On my Facebook page the other day, I posted a quote by George McDonald: “In low theologies, hell is invariably the deepest truth, and the love of God is not so deep as hell.” And I added a thought of my own: What if the love of God is deeper than hell? That changes everything.
A friend of mine saw the post and commented, “Much study hath made thee mad” — I’m not really sure how he meant it. It is a quote from Acts 26:24. Apostle Paul is preaching the gospel to Festus, the Roman governor in Judea, after which, Festus says to him, “Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!” Paul answered, “I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason.” The revelation of Christ sounded like truth and reason to Paul but madness to Festus.
Another friend commented, “Sounds like universalism to me.” Indeed, it does, and there is good reason for that: George McDonald was a Christian Universalist. He believed that the love of God will ultimately prevail over hell because it is a truth deeper than hell. Let me hasten to add, however, that it does not happen apart from Christ, who is the only way. It does not happen apart from the cross but, rather, because of the cross. And it does not happen apart from faith in Christ, for in the end, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess Jesus as Lord (Philippians 2:9-11).
But here is something that is curious to me: If the love of God is greater and more powerful than hell, and that sounds like universalism, then I can’t argue with that. And I don’t, because it certainly does sound like that to me. However, what does it sound like if hell is greater and more powerful than the love of God? It sounds like God’s plan to reconcile all things in heaven and on earth to himself through Christ by the blood of the cross (according to Colossians 1:19-20) ultimately comes up a failure. And it sounds like hell is more powerful than God, because God is love by his very nature. And it sounds like, in the end, it is hell and not God that wins. But here is what it does not sound like: It does not sound like what I hear or read in Scripture about hell or about God.
So, which view is madness — the view that hell ultimately wins out over the God who is love, or the view that the God who is love ultimately wins out over hell? If the latter, then it is a fine madness, a divine madness, and one I can embrace with all my heart.