The primary appeal of universalism is the belief that we will be reunited with all our loves ones. Now, I’ve already pointed out that there are internal problems with that facile argument, so I won’t repeat myself here. Instead, I’m going to make a different point.
Suppose I’m a consistent universalist. Not merely consistent in what I believe, but consistent in how I act in accordance with what I believe. As a universalist, how would I be inclined to behave towards my loved ones?
I would be inclined to take them for granted. Neglect them. After all, what’s the hurry?
There will always be another day, another chance, to make things right or spend more time with them. If not in this life, then in the afterlife. Time is on our side. No loss is irretrievable. In universalism, there's no such thing as "too late!"
If, by contrast, you’re a traditional Christian, and you’re consistent with your belief in hell, then that introduces a note of urgency into your relationships. You value your loved ones all the more because you don’t assume that you will always have them around. The sense of what it would mean to lose them forever is never far from your mind.
That also interjects an element of sadness into some of your relationships, an anxious quality, but by the same token, it deepens the bond. It makes you a caring and compassionate person.
It’s like having a friend or family member with cancer. You’re not sure how it will turn out. So you spend far more time with them, and the time you spend is better time.
In the age of modern science, it’s easy to assume that everyone we know and care about will fill out a normal lifespan. And when they unexpectedly die in an automobile accident, we bitterly regret all the lost opportunities to spend more time with them—when we had the time to spend.
Universalism, if taken seriously, fosters a spirit of indifference and procrastination. Our loved ones are less loved. And our circle of loved ones is smaller. We befriend fewer, and lose contact with others, because we’re sure that everything will turn out fine for them in the long run.
Universalism prides itself on its superior empathy, but practically speaking, it cultivates a callous outlook on life.
It’s like the liberal who subcontracts his charity to a government agency. It relieves him of having to be personally charitable. “That’s not my department!” He can pretend to be oh-so concerned about the plight of others without having to become personally involved.
To some extent, belief in hell casts a long shadow on the Christian life. But under that shadow is a level of love which you will never find in the fatalistic optimism of the consistent universalist.