an article of German Evangelical Professor E.F. Stroeter


#1

this is a pretty good article I think I once translated from German into English, I just wanted to share it - maybe it helps somebody.

The following is a translation of a part from a writing of the German evangelical professor Ernst Ferdinand Stroeter (1846-1922):

The further accommodations of the author of this pamphlet (against the restitution of all things) really pleased us:

“Likewise is the belief that finally all creatures get saved and become blessed extremely glorious and superior. This alone seems worthy of a God of love. A lot of verses seem to support this view. There is no Christian heart on which this thought isn’t appealing.”

We thank our dear brother from the bottom of our heart for such open and manful words. We’re convinced that they’ll find a warm echo at all true children of God.

Why don’t they accept so obviously and clear words like 1 Timothy 4:10, that God is the Savior of all men, specially of those that believe? Where‘s the difficulty? - Can it be cleared through careful studying?

Let‘s hear the author by himself, how he considers the topic as a honest but traditional exponent of the church‘s teaching of endless torment. He says: “But there is spoken of eternal damnation and eternal torment again and again in the strongest terms. If you want to say that the words for eternal and eternity don‘t always have the meaning of endless duration, then the argument of the great Augustine is true, that when is spoken of life and bliss they can‘t keep their meaning too, and that there could no longer be spoken about eternal life (Mt. 25:46).“

We gladly notice that our brother makes no attempt to deny, that such words of God like 1 Timothy 4:10 teach without doubt that God really is the Savior of all men, not only desires to be. That’s a great benefit for our study. But what’s about the serious stumbling block he mentioned? It’s characteristic, that his only argument is the biblical use of the words that have been translated with “eternal” and “eternity”.

This is the adversarial argument, which is the clearest for the common and uneducated reader. If we can prove from the Bible, in a way that the common man from among the people will understand that the great Augustine and all that use the same argument became victim of a fallacy, then is this biggest stumbling block and most popular argument against the belief that God is indeed the Savior of all men refuted for every straight thinking man.

We forbear from doing a scholarly examination and want to speak to the common people that only know and accept the Scripture. How do we want to prove that Augustine was wrong? He said: If the words talking about the doom of the wicked don’t mean endless duration, then the life and the bliss of the saved have also no endless duration.

If it‘s now possible to demonstrate that the Scripture obviously used the words for “eternal” and “eternity” in the same sentence once applied to something that by its nature can only thought to be infinite and the other time on something that by its nature can never be thought infinite, then Augustine’s conclusion can only be considered as unscriptural.

Let’s look upon two Bible words, the one is written in Romans 16:25-26, …according to the revelation of the mystery having been kept unvoiced during eternal (aiōnios) times, but now has been made plain, and by prophetic Scriptures, according to the commandment of the eternal (aiōnios) God…

There is no need for scholarliness to recognize that times in their nature can never be infinite or eternal, but they are obvious with the same word designated that is used to denote the eternal God. On the other hand no one needs to prove that God in his nature can only thought of being infinite.

If Augustine had used the same logic here as in Matthew 25:46, then he could have said, if the times called eternal here were not infinite - then God called eternal here is not infinite too - a blatant fallacy.

We have a similar example in Titus 1:2 (also 2Tim 1:9) …on hope of eternal (aiōnios) life which the God who does not lie promised before eternal (aiōnios) times… If there is a linguistic term that is fundamentally different from infinity, then it is “time” or “times”. Nevertheless are they called “eternal” (aiōnios), a striking proof that this adjective itself is not suitable to denote infinity.

All adjectives that refer to God and His life get their true meaning from there, but not the way round. Wherever the word translated “eternal” (Greek: aiōnios - aeonian or age-long), refers to creature, men or mere human conditions or circumstances it never has the sense of infinity cause nothing creatural can be thought of being infinite, unless it partook in the divine nature of divine life and entity.

Our appreciated brother and friend in the adversarial camp concludes now from Augustine’s words: “Nobody has proved yet, that the Scriptures doesn’t teach the infinity of the damnation and torment of the wicked.”

After our examination we just want to answer in similar words:

Nobody has sure proved yet, that the words of the Bible teach the infinity of the damnation and torment of the wicked.

Also this proof will never be adduced as long the Scripture alone and not human philosophy has to determine which sense the word translated with “eternal” has.

As long as this proof can’t be adduced without any gap, it is at least very bold to forbid the ordinary children of God believing their heavenly God and Father on his word, that He was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself (2Co 5:19) and that God will be all in all (1Co 15:28).


my interpretation of Matthew 25:31-46
A standard rebuttal to EU
#2

That was a great contribution, Sven. Thanks!

Prof. Stroeter seems close to the position that I and several other universalist apologists hold, that the adjective {aionios} (not to be confused with the plural noun {aionos} however) refers primarily to some quality of coming-from-God; not to some mere length of time, which the term “eon” and “eons” and “eon of eons” and “eons of eons” might refer to. (Although “Eon of eons”, which is more frequent in the New Testament than many other variants, may also be a qualifier: the greatest Eon, that of the Day of the Lord to come.)

However, I must fairly add that this understanding of the adjective “eonian” does not immediately result in translations which necessarily favor universalism. Augustine (along with similar non-universalist apologists) has a good point, too, and one that must be respected: whatever meaning we understand for “eonian”, it must not be something that contravenes a doctrine we insist on affirming elsewhere. (Or, we had better stop affirming that doctrine.)

Consequently, it is not really much to the point that “eonian” can refer to something that ends. If the “eonian” something is coming from God, it might not end either. (As God from God Himself does not end.) In that regard, punishment from God, crisising from God, whole-ruination from God, fire from God, might not end either. (Indeed I would strongly affirm that the eonian fire does not end!)

Still, it is always worth noting that in at least a few cases that which is “eonian” can be said to end and transition on to something else. It helps level the playing field for a clearer look at Biblical testimony on the topic of whether God’s intentions, even in punishment, are for the salvation of all creatures from sin.