Yesterday, I began a three-part series talking with Scot McKnight (check out his popular blog, Jesus Creed, on Beliefnet) about what he sees as the greatest challenge facing evangelicals—Christian universalism. This is the second part of the series.
Margaret: Why do you consider this the biggest challenge facing evangelicals?
McKnight: Christian universalist believe that God will save all so evangelism is no longer necessary and is often considered a form of imperialism or colonialism or at least a form of believing that Christianity is the best or only way.
Christian universalism gradually erodes all significance and urgency for evangelism—in a robust sense that there is a final destiny determined by a response to Christ. It also erodes confidence in the belief in salvation or redemption in Christ. Christianity could become for many little more than a country club gathering that ultimately doesn’t have to do with an eternal destiny. But this does not mean that “eternal destiny” is the only thing that matters; the Bible lays heavy emphasis on the here and now.
Margaret: I understand that the Christian universalism—the idea that everyone will be saved undermines evangelism, but how else does Christian universalism affect one’s faith?
McKnight: It also erodes moral responsibility on the part of Christians. If you’re confident that no matter what you do everyone will be saved it doesn’t take long to think it doesn’t matter what I do. But the warning threat can lead people to a more convicted moral life.
Margaret: What are some tell tale signs Christian universalism is slipping in?
McKnight: I see it in fuzzy lines between religions, soft convictions about the necessity of faith in Christ, unwillingness to draw some lines that Jesus drew, embarrassment of final judgment, and some kind of nervousness of talking about hell.
Margaret: What is the best way to respond?
McKnight: The first thing is that you have to do is gauge your relationship wherever you’re seeing it. If I see it on the Internet, I kind of expect it. If I see it someone I know, I may write a letter or watch what they’re doing more closely before I speak up. If I see it a sermon, small group, or Sunday school, then I may raise questions in an appropriate way. If it’s the pastor, I would schedule a meeting or write a letter or send an email.