Take a look at the numbered propositions below.
1. God’s redemptive love extends to all human sinners equally in the sense that he sincerely wills or desires the redemption of each one of them.
2. Because no one can finally defeat God’s redemptive love or resist it forever, God will triumph in the end and successfully accomplish the redemption of everyone whose redemption he sincerely wills or desires.
3. Some human sinners will never be redeemed but will instead be separated from God forever.
(The three statements are taken from Universal Salvation?: The Current Debate, p. 7
If 1 and 2 are true, then one could reason that 3 is false. Therefore Actual Universalism is true.
If 1 and 3 are true, then one could reason that 2 is false. Therefore Hypothetical Universalism (Arminianism)is true.
If 2 and 3 are true, then one could reason that 1 is false. Therefore Calvinism (Representative Universalism) is true.
Here I think that one can see the dialectic of many debates in the history of western theology. I think all three can be true. Of course, I gloss redemption more widely than Universalists, Arminians and Calvinists, who tend to gloss it much more narrowly so as to mean the appropriate moral and doxastic disposition of individual persons or conflate the redemption of human nature with the redemption of the person.
If redemption means something like, God saves all humans from the effects of sin, namely annihilation, giving them immortality, then all three can be true. For the wicked persist forever because they have a share in Christ’s immortality, which is why they are raised up as well. So if we think of redemption in a wide sense referring to immorality of created natures and more narrowly in terms of personal salvation in terms of the appropriate moral and doxastic dispositions, the problems disolve.
But advocates of all three positions I suppose will point out that the three propositions can’t all be true if we don’t equivocate on the meaning of redemption. If we take redemption in the wide sense, the real problem is 3. Suppose 3 is true. ( I think it is.) If these people aren’t redeemed why are they existing at all? 3 I think contains an ambiguity since I think it employs the wide meaning of redemption while being inconsistent with a narrow meaning of redemption (if it is) used in 1 and 2.
Of course, we could say something similar about 1 and 2. Do 1 and 2 use redemption in the wide sense or narrow sense? If only the narrow sense, then you are either going to be a Universalist or a Calvinist. If on the other hand, we take 1 and 2 in the wide sense and 3 in the narrow sense, there is no inconsistency, with the added benefit of no Universalism or Calvinism.
But what about Arminianism? Instead of unraviling the confusion, Arminianism moves it to the realm of the hypothetical which indicates to me that it still accepts the implicit confusion. Arminians accept that redemption is to be taken in the narrow sense in all three propositions, which is why it rejects 2.
The point is not to demonstrate that each of these views are false (they are), but to note their mutual dependence and similarity. They actually agree on fundamental principles, they simply take them in different directions. 1 and 2, but not 3, 2 and 3 but not 1, and so on. In history this dialectical wheel keeps on turning.