"Why would there be any Christians if this supposedly
false doctrine has been the terrible deterrent you say it
has been for so long? What about Church history full of amazingly
It is undeniable that the Church throughout history has been
a persistent force encompassing myriads of highly devoted
and influential converts. But in light of the power, growth
and reputation the Church possessed in its early days, history
reveals a downward decline in those same aspects since that
time. Rodney Stark in The Rise of Christianity tells
us that the early Church had a 40% growth rate per decade!
While there are many factors that fueled this growth it is
a known fact that even up until the time of Augustine there
were by his own observation, "very many in our day, who
though not denying the Holy Scriptures, do not believe in
endless torments." We believe that this understanding
gave the early Church great power through their own assurance
of God's unfailing love in conjunction with the confidence
of the absolute Lordship of Christ. Consider this thought
by Clemet of Alexandria:
"All men are Christ's, some by
knowing Him, the rest not yet. He is the Savior, not of
some and the rest not. For how is He Savior and Lord, if
not the Savior and Lord of all?"
To enter into the arena of the world (some
literally into "the Arena") with the absolute rock-solid
assurance that they were loved and redeemed by God coupled
with the conviction that the restoration of God was an unstoppable
force destined to conquer, by His love, every man on earth
was the early Church's foundational strength and impetus.
We must admit that the motivation of this mindset had to have
been considerably more potent.
But I will address the part of the question
as to how is it that there are as many Christians as there
are since we accuse this doctrine as being such a hindrance.
In short I believe it is on account of first, the absolute
desperation of the human soul for redemption, and second,
the absolutely breath-taking beauty of Christ. When Jesus
is presented as Savior and God as a loving Father He is irresistible.
The fine print is often eclipsed or forgotten until later
down the road. Very often people are presented with the gospel
without this element ever being mentioned or emphasized. The
person of Jesus is so stunning and so compelling a reality
for the person aware of their own need and bankruptcy of love
that frankly it puts to rest any qualms about issues they
don't "get". At least, for awhile. They
just quote "His ways are not my ways" and trust
in His inherent goodness to work it all out somehow. But I
do not see this as true faith but more of an example of the
human psyche to compartmentalize conflicting data. They need
Jesus more than they need to understand everything about what
they are told about Him, so they come. Once again the gates
of hell have proven not to be able to stand against the working
of the Holy Spirit among His Body. And we praise God for that.
But of course we all know that for every one
"gloriously saved" there have been hundreds who
could not participate in the dishonesty of compartmentalizing
aspects of something so important as their religious convictions.
For them if it's true it must be consistent and it must be
able to fit the reality God formed and placed us in; that
of our God-given sense of love, justice and morality.
So we believe if the unnecessary stumbling block
of an eternal hell is removed, the true and only legitimate
stumbling block can do its healing work of confronting; that
of Christ and him crucified. All other obstacles are man-made
traditions created by "blind guides".
We believe we need to recover the "Restitution
of all things" (Acts 3:21) that equipped the early Church
with the empowerment of both high assurance and the confidence
in an effectual message that pronounced Christ's complete
redemption of and victory over the universe.