Kevin Miller and Mark Glanville in Hell Debate

If you’ve got a little over an hour to spare, check out this great debate from Kevin Miller (creator of Hellbound? among other things) and Mark Glanville in Abbotsford, BC.

Miller presents 2 basic arguments used to shut down the idea of universalism: human free will and justice. Against the first, he argues that there’s no such thing as complete free will and that God in love can override our free will like a parent to a child. Against the second, he argues that we’re settling for retributive justice instead of restorative justice even though Scripture seems to pretty clear point to God’s desire to restore the world and not just punish people.

Glanville doesn’t really respond to the first, which was disappointing to me because that’s the one that is more important to me and the reason I am not (quite) a universalist. I hope for it. I wouldn’t consider it impossible by any means. I wouldn’t dare suggest that God couldn’t sway everyone to her love in some way that doesn’t compromise the choice necessary in order for love to have meaning. But if forced to pick a side, based purely on observations of humanity, I would say that I think some people will continue to choose against God no matter how much God pursues them.

Glanville instead spends most of the time responding to the second. Very importantly he does not suggest the retributive form of justice and he does agree with Miller that we need to challenge a lot about the traditional concepts of Hell. He does, however, stop at a definition of justice primarily oriented around protection of society. God puts people in Hell because they are too much of a danger to the perfect God-loving society of Heaven. Not unreasonable by any means, but not particularly convincing to me either.

So in summary I think there’s good stuff to be learned from both. I was with Miller the majority of the debate focusing on the kind of justice that God seeks. I wasn’t with him on God overriding our choice to enter into relationship with her. That leaves me hoping for universalism through Jesus but skeptical about whether it is actually true.

P.S. Yes, I used feminine pronouns for God in this post. While I primarily stick to male pronouns for ease of reading, I do that sometimes to make sure we all remember that God is not a man and that man is not inherently closer to God. 

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.

  • Kevin Miller

    Thanks for posting this. I want to challenge you on the free will sticking point though–of course! I’d highly recommend “God’s Final Victory” by philosophers John Kronen and Eric Reitan. They do a very good job of dismantling the free will defense of hell. They also subject their position to pretty sustain criticisms as part of the process.