I have written the post Everyone Is Going to Heaven , the book The Biblical Case for Everyone Going to Heaven, and the series of 21 Essays on the Implications of Everyone Going to Heaven. The traditional evangelical Christian argument is, of course, that some go to heaven and some go to hell (perhaps not coincidentally, the evangelicals think they will comprise the former group and will be absent from the latter).
One of the charges thrown at me by some evangelicals is that I am a universalist. Since universalism is considered heretical by evangelical standards, this charge, in the mind of the one making it, usually obviates the need for any further discussion. However, some evangelicals are a little more open-minded. For example, consider Annoyed Pinoy who interacted with me in this post at Triablogue. (You can also see other more extended dialogues I’ve had with him on other subjects here, here, and here.)
At a particular point in the interaction, Annoyed Pinoy said:
“Btw, while there are various versions of universalism/apokatastasis (especially in recent times) all of them, to some degree or another encounter the kinds of problems revealed by books like Universalism Not of the Bible (click here).”
I followed your link and took a look at this book by N.D. George. He says in the preface that he was familiar with universalists’ teachings having studied them for twenty years, and prior to that having been an avid reader of their materials for two years before becoming a believer in Christ. I, however, am not familiar with universalists’ teachings. I have never studied them, nor spent time in universalist circles. I still don’t. I came to my conviction that everyone goes to heaven entirely apart from them.
When I decided to search the scriptures for the truth of the matter, I started from the standard evangelical position (which was the only position I knew in any detail, the position I held, and the position I taught others). I set out with a concordance to study all that the Bible had to teach about hell. I found that if you searched on “hell” you’d find four different words that were sometimes translated as “hell” in the King James Bible. Over half of those occurrences were Sheol (Hebrew). I could see further that Hades (Greek) was a good translation of Sheol, but that Gehenna (Greek, but with Hebrew antecedent “Ben-Hinnom”) was something different. Both Sheol and Ben-Hinnom are found in the Hebrew Bible but are never used interchangeably. I also looked to other English translations, mainly the New American Standard Bible. It took me considerable time to sort out all occurrences of the word involved, but you see the outcome in the book I wrote, to which I referred you: The Biblical Case for Everyone Going to Heaven.
The subtitle of the N.D. George book is in part “An Examination of More Than One Hundred and Twenty Texts of Scriptures in Controversy Between Evangelical Christians and Universalists.” At 420 pages, the book obviously intends to fully cover the subject. George has a Scripture Index at the back of the book which catalogs each one of these passages. Astoundingly, there is not a single passage containing “Sheol” among them. Not one! In fact, a Google search of the book indicates that “Sheol” occurs only once, and then in a fleeting and unrevealing mention near the back of the book. There are several points that can be drawn from this startling omission:
1. George was unaware of my argument, and therefore cannot be offering a counterargument to it.
2. While his book presents itself more a condemnation of universalism than a defense of particularism, it does not commend his doctrine that he fails to address the Hebrew conception of afterlife.
3. Similarly, I have had many evangelicals tell me that they hold to the traditional doctrine of hell in the afterlife because they have searched the Scriptures themselves and found it to be so. However, when they subsequently indicate no more than a passing acquaintance with the term Sheol I know that they have ignored the Old Testament’s teaching on afterlife and therefore do not understood what the New Testament was saying about it. In other words, such people are relying on tradition more than Scripture no matter how much they deny it to me or to themselves.
If the traditional evangelical doctrine of hell were biblical it would incorporate the Old Testament’s teaching of Sheol (65 occurrences, not counting its appearances in the New Testament as Hades), and be founded upon it. Any teaching which ignores over three-fourths of the Bible cannot be considered biblical.
Nevertheless, I do not advocate universalism. I advocate Jesus Christ our Lord.