Why can’t everyone go to heaven?
Neither God nor anyone else can compel someone’s agreement or love through force . . .
Historic Christian “universalism” insists that all types of people will be saved. But not all people, without exception, will spend eternity with God.
Jesus knew that people have the freedom to reject God’s love and often do. He lamented, “O Jerusalem … how often I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Mt 23:37-39). Jesus’ desire to gather his people recalls the Old Testament image of God sheltering his people under his wings.
From the cross, Jesus’ arms are outstretched to gather up the entire race and reconstitute the universal human family in his embrace. Not everyone, however, will consent to this embrace. God cannot save all persons except by refusing to respect their will. When all opportunities for repentance have passed and all divine and human appeals are exhausted, we are still left with a person who must choose for himself or herself.
To believe that all human beings can be saved by a simple divine decree debases rather than elevates the human person. Think about your efforts to win people over to your love or your cause. Granted, compared to the deity and Dale Carnegie, we all fall short of winning friends and influencing people. But since a person’s will is a holy of holies, no one, not even God, can enter it by force without defiling it.
Neither God nor anyone else can compel someone’s agreement or love through overwhelming force. That would be rape not love, exploitation not cooperation. “Dehumanize the human so we can save him” deserves a place in Orwell’s 1984. It is simply doublespeak. “Hell is one of the eternal guarantees of human freedom, for it admits the right of a free man to cry out non-serviam throughout all eternity,” Archbishop Fulton Sheen once wrote. In Milton’s Paradise Lost, Lucifer would rather revolt against heaven than serve there; at least in Hell he can be king.
British evangelist John Wesley speaks for the vast majority of Christians when he writes that God’s goodness is displayed most clearly “in offering salvation to every creature, actually saving all that consent thereto, and doing for the rest all that infinite wisdom, almighty power and boundless love can do, without forcing them to be saved, which would be to destroy the very nature that he had given them.”
This column is reprinted with permission from “Why Are Catholics So Concerned About Sin?” by Al Kresta, CEO of Ave Maria Communications and host of Kresta in the Afternoon on Ave Maria Radio.