I would like to explain why I don't believe in universalism.
Actually, the reason is pretty simple.
I don't like -isms.
I don't believe in -isms.
-Isms are ideological systems and I struggle with those. Especially metaphysical systems.
In the case of "universalism" I struggle with the metaphysical specificity you have to articulate about how God--given all the things that have to get juggled, from human sin, free will, evil, God's justice, God's holiness, hell, the biblical text, the atonement, time, sanctification vs. justification and on and on and on--will reconcile all things in Christ. If believing in universal reconciliation means believing in a specific theological vision--an -ism--that explains how all this stuff is going to get worked out then, well, I'm out. I don't believe in that.
To be clear, I love thinking about and creating those theological systems, how this or that issue or tension or biblical text "fits together" in a vision of universal reconciliation. I think such system building and system testing is a part of what it means to say that that faith is seeking understanding. It also helps us compare and contrast the reasonableness and coherence of different systems.
In short, I think creating these systems, these theological -isms, is both valuable and important. But I don't believe in these systems. The systems are tools and hypotheses. That is all.
Consider universalism. There isn't a single view--universalism. There are all kinds of views. There are universalisms. I don't believe in universalism because I can't tell you which of all these different views is the right view. I have my opinions of course, but I'm not particularly interested in determining in any final way which system is the "correct" system. I don't know how you could even determine such a thing.
So what do I believe in?
I believe God is love. That is what I believe. "God is love" is axiomatic to my thinking. A theological non-negotiable.
And what I've noticed is that when you are truly non-negotiable on this point and when you try to express God's love eschatologically what you end up articulating is something that earns the label "universalism."
If someone asks me about specifics about how this or that is going to work out or fit together in the end I'll start talking about theories, ideas and systems showing how all those things might be reconciled. For example, I have a system about how to reconcile God's wrath and eternal punishment with my axiomatic conviction that God is love. That system would earn the label "universalism." But I'm not sure my system is right. God might work it out some other way. In fact, I'm pretty sure God will work it out in some other way.
So I don't believe in the -ism. I believe that God is love and I refuse to negotiate on that point. That's about it. And while there are lots of theories about how God's love is expressed eschatologically I can't tell you which of those is right or wrong. So I hold the -isms very, very lightly.
Like I said, I don't believe in universalism.
But I do I believe that all things will be reconciled to God in Christ.
I believe that God is love.