The Evangelical Universalist Forum

A Short Bible Case for Universalism-feedback

Here is order are the numerous passages cited in Bob Wilson’s summary of universalism, which may make much clearer what it is perceived that each contributes to the case.
SCRIPTURES cited in.doc (116 KB)

What about 1 Tim. 1:17: “now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, [be] honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Is that aionios or aidios?
Anyway, the question remains “How are you interpreting the verses that apply “aionian” to G-d? “God pertaining to the age” doesn’t really cut it, IMO- what do you think?”

Neither. It’s {to_n aio_n_on}, which is close but not exactly the same word as {aio_nion}. Notice that the first word has a direct article, for instance.

This brings up a further complication that I thought about mentioning in my previous post, but which I decided to wait about, to see if anyone else brought it up. :sunglasses: There are many more instances of a good dozen different words and phrases in the NT being commonly Englished as “eternal”, which are not in fact the adjective {aio_nion}. (I’m being a bit more particular about the spelling this time. The underscore represents a long prior vowel.) Knoch’s, which is very good about distinguishing phrases, properly renders {to_n aio_n_on} as “of the eons”. Green’s TR (which is a very handy Greek-to-English resource, even though he’s using a modified version of the sometimes less reliable Textus Receptus), reads “eternal” in its “literal” translations (plus the parallel KJV, of course), but again properly renders it “of the eons” in its slightly-more-literal word-for-word tracing.

The phrase at the end of the verse you mentioned, btw, is sometimes paraphrased “eternal honor and glory”, but is more strictly rendered “honor and glory into [or for] the eons of the eons”.

(Just to round off the comparisons, v.16 ends with a reference to those who are about to be believing on Him (i.e. Jesus Christ) into {zo_e_n aio_nion}. That really is the adjective eonian. :mrgreen: )

I think that’s primarily for the other Bob to answer, in this thread. :wink:

Fwiw, I understand why “pertaining to the age” (whether the age to come or ages past or the current age) can make sense in some applications (the vast majority of which uses would be the age to come, I suppose); but as I noted at the end of my previous comment, it doesn’t look appropriate for other applications. My own conclusion from how the adjective is used in the NT, is that it’s meant as a reference to the relationship of God Himself, intrinsically, to the topic being modified by the adjective. It doesn’t translate easily to English, but the distinction would be similar to the difference between saying “everlasting life” and “life from the Everlasting”. Except that the meaning would be even stronger and deeper than that. Eonian pertains, not to the age, but to its modified noun coming or occurring from the heart of God in accord with God’s own intrinsic being.

Even Rom 16:26 would fit that application well enough, as a reflexive reference to God’s own active self-existence: “God from God” is much the same as “I AM THAT I AM”. (Note that this would have some pretty strong links to the notion of the Father being God even to the Incarnate Son; also to occasional scattered references in the OT where Elohim or some other name-title of God is referred to as God in relation even to some entity sharing the divine name-identity of God.)

Rom 16:25 (ironically) would be the one difficult outlier for that interpretive scheme, so far as I know. But it can still work so long as the phrase is read as meaning that the secret was being kept hushed in those times by the action of God. It wasn’t an accident or oversight, or even (necessarily) a failure on our part; it was a core part of God’s plan, and God Himself was acting to make sure the secret stayed secret until the appropriate time! (Grave failures being core parts of God’s plan that God Himself even had a hand in setting up and/or maintaining until the appropriate time of healing and salvation, is a huge theme earlier in Romans, note; especially in regard to making peace between Jew and Gentile under God.)

Robert, thanks for posing eternal’s difficulty (since it describes judgment and might be defined as ‘endless’). This is often raised, much debated, and worthy of more study by me. Working 40 years with Greek provides me no expertise! But here is my overall perception off the top of my head and less informed than Jason’s.

Several evangelical N.T. Ph.D.s confirm to me that this word is simply *not * literally equivalent to our English “eternal” or “endless,” and agree than it’s sometimes used of time-bound situations. I.e. that like many complex terms in our own vocabulary. its’ definition can only be settled by its’ context (though they retain both their job and “endless” as a good translation when it’s attached to punishment :wink: )!

It’s true, I’ve said that its’ more literal translation, ‘pertaining to the age,’ nicely fits when it’s applied to clearly time-bound things. But you’re right that that works far less well applied to God. Still, I’m not sure its usage in 1 Tim. 1 or Rom. 16 is describing God in terms of his longevity. (I hinted that many scholars like Talbott think this expression, that may most literally indicate the coming supernatural age, comes to refer to a “divine quality” that belongs to God, even if that seems a bit redundant in 1 Tim. 1. E.g. this would mean both “eternal” life and punishment have in common a super-natural beyond this world quality, rather than asserting that we are made immortal; it’s our “resurrection” that provides that-1 Cor. 15.)

Nonetheless, my showing that “eternal can mean a limited time,” doesn’t mean that it can never refer to God or another endless entity. Thus I can concede that 1 Tim. could refer to God’s “endless duration,” without it following that it must mean this applied to ‘correction.’ For then its’ assured meaning there would need to trump and be stronger than all the texts and biblical/moral arguments presented that God’s salvific victory will be universal. It may be subjective, but for me aionion’s elasticity, and the sustantial doubt that it must always mean ‘timeless,’ means that it cannot begin to bear that much weight.

So what do you conclude? E.g., must questioning the permanence of aionion’s ‘correction’ based on our deeds toward the “least” in Matt. 25 require that I’m first able to authoritatively define its’ usage with God in 1 Tim. 1:17?

Thanks for the reply. I only have a moment here, so I’ll just throw out an idea or two. Your last paragraph’s question is interesting. I would say that in order to understand Mt. 25 more fully, perhaps an understanding of the word’s “full scope” might be helpful. It might inform the interpretation, no? I’ll think some more!
Have you studied Greek for 40 years?

Now for some more direct comments on the actual text… :wink:

1.) It’s a very nicely thick and compact NT exegetical case; with a good selection of OT side-references for principle.

2.) While I might complain a bit about the visual presentation being rather flowery (as far as fonts, italics, different justifications–not to be confused with the theological term :mrgreen: --etc.), the varied visual look can help readers who have trouble following dense paragraphs. And I don’t mind the concurrent rhetorical flourishes, so long as the underlying material is substantial and sound; which is true in this case. (I don’t like seeing rhetorical form substituting for substance. But that isn’t the case here. :slight_smile: )

3.) While I know the standard interpretation of Rom 9’s vessels of wrath and mercy involves them being the objects of God’s wrath and mercy (which admittedly has definite relevance to the original context of the quote about the Potter/pottery and answering back to God–and which original OT context is very importantly universalistic!), I find that the larger narrative/rhetorical context rather involves the notion that God creates some vessels to pour out wrath and some to pour out mercy. St. Paul may be combining the two analogies here in chapter 9, but this other analogy has an important role in the rhetorical thrust of Paul’s goals up through chp 11 (at least), that shouldn’t be (but almost always is) ignored. Namely, his Jewish and Gentile audience shouldn’t be busily blaming each other and claiming the moral high ground in regard to persecutions and failures by the other side. Jews and Gentiles both have served as agents of wrath on each other, and not always in an ethically approvable fashion; but God is incorporating all that into a winning scenario for everyone, in the long run.

This certainly doesn’t re-introduce a non-universalistic element to the reading–far from it! :smiley: But, that should be another reason to keep it in mind during an exegetical case.

4.) Back to discussing the application of terms translated “eternal”. I’m afraid there’s a bit of a category error in trying to claim that because Heb 6:5 refers to “the impending eon” {te mellontos aio_nos}, therefore the adjective “eonian” in regard to the chastisement of the goats in GosMatt means the same thing. The words are obviously related, but are not the same terms. In fact, what makes {aio_nos} mean ‘pertaining to the eon’ in the first case, is its explicit reference to the age that is about-to-be.

This doesn’t necessarily hurt your case, but it does leave you open to a possible non sequitur complaint.

5.) In point of fact, {aidios} doesn’t mean unending. It means imperceptible. Thus the Rom 1:20 ref you cite reads, “For His invisibles [hard to translate that term :mrgreen: , but probably means something like invisible attributes] are descried from the creation of the world, being apprehended by His achievements, besides His imperceptible power and divinity.”

The word is only used twice in all the NT (so far as I’ve been able to find. Anyone else…??) And, to be honest: the only other time it’s used (that I can find) is in reference to the imperceptible bonds of the rebel angels God has imprisoned “under gloom” for the judging of the great day. (A reference found in a paragraph reminding readers how the Lord Jesus (!) destroyed those who, like Egypt, believed not, including Sodom and Gommorrah who are “lying before us, a specimen, experiencing the justice of eonian fire.” :exclamation: :exclamation: )

So… um, yeah, despite your claim, it is in fact used in half its NT references (such as those are :mrgreen: ) to refer to those in hades and/or Gehenna; and in fact its particular use in the epistle of Jude connects directly not only to the concept but to the word ‘hades’ itself meaning ‘the unseen’. (Even though ‘hades’ as a term isn’t used there.)

Fortunately for you, though, it doesn’t actually mean ‘unending’. :laughing: It picked up that meaning as a bleedover from what people guessed the implications were of the Jude paragraph, I suspect. Or (maybe more likely, though not discounting that other explanation as a factor) because at a fast glance it looks a lot like an aion- cognate. But it isn’t.

So it’s a compound error that definitely needs correcting: aidios has nothing to do with duration (endless or otherwise), and is in fact used in regard to hell. But the corrections make your case better, not worse. :sunglasses:

6.) Actually, we do see some highly (even crucially! :smiley: ) important outgoing traffic, in the final chapter of RevJohn: the river of life (a symbol for Christ) going out from under the throne of God, into the lands where those who continue to love their sin are living. Moreover, the saints are exhorted by the Spirit (Who also may be thus said to be going out) to join Him in exhorting the currently impenitent to drink freely of the water, slake their thirst, wash their robes, and thus obtain permission to enter the city to be healed by the leaves of the tree of life.

You do mention the Bride, briefly, inviting the deceived to be saved; but the super-important piece of the picture is the river of life flowing out of the never-closed gates.

So, again, a correction (strictly speaking), but it makes your case vastly better, not worse.

7.) The quote from John Stott is poignant; but it in a backhanded way it actually hurts your case. Stott, last I heard, is still an annihilationist who thinks that living with the idea that God hopelessly punishes sinners for a limited period of time and then wipes them out of existence, doesn’t require “cauterizing” his feelings about the final fate of the sinners. Insert irony here as applicable… :confused: :unamused:

Unless he’s actually “Gregory”… :mrgreen: Which would be unbearably cool. But still, less than helpful for your paper as things currently are. Unless he became an open universalist, and I haven’t heard about it? (Entirely possible. Just asking.)

(I will mention here that a former pastor of mine recently started switching to annihilationism thanks to John Stott, whom he was amazed to find holding the belief. We used to dialogue on universalism vs. non-universalism over pizza once a week for lunch, for a while. Some of the best hours of my life, that year.)

Despite my crits, I actually think pretty highly of the compact density of the case you’ve put together there. :smiley: It’s good work and good material. Needs some tweaking in places; and I don’t know that it really directly addresses the question of why we should interpret apparently non-U verses in light of apparently pro-U verses instead of vice versa. One can state that it’s a raw choice of whether to choose in favor of hope or not, but that leaves you at an impasse since the other side can do the same thing in the other direction with just the same amount of justification.

Which is why I insist on appealing back to a set of beliefs that we’re supposed to be sharing in common with the non-universalist orthodox Christians: namely, the orthodox theology! :wink: Even though that leads into greater technical complexity, it provides a common standard of agreement (ostensibly anyway) to be advancing from.

But: for people who clearly want to hope but don’t yet see scriptural ground for doing so, your essay succinctly and thoroughly brings forth very many good and important scriptural grounds for hoping that all may be saved. I’d be honored and pleased to make use of it myself–with some tweaks as noted above. :laughing: :smiley: :ugeek:

A brief addendum: I perused numerous Greek commentaries at Fuller Seminary, and of course found some debate. But 1 Tim.'s “eternal King” is more literally “King of the ages” (plural; while Rom. 16:26’s “eternal God” is “God of the age”-singular and Paul’s only such usage; cf. Heb. 9:14). Some scholars feel “eternal King” misleadingly obscures the literal meaning (which is more akin to my “pertaining to the coming age”). But of course, a literal "ruler over the ages, could well imply He is King forever.

I think Jason rightly notes that we should not oversimplify or assume that distinctive constructions translated to English as “eternal” all have identical meaning. 40 years of Greek? Ya, old guys went to seminary long ago, though I first studied Greek at UCLA in 1967. My grasp is scant, and I’m skeptical of any who talk about an ancient language like they are the one source with an objective and certain interpretation. We all bring some bias affected by our values, input from respected figures, and investment in a given conclusion.

Yes, knowing the word’s “full scope” would greatly help with Matthew 25, but I fear that language means that that’s inevititably what is debatable and uncertain. I wish you Godspeed in sorting such ideas through as best you can.

Jason ,
Thanks for the encouragement, and that I can look to you for a solid evaluation! Our perceptions of the biblical substance do appear largely similar.

I’m sympathetic with: 2. Your visual critique. 3. Suggestion of the nuances in Romans 9. 4. Your concern to more carefully distinguish the terms, nouns and adjectives related to ‘eternal." On 5, you’re likely also right that my unstudious acceptance of a definition for the obscure ‘aidios’ can’t bear the weight (tho why e.g. would Moo & Fee-TNIV, take it as “eternal,” not ‘imperceptable’?). Your fascinating note on Jude 6, the evil angels’ “everlasting chains,” is cautionary, tho I have little grasp of demonic ontology. My careless rhetorical desire was only to emphasize that aioniois is not identical to ‘endless duration,’ and I’m going to drop that reference to Rom. 1:20.

On 6, noting that the “saints” never abandon the City didn’t mean to deny your valuable addition that God’s river flows beyond it. On 7, I doubt Stott is Gregory and didn’t mean to disingenuously assert that he was no longer an annihilationist; only that he at least recognizes that classical ECT is morally problematic. My paper skimps on annihilationism, but my observation that Jesus’ Fatherly love wouldn’t be consistent with “discarding” loved ones makes it equally problematic for me.

On why to prefer pro-U verses over apparently non-U ones, I agree that orthodox theology can aid the cause (even If I may be less sure than you that that approach can provide certainty either). But my case on page 4 is less that we should favor “hope,” than that we should favor Jesus’ revelation concerning God’s gracious character. I find George MacDonald’s view striking, that we should take seriously what seems plainly perverse to us. Thus page 4 bolsters this by emphasizing that for me, the teaching and loving character of God displayed especially in Jesus reinforces my tension with ECT. Frankly, as a follower smitten with Jesus, subjective though it may be, the reality is that those written sections on the ultimacy and victory of love are what especially ‘resonates’ with what the Spirit seems to let me most deeply ‘know’ internally, and that conviction no doubt influences my hermaneutic, or even could break a ‘tie’ in harmonizing difficulties.

Can you phrase that again, the part about but I fear that language means that that’s inevitably what is debatable and uncertain? What does that mean to say “language means”? Was a word left out or something?
Bob, I like your attitude, it’s refreshingly honest! Peace, Robert

It’s great to dialogue with you. I only meant that the commentaries offered differing interpretations of 1 Tim. 1:16. In the above piece, Jason says “aidios,” another word that gets translated as “eternal,” means “imperceptable” (or hidden?). I wasn’t familiar with that, and have never heard aioniois translated as hidden, but if it points to what is divine, or belonging to the age beyond our familiar world, perhaps it could sometimes have that implication. My paper does cite a few passages where the Gospel’s mystery (such as the nature of a Jew and Gentile church) is said to have been hidden for ‘eternal ages,’ but now is revealed (yet “hidden” and “eternal” are totally different words there).

“Differing constructions” was referring to words in the aion family translated as “eternal” that have varying endings (and sometimes different articles or words connected to them) that might indicate e.g. an adjective, noun, or different kinds of verb forms. Thus, while sharing the same root, these various words can have different uses and meanings.

My last ambiguous sentence meant that human language uses words that have multiple uses and meanings (and even derivations that aren’t fully known), and further that then translating those into another language raises further challenges about which new words would most accurately convey the same meaning. Thus, even among bright and knowledgeable people, there’s not apt to be complete agreement (or certainty) about what is the correct or full way to understand any given word in a particular context. (That reality encourages continually producing new translations.)

Peace be with you also,

I thought that I heard you speaking that way! The Bible is kind of like a Rorschach test when the text seems unclear. We import our heart’s desires into the text, no? And some would say that it is clear always (never in doubt, eh?) Thanks Bob for your kind reply. I want the best for all.

Indeed! I love your summary: “The Bible is kind of like a Rohrshach test…” I just can’t see that this profound book is a systematic treatise or orderly rulebook of propositions that would enable everyone to agree on each point’s meaning, or that would suggest that God puts the priority on cognitive knowledge and agreement.

You’re welcome. It’s an admirable exegetical summation! :smiley:

I wouldn’t simply exclude references to Rom 1 and Jude 6, since {aïdios} is often translated as “eternal” or “everlasting”; and might be an exegetical problem for universalism at Jude 6, if so. Better to acknowledge that the problem exists, but that some translators believe the term doesn’t mean ever-something but rather unperceived or imperceptible: a translation that gains contextual strength from the fact that both NT uses of the word occur in places where all translators agree that the invisible characteristics of something are being talked about.

I think you’re actually okay there–if the word means imperceptible, or even can mean imperceptible.

As far as I can tell, there are two lines of thought on the topic.

Option 1.) The word is being built as a morphed compound of {aei}, meaning “ever” in the sense of occurring unconditionally or on any occasion; and… something else. This is the theory espoused by the editors of Vine’s. (They don’t explain what the second part of the compound is supposed to be. Anyone else have an idea…?? I make my own guess later in this comment…) This explanation has the advantage of synching with the vowel-pointing tradition of umlauting the iota, thus {aïdios} and {aïdiois} for the Rom and Jude verses respectively.

But of course that tradition can only start relatively late in the life of the text. It amounts to a guess by later transcribers, but (assuming the second half of the proposed compound word can mean “lasting” or something like that–Vine’s is emphatic that the term should always be translated “everlasting” and never as “eternal”, btw) it makes decent enough sense as such in each of its two NT uses, even though the Jude 6 use would cause exegetical problems for universalism. (Not necessarily insurmountable ones, but still…)

I will reiterate that Vine’s itself (which is pretty exhaustive concerning NT Greek word usage) gives neither any explanation of what the second half of the word is supposed to mean, nor any indication in its Greek lexicon as to what {dio-} or {di-} (grammatically morphed or otherwise) can mean. That doesn’t mean they don’t have a rationale; only that the rationale is unclear.

Option 2.) The word is being built as {a}{id}{i}{on}, or un-perceive-ed, where {ide} (to see) is being given a countering {a-} prefix and grammatic suffixing ({-on} being the normal form to be morphed). This is Knoch’s theory, and it has the advantage of offering a clear explanation about what the full construction of the word is supposed to be. It also has the advantage of specially synching up with the undisputed topic of invisibleness, in each of the two known NT uses.

Note that the difference would be imperceptible (unintentional irony there :mrgreen: ) in all-cap (or even lower-cap) non-pointed written Greek. The phonetic difference would be between reading the word aï-di-os, or reading it a-id-i-os.

Amusingly, if the word is supposed to be aï-di-grammaticsuffix :wink: , it might be supposed to mean ever-coherent! That would work well enough for the Rom 1:20 reference to God; and wouldn’t necessarily be anti-universalistic at Jude 6, since it could mean the bonds are always toward the justice of togetherness, not separation. At worst it would simply mean the bonds are unbreakable; but this couldn’t possibly be in virtue of the bonds themselves, but only that their strength depends upon God and so consequently on His intentions.

That pretty much exhausts my competence in considering the issue. I’m sure that modern translators who go with “eternal/everlasting” are basing it on the vowel-marking of later texts, which seem to be fairly consistent (the commentary to the USB has no discussion on either verse), but which of course post-date the wane of universalistic theology in post-apostolic church tradition. The question remains as to why it ought to be translated one way and not the other; and this could well be a rare case where one compound word has been pervasively mistaken for another very different one. Given the data at hand, and especially in light of the topical contexts of the two paragraphs, I’m strongly inclined to go with “imperceptible”; but I could work with “ever-coherent/together”, too. And it ought to be noted that translating the word “imperceptible” hardly hurts the non-universalist exegetical case.

(Mental note to self: check patristic refs to the two verses, see if there are any earlier refs which tacitly or explicitly go with “imperceptible”. Or, heck, later refs for that matter! :laughing: Though I’m sure the later refs will strongly if not always take the word to be {aë-di-suffix}.)

I know; but you’ll be clearer if you phrase it as never abandoning instead of never leaving: the saints (with Christ) are leaving the city on evangelical missions to the ones who still love their sinning.

I think that’s important to emphasize, because non-universalistic eschatologies and soteriologies pretty much have to insist that the doors are shut with everyone inside partying leaving the lost to their fate outside. Which of course is what some key parables tend to indicate, taken by themselves! You’re pointing out elsewhere that this exclusion isn’t the end of the story; and making a good ref to the Biblical end-of-the-story story. :smiley: Which shows that the story isn’t ending there! But it also shows that the King/Husband/Father isn’t in fact shutting the doors forever against those outside, much less keeping everyone inside from going out to bring home the lost sheep.

(That being said, while the end of RevJohn doesn’t feature saints abandoning the city for sin, our first ancestors and the fallen angels did abandon the city of God, analogically speaking, in order to love and practice their sinning. The rebellion that precedes the lake of fire judgment, whether it be considered sequential to previously mentioned rebellions or a preteristic short snapshot of the whole history of rebellion, also has to involve people leaving the Peace of God (Yah-ru-shalom) for the sake of sinning. That might be the old peace, not the new peace, but still… I wouldn’t count it an automatic assurance that someone might not try rebellion again in the unrevealed-so-far future after the establishment of the New Jerusalem. Not that I think this has to be mentioned in your paper; just noting the topic in passing. :slight_smile: )

I certainly agree (and am a big fan of the original GMacD. :smiley: ) But that goes the other way just as well: the hope of salvation from sin seems plainly perverse to our bitterest foes. MacD understood this, and although he lamented it he also realized it required him to meet them on a position they could agree with him on.

For him, this was the Pauline principle that whereto we have attained we walk by the same, until such time as we see any correction thereby; which he more frequently expressed as the exhortation that his opponents ought to at least agree with him that we all should be obeying and doing the commands of Jesus if we are to be serious in acknowledging Him as our Lord.

Thus, as he wrote (in Unspoken Sermons Vol 2 [with some minor paragraphing and grammatic/punctuation tweaking by me for clarity]):

I have heard the phrase God of the ages propounded as the God who works through the medium of ages…

Jeff’s comment reminded me, I had forgotten something.

While (as I noted previously) 1 Tim’s “eternal King” is in fact more literally “King of the ages”, Rom 16:26 is not the singular version of that phrase. It really is “eonian God”. (As I had also noted earlier, I think.)

It might should be translated as a prepositional phrase of some kind. (Of what kind would be more debatable, I’d say. And have said. :mrgreen: ) But it isn’t a Greek prepositional phrase. It’s an adjective.

Which is only important insofar as we’re noting that we tend to English a wide set of prepositional phrases as the adjective “eternal” (or somesuch) when in fact they might be better translated into English as prepositional phrases. That being the case, the onus would be back on us to explain why {aionion} and its immediate cognates shouldn’t be translated as an adjective but as a prepositional phrase instead.

(I gave some reasoning along this line way back up in the thread, when discussing Rom 16:26 and {aionion} more broadly. But I think it’s important to avoid charges of applying an exegetically convenient double-standard: appealing to prep-phrases as prep-phrases instead of adjectives in order to avoid “eternal” translations; but then translating an adjective as a prep-phrase, apparently to avoid the same thing! I’m just trying to be fair to the opposition. :sunglasses: )

Thanks for the thorough responses! Especially the stimulating quote from MacDonald. I think it augments my last comment to Robert that what seems to take precedence with God is not simply our cognitive correctness.

Perhaps we are being asked (even commanded?) to have “faithfulness to what appears to be true to us”. How could we believe for any other reason than that something appears to be true (appears to “make the most sense” might be more to the point)? But this doesn’t make what we believe true. Still, since it appears to be true, we must hang on to this “picture” of reality, crying out for correction in the sense of finding a fuller, more complete picture of things. Isn’t this an interesting mix of relativism and absolutism- a kind of synthesis?

Try reading this all the way through ( do you see anything relevant?):
Romans 14
The Weak and the Strong
1Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

5One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. 8If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

9For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. 10You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11It is written:
" ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will confess to God.’ "[a] 12So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

13Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. 14As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food** is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. 15If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. 16Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. 17For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

19Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.

22So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.**

Again I resonate, and have long thought that Romans 14 exemplifies that Paul is often not the stereotypical dogmatist who demands that it’s essential to accept his view (here “strong faith”). For most issues he seems to recognize that motives, trusting God, and making love paramount are what matters. So it’s fine to agree to disagree.

Of course, God looks on the heart, and can evaluate it as well as the mind. So for me, it’s great to simply trust that God can take everything relevant into account, and will do what’s right, which I believe will mean grace and truth will meet, and likewise righteousness and love will both be affirmed, rather than seen as in conflict.

Thanks again for your time. I think that Paul would not mean that the objective truths that we strive to be accurate about are unimportant, but rather the opposite. That being the case, he cannot be a relativist in a simple sense. I say this because some slip into an “easy relativism” that says “since there are varying opinions about x, there is no Truth”. He values the Truth and doesn’t take anything away from the Truth. And there is not “but” after this statement. Instead, he must have recognized that humans are “seeing through a glass darkly”, must have recognized the “epistemic fallibility” that we all carry around. I don’t think that he was “tolerant” about false opinions at all. He seems to demand conformity to certain Truths, to be sure (resurrection!), but tolerant about lack of conformity to other Truths. Paul sees boundaries, I believe. There are cliffs that can’t be neglected. He seems to be the same about sin- in 1 Corinthians he accepts that the church is committing certain sins, but he doesn’t remove fellowship from them for those sins. But for other sins (see 1Cor 5) he demands that the church separate from those that are involved in such.
Just some thoughts, with many questions remaining.
Blessings to you, Bob!

I thought you’d especially appreciate that quote. :smiley: