Have Other Christians Made this Observation?

Another thoughtful reader suggested...

READER>> I know that you want your book, Optimism Out of Control, to stand on Scripture alone, but I think that it would be helpful to include citations from other Christians over the past 2,000 years who have thought what you are thinking.  It would remove this objection to your book:  "If you're right, then has this gone unnoticed for 2,000 years until Jeff Martin came along?"

ME>> Excellent suggestion.  Thanks.  I had already pointed my reader to other sources in my articles Other-theologians and Book Reviews.  There are many who have held to various forms of Christian and non-Christian Universalism.  Though it is not the conventional understanding, there are noteworthy groups and individuals who have held to Evangelical Universalism, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Universalism.

This article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_reconciliation also adds further to the discussion with this quote, "George Whitfield in a letter to John Wesley says that Peter Boehler, a bishop in the Moravian Church, had privately confessed in a letter that 'all the damned souls would hereafter be brought out of hell.' "  The doctrine that people will be extracted out of Hell as explained in Revelation 20:13 is not well known, but certainly I am not the first to observe it.  John Wesley Hanson's classic 1875 work titled, The Greek Word Aion-Aionios translated Everlasting-Eternal in the Holy Bible Shown to Denote Limited Duration also lists other notable Universalists throughout history.  Modern evangelical movements that identify with this understanding typically do not prefer the label Universalist in order to distance themselves from the Unitarian Universalist movement.  Instead they may prefer the label Restorationist and use rally cries such as The Victorious Gospel and Greater Grace.  Google those words for more information.  Here is also a longer list of evangelical Universalists, though I have not researched the list personally: http://evangelicaluniversalist.com.

One might ask why this understanding is not conventional if it is really true.  Religion is always more popular than grace.  Perhaps professing Christians feel that the available orthodoxies are close enough to the mark that asking further questions about grace is now taboo.  Also Protestantism is so anti-Catholic that the very suggestion that people are extracted out of Hell immediately evokes indignant cries about "working one's way out of purgatory."  Sadly because Catholics and the majority of Protestants think they have been saved by their free will choice of faith, they immediately think that I am saying that those extracted from Hell have a "second chance" to exercise their free will to get back into God's grace.  Hardly.  How could someone who understands grace even make these comments?  If anyone is extracted from punishment in Hell, it is purely by the grace of God alone, the only way that anyone is ever saved in the first place.

So in answer to your question, yes there are others who have shared similar views throughout church history and today.  However, since my work is original and not simply echoing the writings of another, you may not be able to find someone who has added up all the facts exactly as I have.  In fact, because I hold a minority view, my interpretation may land in a miscellaneous bucket along with some very unbiblical views.

Lastly since the gospel does speak foolishness to the unbelieving, it may be difficult to easily quantify this view in written theology.  In fact historians often debate and struggle to precisely state the beliefs of Christians past.  This may be one of the reasons.  Like Christ himself, they proclaimed that he is the savior of all mankind, yet also like Christ they warned the unbelieving that they are not his sheep.  Historians may struggle to efficiently label these faithful ministers of the gospel.  For myself,  though I am confident that Jesus is the savior of all mankind, I still assert to those who reject the grace of Christ in favor of their free will, their "religion," their "limited atonement," and their "tainted faith" that they will spend the duration in Hades.  Furthermore, IF they are not also saved by the gracious choice of Christ and listed in the Lamb's Book of Life, then they will also be eternally damned.  There is no other salvation than the electing grace of Christ.  So neither do I fit neatly into a Universalist camp that neglects the gospel.

So why not believe the good news?  Christ HAS paid for your sin!