Yoder on Universalism

“Just as the doctrine of creation affirms that God made us free and the doctrine of redemption says that this freedom of sin was what led agape to the cross, the doctrine of hell lets sin free, finally and irrevocably, to choose separation from God. Only by respecting this freedom to the bitter end can love give meaning to history. Any universalism that would seek, in the intention of magnifying redemption, to deny the unrepentant sinner the liberty to refuse God’s grace would in reality deny that human choice has any meaning at all.”

John Howard Yoder, The Royal Priesthood, pp 151

4 thoughts on “Yoder on Universalism

  1. John Howard Yoder – in his lecture on “Christ as King: Last Things” avoids commenting on “well intended pagans who never heard the Jesus story, or sub-normal minds, or infants” but he does made a big deal of “the bindingness of historical choice”…”The only reason for hell is that people persist in a rebellion for which there is no good reason. It is not our business to argue it, to use it as an evangelistic tool, or to prove it to people. It is just the seriousness of being human that the choices that you make are final choices, permanent choices, and God will respect that.”


  2. Yes, I find the whole debate about “those who haven’t heard” horribly, horribly abstract. I approach the question far more pragmatically. I say, “If you have a concern about someone who hasn’t heard, tell them! Then you’ve resolved the philosophical dilemma.”
    At which point I find that the real, hidden dilemma is often something far closer to home. Concerns about people whom HAVE heard but haven’t listened. Concerns about people whom they care about, whom they don’t want to imagine as facing any fallout from faithlessness. This, however, is something that the “those who haven’t heard” debate can do nothing to resolve. This is where we must grapple with “the bindingness of historical choice.”
    In so far as I must engage in abstract debates though, over “those whom haven’t heard or are not incapable of hearing”, in this I am unapologetically Christocentric. The living God revealed through Jesus does not strike me as a cruel or capricious God. On the contrary, his use of children (who were not capable of understanding much) and pagans (who had not heard much) as examples of faith suggests to me that that the faith asked of the simple and ignorant is not beyond them and we need to be very careful before drawing some cruel or capricious conclusions about God. I don’t know the complete answer, but I do know whatever God wills will be true and good. What I can’t influence I leave to God, the question is: what do I do with that which is within my influence?


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