Robin Parry’s major focus, in his book The Evangelical Universalist , is a biblical case for (evangelical belief in) universalism (not the same as pluralism). One of the good points about this book is that Parry ponders what he’s doing — so he lays out what would be needed in order to make a biblical case for universalism.
First, it must be positively supported by Scripture and that means (1) that it can be explicitly taught in Scripture — and he’ll look at texts like Rom 5:18; 1 Cor 15:22; Col 1:20; Phil 2:11 [not enough look at 2 Cor 5:14 but that’s another issue] and/or (2) that it can be reasonably inferred from what is explicitly taught, a very common way our theology has been formed, and (3) that it is consistent with the biblical narrative — and he sketches a classic view: that God’s intent is to redeem all of creation [more of that later]. Furthermore, universalism can only be supported if it does not conflict with what is explicitly taught in Scripture — and he refers to the hell passages like Matt 25:45; 2 Thess 1:6-9; Rev 14:11 and 20:10-15.
There are universalistic sounding passages (no one disputes they “sound” universalistic) and there are hell passages. Big question: Why has the tradition shaped the universalistic sounding passages by the hell passages and not the other way around?
Parry poses three statements from Thomas Talbott that illustrate method issues — namely that Scripture can be brought in to support each but they are not equally affirmed by all:
1. It is God’s redemptive purpose for the world to reconcile all sinners to himself (Arminians, Universalists).
2. It is within God’s power to achieve his redemptive purpose for the world (Calvnists, Universalists).
3. Some sinners will never be reconciled … leading to endless hell or annihilation (Calvnists, Arminians).
The texts that are used to support each proposition are then interpreted by each group in light of the propositions with which they agree and think are more fundamental.