A little less 'intellectual' question for all of you


#1

As my excitement and joy of discovering and learning about EU has grown, I find myself wrestling with doubts about my faith in general. I think it stems from the fact that by embracing EU I have rejected a spiritual-lifelong belief in eternal conscious torment. I suppose it makes me wonder that if I’ve held onto a false belief all these years, then maybe there are a lot of other false beliefs I have. And EU seems ‘too good to be true’, even though I honestly believe it is true. Yet, my mind goes into all sorts of tailspins and asks: is belief in God too good to be true as well? I suppose it feels a little like a brick wall. You take one brick out that is bad, but it leaves the others feeling a bit unsteady. Mind you, I am a thinker and have studied a great deal of apologetics etc. So, I’m not terribly worried, but I admit that these doubts nag me a bit. I was just wondering if others on the EU journey have dealt with this and how you are/have coped with or overcome it.

As with many of you, I don’t have any other EU believers around to bounce these things off of. So, thanks.
Denver


#2

If your foundation was based on the idea that people had to be saved from hell, then yes you will be in a tailspin.


#3

I can certainly understand your concern; and Nimblewill’s comment is relevant, too: it may or may not apply to you personally, but I do know people to whom it would certainly apply.

While I can certainly understand and sympathize with this problem, I’ve never had this problem myself; because my universalism moved from being a kind of implicit hope into being an explicit belief, thanks to much more closely studying orthodox trinitarianism and its logical corollaries. At the same time, I always thought that salvation was supposed to be primarily from sin, and had always been bothered by a typical insistence that salvation was supposed to be from hell, or from the wrath of God, with salvation from sin being a kind of secondary result that we’d have to put up with (in a way) in order to get salvation from those other things. Eventually it struck me that this attitude was one of Israel’s perennial problems (except that instead of salvation from hell they were more interested in salvation from oppression by the nations–understandably so, given their cultural situation. But still, not the primary thing that they were supposed to be hoping for salvation from.)

At about the same time I was being led to concentrate more on the absolute requirement in the Gospels of loving and forgiving our enemies, with the repeated warnings that those who refuse to do this are going to end up as enemies of God themselves under the penalty they had demanded for those-enemies-over-there. (Sometimes the epistles had similar things to say, too, perhaps most notably St. Paul at the transition from chp1 to chp2 of Romans.) For someone with a kick-the-butts-of-evil mentality such as myself, that was a major criticism of my attitude; and it forced me to re-evaluate my implicit ‘well, but God should be trying to save good non-Christians, too!’ mentality. The scope was wider than I was tacitly restricting it to.

Anyway. There’s nothing wrong with re-assessing your beliefs and rationales on other topics, too, on occasion, and making corrections where you now see light to do so. An atheist could decide his current rationales for being an atheist are for crap, and then later discover better rationales for being an atheist; ditto for a Christian. The important thing is to walk according to what light you can see, looking for more light thereby: the truth of reality should be our goal, adjusting our theories and beliefs correspondingly to the objective truth insofar as we can see it.

If God Himself is the Truth (and the Way and the Life), then that loyalty to truth is faithfulness to God, regardless of whether the subjective person can see God per se at the moment or not. God knows and will judge accordingly. (Like with “Emeth” in C. S. Lewis’ final Narnia novel, The Last Battle. :slight_smile: Or, as a more scriptural example, like with the penitent rebel murderer on the cross. He gives all of what little he can give to truth and charity at the end; Christ gives all that He can give, in recognition of those two cents of faith. :smiley: )


#4

Denver,
Thanks for posing a great question. For what it’s worth, my experience and perceptions after affirming EU are identical to yours, but I lack any formula for dissolving nagging questions. I too suspect that once we’ve allowed ourself to reject something like final damnation that was at the core of our paradigm for reality (and also the unquestionable consensus of hosts of evangelicals and even main-line Christians), it is disquieting enough that returning to the easier certitude with which I embraced the former system is difficult to recover, even if perhaps it reflected a bit of (arrogant?) dogmatism.

But I now see that, though repressed, I long harbored troubling doubts about the rightness of ECT. And I do feel awfully sure that it would be even harder to return to my former world view, which I now can’t help seeing as incoherent and morally tainted. It appears clear to me that EU is far more consistent with affirming the central values of Jesus’ teaching that ring so true for me, and with trusting in a God of matchless love and power. (It also fits better with our journey toward the Bible’s main concern with our life that I think Jason rightly pointed toward.)

This may be consistent with saying that this is what I hope would be true about reality and a worthy conception of God. But perhaps such a working assumption about how to view life and other people ultimately involves less than proof, and is more a step of faith. As Jason reflects, it is right to pursue the light as best God appears to allow us to see it.


#5

Hi Denver,
I think this will come down 100% to a relationship issue, that is, down to what you personally see and know and communicate with God. I think you’re so right about this not at all being an ‘intellectual’ (and I’ll add - not a theological) question. :slight_smile:
blessings,

  • Byron

#6

Hey Denver, very interesting question. Doubts about Christianity eventually lead to me leaving it, though I’m only just outside the fold and I’m not bitter - unlike many!

My advice would be to find out what your faith is really based on. Is it a cold and rational worldview you arrived at by reason and observable/objective evidence alone? No. Alvin Plantinga has it right when he says that God is a lived experience, not the conclusion of a syllogism. Apologetics (unless there is a specific question) does not really build faith. Faith is far more participatory.

I come closest to faith when I attend Catholic Mass - I participate in an ancient ritual and feel a sense of gratitude and warmth towards largely familiar words. You might find regular prayer helps your faith.

I suppose I’m trying to say that faith really isn’t an intellectual thing, though intellectual difficulties can get in the way of it. You won’t build faith by reading William Craig, as your critical mind will rightly want to follow up the footnotes and see if Graham Oppy has a point or not.

Hope some of that is vaguely helpful


#7

Well, I thought it was pretty good. :smiley:


#8

Thank you all for your responses. The more I study and explore EU the more I am convinced intellectually, and, honestly the more I am convinced of how coherent it makes the Christian faith as a whole. I also find myself at greater peace with the Lord relationally as I understand and experience the wideness of His mercy.

I think that my journey to EU has taken me through very heavy theological and intellectual processes. Books like MacDonald’s EU, Talbott’s Inescapable Love of God, and Jan Bonda’s One Purpose of God are not fluffy books. And that’s been great for me because my objections to universalism were the same objections most evangelicals hold: mainly that universalism is just sappy wishes not based on biblical grounds. Still, as my mind has been appeased I’ve found myself hungering to know the more personal/emotive journeys of others as they relate to universalism. Admittedly, I’ve found the “Introductions” section on the forum to be the most enjoyable because I love hearing the stories of others’ experience of discovering EU and how it has affected their relationship to their Lord and their world.

All this to say: I appreciate hearing your responses because it’s encouraging to hear of other runners in this race and how they’ve faced the obstacles along the way. I suppose that’s what fellowship is all about.
Denver


#9

One thing I actually try to tamp down on, in boards like this, are the emotions that follow from my universalism. Not because I think they’re improper, but because I don’t want them to be clouding the issue for people who aren’t yet understanding and agreeing with me logically.

I ought to do more devotional work here, though. Universalism (and ortho-trin, too) is about the fulfillment of interpersonal relationships between God and man, and between man and man. (And perhaps even more importantly, between man and woman. :smiley: )

If you haven’t yet read the original George MacDonald’s Unspoken Sermons and The Hope of the Gospel (which is basically USerm Vol 4), I strenuously recommend them as fine examples of both chewy theology and personal devotion. I’ve posted links to them (including where texts can be downloaded for free from his American publisher) in the “Materials We Recommend” thread.

(and if you have any taste for epic fantasy, may I add that I’ve been accused of too much emotionalism in my novels…? :mrgreen: :laughing: They’re heavy on personal journeys of people, including in relation to God, in what I hope are complexly realistic fashions.)


#10

Frankly, the God in which I believed before I came to see the truth of universal reconciliation, is too bad to be true.


#11

For me it’s more a question of too unlikely to be true.


#12

Denver:

Sorry for coming late to this thread, but wow does it resonate with me. So a few quick thoughts and then a few book recs.

Yes I’ve wrestled with doubt big time. I’ve learned from it. Doubt is not to be feared; indifference is. Faith without doubt is not nearly as strong. Doubt strengthens faith; thus is, in a paradoxical way, an ally of faith. But don’t forget; doubt is not only applicable to faith, but to doubt as well! C S Lewis comments on this dynamic (my horrible paraphrase follows) and says sure – I some days doubt whether this whole Christ story deal is true and real. But in all honesty I confess that when i was a skeptic and atheist, I doubted that too and wondered if Christian faith really was the better vision.

So doubt is never the end, but only the beginning to new discoveries. Doubt is the stimulus to ask questions and go places where you might not have gone otherwise. When doubt creeps in sing Hallelujah! – because it means that God is trusting you with new discoveries. And don’t be afraid to be persistent. God is patient, so you be patient too. Perhaps the questions you have will take a few years to find their answer. Are you willing to wait? God seems to be. Don’t mistake faith for some perpetual mountaintop experience that always basks in certainty and sunshine. Read the mystics from the middle ages; stunning stuff. Ask yourself this: if this God in whom I’ve believed is real, who better to stand up to scrutiny? certainly not the impostor. Fight with God; wrestle; argue; and cling. Be like Moses who told God (after he has told him he wanted to dispense with those irritable Israelites; You can’t do that God! for think what the Egyptians would say!)

Anyway, during my period of doubt, I found these books helpful:
The Myth of Certainty by Daniel Taylor. Wow
God in the Dark by Os Guiness
Disappointment with God by Philip Yancy

Also, I wrote an essay which was actually published in our denominations international magazine on this very topic. If you like I’ll get it to you.

TotalVictory
Bobx3


#13

When confronted by this concern, George MacDonald said, “It’s just so good, it must be true!”

My main “proof” of God’s existence is the innumerable encounters with God and/or with His miraculous power related throughout history. It would be preposterous to assert that every single person who had such an encounter was either lying or befuddled. In the face of such overwhelming witness, it’s clear that it is the atheistic arguments that are befuddled.

And given the existence of God (which seems inescapable to me), it’s impossible for me to believe that we fallible humans have dreamed up a theology that is more glorious than the truth.

I thus hold that theistic universalism is virtually axiomatic.


#14

Wow; I thought I was pretty confident, but I’ve never felt able to say it is axiomatic! (You did say “virtually” I realize!)

I’ve been pondering this a lot these past few weeks and one really does wonder what on earth (or in the Universe) it would accomplish, or prove, for God not to rescue everyone.
I can think of NO reason…

TotalVictory
Bobx3


#15

I agree that it accomplishes nothing to not save everyone.

The strict Calvinist, however, would respond that it reflects God’s glory and justice to damn some because it shows that He has the right to do as He pleases because, well…He’s God and we’re not.

The Arminian would respond that not saving some is a reflection of God’s gift of free will. Since He is a gentleman and won’t force Himself on anyone, He can only ‘respect’ the decisions of those who don’t choose Him by faith.

To me, the Calvinist view portrays a frightening God who seems to glory in flippant choices about eternal destinies.
The Arminian view takes an awfully high view of our ability to make good, clear, smart choices about the truth in a life that is exhorbitantly wrought with confusion, pain, and blindness.

I’ve just been reading Hebrews chapter 2 and I’ve been really moved by how much Jesus chose to identify with us as humans: he suffered death, he became like his brothers, he was tempted in every way-and suffered through temptation. He did all this, it says, so He could become a faithful and merciful high priest. If anything, it suggests that he suffered through the challenges of human life and, thus, can really connect with our difficulties. This is a God who takes pity on us! Isn’t that the good news? And, yet, the cool thing is, it says: he’s not even ashamed to call us brothers. Cool stuff.
Denver