I have proved that Arminianism fails to worship God for his sovereignty. I have also proved that Calvinism fails to worship Christ for his incarnation and vicarious atonement. So 1) is there any solid Biblical defense for the position that Christ will save even the unbelieving men he calls "not my sheep?" 2) Is it truly possible that the unbelieving could be punished in Hades, yet be extracted safely and spared from the Lake of Fire? 3) Does Universalism properly warn the unbelieving of their certain punishment after death?
The answers to these three questions are yes, yes, and yes!
1) YES, there is ample Biblical defense to show that Jesus' label of "not my sheep" does not mean that these people are not elect. As already explained, Hosea 2:23 makes it clear that the same unbelieving people called "not my people" are then called "my people" when they have repented and trusted God. Another clear passage that is also connected to our Romans 11:32 interpretation is Romans 11:28 (WEB), "Concerning the Good News, they are enemies for your sake. But concerning the election, they are beloved for the father's sake."
So even though the unbelieving are considered enemies for their rejection of the gospel, they are still loved on account of election. They are the rebellious elect. Isaiah 53:6 reminds us that we, all mankind that is, are sheep gone astray.
2) YES, there is ample Biblical defense to show that Hades is emptied at the Great White Throne judgment as already explained in Revelation 20:13-14. When the Sheep and Goats stand before King Jesus, redeemed mankind on the right will be finally saved, even to the surprise of the newly believing humans (Matthew 25:37-39), while the fallen angels on the left are banished to the Lake of Fire for The Ages of The Ages. You may say that this is impossible because the New Testament consistently warns unbelieving humans of their eternal punishment. I hope to speak to that in the pages ahead.
3) YES, Biblical Universalism certainly does warn the unbelieving. Biblical Universalism states quite plainly that the sins of both believing and unbelieving mankind are forgiven based solely on the work of Christ and that nothing can ever separate us from the unconditional love of Christ. However, if unbelievers do not repent from their self-righteousness and trust that Christ has already paid for their sins and the sins of all mankind apart from all conditions, then they will most certainly be punished for the duration in the fires of Hades.