Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: Universal Salvation, The Devil, and Fanfiction

So there is a topic within Christianity that is pretty taboo. No, not gay marriage, not Mary’s virginity, or anything about communion. This idea is so taboo that it’s almost never discussed: the idea that Lucifer, the devil, can be redeemed.

The very idea seems absurd and blasphemous to many Christians. In fact, I dare you to bring up the idea to any Christian. Some may simply dismiss the idea, and others may even be offended that you would dare suggest such a thing.

The redemption of the devil is actually a pretty old idea and one that was popularized by Isaac the Syrian, a seventh century mystic and bishop who is considered a saint by both the Eastern Orthodox Church and Catholic Church. Isaac the Syrian believed in a concept called universal salvation. Universal salvation is the belief that God is so loving and merciful that even if there is a hell, it’s empty, because God would never allow anyone to be damned. This idea has been critiqued because it seems to diminish free will. Some theologians that believe in universal salvation have added to this concept, saying that it is possible for us to reject God and condemn ourselves to hell, but that God would never reject us and would in fact forgive us of everything. Isaac the Syrian was so radical in his belief of universal salvation that he actually believed that there is no such thing as a just God. God, he argued, cannot be just because he is so in love with us. This idea, however, is incredibly controversial.

Another theologian named Rob Bell wrote a book called Love Wins, which discussed similar themes. He actually never completely says he agrees with universal salvation, but argues that Christians should hope that all people, no matter what, go to heaven. This so enraged people that in an interview on MSNBC the interviewer basically attacked Rob Bell and accused him of “amending the Bible to make it palatable”. MSNBC isn’t even a Christian station, so it was surprising that they were outraged. What should have been an objective interview turned into an attack on Rob Bell’s morality. I will never understand how people get so upset with the idea that others might not go to hell. And Rob Bell’s ideas of universal salvation didn’t even include the devil.

Isaac the Syrian, however, believed that Lucifer and the other fallen angels would be redeemed as well. Because they were created by God, they were originally good, and at the end of days all things will be reconciled back to God. Isaac the Syrian actually actively prayed for the redemption of the devil.

Despite this idea being, in my opinion, a really interesting idea, it’s not one that has been used that often in pop culture. The closest that anyone has gotten is probably Neil Gaiman in The Sandman comics. There is one notable episode were Lucifer decides to quit and simply leaves hell, but he isn’t really redeemed so much as retired.

There is one place in pop-culture where this idea is played out, however, and that’s in Supernatural fanfiction.

Supernatural itself has little in the way of redemption for the devil. There is a moment at the end of season five that some fans argue indicate that Lucifer maybe didn’t redeem himself, but kind of changed his mind. Before Sam jumps into hell, Michael tries to stop him, but Sam grabs Michael and drags him into hell with him. According to Supernatural’s mythology, Sam shouldn’t have been able to pull Michael into hell, so fans theorized Lucifer did it. Many fans believe that after seeing Sam’s love for his brother, Lucifer decided he didn’t want the apocalypse and pulled Michael into hell with him to assure that the apocalypse would never happen. However, because later seasons reveal that Sam was mercilessly tortured by Lucifer in hell, that seems very unlikely.

But in the world of fanfiction Lucifer can be saved. Before the end of season five, many fans wrote fics where Lucifer, Michael, and God basically all just hug it out, instead of causing the apocalypse, and Lucifer returns to heaven having been redeemed.

There are many more fics were Lucifer is made human by God and put with Sam, Dean, and Castiel, where Lucifer learns that humans aren’t terrible and that maybe God actually did a couple things right.

Universal salvation and the redemption of the devil playing out in fanfiction: who would have thought?

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