Posted: 07/10/2010 at 3:06pm
A Review of Maurice Smith’s All Dogs Go to Heaven … Don’t They?
by Steve Eastman
Solomon once said there’s nothing new under the sun. This seems to be especially true of theological errors. They keep resurfacing. Fans of a Christian TV talk show were shocked over five years ago when a regular guest announced his “Gospel of Inclusion.” It’s the concept that everyone will be saved. Even more recently writer, blogger and house church proponent Maurice Smith kept getting drawn into discussions with Universalist pen pals. He knew he must effectively address their arguments.
Unlike many in the house church movement, Smith has taught in seminary and it shows in a positive way in All Dogs Go to Heaven … Don’t They? He also knows how to connect with everyday people. His wife, Gale, supplied the dog cartoons that give a more casual tone to the book.
Smith actually deals with three related forms of theological error – Universalism, Ultimate Reconciliation and Annihilationism. Ultimate Reconciliation is a currently fashionable form of Universalism, which teaches God will keep sinners in Hell until they repent. A popular form of the Annihilation theory says God will keep sinners in Hell until it ceases to exist at the New Creation; at that point, so says the theory, they will be destroyed. Many of Smith’s arguments apply to all three theories.
One of the most helpful concepts for me in the book is that Universalism is often built on a philosophical basis. For example, someone says they cannot imagine God would allow a person to burn in Hell for all eternity. They are basing their belief on their imagination, not on what the scripture actually says.
Some Universalists base their arguments on obscure “meanings” of the Greek that are not generally recognized. Smith does a number of word studies to show how meanings shift and settles on the meanings the words had in the first century. He even looks at how they were used by secular writers, leaving no room for speculation. And he questions why many Universalists would say “eternal” means forever when it modifies “life,” but not forever when it modifies “punishment” in the same sentence.
I also enjoyed Smith’s journey into church history. He solidly proves the great majority of early Christian writers opposed Universalism.
And then there are the words of Jesus Himself. As Smith puts it, “Was Jesus right or wrong?” Some of Jesus’ teachings were “hard” doctrines, the kind that does not appeal to the flesh. We either rely on faith that He was right or listen to Beelzebub, the “theologian extraordinaire.”
All Dogs Go to Heaven … Don’t They? can be read in different ways. The scholar can check out extensive footnotes for additional information. The casual reader can skip to the chapter summaries and enjoy the illustrations. Smith also includes study questions/assignments that reinforce the lessons.
The issue of Universalism will keep coming up as it has for thousands of years. Smith’s book gives believers even greater reason to respect Biblical truth and doubters a reason to doubt their doubts.
Read Steve Eastman's interview with Maurice Smith.
Visit the book's website.
Visit the book's Amazon webpage.
Check out Maurice Smith's blog.
This review was based on a pre-publication version of the book.
Edited by Steve Eastman on 07/13/2010 at 3:11pm