Rob Bell, in his book, Love Wins, and others have recently challenged the notion that hell is eternally populated with those who in life did not recieve Christ as Savior.
Those on the conservative end of the church spectrum are objecting to Bell and the others in the strongest terms.
I never cared about getting my theology settled on heaven and hell and almost never think about either. The same is true for me about the End Times and other issues that are not clear that the church has not agreed on and that I can do nothing about anyway.
What does interest me about the hell issue is what the early church Fathers taught on it. The teachers of the first four hundred years of the church believed in UNIVERSAL RESTORATION. They taught that God's love was so perfect and the resurrection of Christ so powerful and inclusive that in time or eternity, God's love and power would win out in every person's life.
The early church Fathers got a lot right that we have lost over time. Maybe UNIVERSAL SALVATION is one of them. That said, we don't have to believe as they did, but we can.
The following may make their view of the cosmic significance of Christ easier to consider.
First of all, they didn't simply make up their optimistic view. They based it on their reading of Scripture. For instance:
In John 23:34, Jesus says he will draw all people to himself.
In John 12:47, Jesus says he did not come to judge the world but to save it.
In Romans 11, Paul says God will have mercy on all.
In Romans 14:11, Paul says in the end every knee will bow before God and every tongue confess God.
There are dozens of verses like these.
The Fathers and the Bible give us permission to hope for UNIVERSAL RESTORATION, so why not?
Think about the vineyard workers who were all paid the same. Then think about those who were offended because this isn't fair (Matt. 2).
Or think about the prodigal's welcome hom (Luke 15). Who today is the elder brother who becomes upset because the big sinner gets a banquet instead of a beating?
If we are fortunate enough to know Jesus and therefore, know we are forgiven and included, why not desire the same for everyone else? Most of the people who ever lived have never heard his Name. What about them?
We can and may believe that since God brought good out of the worst evil ever (the execution of his Son), he might bring good out of lesser evils.
It may be that love wins.
We can hope.