Is Universalism An Implication Of The Notion Of Post-Mortem Evangelism? -- By: R.R. Cook

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 45:2 (NA 1994)
Article: Is Universalism An Implication Of The Notion Of Post-Mortem Evangelism?
Author: R.R. Cook

Is Universalism An Implication Of The Notion Of Post-Mortem Evangelism?

R.R. Cook


As an exercise in philosophical theology rather than biblical exegesis this article probes the rational consistency of the position held by C. Pinnock that both accepts the idea of a post-mortem evangelism which would provide maximum opportunity for each person to turn to God and thus find complete fulfilment and happiness, and yet also contends that nevertheless not everyone will choose to be saved. Through an analysis of why people reject Christ in this life it is concluded that Pinnock is in fact consistent although his arguments need strengthening.

I. Introduction

In his recent book, A Wideness in God’s Mercy, C. Pinnock reiterates his long-held belief in the doctrine of post-mortem evangelism, that is the view that the offer of salvation will be extended beyond the grave, but he emphatically refuses to countenance the doctrine of universal salvation on the ground that it must entail divine determinism.1 Certainly it can be argued that guaranteeing universal compliance to gospel demands would require the transformation of autonomous subjects into manipulated objects. Ironically the resultant creature would not be valuable enough to be worth saving. To quote J. Hick, ‘In forcing man into his kingdom God would have turned the human thou into an it.’2 As a convinced Arminian keen to preserve human freedom Pinnock therefore concludes, ‘God does not purpose to

condemn anyone, but anyone can choose rejection.’3 The purpose of this paper is not to provide a detailed examination of the biblical case either for the possibility of repentance after death or for universalism. I will leave the careful exegesis of intriguing verses like 1 Peter 4:6 (‘The gospel was preached even to the dead, that. . .they might live in the spirit like God’) and Romans 11:32 (‘For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all’) to other scholars. My task is rather to probe the internal consistency of Pinnock’s position in embracing the former while rejecting the latter.

II. The Implications Of Post-Mortem Evangelism

The wider context of Pinnock’s argument is that God loves each of his creatures infinitely so that his wrath should not be interpreted as the rejection arising from his anger but as the frustration of a spurned lover. God’s anger ‘strives to conquer what ...

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