Thomas Ronald Vaughan
Wipf and Stock, 152 pages
Reviewed by Richard L. Morgan
This is a much-needed book on a subject often bypassed by pastors and rarely heard from pulpits. Vaughan embraces a Christian Universalist view, affirming that God wants everyone to spend eternity with God. He insists that there is no Hell of everlasting torment. In the author’s own words, ”Christian Universalism has come to harrow the traditional view of Hell of its frightening and devastating effect on people.” Vaughan would replace the monster God of eternal torment for sinners, with the unconditional love of the Mother-Father God who intends to save everyone. On the basis of serious study of the Gospels, the author claims that Jesus did not believe in an eternal hell. The letters of Paul show the change in his view from “Hell, Yes, to Hell, No.” Such a view proves liberating to anyone imprisoned by a vindictive God, and allows him or her to be open to God’s loving embrace.
Nor does Vaughan let believers off the hook with cheap grace for the afterlife. He asserts that even the redeemed need some shaping up before progressing to their ultimate reward, God’s final heaven. None will be ready for that blessed heavenly abode until they rid themselves of the baggage of every single sin. He asks, “Do we suppose that God works as a wizard with special powers who will mutate and transmorph his children immediately upon their deaths into some new creaturely entity?” Rather, not until they are reconciled with everyone whom they wronged in this life and overcome every resistance to God’s love can the redeemed reach God’s final heaven. Theologians who believe death itself gets rid of all that is sinful would oppose this view.
What seems to be missing from this book is what Vaughan believes about the resurrection of Jesus and what this means for the believer. Does the believer go immediately upon death into the resurrection state, or is there a waiting period before that happens? The book does not address this crucial question.
One would wish that Vaughan had written more of the intermediate state, what some have called “Restorative Universalism,” a view not well understood by most. I was somewhat puzzled by what Vaughan means when he said that “all must go to Hell,“ and Hell is “God’s Hell.” More needed to be written to clarify what that means. This book would have been enhanced by both a biblical and subject index, and suggested further reading. This is an important book to confront the crucial issues of death and the afterlife. Readers are left to decide whether Vaughan’s views are plausible truth or interesting conjecture. One can only commend the author for his honesty and integrity and insistence that God’s love is greater than the measure of our minds.
Richard L. Morgan is a writer living in North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. He is the author of “At the Edge of Life: Conversations When Death Is Near.”