Jaime Smith offered a brief reflection on the evangelical vortex of universalist speculation. His guiding question in the quote is asking what compels evangelicals to branch off in this direction. Smith readily dismisses close scriptural reasoning as the basis (because any case ‘can be so easily refuted’). The basis for motivation then is a type of overall sensibility about God in which one speaks of their ‘hope’ and ‘imagination’ with regards to the nature of God (and Christ). Smith goes on then to ask if this posture of hope and imagination is warranted to overturn the apparently orthodox doctrine of damnation as well as ‘the narrative thrust of scripture’.
It is the final quote that I want to sit with for a minute. I remember sitting in a class at an evangelical seminary where the professor took great pains and extended time showing the creation motif that is strewn throughout the biblical text. Creation, de-creation, re-creation emerges consistently in the literary forms of the Bible. This of course culminates in the book of Revelation in which there is a return to the garden (though the return, or repetition, is with a difference as it must be and so the return is now to a city). I am also convinced that this is a dominant theme in the biblical narrative and if there is indeed a thrust (or multiple thrusts) in Scripture creation would most certainly be one of them. In any event, I eventually asked the professor that if this indeed was a dominant theme in the Bible (that is the arching back [and forward] to a restored creation) then would that not lead to a doctrine of universalism. I mean there was no hell in the Garden was there? The professor paused for a minute and then said that he could not go in that direction due to other scripture passages. And so the overall mechanical thrust was put at odds with an examination of the cogs that produced the motion. I don’t really mind that this would be case only to say that an evangelical professor who had no interest in producing a doctrine of universalism basically produced one through careful scripture reading, though in the end needed to overturn it due to particulars.
So in some ways I suppose Jaime is right in that good evangelicals must require something more than scriptural motivation because scriptures in themselves will always keep people in bondage and not work in freedom because there is always a particular passage to cause reserve, doubt or ultimately condemnation.