A friend emailed the following suggestion for the old preacher’s response:.
“Author David Brumfield defends the postmortem view, that God continues to evangelize to people after they die (1 Chron.16:34; Isa. 9:2; Matt. 12:32; Rom. 8:35-39; Eph. 4:8,9; 1 Pet. 3:18-20; 4:6). The main problem with the traditional view—and one that has never been satisfactorily addressed—is how can one “accept Christ” if they have never heard of Christ or were unable to understand the message (i.e., too young, mentally handicapped, etc.)”.
Here are the Scriptures to which Brumfield refers . . .
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever” (1 Chronicles 16:34).
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2).
“Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:32).
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).
“This is why it says: ‘When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.’ (What does ‘he ascended’ mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?” (Ephesians 4:8,9).
“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water . . . “ (1 Peter 3:18-20).
“For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit” (1 Peter 4:6).
Brumfield is a Christian Universalist. Universalism, is “a school of Christian theology based on the doctrine of universal reconciliation–the view that all human beings will ultimately be ‘saved’ and restored to a right relationship with God” (quote from Wikipedia). Universalism was founded by John Murray and made contemporary in a recent book by Rob Bell, Love Wins (https://www.challies.com/book-reviews/love-wins-a-review-of-rob-bells-new-book/),
Christian Universalism shares major doctrines with historic Christianity, but with at least two exceptions. One, if hell exists (there’s disagreement), it’s remedial and temporary. Two, as stated above, all humans will be saved.
If I understand it, Brumfield is arguing that these cited Scriptures teach a love of God that saves beyond the grave. The argument is reinforced by Christ preaching “to the spirits in prison”—which, of course, says nothing about them being saved. Furthermore, the God’s-love Scriptures, in context, are addressed to believers, assuring them of God’s steadfast love. To make them apply to unbelievers beyond the grave is a bridge too far.
Here’s one example. In Romans 8:1 Paul writes, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus . . . “ Read through the rest of the chapter (which I’ll not take space to quote here) and it’s obvious that the admonitions and promises are addressed to those “in Christ Jesus” by faith. So Brumfield’s use of Romans 8:35-39 does not apply to his premise.
Universalist Founder John Murray wrote, “In regard to Jesus, he taught that in him God became the Son for ‘God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost are no more than different exhibitions of the self-same, existent, omnipresent Being.’ He taught that all men would be ultimately saved through the sacrifice of Christ, the basis for this being the union of all men in Christ, just as they were united with Adam, and therefore partaking of the benefits of his sacrifice.”
Murray seems to deny the doctrine of the Trinity (three Persons in One, not merely “different exhibitions of the self-same, existent, omnipresent Being”). But more to our purposes, he claims that “He (?) taught that all men would be ultimately saved through the sacrifice of Christ . . . ” and that “the basis for this [is] the union of all men in Christ, just as they were united with Adam . . . “. Romans 5 does teach all humans united with Adam. But only believers in Christ are united in Christ.
If we take Scripture seriously, we have to reckon with Jesus’ statements that some people will go to hell . . .
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (Matthew 23:33).
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:46).
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36).
Passages like this contradict a remedial hell and the idea that all will ultimately be saved. In Matthew 25:46 above, Jesus says punishment will be “eternal”.
Brumfield suggests that the “traditional” view has never been satisfactorily addressed. I think he means “to his liking.” Take the next two links for instance. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/what-happens-to-those-who-never-hear-gospel/
I think the arguments above are sufficient to show that so-called Christian Universalism contradicts Scripture and is at odds with historic Christianity, no matter what it claims to the contrary.
Thank you, my friend, for raising this issue. While it may seem irrelevant to many of us, anything that helps confirm biblical truth is always welcome.