I am not a theologian. The following is a reflection prompted by Rod Dreher’s post: ” Christian Universalism Is The New Orthodoxy.”
We live in a politically correct society that eschews principled positions and straight talk. Americans celebrate diversity and have made accommodation a fundamental aspect of civic/social life.
I’m not judging this; I’m merely saying that political correctness has dominated the post-modern worldview.
It’s also affected how American Christians react/respond to hell. Traditionally, Christians said that hell was where sinners went. If one didn’t confess sin and accept Jesus Christ as personal savior, one was condemned to an afterlife of hell.
But this view is no longer accepted by a majority of self-identified believers. Accommodationism and diversity, which shape our civic life, has altered the public’s faith. Specifically, most American Christians now proclaim they’re universalists, meaning they believe all paths to God are equally valid, everyone will receive salvation and all will go to heaven.
Rod Dreher highlights Sherry Weddell of the Catherine of Siena Institute, an organization designed to make lay parishioners into apostles for Christ. Weddell estimates that 95% of the Roman Catholics she encounters are “functional universalists” unconcerned about personal salvation. This, she says, makes her fellow Roman Catholics modern-day Pelagians.
Pelagianism was a 4th century heresy which proclaimed that man can be saved without God’s grace and without Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. They didn’t believe in original sin, or the fall of man. They also maintained that man had the ability to become righteous and gain salvation on his own merit.
But man can’t gain his own salvation. If he tries, he will end up in hell. That was/is the orthodox view.
Now the question of who’s in hell is a tricky one. No one knows who’s exactly there. But orthodoxy teaches that there’s a hell and some of the dead will spend eternity there.
That’s a dogmatic position, for sure. Perhaps that’s why so many struggle to accept it wholeheartedly. We don’t want to contemplate our friends from non-Christian faiths spending the afterlife there. How can faithful observers from other traditions be punished because they don’t accept Jesus as Lord of all? These pious non-Christians followed their teachings and lived the good life, didn’t they?
Educators have contributed to believers’ doubt too. Public education has taught us to question dogma and absolutes. That makes publicly educated believers ask: Are non-Christians condemned to hell in perpetuity? Why can’t they just spend some time in purgatory and then ascend to heaven?
These thoughts have contributed to moral relativism and the diversity/accommodation ideal both in civic and religious life. All cultures/religions are unique. They each have something significant to contribute. Hierarchical values are inherently subjective.
That’s the message pounded into public school children from pre-K through graduate school.
No wonder adults now accept relativism as truth. These ideas have consequences. Who’s to say which individual is/isn’t going to hell?
Such thinking has led to the acceptance of universalism. It’s become, in Dreher’s words, the emerging orthodoxy.
 Notice how political correctness alters one tone. I think the relativists are wrong, but don’t say so explicitly in the text.
 Forgive this very general assertion.
 My political incorrectness has emerged.
 As Richard Weaver warned; Weaver chronicled the West’s abandonment of absolutes and its elevation of nominalism (I prefer the term relativism) to William of Ockham in the 13th century. C.S. Lewis had a similar critique of relativism in The Abolition of Man.