my understanding of universalism as condemned by the Church is that it is the notion that all without exception will be saved
Which is the same as to say that people who have died in sin or in heresy or not being even christians will end up in paradise. What is condemned is notion of Salvation after death, whether it is included in Universalism or not.
I am not right now claiming to affirm or deny anything, I'm just saying that I don't see an inconsistency in this
You are entitled to your views, but I would appreciate if the inconsistency is actually emphasized. I will show the inconsistency in the Salvation after death teaching, which is a very dangerous teaching. It gives comfort to those who have relatives, loved ones, friends who died in sin, to belief that one can really save them when they refused salvation on earth. It might be a comforting idea,and a lazy one as well for it will replace Evangelism with prayer after death by relatives, will replace good repentence with prayer after death by friends, and will basically ridicule the Cross in the most effective way,basically neglecting the salvic power of the blood of Christ .
the reasoning he offers for praying for the dead sounds to me like something a Protestant might say
I believe it is the other way round. I offer a consistent position, whereas the other party is influenced by Protestant inconsistencies regarding the Cross. Protestants do not know how to relate to the Cross, because they have no sacraments. Their view makes the Cross an historic event which they have no access to. They emphasize mercy on the expense of jstice. Orthodox, as you know, relate to the Cross through the Eucharist. Salvation after death takes the same position as Protestants take, denegrating the Cross into a historic event. Clearly there cannot be sacraments in Hell, so how can we understand salvation in Hell ?
Now, let us take a close look, and I believe we discussed it in some other topic on this forum and in another forum.
1) Salvation after death is unbiblical
- Luke 16:19-31
: The story of Lazarus and the rich man, in which Abraham the Partiarch makes a clear statement that those in hell never cross over to the Kingdom and vise versa.
- Matthew 25:41
:Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."
Eternal means a one-way ticket, nothing can change it and this is the words of the Lord, the one true God.
Will God go back on his word ?
- (Revelation 20:10):
And the Devil who deceived them was thrown into the Lake of Fire and Brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever”.
Again, it is an eternal torment. The manner of the torment is of little importance, for I believe the torture of being away from the sightof God forever is enough.
These are only few biblical references, among an arsenal of them, to eternal torment in hell and the impossibility of transfer to Heaven that come to my mind.
2) Salvation after death renders the Cross unnecessary. For it makes sense that they have been casted into hell for sins that were not atoned, a life style of sinning, that has not been washed in the blood of Christ. There is no other way for salvation, nor is there any other reason for hell. Those in hell have no access to the Body and Blood, for there are no sacraments in Hell. Therefore, there is no possible way for atonement. By the way, this is the main reason why we reject the Purgatory, the purifying from sins through fire and torture or whatever. It neglects the Atonement of the Cross and makes it unnecessary and unsufficient.
3) The salvation after death idea makes it a two way highway. For I believe that those who held such view, must also believe in the free will in paradise as well. So, for the sake of argument, why can't a saved person in the Kingdom, by free will, sin and end up in hell ? What kind of life would it be in the Kingdom, if I can still sin ? Life of fear, terror and and continuation of the same on earth ....
4) What about Satan ? It might be beneficial to discuss that the view concerning the Dualism of Good and Evil was the view that led Origen (if these were his true teachings) and others to introduce salvation after death and these teachings were condemned. This view is suspecious of having Hell as a dominion of Satan. The starting point of these philosophers is wrong, because Satan has no dominion in Hell, but he is tortured as well and a subject, not a master. As such, the theory crumbles altoghether.
5) Salvation after death basically offers a very disfigured image of a God, who devised the Cross for salvation because He is fully just and fully merciful. The image of a King sitting on a throne contradicting himself and changing his ways and rendering decisions about salvation -against the free will of people who parished - makes the Cross ridiculus, unnecessary and unsufficient.
6) On what basis are prayers accepted for a person and rejected for another ? If all are accepted, then we have a Universalist theory. If there is bias, then what do we have except a biased God ?
7) Salvation after death, based on prayers, would make salvation based on arbitrary will of other people, not the strive of the person in question himself. If some sinner in hell has no one to pray for him, will he stay whereas other lucky sinners will benefit from the prayers of their loved ones.