I read a book about 5 years ago by Rob Bell called “Love Wins”. I had a lot of questions about my baptist faith and if I would have heard of Rob Bell I would have had a lot of answers I was looking for at the time. I eventually would have came to the Catholic Church because Rob Bell only scratches the surface of these questions. If you want a simple read about why “God always gets what He wants, and what God wants is everyone in Heaven with Him.” (My synopsis of Love Wins) then read Rob Bells book. If you are an intellectual that wants to deepen your knowledge of the theology of our time, read Love Alone is Credible by Hans Urs Von Balthasar.
After reading both these books I have become a believer in what we call “Universal Salvation”. This is the belief that in the end every human being will be saved and go to Heaven. The idea is that Hell exists (because Jesus said it does) but no one is actually in Hell. Rob Bell argues that God is the ultimate being (all powerful, all knowing and all good) and if He wants something, there is nothing that He cannot have. We know that our God desires every person to be in Heaven with Him, yes even Hitler! If we do not believe this then we do not understand anything about Christianity or God. However, Rob Bell fails to address the true gravity of the problem of free will. If we have free will then we can choose to reject God completely. Hell is then simply the loneliness of not being with God. Hell is not a place God casts us when we are bad, we put ourselves there by alienating ourselves from a God who desires more than anything to be with us.
My personal belief is that Rob Bell is correct. As for the free will problem, I can’t understand how anyone would willingly choose against God. I see it in finite things, in my own sin I choose against God, but even in sinful pleasure you can look back and say “is this really all there is?” The pleasure that we feel from our sin derives from a distortion of the pleasure of God’s goodness. Food is good and pleasurable until we pervert it by becoming gluttons. The only sin that is not like this is Envy which gives us no pleasure. I would speculate all sin in Hell is Envy and Pride. There can be no good in Hell, therefore Hell is a combination of Envy and Pride since these are the only two sins that contain no goodness. We are envious of God and everyone in Heaven, while at the same time being too prideful to want to abandon ourselves to God. (Dante may refer to this in the Inferno). The reason I believe the argument holds has more to do with human psychology than anything else. How could someone be that prideful? Is it even possible? I don’t believe someone will ever reject all goodness and all love, however I do believe it is possible while Rob Bell does not.
Hans Urs Von Balthasar comes at this problem differently, from God’s perspective. God poured himself out as far as He possibly could in the most extreme and outrageous way possible; in Jesus. Jesus literally went into the depths of Hell to pull us out of our misery. There is a movie with Robin Williams called “What Dreams May Come” where he dies and his grief stricken wife kills herself. He goes to heaven and she goes to Hell. He cannot be happy in Heaven without his wife so he travels to Hell to bring her out. He realizes he can’t because she’s lost her mind so he makes the ultimate sacrifice, to stay with her in Hell and lose his mind too. This ultimate act of self giving is what saves her. This is what God does for us in Jesus. This act is an extreme effort to save all people. Jesus is the expression of God’s love for humanity and shows that God will go into the depths of Hell to bring us out. The idea is that God would go to any lengths possible to save us (and He has) and because of that He has given us every opportunity to enter Heaven. God has gone as far as possible to bring us into Heaven, all we have to do is accept, what else could guarantee as many people in Heaven as possible?