The Evangelical Universalist Forum

A Short Bible Case for Universalism-feedback

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:


I very much agree with the quote from Romans–and I especially note the tail end, because that’s a warning against those of us trying to convince others to see a better truth: not that we shouldn’t try, but that we shouldn’t insist (including from authority positions) on people accepting what appears to be an unethical position if they still believe the position to be unethical. Otherwise, we’re the ones who are seducing them to do rebellion against God! :open_mouth: :open_mouth:

I’m sure that goes for truth as well as morality. Bullying someone into treating a doctrine as true when they don’t think it’s true, is a Super Bad Thing, even if the doctrine actually is true.

I have a question for anybody, just to see if there is some new light for me. I’ll try it without Scripture on hand. Now Paul accuses the Corinth church of divisive behavior, does he not? He considers these folks as Christians as well. Then, somewhere else he says that those who practice such divisive behavior will not enter the kingdom. Yet in 1 Cor he says that they are in the Kingdom. Isn’t that a contradiction? Or do they have until death to repent? (?)
Or am I misreading some term?

Oh, here it is:
1 Cor:
1Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? 4For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?
19The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

All throughout the NT (and the OT, too, in a way), there’s a prevalent theme of already/not-yet. Thus in one sense I am already in the kingdom; but in another sense, I will not be entering the kingdom until and unless I stop loving and doing my sinning.

Similarly, during Christ’s final visit to Capernaum, He warned His own chosen apostles that unless and until they changed their hearts concerning how they were to treat other people (which was linked to how they expected God to treat other people), they would absolutely by no means be entering into the kingdom. (The Greek report of His words on that occasion, is very emphatic. :open_mouth: :exclamation: ) Yet He had already been sending them out as ambassadors of the kingdom and of the King, and was about to do so again (preparing the way for His final tour through the Galilean, Samarian and Judean regions, plus that Arabian area east of Jordan at the Beth-Araba fords near Jericho.)

Obviously, if there is no hope of post-mortem salvation, then such people only have until death to repent. But the repentance still has to be done, with God’s help, one way or another, sooner or later; or there can be no entry into the inheritance.

In the case of factionalizing, I take this to be competitive exclusion with no intention at reconciliation and/or with an attitude of simply conquering the other side. Or (and it might be this as well), I take it to be the actual sin of heresy, where someone goes his own way, not for love of truth but for sake of attaining power for himself. In any case, in the Day of the Lord to come, reconciliation will be offered that will allow those who cannot at this time agree with one another to meet and be reconciled under the fairest possible Truth. If I’m wrong on a point, I might be doing ethically right at this time (so long as I’m also being concerned about fairness and mercy to my opposition, where possible) to be insistent about holding to that point. But, consider if God Himself is now judging between me and my opponent. Am I going to accept the correction of Truth and Fair Justice Himself on the matter?–or not!!?

If not–how could I be entering into the kingdom? I certainly cannot be inheriting so long as I am in rebellion against our Father.

God does not condemn us, in the way that we are expecting to be condemned–which is one of several key points to the logion about the woman caught in adultery–but He does expect us to absolutely stop sinning–which is also the point to that story. :wink: (The Greek is very emphatic there, too…!) The One Who is without sin, will be the one to throw the stone, sooner or later. He is the one Who can most be trusted to be fairest and most loving about vengeance. (“Vengeance is Mine; I shall repay!” says YHWH in the OT.) But there is a vengeance on the way, if we insist on having it. Including on those of us who profess accurate Christian truth and even who serve Christ, doing good and miraculous deeds in His name.

As a penitent sinner, I take those warnings very seriously. But not hopelessly. :slight_smile: It is indeed a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God; but the living God is still the living God, and it is in the living God that I put my hope of salvation from sin and from my sinning.

Thanks for your time.
Do you believe that there are certain sins that put one outside of grace (for instance the fornication of the man in 1 Cor 5 who is cast from the community, and the list of sins that Paul mentions require “no even eating with”)? It seems that Paul
sees a difference between that and the divisive sin of jealousy mentioned before, in that he asks the Corinthians to remove the man in chapter 5 from their midst but doesn’t seem to require that the ones with jealousy be excluded from table fellowship. Yet both sins exclude one from inheritance. I don’t get it!
And we all sin in this life prior to death, don’t we? Does that sort of seem to necessitate a kind of special post mortem grace, like purgatory?


(I can’t keep up with you and Jason’s great dialogue on knowing when we’re ‘over the line,’ though as a universalist who trusts in God’s gracious perseverance in dealing with my deficits, it’s less terrifying to worry about where we are at at any given point. But let me address your earlier statement about conformity to the truth.)

I like your ‘spirit,’ and agree that it’s important to “strive” for truth, which is not relative but absolute. (The catch is, I’m not absolute; only God is, and knows it all with clarity; and as you say, God must know our inevitable fallibility.)

I’ll quibble some with the ‘letter’ of your specifics, and characterizing Paul as “not tolerant” and “demanding conformity.” Like Jesus, Paul seems to most go ‘to the mat’ against heresies that reject the Gospel’s way of grace (e.g. Gal. 1). Yet he seems especially firm about rejection of living the way of Christ. Yes, 1 Cor. 5 exemplifies this, but I wonder if even it reflects Paul’s norm. He seems to demand an enforced “boundary” in this case, because they’re all celebrating their acceptance of evil. Discipline is vital here so that the whole church can recogize that reality. Yet. as you observe, Paul sees the Corinthians acting sinfully carnal in numerous ways. Yet he enforces no boundaries on those, and very generously affirms them as brethren sharing in grace (1:4ff).

I also sense he’s quite tolerant of “false opinions.” You cite Romans 14, where he has no doubt that “weak faith” folks’ beliefs are false, yet he seems unconcerned. Even your example (resurrection) of demanding conformity and not being tolerant seems problematic. In 1 Cor. 15, Paul does strongly argue for believing in resurrection (including evidence for Jesus’), and that Easter is logically crucial to trusting in the victory promised to us. Its’ falsity would mean that we’re still in our sins (16f)!

Yet he admits that many of these “brethren” “say there is no resurrection,” implying not even for Christ (12,13). He asks why ‘baptize for the dead’ (should we? 29) since they don’t believe in the resurrection? Surely the resurrection is a most core belief. So it’s stunning that Paul does not excommunicate these folk as apostate heretics. He affirms them as brothers and sisters, and limits himself to reasoning and pleading with them. Could George McD be right that rebellious behavior against the way of Christ is of greater concern than wrong and illogical beliefs (even though there can be a connection: 32-34)?

Paul establishes some boundaries, but rarely proof texts from the OT or even Jesus. Rather, he emphasizes reflection on Jesus’ self-giving death and resurrection, and then personally deciding what that implies for faithfulness in our own life. E.g. in 1 Cor. 7: “I say this as a concession, not as a command… I wish this…but…she must not…but if she does… I say this for your good, not to restrict you… But if another has settled the matter in his own mind (the other way)… in my judgment…” 1 Cor 8-10 parallells Romans 14 (not pushing our convictions on others). We must carry the burden of those who “do not yet know” (8:9-13). True perception is secondary, since “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (8:1). (A good IVP book here: Mark Strom, “Reframing Paul: Conversations in Grace”)

We are inclined to “systematize” theological ideas, as if we unconsciously feel the Bible itself doesn’t present truth with the order and clarity it should. But then I fear we just defend our experts’ systems as the right authority for boundaries, instead of the openness to continue pursuing the truths in the Bible’s story. My incendiary thoughts here don’t mean that we shouldn’t make our our case or strive to uphold the truth as best we see it, but to be careful of harshness to those who don’t see what we ‘see.’ I think Jason expresses the balance: we can try to convince, but avoid “insisting” or “bullying” them toward our ‘truth.’

Forgive me for getting carried away, Bob

Interesting points. This statement about 1 Cor 5 is vital to the whole “boundary issue”: “He seems to demand an enforced “boundary” in this case, because they’re all celebrating their acceptance of evil. Discipline is vital here so that the whole church can recogize that reality.”

I would be interested in your views on Jesus’ words (is Paul not following Jesus here?) :

15"If your brother sins against you,** go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’[c] 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

18"I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be[d]bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven.

19"Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."

Paul doesn’t seem to follow this with regard to the Corinthians sin of jealousy and divisiveness. Why not? I’m a bit confused here!
Luke seems to not say “sins against you”, but simply “sins”:
"If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.**


Yes, ‘boundaries’ and Matthew 18 are curious! As a rare reference to the “church” during Jesus’ Jewish ministry, we’re bound to wonder about its’ original setting and meaning. The most honest answer is, “I don’t know.” But ego doesn’t let one leave it at that.

My first reaction is that both discipline and forgiveness are addressed in a variety of ways, and again, “systematizing” them is a precarious enterprise. That leaves me asking, are even the words of Jesus to be treated like the Pharisees treated the Old Testament law–carefully specifying the rules as to how they apply? Or do we also risk Jesus’ harsh evaluation of the effort to turn God’s word into a legal code by God’s original devout? The saying, “Consistency is the hob-goblin of little minds,” is too harsh here. Yet I hear Scripture suggest that devout concerns for the “letter,” often end up violating the “spirit.” Does Paul ever cite Jesus’ words, as if he must follow them? My previous post suggests that this is not his approach.

None of this caution means that we should not seriously reflect on Matthew 18 and any principles that may shed light on following the crucified and risen Jesus in our own situation. Suggestions like taking a grievance first to the individual who has offended us, while seeing the community as a last resort, and looking to multiple witnesses if were going to ‘press charges’ may often offer wisdom. Your mention of Luke’s focus on what has been done to us is probably also often a helpful guideline. But I don’t conclude that we are provided a mandatory set of rules that must always apply, or, thank God, that all of we sinners should be thrown out of the church, or even that we should seek to enforce this in every case where the offender hasn’t come to grips or “repented.”

I suspect Paul’s ‘failure’ to consistently do anything like that shows that he thought that none of such texts provided a substitute for asking what it would mean to sacrificially love in a given situation, or to live in light of my trust in a crucified and risen savior. If that leads to uncertain and conflicting conclusions, it’s not the end of the world. Ultimately, faith in the God of the Gospel means that we’re not saved by the adequacy of our performance.

If the nuances with every person and situation are different, we shouldn’t expect it could be formulaic as to how we should best balance gracious love and forgiveness,and yet take seriously rigthteousness and accountability for evil in each situation. Maybe we are reduced to asking the Spirit’s help, and to depending on the grace of God.

You said: “Does Paul ever cite Jesus’ words, as if he must follow them? My previous post suggests that this is not his approach.”
I don’t know if that is true. For instance, although the exact words may not be quoted, you can find the Sermon on the Mount scattered (in other words) scattered throughout Paul’s writings. Did not Jesus insist that we follow his words?
Am I being dense here? I don’t understand what you are saying at all. Maybe I am an inveterate man of the letter, a legalist? Who knows? But I don’t think that I am.

I don’t hear you as a legalist, but am blessed to see you truly seeking to understand and apply Scripture. My tendency to make a point with hyberbole may not communicate, and I think much of the gulf is semantic. I too find Paul profoundly incorporates and applies much of Jesus’ teaching and the Sermon on the Mount. And I would be critical of dispensational interpreters who might say that we shouldn’t look to obey Jesus’ teaching.

I come out of what feels so legalistic that I’m struck by how Paul does not put importance on citing the precise words of Jesus, but translates Jesus’ message into his own situation. My bias is that following such Scriptures does not mean treating them literally as laws or wooden rules that must be applied in every context, without weighing the rest of revealed truth that may seem to push in another direction. And I perceive you with a desire to wrestle with doing that very thing.

Sorry for the delay; I was out sick most of yesterday.

Btw, roofus, it isn’t necessary to requote everything from my original post (especially when it’s just the previous post {g}) in order to add a comment to it.

You and Bob 1 (or would he be Bob 2?? :laughing: ) are having a fine discussion that I’m loath to interrupt. But you did ask me a question or two on how I read and reconcile certain portions of Paul’s behavior in the epistles, including in reference back to Jesus. So…

That depends on what you mean by ‘outside of grace’. I wouldn’t be much of a universalist, after all, if I thought there were any sins that God would not seek to save the sinner from. :wink:

I strongly agree with George MacDonald, that the only unforgiveable sin is the one we refuse to come out of. It doesn’t matter what that sin specifically is: so long as we refuse to repent of it (which can only be done with God’s help, though we don’t necessarily have to be conscious it’s being done with God’s help), we cannot be forgiven. That doesn’t mean God will ever give up acting toward leading us to renounce that sin and be cleaned (or so I find and believe); but the reconciliation of fair-togetherness between God and man does require the man, as a person, to renounce his sins and choose to cooperate with God. God graciously accepts even a little of this: the rebel on the cross being perhaps the best example in all scripture of this principle. For no one can give even two-bits of charity without renouncing sin in his life somewhere. Even those who give a cup of water for the sake of saving someone else, will not lose their reward.

But: though God is longsuffering over us, sooner or later (or even sooner and later!) a time eventually comes when God decides we have to be punished. I don’t know that there is one particular go-to sin more heinous than another, that automatically results in this. Any sin would do; it’s the attitude of the heart that God is paying attention to, though. (Which is why merely ‘doing good works’, or merely doing anything else, cannot ever be enough to ‘earn’ our salvation from sin.)

In regard to the man being cast from the community in 1 Cor 5: the larger contexts of the epistle indicate that he was a chief of the factionlizers, too! (Including probably the main guy Paul is aiming at in the famous 15th chapter, concerning those who are teaching there is no Resurrection.) One key distinction seems to be that Stepmom-Sleeping Guy (as I like to call him) was an Epicuian factionalizer, rather than someone factionalizing within the Judeo-Christian group. It’s important to keep in mind, that in the Greco-Roman context Paul is having to deal with in Asia Minor (including Corinth), each school is a sort of cult of personality more-or-less in competition with other schools and their founders. (Somewhat similar to how East Asian martial arts represent distinct philosophical schools in their fighting!) Paul hates the idea of this kind of thing getting started in regard to Kephas, Apollos and himself, especially when the result is that “Christ” becomes one of the ‘factions’. (As he ironically quips, it’s a good thing he didn’t baptize any of those people!–otherwise they might think they were being baptized into his salvation!) The SSG has gone right outside even that grouping, though; which is why St. Paul keeps talking derrogatorily about “philosophy” in the first six chapters. (Paul can be shown to be a sort-of fan of Epictetus himself; and indeed quotes him vs. Epicurius as an ironic retort in chp 15! In case you hadn’t heard, in that famous speech at the Mars’ Hill forum in Acts, Paul is referring to the founding myth of the forum, which involves Epictetus the Cretan acting as a distaff ‘prophet’ of the Unknown God. But Paul absolutely refuses to consider himself a follower of Epictetus in comparison to Christ.)

The SSG’s sleeping with his stepmom, in any case, looks to be the means by which Paul is going to undo him and his influence in the Corinthian church: even the Gentiles in Paul’s audience have to agree that the SSG is doing something immoral by their own traditional standards, and his relativistic ethical philosophy be damned (so to speak. :mrgreen: ) The “destruction of the flesh” in this context probably means a veneral disease. (It’s still being done for the salvation of the SSG’s soul, in the day of the Lord to come, of course.)

Anyway: I take it that the reasons the SSG gets especially called out for zorching, are: 1.) he keeps persisting at doing what he’s doing; 2.) his factionalizing isn’t even within Judeo-Christian authorities (as bad as Paul considers even that); 3.) his teaching is actively corrosive to the ethical behavior of Paul’s congregation in the broader sense; 4.) he’s depriving them of Christian hope by teaching against bodily resurrection (or maybe even resurrection at all) of believers who have died (interestingly, St. Paul never says that the problem-maker(s) behind chp 15’s correction is denying that Christ was resurrected–Paul specifically contrasts the disbelief of some of them in resurrection-generally with their professed belief in the resurrection of Christ specifically, pointing out that it’s ridiculous to deny it generally but believe it specifically); and 5.) the SSG made the tactical error (so to speak) of doing something that even pagan Gentiles would regard as ethically condemnable.

So it’s a more complex situation than simply ‘factionalizers out, other sinners can stay’. :slight_smile:

None of which is to deny that any sin excludes us from being inheritors, so long as we insist on retaining that sin. That’s one of the key points to St. Paul’s ironic setup and follow-through in the first couple of chapters of his epistle to the Romans. Sure, those nasty pagan homosexuals have it coming (Paul is more charitable to them, on a careful reading, than might be noticable at first glance, but his subsequent point wouldn’t fly if he wasn’t being serious about denouncing their sins as really being sins); but having gotten his audience to agree (using an example which the widest majority of his audience would find repulsive and so easily condemnable) that those sinners have it coming, Paul starts weaving ‘little’ sins into his subsequent continuing list of ‘big’ sins: the upshot being (as Clint Eastwood’s “William Munny” grimly answers the Scofield Kid near the end of Unforgiven), we’ve all got it coming. So we’d better not dismiss or deny the mercy of God for those other people, no more than we hope and expect God to have mercy on us.

I’m a big believer in purgatory (though not the Roman Catholic model); but I would rather point out that any supernaturalistic theist who affirms salvation by grace, has to affirm that this grace operates post-mortem. It isn’t as though we could become self-existent independent facts, no longer dependent on God for our existence, if only we could die! :laughing:

We exist and live and move and have our being and continually cohere, pre-mortem, thanks to the grace of God. The same is true post-mortem, too.

Even our sinning can only occur by the grace of God, in many ways. It’s an abuse of God’s grace; which is another reason why any sin is so heinous. But in a very real way, sin occurs because God loves sinners, too. He doesn’t love their sin; but He does love the sinners.

In regard to church discipline in GosMatt: I would say that not everyone being rebuked in 1 Cor are at the final stage; whereas the SSG was judged by Paul (under God) to be at the final stage.

In regard to 1 Cor 5:9-12: the same list (with some more detailed expansion in regard to sexual sins) is repeated in 1 Cor 6:9-11, with the reiteration that these shall not be “enjoying the allotment of God’s kingdom”. i.e., so long as people do these things, they will not be inheritors. 6:12, however, points out the distinction of those who have repented of such things and are being justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. The difference is between those who are cooperating with God against their sins, and those who are persisting in their sins. God intends for the latter to inherit, too; but God would Himself be irresponsible if He let them inherit while they themselves insist on being so irresponsible. The social concept here, is that the father pays the redemption price of raising his child to the status of an inheriting son or daughter, who is given responsibility and authority to cooperate in the family business and to represent the father and the father’s name. The child doesn’t really stop being a child by behaving in a way contraventive to the character of the parent, but neither is the child going to inherit!–moreover, such rebellion reaches a point where the child effectively denies being a child of the father, perhaps joining up under the authority of someone else as a rival to the family.

The rebel child may insist on having it both ways, but that is only another quasi-convenient lie; and it isn’t one that the other children (much less the father!) are obligated to always permit the fostering of. True love doesn’t stop loving by saying “enough” and drawing a line, but the immediate form of the action of love is going to change in some (maybe even many) regards at that point.

This Greco-Roman (and Judaic, Near-Middle-Eastern) social analogy is very commonly referenced in the NT, both in the Epistles (especially the Paulines) and in the Gospels (both GosJohn and the Synoptics), as a way of helping illustrate the relationship between God and His own rebel or faithful or penitent children. Our cultural references have largely changed since then, so we modern (and relatively modern) readers don’t always recognize the analogical applications being referenced; which is why we often interpret ‘adoption’ in line with our truncated relatively-modern meaning of the concept, for example. Even good and natural children of 1st Century Mediterranean life were ‘adopted’ by their true father, though: it was the father’s way of acknowledging that the children had matured enough to take a responsible role in the family now, especially in regard to the actions of the family in the world.

That level of complexity explains a lot of the already/not-yet situations in the NT, including on the topics you’re asking about. :slight_smile:


Thanks so much for your time and effort. Boy, that’s a lot to reply to.
Can I ask you a question or 2?
1: How did you arrive at the conclusion about the SSG, that he was an Epicurian factionalizer?
2: When you mentioned that “not everyone being rebuked in 1 Cor are at the final stage”, can you amplify this? How much time is to be given for the various “stages”? I know, I know, there is no answer that can be codified, but still, can you offer some thought on the issue?
Take Care,
Bob 2

A very long story. It was a sort-of side-effect of trying to figure out what in the heck was going on in the first section of chapter 6; how that related (as it must necessarily do, topically) with chp 15; and then checking to see how St. Paul had gotten to that point from material preceding chp 6, going all the way back to chp 1 and tracing Paul’s developing themes through chp 5.

A fascinating study, but also far too complex for me to summarize here. Sorry. :frowning:

But, if you’ve heard commentators running the theory that Paul is quoting someone in the first verses of chp 6, in order to oppose them in the rest of chp 6–that’s an important piece. My conclusion, after putting all the pieces together, was that he was quoting the SSG there, and also later in chp 15, where the topical position to be opposed is very similar and explicitly connected to Epicurianism.

I’ll try to work up (or find where I’ve already written out) the theory sometime, later.

I think it’s obviously a personal judgment call, that ought to be made in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. Which is why there is no answer that can be codified: it varies on a case by case basis. As you yourself quoted from GosLuke, “how often must I forgive my brother? Up to seven times?” “Up to seventy-times and seven!” The offer of forgiveness continues to be extended–but repentance has to be made on the other side, or it isn’t forgiveness at all, only licensing.

God doesn’t always tell us how long we have to repent, before the punishment starts (or ramps up). Taking human experience as a whole, I’d say on the balance He almost never tells us how long we have. It might be today! :open_mouth: :wink:

My brother and his wife give a lot of leeway to their daughter Lydia, because they love her and want her to learn to do right without the punishment. But when they do decide to punish her, sometimes it’s after a final line warning, and sometimes they don’t give a warning. Though as good parents, they try to punish her only for things she knows that she shouldn’t have been doing but insisted on doing anyway. It can be highly disturbing and even creepy to watch Lydia edge right up to that line and then defiantly cross it in full view of her parents, just to defy them. And then she complains when they punish her… :unamused: :laughing:

But it isn’t at all funny at the time; it hurts, horribly, to be the one who loves the beloved, to watch them intentionally do things that they shouldn’t be doing.

I really cannot bear to think about it for very long. But God, loving, has to bear the pain, and pay the price, of all our sins eternally.

So would you take an approach based on what seems to be the most pragmatic solution for the situation?
When you read in Luke: “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”, do you take that to mean that, for instance, every time a brother or sister displays a bad attitude that we should immediately correct such (provided that we have “removed the log”?) or is that too literal an interp?

I feel a bit odd saying this: but I wouldn’t consider that particular instruction from Jesus to have anything primarily to do with correcting the bad attitude of a brother or sister (whether immediately or not). To me it looks like it has everything instead to do with heading off any attitude in my heart that would look for some hard line past which I don’t have to forgive a penitent person (insofar as I perceive he really is being penitent). Thus the followup when Peter returns and kind-of complains, “How often must I forgive my brother?–up to seven times!!?”

The rebuking is mentioned as a responsible thing to do, of course; but I don’t see this as being what the saying (and its followup) are supposed to be primarily about. Nor are instructions about when and how to rebuke our brother part of the context anywhere around this logion in GosLuke (17:3-4, probably with lead-in from 1-2 in whatever the original historical circumstances were; which I locate, in conjunction with the other Synoptic evidence, along with Lk 9:46-50, following the events of Lk 9:28-45. The immediately following logion of 17:5-10 is topically structured to connect to the warning of verse 3, that we be more concerned about being on guard against not being a stumbling block ourselves, than to be considering ourselves superior to those obvious stumbling blocks over there. “So you, too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’”)

Back to Bob’s original post, I think that, in the end, I really don’t have absolute certainty over the actual meaning of all the verses that each side uses to bolster their position. I can only hope, it seems, that universalism is the truth. This is why I can’t really commit, but rather just hope.
Bob II

Bob II,
Thanks for sharing your conclusion. I personally am impressed with those who find room to “hope” universalism is true, sensing that their heart is rightly open to desiring an outcome that would affirm both love and righteousness. I too would disclaim “abolute certainty” about texts on either side. It’s not hard to see how their imprecision leads to conflicting interpretations.

Yet I’m more ready to “commit” to love’s universal victory as what makes the best sense of that in which it does appear to me that God invites us to trust. As on my final page, I lean on how the clarity of Jesus’ presentation of God resonates with the values that I’m most sure that I should affirm. His insistence that we conceive of ‘God’ as analagous to a good parent who loves even wicked or enemy offspring, and the epistles’ confirmation that God is love, as well as sovereign, makes it much harder than the alternative for me to believe that God would fail or stop his pursuit of anyone made in his image, short of bringing them to the place of reconciliation.

Bob I