All of the following is intended to fall within a Christic context. The reductio ad absurdum is this:
1. It is God’s will (intention) to save everyone;
2. There is no exogenous power that can defeat God;
3. Not everyone is saved.
It is a reductio ad absurdum because not all three statements can be true without contradiction (though all could be false), assuming I have phrased them well enough..
NOTE: The reality of some condition conventionally called “hell” need not be part of the equation—only the contention that “hell” is a forever perduring state. Both a hell that is non-permanent and annihilationism are alternative possibilities (though the latter does affirm 3., while the former need not).
ALSO: Divine justice, per se, is not necessarily placed in question, though retributive justice (as opposed to reformative/restorative—and hence reconciling—justice) may well be.* Nor is the question of belief versus behavior (or faith versus works) a necessary component. Nor, I think, is Trinitarianism versus Unitarianism.
In other words:
(1) God saves everyone (ultimately);
(2) God fails to save everyone (God’s will is defeated by some exogenous power); OR
(3) God does not really will (desire/intend) to save everyone.
The first is universalism (rejecting proposition 3. in the reductio); the second is Arminianism (rejecting proposition 2.); the third is Augustinianism—and, in Protestantism, Calvinism—(rejecting proposition 1.).
If one is committed to any one of the three positions, then one can certainly find interpretations of Scripture in support. The question is what hermeneutical principles guide one in the process. There are also textual issues—such as what exactly this Greek word means here or there.
One reason that some hermeneutical guides are important is because otherwise someone could just string texts together willy-nilly, or do some sort of crude verse-count—that would be rather like giving credit for how many mimeographs of a single position that one can run off. (Someone did just that on here once by listing a whole string of Pauline quotes, claiming the simple number of quotes demonstrated that the majority bible position went against something quoted in the Letter of James.) Broadly, hermeneutical principles are necessary to prevent simply searching for ways to prove what one has already decided to believe—or has been conditioned to believe, perhaps by one’s immersion in a particular denomination or theological paradigm, and hence finds it difficult to even imagine questioning the received teachings.
Context matters. One necessary hermeneutical decision is which texts contextualize (and hence relativize) which other texts. For example, from a Christic position (which is where I have chosen to cast this issue), I would view the NT as generally context-setting vis-à-vis the OT. For another, I generally take statements that seem to me to be about god’s essential nature to contextualize attributes predicated on that nature—that is, such attributes must be expressions of the essential nature, and cannot be taken to relativize that nature in any way (rather than the other way ‘round).
The point of all this? I believe that the above “trilemma” exhausts the possibilities. I am presenting it, again, strictly within a Christian (or, as I prefer, “Christic” ) framework—and not as any kind of counter to the Christian faith from outside. Personally, I am exploring a defense of (1) above: universalism, from the point of view of (a) God’s essential nature as agape; (b) denial that such a God’s attribute of “justness” can reasonably be seen as retributive (or remunerative), but rather as reformative/restorative; (c) the apokatstasis as God’s ultimate restoration/reconciliation of all; (d) even with God’s attribute of “justness”, more emphasis on a soteriology of healing/well-being (that is, actual soteria); and (e) a generally (though, as I noted, not necessarily) Trinitarian understanding. I will also rely on Paul—I know this would put me at immediate impasse with those who set Jesus counter to Paul; so be it: that’s not an issue that I will argue. I will also approach the whole thing from the “three pillars of faith” of the Anglican (Episcopalian) Church: scripture, tradition and reason. I am not an adherent of sola scriptura—nevertheless, I expect the weight of my argument to fall on scripture (text), with the insistence that any textual interpretation be logically coherent.
This will take some time because, although the arguments have been made on here before, I want to make sure my own thinking is lined up coherently. I have some more reading to do. But I thought this thread could be just a kind of preface—but it can also be seen as background to the threads that have recently addressed this issue—especially as pursued by divegeester—(without any pretense that I can necessarily argue better than others already have). I have generally found myself in agreement with divegeester as I followed those threads (probably not in sufficient detail—mea culpa), but need to go through the effort to form my own thoughts in my own way. This is just a (my) beginning.
* The parable of the vineyard workers suggests that any kind of divine remunerative justice is not in play at all. I am ignoring distributive justice (though I imagine that rwingett could make a cogent argument for its importance in Christic thinking).