Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Can Evangelicals be Universalists?

posted by Scot McKnight

GregMacd.jpgNext week we will begin a short series on the question of whether or not evangelicals can be universalists, and to help us with that question we will be reading through and blogging about Gregory Macdonald’s book The Evangelical Universalist
. Acquire the book if you can — all kinds of used and new formats. The book was originally published in 2006 by Wipf and Stock and is now published in England under SPCK. 

Are you encountering “evangelical universalists”? How do they explain their views? How big of an issue do you think this is?
I’ve said a number of times that I think this issue is one of the most pressing theological topics for emerging adults.
The oddity of this book: the author’s name is a pseudonym! But, he’s now made public and he’s an editor at Paternoster Press, an evangelical publishing house, and he believes in universal restoration. His name is Robin Parry.


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Mike Bird

posted December 16, 2009 at 6:33 am


Scot, Robin is a good friend and I admire his courage to set forth what he genuinely thinks on such a controversial subject. That said, I agree with Dale C. Allison: “I do not know what befell Mother Theresa of Calcutta when she died, nor what has become of Joseph Stalin. But the same thing cannot have come upon both. If there is any moral rhyme or reason in the universe, all human beings cannot be equally well off as soon as they breathe their last and wake again” (“The Problem of Gehenna,” in Resurrecting Jesus [London: T&T Clark, 2005], 99).



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Larry

posted December 16, 2009 at 7:36 am


If there is any moral rhyme or reason in the universe, all human beings cannot be equally well off as soon as they breathe their last and wake again
Since Gregory McDonald doesn’t believe this to be the case, I fail to see the point of your quote.



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Joey

posted December 16, 2009 at 7:44 am


Aren’t the arguments against Evangelical Universalism virtually the same as the arguments against Evangelical Calvinism? Namely that if all people are saved then why evangelize; and if all people are predetermined either way, why evangelize? I haven’t read it but a friend told me about it after reading and if I remember correctly this book addresses that pretty well, right?



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rebeccat

posted December 16, 2009 at 7:50 am


I became an “evangelical universalist” after close study of scriptures. the original language used regarding this topic in scriptures and studying the history of it in the early church about 8 years ago. At first, I was very excited to share the information that I had found with other Christians, assuming that they would want to at least be able to consider the possibility of this very good news. However, I pretty quickly learned that people were unwilling to even consider the possibility. The arguments I have encountered against Christian Universalism are almost always based on misconceptions about what it is that universalism argues rather than anything which is actually claimed (that there is no “hell”, or that Christian Universalism rejects scriptures, for example). In time, I felt like God was telling me to leave arguments on the topic aside, in the main, rather than allow it to become a point of division between myself and other Christians. But I’m very excited to see this topic discussed here. Coming to a Christian Universalist view has had a profoundly positive effect on my faith walk. It has also given me a heart for evangelism that was missing before. I know that not everyone who looks seriously at this issue will come to share my understanding of it, but a serious look at the arguments can hardly help but push and challenge people to really wrestle with their assumptions in way that I think is almost always profitable.



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Alan K

posted December 16, 2009 at 7:57 am


Two great Barth quotes regarding apokatastasis:
“I do not teach it, but I also do not not teach it.”
“To the man who persistently tries to change the truth into untruth, God does not owe eternal patience and therefore deliverance.”



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Diane

posted December 16, 2009 at 7:57 am


rebeccat,
Can you outline the arguments briefly?
My sense of God is that he wants his blessings to be universal–that he doesn’t want to exclude–but that he also allows us to reject his gifts.



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rebeccat

posted December 16, 2009 at 8:32 am


Diane,
at the barest, Christian Universalism says that we have been mistranslating the words aion, aionian and kolasin. In instances when aion or aionian are applied to gehenna, or hell, they are usually translated as “eternal” when they, in fact mean “age” or “age-long”. Kolasin, when referring to the afterlife is usually translated as “punishment” when it actually means “chastisement”. From other writings of the time, we know that the phrase for “eternal punishment” which was commonly used is “adialeiptos timoria”. This phrase is not found in scriptures. Instead we see “aionian kolasin” – age-long chastisement.
So, basically, the Christian Universalist believes that hell, like all of God’s chastisements, is meant as a corrective that will come to an end once its work has been accomplished, rather than a permanent place for unbelieving souls. There’s obviously much, much more to it, and I highly recommend reading McDonald’s book. But this issue of translation is for me the starting point. From there, the history of the early church must be considered (universalism was widely accepted for the first 500 years or so. Even St. Augustine, who did not read Greek and vehemently disagreed with the teaching says it is not against scriptures). I have also found it to be important in challenging my notion of salvation as a “get out of hell free” card. God is about redeeming us, not just placing us in our “proper” slots according to what we believe. It gives God real victory in which nothing which belongs to Him is ever lost and the enemy is truly defeated. It also highlights for me the importance of “working out my salvation” because if what God is about is redeeming me, either here in this life or through chastisement in the life to come, then putting myself on the right side of faith in Christ is like signing up for the race instead of being the main point. I also find that it’s much easier to love people and let God handle the rest since I know that God can be trusted completely, not just to do what is right or just with that person, but to do whatever needs to be done to redeem them from death. And I think it provides a good explanation for the whole “new heaven and new earth” scenario which early Christians so clearly believed in and writers like NT Wright convincingly argue is the teaching of scripture; our time in heaven or hell immediately after death is for an age and not the final destination. At any rate these are just a few issues involved and, again, I highly recommend actually reading MacDonald’s book. I’m barely scratching the surface.



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Taylor George

posted December 16, 2009 at 8:53 am


Glad we can at least have this discussion.
I’m re-reading Death on a Friday Afternoon by Neuhaus. In Ch. 2 he takes a very nuanced position. His point is that we can HOPE that all will be saved but in the end we don’t really know. He points out that the end hasn?t happened. He gives respect to the John MacArthurs of the world by stating that they have the right, based on some the scriptures and tradition to, “support a well populated hell.” We are left however, with Neuhaus emphasizing that it is right and good to hope all be saved. If we can hope for this he states, then it must at least be a possibility but never a guarantee lest we shed the very real real warnings. I appreciate Neuhaus?s position and nuance, especially since it leads the way to unity on the topic.



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Diane

posted December 16, 2009 at 9:11 am


Rebeccat,
What you are saying makes sense as it’s not that there is no consequence for misdeeds but finite–and restorative–consequences. However, I see chastise and punish as synonyms. Chastise, especially, seems a polite term for beating. So if you could clarify what you mean …



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rebeccat

posted December 16, 2009 at 9:15 am


OK, not to hog, but I just wanted to address one last issue about Christian Universalists and hell. There is an assumption that because the Universalist believes in the ultimate reconciliation of all to God, this diminishes the importance or impact of warnings about hell. If anything, I have found that the opposite is true. Belief in eternal torment is really too awful for many believers to really contend with. Really embracing it at an emotional level is probably unhealthy and can lead to the worst excesses of believers, fear and neurosis. So most people hold it at an intellectual distance – something we know is true and will pull out from time to time, but not something which animates us and our faith. However, when one knows that hell is real, that being faced with a perfect God’s judgment is so awful that it produces “wailing and gnashing of teeth” before entrance into hell even happens AND that hell serves an actual purpose for the redemption of creation, hell can take a healthy and productive place in our minds and faith walk. For many of us, the warnings about hell become even more real and urgent. Yes, God will work out His redemption in the end. However, saying that this lessens the warnings or reduces the impulse to evangelize is like saying I’m not going to take care not to run over my kid’s leg with my car because a broken bone can be set! Just because in the end my kid will have a working leg whether I run it over with a car or not is hardly going to make me decide that running his leg over is unimportant.



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rebeccat

posted December 16, 2009 at 9:20 am


Diane, I’m afraid I don’t have time to provide supporting evidence now, but chastisement is basically discipline. It may be unpleasant, but its ultimate goal is to teach. The word in greek actually has to do with trimming branches – ie removing that which is out of hand and unproductive. Punishment is meant to be punitive. It is the infliction of suffering as retribution for wrongs done. It’s the difference between being made to do community service and restitution for shoplifting and having your hand chopped off for theft.



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RJS

posted December 16, 2009 at 9:22 am


Mike (#1),
I agree with Dale Allison as well – but on the other hand if there is any moral rhyme or reason in the universe, the same thing cannot happen to Stalin and the 10 year-old who died of pneumonia in Tibet a thousand years ago. It seems likely that there is some line between universalism and exclusivism.



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dopderbeck

posted December 16, 2009 at 9:28 am


My initial reaction is similar to Mike Bird’s (#1). BUT — I believe very strongly that we need to get beyond the usual response-on-the-ground in evangelical churches, which is a very narrow kind of particularism and/or a worried glance and a rapid change of subject. Being the father of a disabled child who might never “hear” or “understand” the gospel, this has been near to my heart. So I very much appreciate the folks here who’ve brought in the stuff from RJN and Barth already. (Would be curious to hear — what say ye to that, Mike Bird?)



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dopderbeck

posted December 16, 2009 at 9:40 am


Taylor (#8) — THANK YOU for referencing that Neuhaus book. I read through the section you mention in the Amazon preview. I’m not always a fan of all Neuhaus has written on politics (some, but not all), but this is IMHO a beautiful and rich treatment of Christian hope without losing the reality of judgment. Given that Neuhaus was a “conservative” defender of basic Catholic orthodoxy as well as a first friend of evangelical political conservatives, he can’t be dismissed as merely a “liberal.” Excellent.



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Bob

posted December 16, 2009 at 9:48 am


Maybe we could hope that hell is empty, but not believe in universalism. This thought is wonderfully brought out in vonBalthasar?s book Dare We Hope. The current pope?s encyclical ?Saved in Hope? had some of the same themes. Encyclicals can be downloaded for free. Barth is not a Universalist also but claims God?s grace will overwhelm all of us. These authors don?t back away from the judgment scenes in Scripture. There seems today to be an insipid universalism that is pluralistic.



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sean

posted December 16, 2009 at 10:18 am


It is best to leave this topic as what David Kelsey calls a “theological loose end”. Scripture should function normatively (not abstracted ideas of whether God must punish such-and-such a sin or life of evil in such-and-such a way), it does not speak consistently with one voice on this matter, and we should not try to reconcile it. The language of hell is an indispensable piece of Christian grammar, but we should be dogmatically agnostic about whether anyone will be there. (By the way, Kelsey argues for considering this topic a “theological loose end” in his recent major work “Eccentric Existence: A Theological Anthropology” (WJK), which is easily the most significant theological work to be published in the last decade and perhaps in the last half-century. I don’t know of a work by any living American theologian worthy of more serious attention, though the book is very demanding in multiple ways, not least of which is its length! Kelsey makes almost all previous attempts at engaging scripture theologically look amateurish. Miroslav Volf and Stanley Hauerwas have both told me that they consider Kelsey the greatest living American theologian.)



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Adam

posted December 16, 2009 at 10:20 am


As a few others have mentioned, I believe that hope is the operative word. We all have a bias. Christians should have a bias towards hope. To quote Hermann-Josef Lauter, “Will it really be all men who allow themselves to be reconciled? No theology or prophecy can answer this question, but love hopes all things (1 Cor 13:7). It cannot do otherwise than to hope for the reconciliation of all men in Christ. Such unlimited hope is, from a Christian standpoint, not just permitted but commanded” (Pastoralblatt, 123). This is in the same vain as von Balthasar’s “Dare We Hope” and the more recent book by Brad Jersak “Her Gates Will Never Be Shut: Hope, Hell, and the New Jerusalem.” All these positions take hell and judgment very seriously so that Stalin would not be equally well off as Mother Theresa. Most evangelical’s who hope in ultimate redemption try to avoid, as NT Wright wrote in “Surprised by Hope” a “double dogmatism … that is, of the person who knows exactly who is and who isn’t “going to hell” and of the universalist who is absolutely certain there is no such place …” I will just end my comment with another quote, this time from Jersak’s book mentioned above, “… the hope of ultimate redemption is as inclusive in its judgement as it is in salvation. All are held to account, all pass through the fire so that all may be purified and glorified. Mercy triumphs over judgement; it does not skirt it.”



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Aaron

posted December 16, 2009 at 10:22 am


I’m glad this discussion is happening because I want to see the Scriptural arguments for universalism rather than just citations that Church Fathers like Origen or Gregory of Nyssa held such a view. In that vein, thanks Rebecca for some of the translation issues.
In _Knowing God_ J.I. Packer offers this verse as a foil for universalism:
“The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” – Matthew 26:24 cf. Mark 14:21.
He asks, if all are saved and reconciled to God, how could it have been said of Judas that it would have been better for him never to have been born? Even if perdition is a terrible corrective, surely finally obtaining eternal bliss in God’s Kingdom would outweigh any discipline so that Jesus could not have said it would have been better for Judas never to have existed.
I’d really be interested in someone offering a convincing response and will be following this series to see what comes up.
Thanks!



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rebeccat

posted December 16, 2009 at 10:47 am


If I could just put in a couple of things that Christian Universalism (as a rule) does NOT teach/claim:
It does not claim that the same thing will happen to Mother Theresa as to Stalin after death.
It does not claim that the position of Mother Theresa and Stalin will be the same in the Kingdom in the new heaven and new earth simply because God ultimately redeems both Stalin and Mother Theresa.
It does not claim that hell does not exist.
It does not claim that judgment does not exist.
It does not claim salvation comes through any but Jesus.
Any argument against Universalism which is based on the assumption that universalism actually claims any of the above isn’t really an argument against Christian/Evangelical Universalism. Also, any theologian who believes that it is likely/possible that hell exists, but will one day be emptied is making a classic universalist argument, not offering an alternative. Unfortunately, especially with the rise of Unitarian Universalists, the term “universalist” became such a troublesome word for many that people making what are essentially universalist arguments (ie that God’s grace will overwhelm us – even to the point of emptying hell) reject the label.



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Scot McKnight

posted December 16, 2009 at 10:52 am


Sean,
What an expression: The language of hell is an indispensable piece of Christian grammar, but we should be dogmatically agnostic about whether anyone will be there.
I’d say you may have been reading too much Kelsey; I have to confess that I’ve not read the book. I did read his smaller book on Scripture and liked it.



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Rob

posted December 16, 2009 at 10:59 am


#18 “He asks, if all are saved and reconciled to God, how could it have been said of Judas that it would have been better for him never to have been born? ”
Because maybe the passage isn’t talking about the eternal destiny of Judas. Maybe that is being read in to the passage. Could it be just dealing with the guilt that Judas experienced, ultimately leading to his suicide? People who are experiencing thoughts like that sometimes even mutter things like “I wish I had never been born”. Sometimes we think passages (especially single ones taken without surrounding context) are answering our questions, when maybe those “eternal state of the soul” questions are not being addressed. Jesus seemed to address the here and now alot.



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rebeccat

posted December 16, 2009 at 11:01 am


“any theologian who believes that it is likely/possible that hell exists, but will one day be emptied is making a classic universalist argument, not offering an alternative.”
That should read:
“any theologian who believes that hell exists, but that it is likely/possible that it will one day be emptied is making a classic universalist argument, not offering an alternative.”



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Karl

posted December 16, 2009 at 11:02 am


I don’t know if “evanglicals” can be universalists or not.
But reading George MacDonald’s Lilith, and also some of the writings of Madeleine L’Engle (who takes her cue from MacDonald), convinced me that one can be *Christian* and a universalist. Theirs – especially MacDonald’s – is no mushy, Unitarian universalism.
I still side with the historic Christian church in thinking MacDonald, L’Engle and other Christian universalists are mistaken. But in disagreeing with them I am more in line with C.S. Lewis, who despite his thinking that MacDonald was mistaken in this belief, saw MacDonald as a mentor and great saint from whom he could learn much.



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Darren King

posted December 16, 2009 at 11:29 am


In the vein already begun by others, I’d just like to add that believing that there are consequences for actions, and, furthermore, believing that there is judgment for actions and/or the condition of the heart – is a long way from believing in an eternal, conscious place/condition of torment.
I certainly don’t think we have to give up our sense of justice to question certain traditional conceptions of what Hell is (and what it is for). I feel confident that God can both accomplish justice and respond overwhelmingly with gracious love to Creation.
And here’s an interesting question for us: when we think of people like Stalin or Hitler, are we more interested in seeing them restored – or punished? If restoration were possible – even if it were through a long process, with much chastisement (for the sake of teaching/correction involved), would we want it? Would we think it were “too good a deal”? If so, then what is grace?



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sean

posted December 16, 2009 at 11:35 am


Scot, Paul Griffiths’s essay here has influenced me and my expression: http://www.christiancentury.org/article.lasso?id=4809
I may have been reading too much Kelsey, but you will be impressed by the way in which each of his major claims rests on a critically informed reading of scripture, and each critically informed reading of scripture rests on a meta-reading of how scripture works narratively, and his meta-reading of how scripture works narratively (he isolates three narrative logics that are assymetrically related and concretely tied together) is worked out in critical dialogue with premodern and modern theolgoical and doctrinal tradition, an engagement with modern scientific insights into human nature (he narrates “what” it is to be human by Putting Job 10, whcih he read through James Crenshaw, into dialogue with the language of evolutionary biology), and a set of more theoretically driven criticisms of Christian tradition.
EE suggests that hell is a theological loose end because (1) the scriptural witness about it directly is underdetermined and (2) indirectly, there is no clear theological reason to say whether God would decide (a) to “force” people to live in accordance with their structurally-reconciled condition in Christ or (b) to respect their created freedom. Kelsey is Reformed (he’s presbyterian), but, unlike some caricatures of calvinism, thinks that sin is an “absurd surd” that asserts itself into the world and for which there is no real explanation. Ultimately, universalism is a sub-question that requires relating how God relates to humankind metaphysically (in creation) to a way God relates to humankind hisotrically (eschatologically and in reconciliation through Christ). The “mechanics” of this divine relating are not made clear either directly or indirectly by scripture.



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Anonymous

posted December 16, 2009 at 11:49 am


I’m curious what universalists think about the fallen angels. Will they be redeemed possibly?
Also, I’m assuming “Gregory McDonald” is purposely reminiscent of another famous universalist, George MacDonald?



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Larry

posted December 16, 2009 at 11:53 am


Also, I’m assuming “Gregory McDonald” is purposely reminiscent of another famous universalist, George MacDonald?
Yes, its a blend of Gregory of Nyssa and George McDonald.



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Darren King

posted December 16, 2009 at 11:55 am


Anonymous,
From what I remember, some groups within Eastern Orthodoxy do actually pray for the redemption of fallen angels. And, interestingly, the Eastern Orthodox definitely don’t fall into our typical conceptions of “wishy-washy, liberals”.



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Tim Hallman

posted December 16, 2009 at 12:14 pm


Thanks Scot for instigating this conversation. It will be a timely and important dialogue for me to read and participate in.



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J

posted December 16, 2009 at 12:27 pm


For those wanting a theologically astute explanation of an Evangelical Universalist, read David Congdon’s blog on “Why I Am a Universalist.” It will take some time but is well worth it.



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Scot McKnight

posted December 16, 2009 at 12:37 pm


Sean, thanks for that link. I had forgotten about that very fine collection. Griffiths does two things: says we are to preserve the language (not quite saying there’s a reality to which it gives reference) and that hell is known to us through abandonment and fear, which means hell is abandonment and separation from God. I like what he does there…



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Your Name

posted December 16, 2009 at 1:11 pm


i wonder ala the theresa vs stalin thing, if when it is set up as to should they get equality, maybe we are making light of our sin, or mother theresa’s sin. Sin is sin. I do not like the thought that a serial killer or rapist could end up along with any saint, I have a visceral response to it. I just wonder if maybe we downplay the seriousness of what look like lesser sins, when sin is sin.



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joanne

posted December 16, 2009 at 1:22 pm


Is Evangelical Universalism a reaction to the many years that evangelical churches used hell as a fear motivator?



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Mark Mathewson

posted December 16, 2009 at 1:35 pm


Someone here mentioned C. S. Lewis. I resonate with his view on this issue. In The Problem of Pain he writes:
“Some will not be redeemed. There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than this, if it lay in my power. But it has the full support of Scripture and, especially, of Our Lord?s own words; it has always been held by Christendom; and it has the full support of reason. If a game is played, it must be possible to lose it. If the happiness of a creature lies in self-surrender, no one can make that surrender but himself . . . and he may refuse. I would pay any price to be able to say ‘All will be saved’. But my reason retorts, ‘Without their will, or with it?’ If I say ‘Without their will’ I at once perceive a contradiction; how can the supreme voluntary act of self-surrender be involuntary? If I say ‘With their will’, my reason replies ‘How if they will not give in?’



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CircleReader

posted December 16, 2009 at 1:37 pm


My faith was formed in no small measure by reading George MacDonald, C.S. Lewis, & Scripture from an Evangelical perspective, though I had never connected the relational sense C.S. Lewis makes of salvation in The Great Divorce and The Last Battle with the Scriptural insights that Rebaccat has shared here. It’s not something I’ve talked about much with other Christians, since I haven’t wanted to risk my membership in the Evangelical tribe, but I don’t think I’d be able to hold on to my faith with a more traditional (?) “fire insurance belief” view. I am amazed & pleased to see this topic come up!



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nathan

posted December 16, 2009 at 1:47 pm


when i think of the eternal injustice of the Cross…the Innocent condemned…then i can see that universal redemption could be an ongoing expression of the scandalous nature of grace.
I’m not saying yay or nay on universalism…but wouldn’t it be breathtaking to see a redeemed and healed Stalin?
Wouldn’t it be a monument to the reach of God’s transforming power to see in some eternal Kingdom all the wounded and tragically broken people who, in their sin, wounded so many others?
The monstrosity of history’s villians, and the many unknown abusers throughout human history, redeemed and made whole by the scandalous power of God’s grace that comes because God took into God’s own Self the corrosion, hell and death of a broken creation…



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Andrew

posted December 16, 2009 at 2:13 pm


Scot, great post. Looking forward to the series. Very timely for me.
Mark #34 (in response to the Lewis quote) – The (evangelical?) Universalist would retort simply that the grace of God is strong enough to crack through and win over even the most hardened will. From my understanding, this position is basically TULIP w/o the “L”.



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Richard

posted December 16, 2009 at 2:53 pm


I read this for a class this summer and am very excited to be part of the discussion on here. I think Rebeccat has already offered up some good representation of the books points. I would add that Macdonal/Perry’s work will demand each of us to wrestle with the concepts of all things being reconciled in Christ and Christ being Lord of all and over all.
To sum (along with what Rebeccat has said), he postulates that hell is real, it is miserable, we should do all we can to avoid it and help others to avoid it BUT it is not a closed system without hope of repentance and entrance into the New Jerusalem (which strangely has open gates that never shut…).



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Dana Ames

posted December 16, 2009 at 3:00 pm


This is one of the reasons I became Orthodox, after having come to essentially rebeccat’s view some few years beforehand, and because of generally the same reasons. I understand the teaching of the Orthodox Church as being that it seems from scripture that not everyone will gain union with God; however, the hope that everyone will eventually respond to the fire of God’s love and turn to God is left on the table, because very holy men, Gregory of Nyssa among them, saw that possibility in scripture as well. (Origen’s views on apokatastasis are not those of Orthodoxy, to my understanding, because he taught that we exist as spirit beings before birth, much like the Mormons do; this was rejected.) Yes, we do pray for the salvation of every “rational” being, which includes the fallen angels, during the Kneeling Vespers on Pentecost, after the Liturgy.
Here is an anecdote about a saint of the 20th century, St. Silouan, a Russian monk who spent most of his life at Mt. Athos in Greece, and died in 1939. His biographer writes:
“I remember a conversation with him and a certain hermit, who declared with satisfaction, ‘God will punish all atheists. They will burn in everlasting fire.’ Obviously upset, the Staretz (elder) said, ‘Tell me, supposing you went to paradise, and there looked down and saw somebody burning in hell-fire – would you feel happy?’ ‘It can’t be helped. It would be their own fault,’ said the hermit. The Staretz answered him with a sorrowful countenance, ‘Love could not bear that. We must pray for all.'”
Elsewhere, St. Silouan said, “The Holy Spirit…has suffered me to know how immeasurably the Lord loves us…It is impossible to explain this.”
If the power of the love of God is not sufficient to eventually redeem *everything*, then the devil wins. I don’t believe the devil is going to win.
Dana



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JoanieD

posted December 16, 2009 at 3:18 pm


I have read off and on for the past year on two on the internet about reasons to believe in Christian Universalism (also called Universal Reconciliation). One great Bible passage supporting it is: “This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers.”(1 Timothy 4:10) NLT
Sometimes I am very close to whole-heartedly accepting it, but then I find that I am more included to be an inclusivist as outlined in this essay at:
http://thetruth.atspace.com/inclusivism.html The author, Robin Brace, says there is reason to believe a number of fairly recent Christians have been or are inclusivists including Augustus Strong, C.S. Lewis, Charles Kraft, Dale Moody, Neil Punt , John Sanders, J.I. Packer, John R.W. Stott. (I only know some of those people.)
Inclusivists are inclined to believe that at the end of time, there may still be people who reject God’s love and whether they are destroyed or go to “hell” forever is another matter for discussion. I would definitely prefer the “destroyed” to be the case, as it’s so hard for me to visualize a God who would have any human beings/souls punished for eternity, even if we can say that it was the humans who were choosing that.
So, I am somewhere between an inclusivist and a Christian Universalist.
I look forward to this series that Scot will be doing!



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Paul

posted December 16, 2009 at 3:42 pm


Unless an evangelical adopts some form of pluralism (whether Hickian or otherwise) or embraces a very liberal (in a classical sense) inclusivism, it’s highly unlikely an evangelical can be a universalist. Moreover, it’s simply not possible to believe in eternal torment (a.k.a. hell) and be a universalist. Thus, if “evangelical” entails particularism (a.k.a. “exclusivism”) and belief in eternal torment, it follows that there are no “evangelical” universalists.



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Chris

posted December 16, 2009 at 3:45 pm


Scot, thanks for this conversation. I look forward to further posts. As a small point, Macdonald/Parry’s book was originally published by Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Also, readers can receive a 20% discount if they order directly from us (40% for 5 or more copies!).
Peace,
Chris
D. Christopher Spinks, PhD
Editor, Wipf and Stock Publishers
199 W. 8th Avenue, Suite 3
Eugene, OR 97401
541-344-1528
chris@wipfandstock.com
http://www.wipfandstock.com



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John Sobert Sylvest

posted December 16, 2009 at 5:31 pm


I do not buy into classical atonement theory or the notion that the incarnation resulted from some felix culpa of ours. Rather, I am with Scotus and the Franciscans in believing that the incarnation was in the cards from the cosmic get-go. This is to suggest, then, that I do not view at-one-ment as some type of cosmic repair job for an ontological rupture that took place in the past but, rather, as a teleological striving oriented toward the future wherein we participate as created-co-creators.
I taught my own children that hell was an indispensable theological construct because God would not coerce relationship. I also taught them that, for all practical purposes, no one’s likely to end up in such a state.
Hence, my Facebook status on the Feast of St. Nicholas was: It might be heterodox to deny the reality of hell as an indispensable theological construct but it is manifestly not heterodox to hope and believe that there ain?t a snowball?s chance in the Superdome that anyone will ever end up there.
I flesh it out here:apokatastasis



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Christi

posted December 16, 2009 at 6:34 pm


@rebeccat my experience is a lot like what you described in the 4th comment of the day. You have done a wonderful job describing this!!
I must say today brings me a lot of hope as all of you are so very civil. This topic makes many Xians angry I have found…and yet coming to it has brought nothing but joy into my life…
Thank you Scot for this discussion!



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Jjoe

posted December 16, 2009 at 6:54 pm


The Theresa vs. Stalin example isn’t really appropriate, for they could both be saved and thus both avoid hell.
Try on Ghandi vs. any devout slave-killing Christian in the antebellum South.
A man who walked the way of Jesus as much as any man, but was not a Christian, vs. a man who was baptized and saved for Christ while torturing his neighbor.
All I am read on various blogs about Christianity being a religion where all that matters is what you believe, not what you do, is seriously making me consider just exactly what I am doing within these ranks.
What happens if it’s not getting dunked and saying a prayer, but how you treat the least of these, that matters to God? Doesn’t that affect universalism just a tiny bit?



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Nitika

posted December 17, 2009 at 12:39 am


Interesting and related is chapter seven of Dallas Willard’s “Knowing Christ Today”. The chapter title is “Knowledge of Christ and Christian Pluralism” He advocates for Christian pluralism, but also clarifies, “The Christian pluralism of which we here speak is not the Chrstian gospel. In fact, Christian pluralism is not really very “good news” at all…that [pluralism] may be something good to know as a possibility, but it is not really good news, and it is certainly not the gospel of the life in Jesus Christ.”



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Willie

posted December 17, 2009 at 1:10 am


the notion of “hopeful” universalism should also be discussed. there are several prominent theologians such as Barth(the obvious example) who said that while we are not allowed to hold a dogmatic belief in universalism, we are allowed to pray, hope, and trust that in the end God’s love will win out even over the most recalcitrant of sinners.
if i can get a hold of macdonald’s book I will most certainly try to follow along in this series. this question has been central to me ever since I read Marilyn McCord Adam’s book on horrendous evils-the most powerful argument from a philosophical perspective for universal salvation…she really shook me out of my dogmatic slumber.



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nathan colquhoun

posted December 17, 2009 at 1:14 am


this was an excellent read for me.
i don’t read academic books that well but it was written in a way I could understand. it was a very balanced and humble approach to the topic. I think there are some holes in his theories, but i think it is much much more closer to reality than what i was taught all my life. the fact that so many are unwilling to even have the conversation makes me love the conversation even more.
so i’m excited you are tackling this.



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brambonius

posted December 17, 2009 at 4:22 am


So if I remember well about this kind of Christian universalism one of the arguments is about the greek word ‘aeonian’ or something of the like which traditionally gets translated as eternal, but not rightly so because it’s only about ‘an amount of time’. So the eternal torment is not eternal torment, but ‘torment of the ages’ which may end…
what about ‘aeonian’ in connection to life then. what does ‘life of the ages’ mean if not eternal life? Is there no life everlasting after death according to the bible??



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JoanieD

posted December 17, 2009 at 6:08 am


To Jjoe in #45: I know what you mean about many folks thinking Christianity is just a matter of “belief” and not right action. There is a passage in at least one of the Gospels where Jesus tells a story about some people who end up in the Kingdom of God and they seem surprised by it. Jesus tells them that they took care of the hungry and poor and thereby took care of him and that is why they are in his Kingdom.
I have always found it crazy that some people just think they can say “I believe in Jesus” and think that is all that is expected of him. Jesus himself said that not all who say they called on him will make it into his kingdom. James’ epistle talks about faith without works being dead. So it is not an either/or situation. People must have faith followed up with works. It’s not that our works EARN us our way “into heaven,” but they result from the relationship we have with God. If we don’t have that relationship, we will not be able to do the good works. This is why I can be an inclusivist: there are people in the world who have not heard of Jesus or, if they have, Jesus’ story could have been presented by cruel, abusive people and therefore, it really was not presented at all. Yet, those same people may sincerely be looking to do God’s will and if they are, God will not abandon them. God knows the heart of all people…WE do not. So if God saves them, it is Jesus who saves them. Jesus is God. And the Holy Spirit goes where it wills. WE are not in control of the Holy Spirit.
And Jjoe, Ghandi was a good example. I know he found much about Jesus and Christianity to be commendable, but he had problems looking at Christians and seeing how they behave! So, it’s possible that he actually was a Chrisian in Jesus’ eyes, if being a Christian means being conformed by the mind and spirit of Jesus.



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Gregory MacDonald

posted December 17, 2009 at 6:26 am


Scott
Yikes! A propoer NT scholar reading my book! I look forward to your thoughts (in fear and trembling).
Chris (post 42) – you are on the ball mate!
One quick thought:
Scott’s question was this – “Can evangelicals be universalists?”
That is not the same question as “Is universalism true?” Rather it is asking whether universalism is incompatible with evangelical Christian faith. Some things that are false are compatible with evangelical Christian faith. For instance, philosophical determinism and philosophical indeterminism are both evangelical-compatible yet at least one of them MUST be false. Presumably we can all agree on that.
I think universalism is true. BUT EVEN IF IT WERE NOT I think that it would still be compatible with evangelicalism (at least in some versions). Why?
because it is consistent with the orthodox creeds of the Church
because it can be configured in ways that are trinitarian, Chrsto-centric, and gospel-focused (emerging from reflection on the cross-resurrectuion-ascension of Christ). If evangelicals are gospel people then it should have some resonance.
because it aspires to be true to Scripture
In fact it is fully consistent with what David Bebbington suggests are the central aspects of historical evangelical faith (biblicism, conversionism, crucicentrism, activism).
And whilst it has been a minority sport within the tradition it has not been without its players. To take my favourite at the moment – Elhanan Winchester. He’s an 18th C evangelical Baptist minister, a revivalist preacher, a biblical fundamentalist (if one is permitted to use anachronisms) who takes Hell very seriously, . . . and is a universalist. An evangelical universalist long before I ever was one.
Robin Parry



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JoanieD

posted December 17, 2009 at 6:54 am


Hello, Robin Parry. I just ordered your book through Amazon. I am looking forward to reading it. I think you will be seeing a spike in book sales due to Scot’s series next week writing about it. I hope you will continue to join us here!



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Rick

posted December 17, 2009 at 7:52 am


Dana #39-
In regards to the position of Orthodoxy, and the early church, on this issue, here is a quote from the Antiochan Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America:
“The horror of any creature?s ultimate rejection of the mercy of God is almost too much to contemplate. This fact led some of the saints to speculate that every creature, including Satan, would ultimately be reconciled to God. The idea that finally all creatures with free choice (i.e., angels, devils, and men) will share in the grace of salvation is called apocatastasis (or universalism). Origen, Saint Clement of Alexandria, and Saint Gregory of Nyssa held this opinion. Theirs were understandable errors of charity. In 543 the Council of Constantinople condemned universalism. Prior to this, in North Africa, Saint Augustine of Hippo fought mightily against it because he saw the possibility of damnation as the guarantor of our free will. Our choices are real, and the Lord takes them seriously.”



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John C

posted December 17, 2009 at 9:03 am


Gregory/Robin – I agree that Elhanan Winchester emerged from deep within Evangelical revivalism, though becoming a Universalist pretty much cut him off from the American Evangelical mainstream. Another example is his admirer, Benjamin Rush, the founding father. He shows how universalism emerged from an encounter with the Enlightenment, which was very hot on divine benevolence and human equality. Compared to his friends Jefferson and John Adams, Rush always remained far closer to orthodox Evangelical religion, but again his Universalism was a big problem for other Evangelicals (both Calvinists and Arminian Methodists).
Why? For the same reason that global warming denial is a big problem for many today – denying the awfulness of the crisis means it simply won’t be tackled with the same urgency. If you think global warming is not really happening, or if you think that everyone’s going to get out of hell eventually, you’re just not going to get as worked up about them as the pessimists do. So even though Evangelicals and (some) Universalists agreed in their doctrines of Trinity, creation, fall, incarnation, atonement, resurrection, their sensibilities were far apart.



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Your Name

posted December 17, 2009 at 10:54 am


Wow, a post from the author. What a wonderful resource is this blog.
Most directly if you have nothing to evangelize about you are not an evangelical.
Being evangelical is, at its most basic part, the prioritization of the spreading the Gospel of Jesus to those who need to be rescued from the ravages of sin. If you believe in universalism there is no need for the text of the Scriptures, no need for the transfer of the Holy Spirit, no need for the Great Commission. There is no need for morality, duty, or piety. The historical understanding of evangelicalism is that we have a message for a lost and dying world that is the greatest question one might ask.
Perhaps part of this problem is that we, evangelicals, have both forgotten our missiological imperative for evangelism and we have blurred the lines of what truly makes one an evangelical.
Christian universalism is not compatible, imho, with any of creeds or with the text of the Scriptures. There is something in the most basic verse that turns the argument on its head. John 3:16, salvation is for those who believe. Salvation is not passively bestowed, but actively accepted.
You are the Church!
Robert Angison



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rebeccat

posted December 17, 2009 at 11:01 am


“If you believe in universalism there is no need for the text of the Scriptures, no need for the transfer of the Holy Spirit, no need for the Great Commission. There is no need for morality, duty, or piety.”
With all due respect, this is by far the more inaccurate, ridiculous and reality free summation of universalism and it’s effects that I’ve ever read! Perhaps you are simply 100% unfamiliar with what Christian universalism actually teaches as nothing you say can be backed up by any of the actual claims made by Christian Universalists. I hope you will come back for the conversation and perhaps even read Mr. MacDonald’s book so that if you continue to disagree with universalism, you will actually be equipped to do so.



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e?a??e???? means to announce GOOD news!

posted December 17, 2009 at 11:28 am


“If you believe in universalism there is no need for the text of the Scriptures, no need for the transfer of the Holy Spirit, no need for the Great Commission. There is no need for morality, duty, or piety.”
Wow, obviously you have no concept of what an awesome message of hope and great news the coming apocatastasis is! What better news could an evangelist proclaim than that God doesn’t want to kill and torment mankind in a “lake of fire” for all eternity, but extends His divine mercy and grace to all creation and will restore it to the perfection it had in the beginning? What better news could there be that all mankind will be healed by Jesus’s act of love? What better news is there that the Holy Spirit’s counsel is at work in all mankind-whether they know it or not? When you evangelize with the gospel of love without limits, grace without an expiration date, and mercy’s triumph over judgment you get to experience people who love God because He first loved them. Not people who fear God because they are afraid He will torment them.



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Alan K

posted December 17, 2009 at 11:58 am


Props to #57 for speaking the truth. Why is it so difficult to believe that God’s “yes” has the power to win back the whole world? To those who believe that salvation is “actively accepted”, how then is the person with autism to be delivered?
Peter of all people disbelieves at the most urgent hour, but nevertheless gets upheld by Jesus who said to him in the upper room, “I have prayed for you”. Either we save ourselves or God saves us.



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JoanieD

posted December 17, 2009 at 12:06 pm


To the person posting in #55: I, too, hope that you read The Evangelical Univeralist. This IS the Gospel news, that God loves us, lives with us, saves us and is saving us. People live in such fear, anger, defeatism, pain. They can be lifted from all that by the good news of Jesus and they, too, can begin to spread the love of God in the world. We are here to do the work of the Kingdom of God until Jesus returns and then we will see fully and completely his “will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.”
(I can’t remember if this site allows us to do a little HTML coding, so if you see my code above instead of an italcized title, sorry about that!)



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Rachel H. Evans

posted December 17, 2009 at 12:16 pm


I’m really excited about this series. As a young adult myself, I agree that this is a pressing issue for my generation, which is more connected than any other to the world around us. In fact, I’d say it’s the number one issue people want to talk to me about through the blog/speaking/correspondence/etc. I’m excited! Thanks for taking this on!



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Richard

posted December 17, 2009 at 1:30 pm


I must confess I know knowthing about this topic. I knew William Barclay of the famous Barclay’s commentary series was a Universalist, but had basically ignored that “error”. He was such a good writer. I’ve known about the Univeralist church which has basically ignored the Bible, but Evangelical Universalism is new to me. Some of what I read here reminds me of discussions on Purgatory. Might Purgatory fit into some of this? I really don’t know enough to answer that question. I look forward with an open mind to this discussion. Not convinced, but not disinterested either.



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Tom Lawson

posted December 17, 2009 at 2:04 pm


Of course, I want it to be true. It seems the only way to avoid some very unpleasant conclusions about God. It comes much closer to my own sense of what “ought” to be. It certainly removes a major source of ridicule and hostility toward Christianity from the culture around us. I wonder, though, whether or not those very facts make the proposal at least suspect.
There are numerous (too many to cite) references in the New Testament (those whose destiny is destruction, without God and without hope in the world, fear him who can cast body and soul in hell, etc.) that must be held up alongside the suggestion that the generic “all” in statements like Col 1:19-20 were intended to suggest ultimate universal salvation. It is reasonable to assume the writers were not intending to be hopelessly self-contradictory.
There are many very unpopular doctrines currently being revised by those who identify themselves as evangelicals it causes one to be struck by either an amazing serendipity (Oh, look. Guess what. The Bible just happens to have been largely misunderstood on this issue. And, it just happens that what the Bible really means – if you just look at it this or that long enough – happens to match pretty much what our culture would like for it mean). It is possible, I suppose.
It’s just happening on enough less than popular traditional views at once that the question much be raised as to whether scripture is actually the bedrock authority evangelicals still insist it is, or whether we are trying to have it both ways at once. A number of biblical scholars who make no pretense at being evangelicals acknowledge the church’s traditional exclusivism accurately represents the view presented by New Testament writers, even as they reject the view as simply reflecting the writers’ own distorted thinking. I have a hard time coming up with the name of someone who absolutely rejects the authority of scripture and still suggests the New Testament writers themselves intended to teach ultimate universalism.
Like others of my era, I long for a kinder gentler Yahweh and a faith entirely free of the often-caricatured hell-fire-and-brimstone tactics of the past. But my own longings cannot so drive my understanding of scripture that it ends up being me, not God, who is the ultimate arbiter of what is and is not biblical. That I may not want a doctrine to be biblical, or that I might think a particular doctrine strikes me as unfair, might drive me to re-examine the doctrine – but it also gives me a good deal of caution that I am not guilty of finding something simply because I am looking very hard to find it.
If every truth of the God who truly is happens to also match my own wishes, my own (obviously limited) sense of fairness, as well as make my faith far less offensive to the broader culture, I could simply be a man with an extraordinarily reliable inner moral compass. Someone is also extraordinarily fortunate living at a moment in history where the pressure of culture rightly causes us to revise long-held but erroneous biblical doctrines. That is always possible, I suppose. But I doubt it.
As the culture of the west continues to evolve, one wonders what other major doctrinal revisions the next generation of ?evangelicals? will happen to discover.



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Kenton

posted December 17, 2009 at 2:58 pm


Would say I’m already pretty much in the evangelical universalist camp but had never read the book. Just ordered it and hoping I can read along with your series.



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Dana Ames

posted December 17, 2009 at 3:18 pm


Rick @53,
I said this was *one* of the reasons I became Orthodox; it’s not the largest or the only reason. I’ve observed some Orthodox people throwing citations from the Councils and the Fathers at one another, just as some Protestant throw citations from scripture; I don’t think that’s profitable. I affirmed the ecumenical councils at my chrismation. I also trust Met. Kallistos Ware to express the faith of Orthodoxy correctly. In the last chapter of “The Inner Kingdom”, he writes:
“Gregory of Nyssa, on the other hand, abandoned Origen’s speculations concerning preexistence and the precosmic fall, while holding fast to his belief in an ultimate restoration; and, significantly, he was never anathematized for this, either in 553 or in recent times.” p. 205…
“If the strongest argument in favor of universal salvation is the appeal to divine love, and if the strongest argument on the opposite side is the appeal to human freedom, then we are brought back to the dilemma with which we started: how are we to bring into concord the two principles, God is love, and Human beings are free? For the time being, we cannot do more than hold fast with equal firmness to both principles at once, while admitting that the manner of their ultimate harmonization remains a mystery beyond our present comprehension. What St Paul said about the reconciliation of Christianity and Judaism is applicable also to the final reconciliation of the total creation: “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33) p.214-215.
Please forgive me and pray for me, a sinner.
Dana



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Scott McDaniel

posted December 17, 2009 at 3:24 pm


One would be wiser to note that Christian Universalism is not a new thing, something for “this generation.” Many threads in Christianity, especially Orthodoxy, have had different views on this for centuries, and many we’d cite as “Church Fathers” either outright agreed or at least held it up for speculation.
Don’t believe everything you believe.



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Alan K

posted December 17, 2009 at 5:41 pm


Tom #62,
Every reference that you have made (i.e. “those whose destiny is destruction, without God and without hope in the world, fear him who can cast body and soul in hell”) begs for a conversation as to what exactly they mean. You have used them in a manner that insinuates they refer to postmortem judgment, a traditional evangelical reading of these passages. But just because evangelicalism has read them that way does not mean that they have been read correctly. Some people revise their doctrines, not for social reason or because culture evolves, but do so because they are concerned with believing the truth about God and the world and therefore ask hard questions like “what exactly is the referent to the word ‘gehenna’ when Jesus uses it?” “What is the destruction that the NT writers refer to?” “What is it to be without hope in the world if you are a gentile in Ephesus?”
You raise questions about whether evangelicals still believe in scriptural authority. Sure they do. The question that is now being asked is how does the authority of scripture relate to the authority of God? Asking this question honestly may result in the Bible becoming a different kind of book and seeing the exercise of its authority understood to take place in a different manner. This is good cause for us to revisit what we believe and why.
To pick up a theme from today’s conversation, if we are–in some way, shape, or form–in error, does not God have the wisdom and power and desire and love to overcome it?



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Ken

posted December 17, 2009 at 7:30 pm


t9zn2m



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Darren King

posted December 17, 2009 at 10:01 pm


Alan K., well said. That’s exactly right. The issue isn’t one of glossing over “inconvenient truths”, but of interpreting texts. And, interestingly, when we interpret with as many contextual cues on board as possible, we often find that the most “plain” reading, is in fact totally in error. NT Wright, Andrew Perriman, and others, have done much to draw out the apocalyptic nature of many of these texts. And an understanding of apoc. lit certainly changes the focus – if not the entire meaning. We must remember that, first and foremost, Jesus spoke to his contemporaries. This alone should make us pause before assigning “end-of-days” interpretations to much of what he said.
And, by the way, didn’t anyone hear about the destruction of the temple in AD 70?



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kingskidd

posted December 18, 2009 at 2:56 am


There is this compulsion to want to believe there are many ways to God. There might be many starting points depending where you are philosophically in your spititual quest. Biblical christianity is very exclusive, and this is not what most people want to here in this pluralistic culture. There are many roads that you can travel on, before you get to the main highway that will get you to your final destination. Christianity’s main highway is Jesus Christ, who said of himself to be the way, the truth, and the life. I don’t see how pure universalism and pure christianity are at all compatible.



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Taylor George

posted December 18, 2009 at 8:38 am


Does NT Wright have anything to say about this? Does the book Surprised by hope deal at all with the inclusivist vs exclusivist stuff?



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Darren King

posted December 18, 2009 at 10:56 am


Kingkidd wrote:
“Christianity’s main highway is Jesus Christ, who said of himself to be the way, the truth, and the life. I don’t see how pure universalism and pure christianity are at all compatible.”
Again, like a few others on this thread, you’re clearly making assumptions BASED on some passages from scripture. I don’t think anyone on here is arguing with the reality that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. But to assume that following a certain formula (usually based on intellectual assent as opposed to actual “following”) is necessary in order to take part in that way, truth, and life, goes too far. Its interesting how people make these assumptive leaps, and then state them as if they were read verbatim in scripture.
What we need to do is step back and separate our assumptions from the actual text. Unfortunately some people have carried these assumptions for so long, and so unquestioningly, that they no longer are even able to separate the actual text from a dogmatic framework built around it.



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Dana Ames

posted December 18, 2009 at 1:26 pm


Taylor @70,
Wright’s view is a lot like that of C.S. Lewis. Wright does not believe everyone will come to God. He does not seem to believe in “hell” as a locale, but neither does he describe quite what EOrthodoxy does. He believes that, since we become like what we worship, if we keep rejecting God we are ultimately rejecting our humanity as created in the image of God. Therefore, he sees a sort of “dissolution” of a person as the result. Not “annihilation”, but like Lewis described the person in “The Great Divorce” who kept on shrinking… Farther than that, though, Wright does not go. “Surprised by Hope” doesn’t deal with the question exclusively :) but is certainly worth the read for the huge amount of hope to which it points, in terms of what we are saved *for*.
Dana



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Edward T. Babinski

posted December 18, 2009 at 9:39 pm


It all depends on how you interpret the Bible.
If you accept Jesus was a man of his time, then his apocalyptic words and scenarios that included eternal punishment were suited to the mentality of his day and age and an accommodation that God made to people’s bloodthirsty understanding back then.
“Yeah, cast into a lake of fire!” “Yeah, better to pluck out your eye than wind up in hell with two of them.” “Fear him who can cast both body and soul into hell.”
Harsh sounding to us, but to 1st centurians such language was the equivalent of nothing more than a light pat on the ass given as an incentive to do better next time. And hence NOT to be taken literally.



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Jonathon K

posted December 19, 2009 at 1:54 am


#55
I believe you are confusing evangelical universalism with pluralism which is a common and tragic misconception. You claim there is no room for piety or the great commission in evangelical universalism, but this is far from the truth. Religious pluralism is the idea that all religious paths are equally valid, but evangelical universalism does not make this claim! In fact they contend the Jesus Christ is the only way, therefore he is the way the truth and the light. A christian universalist may believe that there had to be payment for the “sin problem” and Jesus Christ was this atoning sacrifice. We know from scripture that sacrifice is a necessary thing, and Jesus fulfilled this role.
So what is the point of the great commission for evangelical universalists? Hell is not absent from the picture, it is real. Therefore, evangelism is necessary because who would ever wish even a second of hell on an individual? I hope this might clear up your confusion, and help you appreciate this view and the hope it bring. I was speaking to one of my professors about this very topic and he said I desire justice. My problem with this statement is what makes us think that our idea of justice is Gods idea of justice?
In response to rebeccat I believe you keyed in on an important point in a earlier post, the importance of evil being defeated. It makes me wonder if placing people in eternal pain and suffering really defeats evil, because it almost seems like a way to contain evil rather than way to defeat it. I have been influenced greatly by Marilyn McCord Adams book Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God, and look forward to reading this book and participating in this discussion.



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Your Name

posted December 19, 2009 at 10:25 am


John C (comment 54)
Joy! Someone who knows Winchester and co.!
I am not sure what to make of your comparison with global warming. Do you mean that people opt for universalism to bury their heads in the sand because they cannot face the horrible facts of the situation (like those who deny global warming). If so then I would say that this was most certainly not the case with Winchester. His motivation was to find a way to do justice to both the warnings of Hell and the promises of universal salvation. A temporary Hell was his way of doing that! But his version of Hell is truly horrific none the less! He thought of it in very literal and ghastly ways and he imagined that it might last for hundreds of thousands of years. So he was not trying to get away from nasty views of Hell.
As an aside, there is – if memory serves me right – an interesting letter from Rush to Richard Wright in England. Wright was a unitarian and a universalist (in fact it was he that converted William Vidler – Winchester’s successor in England – to unitarianism). Rush laments the fact that Wright denied the Trinity because universalism would get a more sympathetic hearing if it were not tied to unitarianism. I am not sure whether Rush was correct – Winchester was Trinitarian and, as you say, he was on the receiving end of a lot of criticism. But I do lament the speedy move away from Trinitarian unitarianism in the early days of the movement to unitarian universalism (that said, not all the early universalists were Trinitarian in the way that De Benneville and Winchester were: John Murray possibly thought he was but he was actually a modalist, and Charles Chauncey became a unitarian)
Robin Parry



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Ted M. Gossard

posted December 19, 2009 at 11:53 am


I appreciate the comments here, and look forward to this series as well. I’d love to believe that Christian universalism is true. I think we have to be agnostic on that, however. Not so sure all their arguments can really hold water in the end, or that what looks so good now, would have looked the same to Jesus and scholars living in his day.



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Taylor G

posted December 19, 2009 at 12:59 pm


@76 Ted yes, agnostic on the end result of all but what about hoping and praying for all to be saved?



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don

posted December 26, 2009 at 12:28 am


I think many people are coming to accept that you can believe in Jesus and also believe that everybody gets there eventually. Who are we to judge anyway.
don



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posted 12:01:53am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Let's Get Neanderthal!
The Cave Man Diet, or Paleo Diet, is getting attention. (Nothing is said about Culver's at all.) The big omission, I have to admit, is that those folks were hunters -- using spears or smacking some rabbit upside the conk or grabbing a fish or two with their hands ... but that's what makes this diet

posted 2:05:48pm Aug. 30, 2010 | read full post »




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