What would you think about someone who said, “My friend is an outstanding engineer, he’s just a little fuzzy on the laws of physics”? I don’t know about you, but I’m going to find out which building projects he was involved in, and stay away from them.
Evangelicals tend to feel the same way about theologians and salvation. If you get salvation wrong, you can’t possibly be a good theologian. Too much is at stake. So it’s best to find out which theological buildings they’ve constructed and just stay away from them. They may be pretty, but their foundations are rotten.
That is generally how evangelicals have responded to universalism in any form. It’s a rotten foundation, so we should stay away from it entirely.
And this causes problems when evangelicals meet Karl Barth. In the first post in this series, I noted that many evangelicals would question whether evangelicals and Barth should be seen together in public. And we’ve seen that one of the big concerns comes from the fact that his theology leans strongly in the direction of universalism, even though he rejected the label. So the conclusion seems clear: if universalism is bad, and if Karl Barth looks a lot like a universalist, then Karl Barth is bad. And you definitely don’t want to be seen in public with someone like that. Or, if you’re going to hang out with him, you should probably pick one of those dimly lit establishments, wear sunglasses, and sit in the back.
Although the conclusion might be understandable, we can do better. Even if he’s wrong, I think we can identify at least four ways that Barth’s approach is worth hearing anyway.