Evangelical Universalism (5) oxymoron?

The title of this post is the title of Robin Parry’s article in the recent Evangelical Quarterly.

His argument is for a ‘NO’. The two are compatible.

Derek Tidball doesn’t quite give a bald ‘YES’ …. but he gets close.

He rightly says it depends on your understanding of ‘evangelical’. If defined in primarily theological terms and as a bounded set, Parry’s proposal will be rejected. Universalism relies on substantial speculation, quite a bit of eisegesis and sits outside the tradition of classic evangelicalism.

But if you define evangelicalism in more fluid terms, a centered set, it’s more tricky to say where and when an idea has moved so far from the centre that it is outside the bounds. Certainly it is on these sorts of grounds that Parry is arguing.

Derek is circumspect here – but does say personally that he finds the way the Bible is being handled is contrary to genuine evangelicalism.  He also wonders if universalism is borne out of cultural accommodation, evangelicalism presenting itself as a civil faith.

So what do you reckon? Is ‘evangelical universalism’ an example of a diluted evangelicalism accommodating itself, even out of good missional intentions, to the culture?

As I said earlier, it would take a hard heart not to feel the pull of what Parry is arguing for (or is that statement itself an example of dilution?).And I do believe there is a surprising and generous ‘wideness in God’s mercy’ otherwise God would not a God of grace.  But I find his case, however well argued, unconvincing.

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