If you were a Universalist

I was recently reminded of a great old (possibly apocryphal) story about the 19th-century Universalist, Hosea Ballou:

Ballou was riding the circuit in the New Hampshire hills with a Baptist minister one day, arguing theology as they traveled. At one point, the Baptist looked over and said, “Brother Ballou, if I were a Universalist and feared not the fires of hell, I could hit you over the head, steal your horse and saddle, and ride away, and I’d still go to heaven.”

 Hosea Ballou looked over at him and said, “If you were a Universalist, the idea would never occur to you.”

In addition to making a point about Christian Universalism, this story also points out a common misunderstanding of salvation itself by many Christians. The Baptist in the story forgot that any Christian who believed in Eternal Security (the idea of “Once Saved, Always Saved”) could hit you over the head, steal your horse and saddle, and ride away, and still go to heaven. This concept isn’t limited to Christian Universalists; it’s relevant to any Christian who believes in salvation by grace alone.

Interestingly enough, I’ve had almost the exact same statement about Universalism made to me by more than one traditionalist Christian in the past, Christians who I know for a fact do believe in Eternal Security. Sadly, it seems that theological consistency is not considered a virtue among most Christians.