I have just been in the USA (West Coast) for a couple of weeks. I was in the Wipf and Stock offices in Eugene and then at ETS and AAR/SBL in San Francisco. It was exhausting but brilliant.
A few people have asked about some universalism stuff wot I was doing in the USA so here are my quick thoughts:
What struck me on this visit was how open (or, at least, non-hostile) many theologians appear to be towards evangelical universalism. I was not expecting as much of that as I found. Indeed, my impression from various conversations was that there is a lot of sympathy with the view even if many do not feel that they can go there yet. Even some pretty conservative theologians expressed real interest and cautious openness. And those that were against it were not calling me a heretic but simply mistaken.
I did a couple of filmed interviews on universalism (one for a documentary called Hellbound, due out in Dec 2012, and one for an online mini-doc for Christian student types). I was also on a panel discussion on universalism at ETS for over three hours. The topic under discussion was evangelicals and universalism. Here is what struck me — not a single person was aggressive or hostile. The disucssion, though not well attended, was all very gracious and a genuine and open discussion. It was ETS that instigated the discussion and invited me to participate. I thought that was brave and generous of them. My fellow panelists were superb.
One of the great delights was to have Edward Fudge there. He is such a lovely man and though he defends a view quite different from my own (his book, The Fire that Consumes, is the best defence of annihilationism) we get on like brothers in arms. He is a longtime hero of mine.
And, inevitably in the countless conversations I had the topic was brought up regularly (not usually by me) — clearly many people are thinking about it.
Of course, there are many who would resist any kinds of universalism and I don't mind that. But my impression was that there are many more open to the possibility of Christian universalism than was the case even ten years back. And that is not because Christians have gone all liberal but because the case has clear Christian theological merits. The reason that it is hard to kill universalism for good is that it arises from theological reflection on the gospel itself and so even when it is killed off temporarily it so easily rises again.
Anyway, I was not in the USA to do universalist stuff so these are reflections on stuff that happened on the side while I was there. The vast bulk of the time I was discussing book proposals with potential authors and hanging out with my wonderful colleagues at Wipf and Stock.