Saturday, August 05, 2006

Universalism - a brief note on my position

And where do I stand on the universalism issue? ‘Stand’ is probably not the best way to frame it, but here goes:

I used to think that exclusivist was the only option, and anything else, compromise. Now exclusivist makes little sense to me, not because of this or that verse of scripture alone, but because of life, the smile of a baby, the groan of an old man, the death of a precious Hindi old lady who’s served her family all her life, and other bigger issues such as what the death of Christ and his resurrection says of God’s character, why he would create only to send most to hell, why the sending of Christ would seem to damn more to hell than save for eternal life, why God is love if most experience anything but love and forgiveness, why God won’t forgive most as we are commanded to in the scriptures, why God would be so interested in the contents of our minds (our doctrinal beliefs) as central to salvation etc.

But I just can’t go universalist, and I’ve been real tempted in the past, primarily because I cannot exegetically justify it. I don’t feel the scriptures enable me to make that jump. Sure, some passages in Paul sound universalist (like Rom 5, parts of 1 Cor 15 and Col 1, Eph 1), but I don’t think Paul himself was a universalist.* I think the most that could be said is that there are seeds of universalist thinking in Paul. A friend of mine in Tübingen is writing a postdoctoral work on this theme, and he is sure, certain, that Paul was a universalist, and I sure hope he is correct, but I doubt it as I think the argumentative structure of Paul’s letters would work very differently were he actually universalist (and cf. also e.g. Gal 5:21, and the recent, and excellent, Gericht und Gemeinde by NT scholar Konradt – mentioned before on this blog, here). But it is the word ‘hope’ from the last sentence I want to pick up on. Universalism is problematic, I think, because it draws into realms of dogmatic assertion, what is arguably at the most a present hope. Who knows what will one day happen? Perhaps I would call myself a ‘hopeivist’, but not a universalist. But, again, I hope I can be persuaded otherwise. For those who don’t live in tight Christian subcultures, the question of the fate of our non-Christian loved ones is extremely important. But I cannot simply brush Scriptures that I feel speak against universalism under the carpet.

*Gregory made some very helpful suggestions in response to this point in one of our e-mail correspondences.

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26 Comments:

At 8/05/2006 1:48 PM, Anonymous J. B. Hood said...

Chris,

Here's something I've struggled with mightily. I hear you on 'wishing' for universalism. In fact, seems to me (Calvinist lo I'm trained to be) that God also groans for universalism, in some sense or another...just as Jesus groaned for it. Note the pathos and sorrow and desire for repentance at the end of Mt 23, which is almost never noted by critical scholars like Luz, who prefer to just say they wish it'd never been written.

But what are we faced with if we 'desire' universalism? I've seen exegetes work miracles, and desire leads to such miracles (Kuhn, et al). If we want it, and we're smart enough, we can find it...almost always. I appreciate your self-doubt, but getting others to follow you (or me) in desiring univ position to be true is a tad perilous in that respect.

The reality of judgment (for believers--one of my main reasons for rejecting the most raw forms of aisle-walking, 'born againing' American Christianity; and for unbeliev-- and one of my main reasons for rejecting univ) is just too strong. Take that away, and you have the sort of Xianity we've had in our mainline denoms and in much of England and Germany. Not healthy, and doesn't seem to lead to a great deal other than baptizing one's culture and politics, things like proclaiming sex change operations a matter of justice...or the same sort of Xianity we've had in parts of evangelicalism, i.e., you can say whatever you wish about other races (not just an evangelical problem of course, and there are plenty of couter-examples), or make as much money as you want and not give a crap about your offshore workers and the poor in your city, and Jesus will still welcome you into a great mansion with arms wide open...

There's too much 'fear' and 'jdgmt' in Gospel Xianity to think that universalism (or even fostering its desire too much) wouldn't cripple us.

 
At 8/05/2006 2:55 PM, Anonymous Shane Clifton said...

I have just been reading leslie newbigin (the gospel in a pluralist society), who argues that we need to avoid the twin dangers of not taking full account of sin (against universalists), and forgetting that grace can operate beyond our experience and understanding (against exclusivists).

Newbigin goes further, critiquing even inclusivists such as Rahner for presuming that it is possible to say something about who will (or wont) be saved in the end.

He wants to say that the problem is that this whole discussion is based on a false question. "What happens to non-Christians after death" is a false question because i) the final judgement is a mystery in God's hands (jesus warned us that we would be surprised at the judgement) ii) it is based on an abstraction (focused on an abstract future rather than the concrete present) and iii) it focuses on the individual rather than God's glory.

His conclusion - who is going to be saved at the end? Only God can answer. Our responsibility is to share the story of jesus.

Thus replies Newbigin.

 
At 8/05/2006 3:38 PM, Anonymous One of Freedom said...

I would love a third way as well. I find myself troubled by exclusivist evangelicalism, but universalism just seems to erode the whole of the gospel and reduces it to an irrelevant occurance in the history of the world. Perhaps it is because both are projected to their eschatological ends that I have a problem. I think I end up being radically inclusivist believing that the movement of God in history is for the present and draws us to the place where the eternal is filled with hope. In otherwords I am far from universalist but I still think that whatever is drawing people into God's narrative of life is the work of the Son drawing us to the Father. However, practically I remain committed to the announcement of the good news of Jesus' incarnation, death and resurrection despite the ways that has been exclusivist in the past. For me it is being faithful to the gospel. But at a belief level I know that all that stuff (eternal destination, etc.) is not my responsibility anyway. I am just an ambassador of some great news about how God wants to step into our personal history. But in the end it is God alone who decides the eschatological outcome of this world. Maybe I'm just confused.

 
At 8/05/2006 3:54 PM, Anonymous dan said...

J.B.,

Perhaps I could jump in and post a brief response to a few things you said in your comment.

(1) Universalists who take the bible seriously don't deny judgement. Instead what they do is distinguish the notion of judgement from the notion of eternal damnation. People like Moltmann take judgement very seriously, and they also emphasize the fearful elements of that judgement. However, they do argue that, ultimately God's judgement is the judgement of grace that results in the salvation of all.

(2) "Wishing for" or "desiring" universalism tends to create a bit of a parody of the position that Chris seems to espouse. Chris is, first and foremost, rooted in a hopeful position not primarily because that is what he "wishes" or "desires" but because he is trying to be faithful to the witness of the bible. Certainly his "wishes" and "desires" may be a secondary motivation for his position but they are not given the place of privilege.

(3) The argument that universalism leads to moral apathy or cheap grace or whatever is one that fundamentally misunderstands the reasons for Christian living and for the Christian mission. We do not live Christianly in order to "get out of hell". We live Christianly because this is what it means to be God's Spirit-empowered, cruciform, true humanity. Furthermore, we do not engage in mission to "get others into heaven". We engage in mission because God's Spirit-empowered, cruciform, true humanity is an agent of God's new creation as it breaks in here and now.

Of course, universalism is risky because it can be perverted to create cheap grace but that is a perversion of the doctrine. However, it should be noted that the doctrine of eternal damnation is also full of risks -- it can, for example, lead us to kill and torture others here and now (cf. Moltmann's "The Tortured Christ" in Surviving Terror).

(4) Finally, although I appreciate most of your examples, let me suggest that the issue around "sex changes" might be more complicated than you imagine. I am assuming that you don't know most of the issues involved with people who are transgendered or who undergo "sex changes." If this is an issue that you want to continue to use as an example I suggest you look into it in a little more detail, you might be surprised by what you discover. I myself used to think certain things about this topic. Then, some years ago, I began journeying with transgendered people, I did some research on the topic, and my position changed significantly.

Grace and peace.

 
At 8/05/2006 5:49 PM, Anonymous John P. said...

I, also, am in agreement with you on a third way. I realized that i wasnt a strict universalist after reading the book If Grace is True, authored by two Quakers. It is more of a pastoral book than an academic argument, and certainly written for lay people...but what got me in the end was that the author's strict adherence to universalism ultimately led to a trivialization of Christ's work and life.

On the other hand, exclusivism is difficult for me to accept because i cannot conceive of a heaven where the blessed cognitively know that friends, family and untold millions are suffering elsewhere. this seems to fly in the face of christian solidarty, empathy, and compassion. Is the only other option a blissfully ignorant heaven?

I think Hopeivist is an excellent start!

 
At 8/05/2006 8:38 PM, Anonymous john mcbryde said...

Hello Chris,

You wrote:

"Perhaps I would call myself a ‘hopeivist’, but not a universalist."

Your statement reminds me of the title of Von Balthasar's book:

Dare We Hope "That All Men Be Saved"?

For those interested here's a short article on Von Balthasar's take.

On hope, heaven and hell.
by Nick Jr. Healy
http://www.theuniversityconcourse.com/II,9,5-6-1997/Healy.htm

Having walked through Hell, I too am a hopeivist. :-)

Pax,
John

 
At 8/05/2006 9:19 PM, Anonymous J. B. Hood said...

Dan, thanks for the chance to clarify. I was just ruminating--not trying to form a doctrinal statement. I'm probably sounding dogmatic, but just trying (1) to work out what I think on paper and (2) test that against Scripture, wisdom of others, etc.

In response:

(1) Let's say the jdgmnt I'm talking about = judgment with lasting/permanent consequences, something I think universalists would deny (leaving the question between annhilation, torment, conscious torment, etc--all of which are lasting/permanent-- off the table).

(2) I certainly wasn't trying to parody Chris's thoughts by using "wish" and "desire", I just randomly fired off near synonyms without any attempt at scholarly precision. In any case I wasn't trying to downgrade Chris's hope by calling it desire/wish. But Chris did say "I hope he is correct," and I think desire/wish is a fair translation there. In fact, I'd probably use the same words about my own thoughts on the matter--wish/desire/hope interchangably that he's right. More precisely: I hope [generic verb], but I don't have hope [the abstract noun, not the generic verb] that optimistic universalism is the case, for exegetical reasons.

3) I intentionally avoided heaven/hell language. Let's just call it final reward and final judgment with permanent consequences (again, leaving the question of annhilation, torment, conscious torment, etc off the table). Scripture does in fact enjoin believers/unbelievers to certain actions/beleifs. Furthermore, it also enjoins us to the evangelical task: as a teacher, Acts 20:25-27 makes me shudder to no end. I'm preaching on cruciformity tomorrow morn, and I agree with what you say about being God's true humanity. But that's not the only 'fact' (though surely it's primary?): Paul doesn't tell the Mars Hill crowd to be 'true humanity' (though I do believe that's a strong part of the NT message). He tells them judgment is coming. He also states that God's wrath lies on all in unbelief; and I can't see how you can construe his mission to run against the idea of lasting judgment. 2 Cor 5:20 assumes that, apart from the ministry of P and friends/others, there is no reconciliation; cf. Romans 10 and the requirement of preachers (because human sinfulness renders attempt of creation to proclaim the truth void--10:18; 1:20). Paul is not operating on some sort of "later chance"/"post death chance" principle of conversion, is he?

Likewise Luke 3:7-14; 16:19-31; Rev 18; Jas 2; 1 Jn 3:16-19; Mt 25 all have a great deal to say about the need for appropriate, salvific behavior with one's economic resources. And in every instance, fear and judgment--not simply "be who you are" language--is applied, in keeping with Hebrew prophetic and wisdom traditions. When I bring up possessions in light of cruciformity tomorrow, I'm going to be engaged in the evangelistic task. And though I probably won't get into judgment (too difficult, not enough time...too many people have no notion of final jdgmt by works) and its lasting effect (cf. Luke 16, Mt 25:46, Rev 18), it would be perfectly appropriate to do so.

In fact, future [lasting] judgment is such a reality, and such a frightening force, that judgment in the present in the church for the unrepentant greedy, sexually immoral, etc. is something we must practice, according to Paul (1 Cor 5:9-13).

(4) Thanks for the assumption of ignorance and for the advice.

You're right on about the weaknesses of 'eternal damnation'. I think the message is clear that exegetical arguments are the heart of the matter, not situational arguments. I probably should not have ruminated on what I saw as a potential danger in fostering one's hope for universalism, without some sort of caveat.

Grace and peace in Jesus,

 
At 8/06/2006 11:29 PM, Anonymous ntWrong said...

I don't hope for universalism, because I believe some people (a few!) genuinely merit eternal separation from God. History has produced its share of mass murderers, and I do not even hope for their salvation. There comes a point at which God's justice must be given its effect.

Second: I'm an annihilationist. I see no way to reconcile eternal torment with God's justice: eternal torment cannot be proportional to evils committed in time. And outside of two texts in Revelation I don't believe any NT texts unequivocally affirm eternal torment.

Finally, I emphatically disagree with the evangelical emphasis on the salvation of only "a few". I think it must be precisely the reverse, that only a few merit eternal ruin / separation from God.

It goes without saying that I also repudiate the schadenfreude with which some Christians embrace the suffering of the damned!

 
At 8/07/2006 2:26 AM, Anonymous David W. Congdon said...

Some of you may be following my own series on universalism, but I assume most of you have not read my posts (they are long and have been steadily coming since early June). While I would like to summarize all my arguments here, I will limit myself to just responding to some of the issues I see in these comments.

The question about universalism is, in my estimation, primarily theological, not exegetical. What I mean by this is that the answer cannot be decided by the scriptural evidence. The Bible does not give a clear "answer" either way. So we are left with theological method. Where do we begin? I follow Karl Barth in asserting that we must begin our theological investigations with the person of Jesus Christ. In Christ we can move beyond Newbigin's false dichotomy between the "abstract future" and the "concrete present" by insisting upon the concrete past event of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It is in him that we encounter God's self-revelation, a concrete reality which conditions all our thought about God. If I affirm a universalist doctrine, it is because I argue out of a center in Christ.

I agree wholeheartedly with Dan's position. As a universalist (by which I do not mean that I have "figured out" God or that I am setting my doctrines over the freedom of God) I do not deny the reality of judgment, not even the possibility of a literal hell. What I deny is that our sinfulness is more powerful than God's grace. I deny the view that God's grace and mercy can be set in opposition to God's justice and judgment. The two are not two different acts of God -- e.g., an act of mercy vs. an act of judgment -- but one and the same reality of God as the "one who loves in freedom."

Re: the issue of hope, or hopevism, one needs to understand that if the person and work of Christ demands a particular position, then holding to that doctrine is a mark of human arrogance but simply fides quaerens intellectum, a thinking-after God's self-revelation. I do not think we can rest in a hope, as if this relieves us of the hard work of thinking through who Christ is and what the Son accomplished in the economic mission of the triune God.

John, I do not think it is wise for you to reject universalism because one author (in a non-theological work) seems to devalue the person and work of Jesus. You will have to argue that this author's non-theological reflections are a necessary consequence of holding to universalism. I do not think you can make this argument.

J.B., every orthodox universalist believes in a judgment with eternal consequences. The difference is that a universalist believes that God's judgment is one that pardons. The last judgment is an act of grace, as Eberhard Jüngel calls it.

Also, J.B., I think you reveal a greater problem in characterizing hell as punishment and heaven as reward. Unless you subscribe to some kind of Pelagianism (see my most recent post), I think you have to avoid all language of reward and punishment. Heaven is not a reward for some good work(s) that we accomplish; it is the result of God's grace alone in Jesus Christ.

In the end, the only positions that preserve God's sovereign grace and our human dependency upon God are limited, or particular, atonement and universalism. Annihilationism is not a position open to us, because this would mean that God the Creator is a God who wills the annihilation of God's creation. I do not think this position can be supported from Scripture anywhere. In fact, I think universalism is far more arguable from the Bible than annihilationism.

 
At 8/07/2006 11:30 AM, Anonymous Simon Hardwick said...

D.W.Congdon,

The question about universalism is, in my estimation, primarily theological, not exegetical.

I find this a really interesting point.

 
At 8/07/2006 1:48 PM, Anonymous Phillip said...

Hi Chris,
forget the Universal position except inasmuch as the Scripture closes with the New Heavens and Earth being realised (the world Christ's work saves) and within this the picture of the City of God as the place of eternity for all those who 'wash themselves clean' etc. Hell no we won't go as it's just a figment of the damned.

 
At 8/08/2006 4:21 AM, Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White, Ph.D. said...

In my view the most we can we can do is, like Juergan Moltmann, hope that God saves everyone. If we are not universalist we ought to be, like you, extraordinarily upset by that. Those who don't WANT to be universalists don't understand the love of God, IMO. I cannot understand those who are HAPPY with the idea of damnation (no matter whether that damnation is eternal or annihilationist). But they seem Legion.

 
At 8/08/2006 4:21 PM, Anonymous ntWrong said...

• dwc:
Annihilationism is not a position open to us, because this would mean that God the Creator is a God who wills the annihilation of God's creation.

That's a rather flimsy basis on which to dismiss annihilationism as "not open to us". How about Romans 9:21-23?

Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy …?

This text (among many others) says that some "vessels", though created by the Potter, ultimately will be destroyed. I am aware that the precise meaning of the word "destruction" is open to debate. But I would say, at least, that annihilationism is a legitimate option in light of such texts.

I think universalism is far more arguable from the Bible than annihilationism.

In my view, these two strands of scripture are complementary, and ought not to be opposed to one another. In my view, the universalist texts will be fulfilled when evil (and individuals who have given themselves over to evil) are purged from the cosmos, by destruction. At that point, all things in heaven and earth will be united in Christ, per Eph. 1 and other, similar texts.

In other words, the universalist texts actually support the argument for annihilationism.

 
At 8/08/2006 4:28 PM, Anonymous ntWrong said...

• Michael:
Those who don't WANT to be universalists don't understand the love of God, IMO.

That's a rather sweeping judgement. One could just as easily say that those who don't WANT to believe in either hell or annihilationism don't understand the justice of God.

But I wouldn't say such a thing. It's legitimate for Christians to disagree here; there's no need to characterize each other as deficient in some way.

 
At 8/08/2006 10:57 PM, Anonymous dan said...

D-W,

First of all, let me say that I have enjoyed what I have read of your series on universalism. I agree that there is a proper place within orthodoxy for the universalist position and I am glad to discover voices that defend this position since contemporary "orthodoxy" seems to heavily favour the opposite position. However, I would like to respond to a few of the things you said in your comment here.

(1) I believe that you are comfortably following in the footsteps of Moltmann when you argue that the question of universalism is primarily theological and not exegetical. Like Moltmann, you suggest that Scripture is something like a hung jury on this issue and so we must turn to theology to answer this question.

However, it is precisely this eagerness to resolve biblical tensions that I find so troubling about much of systematic theology. I want to follow in the footsteps of Brueggemann and suggest that tensions within the biblical story should remain tensions within our theology. This is one of the reasons why I believe that hope and not certitude is the appropriate realm for this doctrine. To be a hopeful universalist is not to "believe one thing but hope for another" it is simply to believe in the Christian God and hope for the salvation of all. Recognizing the tension within Scripture, instead of turning to the cognitive discipline of theology to give us an answer, I want to suggest that a better place to turn is to relational praxis. Let us explore the question of universalism by journeying with those who are "damned" by society and by the church. And this leads to my second point.

(2) Against those who would be hopeful (and not certain) universalists you write: "I do not think we can rest in a hope, as if this relieves us of the hard work of thinking through who Christ is and what the Son accomplished in the economic mission of the triune God." Of course, as a hopeful universalist, I agree that we must continue to struggle with these issues -- however, I want to continue to emphasize that the hard work that we are doing is the hard work of journeying with the "damned" in the groaning places of creation. Hope is not resignation or walking away from the issue. Hope is precisely that which leads us to journey into the hells of this world in order to reveal God with the godforsaken.

Like I said before, hope is simply recognizing the tension that exists within Scripture and it is the attitude of God's suffering servant who, in faith, walks into places of darkness, thereby refusing to be like those who light fires to see by, but only end up burning themselves (cf. Is 50.10-11).

Grace and peace.

 
At 8/10/2006 11:29 PM, Anonymous phillip said...

Scipture isn't hung on this question it's entirely explicit. Paul identifies that God's judgement on sin is to give those who desire and choose sin over to a reprobate mind. Specifically this happened in the case of the Jewish nation when only those 'reserved' i.e. 'chosen for the fathers' sake' were 'sealed unto the day of redemption'. Then with Judgement in A.D.70 the new Covenant was established in which we have the 'messenger fly in the midst of heaven with the everlasting gospel to preach to them that dwell on the earth of every nation' etc. This is the New Heavens and Earth and salvation is freely offered to all but if a Man doesn't want that 'holiness without which no man shall see the Lord' then 'let him that is filthy be filthy still' the judgement is made continually but the spirit of grace is there allowing for repentance and sanctification, but ultimately God is Sovereign and the wages of sin is death which to this mind equates with the extinction of existence. To the chap who suggested God wouldn't destroy something he created are you reading a different bible?

 
At 8/11/2006 1:47 PM, Anonymous Simon said...

It's always a sad thing to behold a decent young chap struggling in the slings and snares of the morals of religion.

"So how is god just?" is just a devil of a question, after all - in all it's manifold forms. Either God's a bastard who places cute litte Chinese children into the flames of hell when they're run over be a cement truck (after he had them run over I should say), right next to Reinhard Heydrich and Pol Pot. Or else he'll just snicker good-heartedly when Judgment Day swings around and you appear before him, slighty tattered and a little worse to look at after all those years in the ground and him with a mischievous twinkle in His mighty Eye, telling you "Sorry I had you go to all that strenous Believing and Fighting doubt and Loving your neighbour however repulsive - it wasn't really necessary because I've decided to let anybody in but then it didn't hurt and it made you a better person. And anyway, Jesus warned you that you would be surprised today, didn't he? So don't sulk, run along now to Paradise over there and rejoice. You've earned it, not like some of the others. "

That's the problem, if I understand it correctly? (I'm just going on what I think the problem - your problem - is. It's an interesting one, if you're not affected by it.)

Here you are puzzling over how God's character can be seen as good. You only have yourself to blame for it. What in hell made you talk about "God's character"?

But you are not quite lost yet. You can take various ways:

- Don't think too much about it (That's not healthy, young man).

- Say that it's not a problem. Or at least not one of your problems, you're the messenger boy, not the message-sender, for Chrissakes.

- Take a bit of this and a bit of that and stick it together. those chinese kids will go to paradise, yet, they'll just have to be a bit more patient. And Pol Pot even more so. Or maybe they can get an amnesty, whatever.

- twiddle and juggle a few fancy verbs and long pronouns for a good while and then draw one out of your sleeve that is really big and dark, with a enigmatic gleen to it, a word like a big black shroud to wrap univeralism and exclusivism up in it. Just make sure nothing keeps sticking out, and that the fabric is intransparent enough.

- Think and think and think about it without finding an answer. Become paler and paler, toss and turn at nights. stop eating. Feel heroic.

- Think and think and think about it until, in am moment of utter joy and light, you find the answer. Alas, it's one you can only _feel_ but not put into word or even thoughts but my, what a feeling it is to feel believin', brother!

- Follow Calvin and Hobbes. Always a sound advice, existentialistically. This Calvin (not like some other I could mention) is
positively Hopevist. It sounds like your god talking outta that boy, doesn' it?

 
At 8/14/2006 11:12 AM, Anonymous Simon, again said...

I really ought to learn that arrogance and polemics are no arguments. So: sorry for the above comment. It's too long, conceited and silly.

My main point, I suppose, is just this: This Universalims debate is mainly a sideline of the theodicy problem, exclusivism makes it much harder (still) to justify God. Universalism, however, is taking the mortar out of the walls of faith. Is that correct?

 
At 8/14/2006 8:37 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Thank you all for your comments, I have had much fun reading them!

I will attempt to address some of the questions that were raised during the forthcoming series, rather than write a long response now in the comments. Just a couple of points:

1) I don’t think that scripture is ‘hung’ on the issue of universalism, at least not if one is attempting an ‘authorial intent’ reconstruction (yes, I know how unpopular such a notion is these days, but I suggest it can be salvaged to an extent). However, that said, I do think the question is one of hermeneutics, and I wouldn’t want to distil the texts in one direction, and would prefer to allow the texts to function all the while respecting ambiguity.

2) It must be remembered that Christian Universalism does not do away with ‘hell’, punishment, or the need to hear and accept Christ in faith, and doesn’t, I don’t think ‘take the mortar out of the walls of faith’. Hicks variety maybe, but certainly not that which attracts me, and which Gregory proposes.

 
At 8/17/2006 12:52 AM, Anonymous thehumblecoder said...

Chris --

You said "
who is going to be saved at the end? Only God can answer. Our responsibility is to share the story of jesus."


I wonder if you believe our responsilbity is to only share the story of Jesus, or to actually give a full effort into selling the steps to being saved.

I , like others here, are tempted with Univeralism. In my teenage days I had a full confidence of knowing my friend, who if did not accept Jesus Christ as his/her savior, would not be joining me in the next life. I have issues now of if I should express my self-doubt in the evangelical spiel I give. Perhaps I should suck it up and put on a false sense of confidence of what I am saying is in fact the absolute truth. I know if I was not raised in my christian enviroment and someone tried to convert me, I would tear my own argument to shreads. I would pick out my doubts and focus on those as my talking points. It's no wonder why the bible belt could also be called the 'too ignorant to doubt tradition' belt.
It's almost as if spreading the Gospel I believed in my whole life would mean to lie to myself, because of newly developed doubts. I feel as if I should get the facts straight in my own head of what I believe, but that day may never come.

Is this lack of faith? I have full faith in Jesus Christ as savior. I lack faith in my own understanding of what he wants me to do. I was given the most important task in existance and given a thrown together manual passed down 2000 years written in a foreign language.

I blame poor management.

 
At 8/18/2006 12:39 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Humblecoder,

"I wonder if you believe our responsilbity is to only share the story of Jesus, or to actually give a full effort into selling the steps to being saved."

What do you mean by 'steps to be saved'?

Thanks for your thoughts, btw, and I think I understand your sentiments well.

 
At 6/10/2008 6:18 PM, Anonymous Robert said...

I particularly enjoyed what Simon and humblecoder said, and what I say is this:

If there is a non-elect, that's just where I want to be, as I believe that's just where Jesus wants me to be.

Universalism does not deny judgement and it is not cheap.
God creates all, God saves all, God wants all, and in an eternity, God will be All in All.

Long live Christian universalism! And long live Christ!

 
At 2/08/2009 4:06 PM, Anonymous Sometimes said...

Chris,

What is Judgment, and what does it do?
As far as I can figure it, judgment is only useful in that it instructs, rewards, or restores an imbalance.

What purpose does eternal punishment serve?
If we assume God does everything with purpose, then judgment must have purpose. In my sight, eternal judgment fails to restore or instruct, because the punishment never completes, or formulates to a final instruction. It never restores an imbalance, as that it is continually and perpetually without restoration. It is definitely not a reward for the "rich man", and I don't think Lazarus would live in bliss all-the-while watching the rich man suffer. So the reward would not be for the potential Lazarus either. The only one left to reward with watching His creation in eternal damnation is God, or his Son.

Since we know that God does not want our sacrifice, but our mercy, and that He does not take pleasure in our suffering, then we can conclude that it is no reward for God to watch his creation in eternal damnation.

If I Read The Gospel of Matthew 5:48-39 backward, I get:

The Father is perfect. Be like The Father; Be generous to all, rewarding all with love.

Now, I know some believe that the love of the Father will repel the un-elect to everlasting separation, but that is stretching the meaning of Father, and the meaning of love.

So I say, try to be generous to all, rewarding all with love. That is harder to conceive than a Father that doesn't sacrifice his children to Moloch.

Rob

 
At 3/06/2010 9:20 PM, Anonymous ludwigwarum said...

This is so interesting to read. So many modern day interpretations of the Bible find ways to, with complete confidence, call some things metaphors, add-ons, or misunderstandings. Many are no less "clear" or no less open to this kind of newly insightful interpretation than is the topic of heaven and hell. So the main reason this one is different, a step too far, is not so much that it is any less susceptible to a new view, but that this one would "trivialize Christ's work and life" or "take the mortar out of the walls of faith." Many Christians see many other "enlightened" understandings the same way. And if they are wrong about that, you are just as wrong about hanging on to this one, or allowing yourself to put it aside by the cop out that it isn't your job to know. "I know I am safe and perhaps all will be but only God knows." That is a quite horrifying. I am not trying to say you are wrong as much as to point out that if you take this view you have no grounds to view your Christian outlook as more enlightened, intelligent, or humane than another. It is all the same then, especially since on this most important (ETERNITY) point, you fail to apply the same analysis you do to other points. "Because that would take all of it away" -- well.... hmmmmm.

 
At 3/20/2010 6:52 AM, Anonymous Edward T. Babinski said...

New Book Excerpt:
The Possibility of Christian Universalism

http://thepietythatliesbetween.blogspot.com/2010/03/new-book-excerpt-possibility-of.html

BY Eric Reitan, an award-winning scholar and writer, teaches philosophy at Oklahoma State University. His book, IS GOD A DELUSION? A REPLY TO RELIGION’S CULTURED DESPISERS, was named one of Choice’s Outstanding Academic Titles of 2009.

 
At 3/20/2010 6:54 AM, Anonymous Edward T. Babinski said...

I suggest a peek here as well. . . quite a dialogue

IS HELL EMPTY?

http://corthodoxy.wordpress.com/2010/02/23/is-hell-empty/

And see this series at a popular blog:

CAN EVANGELICALS BE UNIVERSALISTS?
McKnight at Jesus Creed

http://blog.beliefnet.com/jesuscreed/2009/12/can-evangelicals-be-universali.html

 

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