Evangelicals and Universalism
Enlarged June 27, 2023 (first published October 1, 2013)
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
In an open letter to a newspaper editor, Pope Francis says that sincere atheists will be accepted by God. Writing to Eugenio Scalfari, founder of La Repubblica, the pope said: “You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying--and this is the fundamental thing--that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience” (“Pope Francis Assures Atheists,” The Independent, UK, Sept. 11, 2013).

This statement made big news, but there is nothing here that evangelicals have not been saying for decades. In fact, this is yet another way in which Roman Catholics and evangelicals are “coming together.” It is another aspect of the building of the end-time, one-world “church.”

A 1996 book by Zondervan Publishing House featured the writings of various theologians on the subject of whether or not there is salvation in pagan religions. The book,
More Than One Way? is subtitled "four views on salvation in a pluralistic world."

Three of these views promote some form of inclusivism or universalism. The authors of the views are John Hick, Clark Pinnock, Alister McGrath, R. Douglas Geivett, and W. Gary Phillips. The book is edited by Dennis Okholm and Timothy Phillips, associate professors of theology at Wheaton College. The various views are divided into four groups: 1) Normative Pluralism, 2) Inclusivism, 3) Agnosticism regarding those who have not heard the Gospel, and 4) Exclusivism - salvation only through personal faith in Christ.

Scholarly evangelicalism has long refused to see doctrine in terms of black and white, right and wrong, truth and heresy. The emerging church is just the most recent twist in evangelicalism’s apostasy.

Scholarly evangelicals typically see things in terms of various shades of gray. Theology is more an intellectual pastime than a matter of life and death, heaven and hell. The evangelical claims that the Bible is his sole authority, but in practice he has no absolute authority, because he is willing to entertain heretical interpretations of Scripture as acceptable “models.”

The editors of
More Than One Way noted that a large percentage of students in evangelical colleges no longer believe that those outside of Jesus Christ are lost.

"The new willingness to subject revelation to contemporary sensibilities has eroded the theological underpinnings for a missionary faith. Hunter's questionnaire found that only two-thirds of the students in evangelical colleges believe that the sole hope for heaven is through a personal faith in Jesus Christ. Increasingly students in Christian colleges are affronted when hearing the traditional claim that salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone" (Editors,
More Than One Way, p. 11).


Consider some excerpts from Clark Pinnock's statements:

"When I was a young believer in the 1950s, C.S. Lewis helped me understand the relationship between Christianity and other religions in an inclusivist way. Because I trusted him as an orthodox thinker, I was open to hear him say that he could detect God's presence among other faiths and that he believed people could be saved in other religions because God was at work among them. His view was wonderfully summed up for me in that incident in
The Last Battle, the last volume of the Narnia cycle, where the pagan soldier Emeth learns to his surprise that Aslan [the lion which represents Jesus Christ] regards his worship of Tash as directed to himself. Anyone who appreciates that incident is on his or her way to inclusivist thinking.

"The other influence was Sir Norman Anderson, a scholar of Islamic law and a longtime leader in the InterVarsity Fellowship in Great Britain. In 1970, he wrote a book called
Christianity and Comparative Religion, which in 1984 was revised and retitled Christianity and World Religions. Anderson taught that people could be saved while being members of other faiths, much the way people were saved in Old Testament times apart from any Christian confession. Both these scholars helped me as a young student avoid the narrow outlook toward other faiths that was otherwise characteristic of evangelicalism" (More Than One Way, p. 107).

"Moving from the parochial and personal to the world stage, the key historical influence for inclusivism is undoubtedly the work of the Second Vatican Council in its articulation of this teaching. The spirit of the whole Council was one of openness to the world and a seeking after the unity of humanity. ... Its standpoint was to view religions as arising from the spiritual dimension of created life and to seek the hidden presence of God in that sphere. ... As an inclusivist, I acknowledge my debt to the Catholic Church for its leadership in this regard, and, as an evangelical, I am concerned that the model be shown to be congruent with the Scriptures. In agreement with the Council, I want the model to be not only theologically coherent, but also exegetically well founded" (
More Than One Way, pp. 108,109).

"God has been at work saving human beings before Jesus was born and does so where Jesus has not been named. ... Faith in Jesus as the Savior of the world leaves room for us to be open and generous to other religious traditions. Scripture encourages us to see the church not so much as the ark, outside of which there is no hope of salvation, but as the vanguard of those who have experienced the fullness of God's grace made available to all people in Jesus Christ. ... I welcome the Saiva Siddhanta literature of Hinduism, which celebrates a personal God of love, and the emphasis on grace that I see in the Japanese Shin-Shu Amida sect. I also respect the Buddha as a righteous man (Matt. 10:41) and Mohammed as a prophet figure in the style of the Old Testament" (
More Than One Way, pp. 110-111).

This is heresy. Pinnock admits that he has been influenced by C.S. Lewis and Roman Catholic Vatican II Council. It is interesting to see how deeply this “evangelical” has drunk from the fountain of Catholicism.


Rob Bell is another example of “evangelicals” who are teaching a form of universalism. In a 2005 interview with Beliefnet, Bell said “the , stop thinking about everybody primarily in categories of in or out, saved or not, believer or nonbeliever.” In his influential book
Velvet Elvis, which is popular with many Southern Baptists, Bell described a wedding that he conducted for two pagan unbelievers who told him that “they didn’t want any Jesus or God or Bible or religion to be talked about,” but they did want him to “make it really spiritual” (p. 76). Bell agreed with this ridiculous request and said that his pagan friends “are resonating with Jesus, whether they acknowledge it or not” (p. 92).

In his 2011 book Love Wins, Bell makes a case for universalism, though he might have left room for
some folk to wind up for a while in some type of hell. Consider two of many quotes we could offer as evidence:

“This insistence that God will be united and reconciled with all people is a theme the writers and prophets return to again and again. ... The God that Jesus teaches us about doesn’t give up until everything that was lost is found. This God simply doesn’t give up. Ever” (
Love Wins, Kindle location 1259-1287).

“The love of God will melt every hard heart, and even the most ‘depraved sinners’ will eventually give up their resistance and turn to God. And so, beginning with the early church, there is a long tradition of Christians who believe that God will ultimately restore everything and everybody” (
Love Wins, location 1339-1365).

Bell even claims that Sodom and Gomorrah will be restored (location 1057-1071, 1071-1082).

Bell has nothing but ridicule for the gospel that Jesus died for man’s sins and that only those who repent and believe will be saved.

“What happens when a fifteen-year-old atheist dies? Was there a three-year window when he could have made a decision to change his eternal destiny? Did he miss his chance? ... What exactly would have had to happen in that three-year window to change his future? ... Some believe he would have had to say a specific prayer. Christians don’t agree on exactly what this prayer is, but for many the essential idea is that the only way to get into heaven is to pray at some point in your life, asking God to forgive you and telling God that you accept Jesus, you believe Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for your sins, and you want to go to heaven when you die. Some call this ‘accepting Christ,’ others all it the ‘sinner’s prayer,’ and still others call it ‘getting saved,’ being ‘born again,’ or being ‘converted’” (
Love Wins, location 129-143).

Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Theological Seminary, told USA Today that “Rob Bell’s Love Wins is a fine book and that I basically agree with his theology” (“The Orthodoxy of Rob Bell,” Christian Post, Mar. 20, 2011). This tells us just how terribly far Fuller Seminary has fallen from its roots in Charles Fuller’s “only through the blood” evangelistic ministry. Mouw agrees with Bell that it is wrong to say, “Accept Jesus right now, because if ten minutes from now you die without accepting this offer God will punish you forever in the fires of hell.” Mouw comments, “What kind of God are we presenting to the person?” The answer is the God of the Bible and the God that was preached by the founders of Fuller Theological Seminary. It is Bell and Mouw who have the new god. Mouw says that after a rabbi friend of his died, he “held out the hope that when he saw Jesus he would acknowledge that it was Him all along, and that Jesus would welcome him into the heavenly realm.” I’ve never read anything like that in the Bible, but C.S. Lewis taught this very thing. Mouw says that those who question Mother Teresa’s salvation just because she believed a false gospel should be ashamed of themselves. Mouw implies that Bell’s critics just want to keep people out of heaven, which is patently ridiculous and slanderous. Mouw would have us believe that he is more compassionate than Jesus, who stated very bluntly, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5).

Both Bell and Mouw complain about their “critics,” but they don’t draw back from lashing out pretty fiercely at “fundamentalists.” Bell calls hellfire preaching “lethal,” “toxic,” “unloving,” “creepy,” a “cheap view of God.” No judgmental criticism there! Nothing but compassionate, tolerant dialogue!


Some “conservative” evangelicals criticized Rob Bell. John Piper tweeted, “Good bye, Rob Bell.” Albert Mohler, Jr. of Southern Baptist Seminary described Bell’s view as “Velvet hell.” But why haven’t these men criticized Billy Graham?

For decades he said that it is possible for someone to be saved without personal faith in Jesus Christ, but there has been no outcry from evangelicalism, including from Graham’s own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention.

In an interview with
McCall’s magazine, January 1978, entitled “I Can’t Play God Any More,” Graham said: “I used to believe that pagans in far-off countries were lost—were going to hell—if they did not have the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached to them. I no longer believe that. … I believe that there are other ways of recognizing the existence of God—through nature, for instance—and plenty of other opportunities, therefore, of saying ‘yes’ to God.” In 1985, Graham affirmed his belief that those outside of Christ might be saved. Los Angeles reporter David Colker asked Graham: “What about people of other faiths who live good lives but don’t profess a belief in Christ?” Graham replied, “I’m going to leave that to the Lord. He’ll decide that” (Los Angeles Herald Examiner, July 22, 1985). In 1993, Graham repeated this doctrine in an interview with David Frost. “And I think there is that hunger for God and people are living as best they know how according to the light that they have. Well, I think they’re in a separate category than people like Hitler and people who have just defied God, and shaken their fists at God. … I would say that God, being a God of mercy, we have to rest it right there, and say that God is a God of mercy and love, and how it happens, we don’t know” (The Charlotte Observer, Feb. 16, 1993). In an interview with Robert Schuller in May 1997, Graham again said that he believes people in other religions can be saved without consciously believing in Jesus Christ. “[God’s] calling people out of the world for His name, WHETHER THEY COME FROM THE MUSLIM WORLD, OR THE BUDDHIST WORLD, OR THE CHRISTIAN WORLD OR THE NON-BELIEVING WORLD, THEY ARE MEMBERS OF THE BODY OF CHRIST BECAUSE THEY'VE BEEN CALLED BY GOD. THEY MAY NOT EVEN KNOW THE NAME OF JESUS but they know in their hearts that they need something that they don't have, and they turn to the only light that they have, and I think that they are saved, and that they're going to be with us in heaven” (television interview of Billy Graham by Robert Schuller, broadcast in southern California, Saturday, May 31, 1997).


C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) has been called a “Superstar” by
Christianity Today. A 1998 CT poll rated Lewis the most influential evangelical writer, and in light of the wretched spiritual-doctrinal-moral condition of “evangelicalism” today, that is a very telling statistic and certainly no praise for C.S. Lewis.

One of the ways that Lewis has influenced evangelicalism is in the fundamental issues of hell and the exclusiveness of salvation through the name of Christ. Lewis said that it would not be very wrong to pray to Apollo, because to do so would be to “address Christ
sub specie Apollonius” (C.S. Lewis to Chad Walsh, May 23, 1960, cited from George Sayer, Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis, 1994, p. 378).

Lewis claimed that sincere followers of pagan religions can be saved without personal faith in Jesus Christ (C.S. Lewis,
Mere Christianity, HarperSanFrancisco edition, 2001, pp. 64, 208, 209). In the popular Chronicles of Narnia series, which has influenced countless children, Lewis taught that those who sincerely serve the devil (called Tash) are actually serving Christ (Aslan) and will eventually be accepted by God. “But I said, ‘Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash.’ He answered, ‘Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me.’ ... Therefore, if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him’” (The Last Battle, chapter 15, “Further Up and Further In”).

Lewis also denied the finality of one’s destiny at death. He taught the possibility of repentance beyond this life. This is the theme of
The Great Divorce. “Is judgment not final? Is there really a way out of Hell into Heaven? ‘It depends on the way ye’re using the words. If they leave that grey town behind it will not have been hell. To any that leaves it, it is Purgatory. And perhaps ye had better not call this country Heaven. Not Deep Heaven, ye understand’” (The Great Divorce).

In this book, Lewis taught that questions such as the finality of men’s destiny and purgatory and eternal destinies cannot be understood in this present life and we should not fret about them.

“Ye can know nothing of the end of all things, or nothing expressible in those terms. It may be, as the Lord said to the Lady Julian, that all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well. But it’s ill talking of such questions. ‘Because they are too terrible, Sir?’ ‘No. Because all answers deceive” (The Great Divorce, Kindle location 140-150).

In light of these views, it is not surprising that Lewis has been cited as a major influence by evangelicals who are soft on hell and near-universalists.

Clark Pinnock said, “When I was a young believer in the 1950s, C.S. Lewis helped me understand the relationship between Christianity and other religions in an inclusivist way” (
More Than One Way? Zondervan, 1996, p. 107).

Richard Mouw says, “If I were given the assignment of writing a careful theological essay on ‘The Eschatology of Rob Bell,’ I would begin by laying out the basics of C.S. Lewis’s perspective on heaven and hell” (“The Orthodoxy of Rob Bell,”
Christian Post, March 20, 2011).

In the acknowledgements section of
Love Wins, Rob Bell writes, “... to my parents, Rob and Helen, for suggesting when I was in high school that I read C.S. Lewis.” Beware of C.S. Lewis. That he is loved with equal fervor by “conservative evangelicals,” hell-denying emergents, Christian rockers, Roman Catholics, Mormons, and even some atheists is a fact that speaks volumes to those who have ears to hear.

There is really nothing that Rob Bell is teaching today that was not first taught by C.S. Lewis.


Ephesians chapter 2 leaves no doubt about the condition of those outside of Jesus Christ.

“And you
hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. ... That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:1-3,12,13).

This is a description of every individual who has not been made alive in Christ. He is --

1. Spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1)
2. Under Satan’s control (Eph. 2:2)
3. Children of disobedience (Eph. 2:2)
4. Dominated by the flesh (Eph. 2:3)
5. Children of wrath (Eph. 2:3)
6. Without Christ (Eph. 2:12)
7. Aliens and strangers from God’s covenants (Eph. 2:12)
8. Having no hope (Eph. 2:12)
9. Without God (Eph. 2:12)
10. Far off from God (Eph. 2:13)

Nowhere does Scripture teach that those outside of Jesus Christ can be saved apart from the knowledge of the Gospel and personal repentance and faith.

This is what has motivated genuine Christian missionary enterprises throughout the centuries. Paul preached Christ to the heathen because he believed they were lost and on their way to eternal hell. He believed that the gospel of Jesus Christ alone is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).

EVERN INCLUSIVE DOCTRINE DENIES WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES ABOUT: (1) Man's lost condition (Rom. 3:10-18; Ephesians 2). (2) The necessity of the new birth (Jn. 3:16). (3) Christ’s warning about hell (e.g., Mk. 9:43-48). (4) The Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15). (5) The necessity of gospel preaching (Mk. 16:15, 16). (6) The statements of Revelation 21:8 and 22:15.

Modernists and many evangelicals mock this position as simplistic and non-intellectual. They are correct. Sound Bible doctrine IS simple in contrast to “intellectualism.” I praise God that it is so, and that a man does not have to be a "scholar" to understand the truth.

Serious biblical research is essential, but “scholarolatry” is damnable.

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