The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Another question on God's love

I have attempted to start a thread on this topic before but cannot find it so I am trying again.

Just a note before I begin. Since I am not a universalist at this point I feel I must says that I am not here or anywhere trying to show anyone how wrong they are but seeking answers to questions I have. I am seeking truth and have a jumble of questions and thoughts in my mind I need answering and see this forum as the perfect environment to do so.

Having said that, I would like to ask a difficult question (I think it is any way). I understand an important cog in the Universalist argument are the following thoughts (or something like it) - God loves all people He want to save them, God is omniscient and would know how to save everyone, and, God is omnipotent and can achieve Hill will, therefore, God will not allow anyone to suffer in Hell forever

(Please understand I am referring to the concept of judgment/punishment as defended by Gregory MacDonald (Robin Parry) and Thomas Talbott who see God’s punishment of sinners as a purifying process whereby all sinners can be made ready for heaven.)

My question is this, If this is all true then why does He spare some from judgement whilst letting many others go on to the pain of the coming punishment? Would He not be able and willing to spare all now by somehow drawing them all now? Why did He not redeem Adam and Eve on the spot and save humankind the pain and suffering resulting from their sin?

Earnestly looking for answers. And I can be pursuaded by good ones.

Seeking a definition of 'God's love' was where you posted your previous question. You can find all your previous posts by clicking on your name in your post above.

Because “the fall” wasn’t an accident. Creation was subjected to futility. And nobody escapes judgement, judgement begins with the house of The Lord. And judgement isn’t “bad”. When your judgement is in the earth the people learn righteousness. Everyone will be salted with fire, and if a mans works are burned like wood hay or stubble he will be saved , yet as through fire. This whole natural realm is an exercise in the discerning of good and evil, the outcome was planned from the beginning you see since the lamb was slain from the foundation of the world. What is the purpose? To bring many sons to glory. That God may be all in all.

Just subscribing to the topic – will post later.

Purgatorial universalists like myself tend to lean toward the Arminian side of universalism, and so emphasize the freedom of the will to be impenitent. Punishment per se (as a subcategory of discipline) only applies to people who are being impenitent about their sins once other mitigating issues are resolved.

Technically this means an ongoing stalemate could be possible, with God always acting toward leading sinners to repentance and some sinners never happening to ever repent–it would still be universalism on the ground of God’s persistence and scope of salvific action, but He might prophetically reveal in advance that some sinners just won’t ever choose to repent. (This was my original expectation when I decided that the doctrines of trinitarian theism pointed deductively toward some kind of Christian universalism being true. Over several years of further study, I came to see the scriptures prophesying that God eventually succeeds totally in evangelism instead. The house edge eventually wins in the long run, although putting it that way incorrectly dismisses the freedom of the will as a factor.)

This is all complicated by inherited sin inclinations, but then some universalists don’t believe in that (although I do).

After parsing over the various options, I decided that other things being equal God would have resolved things within the first few generations after the fall of our first rationally active ancestors (and I agree a mated pair makes the most sense for that), even accounting for an inherited sin effect. So there is some other factor continuing to screw with our genetics, in a fashion that points toward intelligent design of corruption. i.e., rebel supernatural spirits are messing with us.

Which is allowed by God, but for their benefit, so they can learn better eventually from our examples (and how God deals with us) and repent and come home.

Once I reached that conclusion, the prologue and climax to the book of Job suddenly made a lot more sense to me, and the overarching themes of the poem shifted around: the innocent suffer for the sake of the guilty (a main theme in other ways all through the scriptures), but because when we don’t (or can’t) see the overarching rationale we’re left with a situation where even close friends start chewing each other to pieces in blame, defense and counter-blame.

Why does God do things the way He does? It can be difficult for us to know unless He tells us. Has God given us detailed answers to these questions? I am not sure that He has. So we can only make inferences or guesses based on what He has told us and present them with humility.

Perhaps allowing sin and suffering to go on as long as God has, will in the long run bring more glory to God, and benefit mankind more than if he had redeemed Adam and Eve on the spot? I think for myself, that my appreciation of God’s grace and praise of God may be greater, having experienced the effects of sin in my life and understanding better what He has redeemed me from.
God knows what is best in the long run for each of us and what will bring the most glory and praise to Him. The timetable and method may need to be different and tailored for each individual.

IMO Adam and Eve were made “Very good” but not perfect.

Perfection is completed once God is all in all. Was it God’s plan for them to fall? Absolutely IMO.
I think for us to comprehend and understand God we must identify how truly merciful, loving and just he is.
There is something God wanted mankind to learn before he takes out our heart of stone and dwell in us…

Love, the lesson of life. We can not learn this lesson without hate, grief, despair, jealously and so on.
How can we truly comprehend Gods love without knowing hate?
Imagine being in a dark room for your whole life, then dying and seeing true light for the first time, how much more would you appreciate the light? A light that would satisfy and overwhelm your heart for the rest of eternity…

I am not in any way reformed in my theology so I just don’t understand redhotmagma’s response. I am not so sure the fall was planned. This would mean he planned human suffering as a result of sin (???) because He knew this would be the definite result of His planning. I can’t see how that is in any way loving.

I guess my question is aimed at a nagging thought I have. It is not a criticism of those who wish to defend universalism, but I need it answered. I feel if I accept the argument that God would never let people suffer indefinitely in hell I would also be obliged to to extend the logic of this argument to God’s dealing with human suffering per se. I am more Arminianist in my thinking (but not strictly Arminian in my theology) but I can’t understand why God would only override human free will after the final judgement. Surely if He cares enough, He knows how, and He can - He would do this immediately at the fall, thus preventing further suffering as a result of His ongoing wrath against human sin. Therefore, I think that something is missing in the equation.

To Jason Pratt, as I read your contribution I sense you are trying to answer this concern. But I am still looking for clarity. I would like more information if you have any more to give. Any other contributions would be valued.

Still earnestly searching.
God bless you all

I think many here would have a problem with the idea that “God overrides human free will”.
I think that He generally works with us, for as long as it takes, to bring us home voluntarily.
The Father in the prodigal son parable didn’t force his son to come home. That is why it took as long as it did.
But God has lots of resources at His disposal, to eventually bring us to the end of ourselves so that we cast ourselves on His mercy and grace. For some it will happen before death, but for others it will take longer.

I think God does what He has to do in order to build the sons and daughters He wants. There is a process, as there is a process in building a house. I don’t go along with the complete Calv doctrine that God forces His kids to do the right thing, ever. I do believe that He knew what would happen in the garden, but that this was most likely going to be the scenario with people who would become free. He had to allow the possibility (and the eventual inevitability) of failure on the part of the creatures.

As we are all born into the family of Adam, we all have inherited that propensity to sin. As we all sin, we all become the slaves of sin and we all need to be SET free. If you look at human growth and development, I believe you see a metaphor for our spiritual growth into freedom. A baby, while having free will, has almost zero freedom. He doesn’t know what he wants; doesn’t even know anything TO want. He only feels comfort and discomfort and doesn’t like the discomfort. As he grows he begins to have more specific desires and also the means to fulfill those desires. He desires to touch the red object; he reaches out his hand and in time learns to grasp it. He desires his tummy to stop hurting; he cries until food comes to him. A toddler can move around on his own. A school child can seek his own friends, read his own books, play his own games – but he cannot hop in the car and drive to the mall as he might at 16 years of age. As we grow and mature we grow INTO freedom, but while we are born with the possibility of freedom (if we’re healthy), we are not born with actualized freedom.

Likewise a sinner does not even have the possibility of freedom from sin until he is spiritually reborn. Once he IS reborn, that possibility of true freedom begins to grow. He can and does still sin, but now he can develop into the freedom NOT to sin. He can grow in the family of the House of YHWH and over time become a mature and a truly free son (or daughter) of the house, taking advantage of all the privileges of being a mature daughter or son of the King.

I believe that we all have to pass through these stages of growth and development in order to become truly free and mature individuals and members of the family. Yes, Father could have created fully grown sons and daughters. Maybe that’s what He did do with the angels. But I don’t think it’s possible to create the sort of offspring He wants by this method. The experiences could be built in, I suppose, but I don’t see how that would allow for true freedom, and I do believe He values that. He desires a mutually loving family. But a family that comes pre-programed with loving impulses and kindness to all regardless – with no possibility of ever NOT loving – could hardly be said to be manifesting genuine and true love. They would be robots.

Just my Calv/Arminian perspective here. God grows us up into the inevitable result of mature and loving daughters and sons. In one sense we don’t have any choice because it’s inevitable – just as an eagle chick doesn’t have a choice whether to grow into an adult eagle. On the other hand, no rational and free person could or would permanently reject that which would be to his everlasting benefit, because to do so would be irrational. And an irrational person is not free.

Hope this helps,

Love in Jesus, Cindy

It’s a tricky topic when we take in freewill.

One has to seriously consider if God knew Adam and Eve were to fall, and why? What purpose does God have in mind with the fall. The omniscience quality of God conflicts with my previous belief that humans have total freewill. Why did God allow Satan to trick Eve, and is Eve’s choice to sin based on total freewill? Or more based on Satan’s deception? If God is totally omniscient does that not make God totally responsible for his creatures whom sinned? I mean he created Adam and Eve in a way where they sinned, he did that on purpose, and he knew the end result even before they sinned.

Do I believe that humans can make moral choices? YES, but only with what God has set forth in front of us, our choices are bound to our circumstances. God knew everything before it happened, so there must be a purpose behind even the most wretched, evil things in this world, otherwise God being omniscient would have made us perfect from the start and spared us the journey of sin. IMO I believe sin is just that, a journey to maturity (I agree with the above posters)a journey to understanding the **depth and love ** of God from a individualistic view. I believe God is always in control, Being perfect he does not make mistakes, rather he has a plan before hand that he knows will help fulfill his ultimate will.

A perfect biblical example of this is Judas Iscariot. I believe in my heart Judas was chosen before the foundations of this world to betray Jesus - And after the morsel, then the Adversary entered into that one, Jesus, therefore, saith to him, ‘What thou dost – do quickly;’ John 13:27. As much as God can not dwell in sin, he can use it to fulfill his most ultimate will. God knew he did not want his creation to be eternally sinful, so he planned according to his eternal nature a remedy for the situation, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. Romans 11:32 For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. Sin, death, love even Satan are all incorporated in Gods plan, as he is totally sovereign, since he knows everything before it happened.

I for one have done some wicked things in my past life, some horrible, evil selfish things. When I compare my past life to my new life I can appreciate the goodness of God, and glorify him more, for the change in me is because of him, every good thing I do is because of him, and I now understand how good he is that he lead me down a path of darkness, so I can appreciate a path of lightness, and not only appreciate it but love him for it therefore bringing more glory to his name. Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Freewill IMO can not be totally free, because men are bound to sin until the next resurrection, men still will sin even after receiving the grace of God. If I had true freewill than I would be able to resist and never sin again, but my freewill is bound to my flesh and Adam’s sin, and in a sense his ignorance to sin also made his decision to sin not a true, fully informed decision, if Adam knew the sufferings he would inflict on his children would he have sinned? No he was blinded to Gods omniscient knowledge.

Do I believe humans have free will? Not really, I think men are more spiritually blind than anything else. I think freewill could actually be blindness, and once the blindness is lifted and removed… "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

Sorry I thought I would respond to this in a bit more detail.
It would be in no way loving if God insisted that his creation endure suffering forever, but the belief in UR has freed me from believing that God would do this to his children. When you compare eternity to a lifespan of a human, life on this earth is but a wisp. If God gave you the choice to endure the sufferings in this world for a short time, so you can learn the life lesson of love, and then spend eternity in true joy which is only felt by experiencing true love (not in a robotic sense) what would you choose?
Would you give up a joyful eternity with your Creator or would you rather not be born and not to exist entirely because your Creator wants you to understand suffering (for a short time) and wants you to learn from it?

True love is knowing what is best for us, and I believe God knew it was in our better interest in according to his purpose for us that we experience sin, not to be in sin forever, but to at least experience it so we can understand Gods moral nature.
We must try and remember that God is a good God, and his finished results with us will be much more glorious than anything we experience in this flesh, so despite the sufferings we go through we are all coming closer to the end result, when God will be all in all.

Please understand that what I write here is not designed to argue anyone away from a universalist position. I am simply presenting my thoughts and discussing my questions so they can be answered so I can move forward. I do value the contributions thus far.

Cindy, you make a good point about humans being created with pre-programmed responses as equates to them being created merely as robots. I say this because I see human free will as an essential aspect of what it means to be human. My viewpoint is that if God overrides free will in any way we cease to be human (I have not tested this against any specific biblical verses but derive it from the overarching meta-narrative of the Bible).

But my question is more aimed at the universalist argument that God is able and willing to save all. It is often the case that God’s omnipotence and omniscience are presented in such a way that He is envisioned to be able to to anything and everything, without qualification. But He clearly cannot do everything. He cannot sin, for instance, as this goes against His very nature. He cannot do what is contrary to His nature. So far, when I have read on God’s future interaction with sinners in hell it has sounded to me like He is somehow going to override human free will to ensure all people will ‘choose’ salvation from the pit of Hell. This is certainly how Robin Parry presents his case in ‘The Evangelical Universalist’ on page 23. Yet, since I believe that this would somehow cancel their humanity as it takes a way an essential element of what it means to be human, I have not found this ultimately persuasive.

If God can override human free will to get His way why does He wait until many are in hell suffering torment (whatever that may be). Why not just override human at the beginning of the story and save everyone the terrible pain to come? My suspicion is that He cannot because that would make the sinner less than human (that is, a creature with no free will) and this would do untenable violence to His own creation.

I even find the view that the divine punishment of sinners in hell is simply a way to purify the sinner so that he/she will be in a fit moral state to choose salvation inadequate since Adam and Eve were in a presumably untainted state and they nevertheless sinned against God. They did not sin out of a sinful state. So there is no guarantee that the hell purified sinner will voluntarily choose God.

It also seems strange that the only way God can save the unrepentant sinner is to torture them into heaven.

Ergo, I am still searching for answers.

Just a few thoughts Darren that I hope are helpful.

I think many Christian Universalists would agree with your suspicion Darren.

I could well be wrong, but I don’t see it so much that God would be purifying them so that they can choose salvation. I would see it more that God brings them to the end of themselves - to realise their sin and their unworthiness and brings them to humble repentance and faith- just like he has done for me. Everyone will be in the same position - saved by the grace of God. None of us, whether before or after death need to be in a fit moral state to choose salvation. Christ died for us while we were still sinners, and his enemies. Rom 5.
As to what will stop any of us, whether redeemed prior to or after death, from sinning again in heaven, I am relying on the grace of God. But that will be the same question for everyone - not just for those redeemed after death.

I agree. That’s why I think more in terms of the prodigal son, or Scrooge in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol or Rom 1 of God giving them up to experience the real nature and effects of their sin. I don’t think of it as “overriding” our freewill through torture.

Hi, Darren

Thanks for clarifying. In order to answer your questions it really helps to get a feel for where you’re coming from. I think that God could override human free will, but as you point out, that would do violence to His creation. I do not believe that God can do literally everything. He cannot create a free being who is not free to choose this or that. It would be illogical. I believe that He cannot create a pre-programed being who cannot choose this or that, but who can truly love. Or hate. Or anything else, for that matter. It is, imo, illogical.

I need to clarify that I do not believe that the divine chastisement of sinners in “hell” is in fact fire and brimstone. Jesus speaks of this anguish in different ways, sometimes as outer darkness, sometimes as being left out if the wedding feast, sometimes as the place where the worm doesn’t die and the fire is not quenched, and in still other speeches as destruction. Which is it? In the OT, it is always only the grave. What are we to think? What I think is that when you have so many varying descriptions of one thing that this is a clue we’re looking at metaphors for something not easily described. I think scripture is attempting to explain the 3-D world to the 2-D man (another metaphor :wink: ) Fire in scripture is nearly always symbolic of purification – getting rid of the dross. In occasions where it doesn’t symbolize that, it merely is what it is, like where Jesus is roasting a fish over the coals, waiting for the disciples to get close enough to hail – that kind of thing. I absolutely do not believe in a literal lake of literal fire. There is no reason to do so. It’s only what we’ve been conditioned to believe.

I believe that while everyone’s journey is different, there is nevertheless only one journey. We are born into hell and we have to make our way to heaven (metaphorically speaking). Some of us believe and therefor move along faster (and this may well include people who have never heard the name of Jesus but still they “get it” about loving one another to whatever degree they’re able). Others refuse to believe, refuse to let go of hatred, and these move a little slower. Maybe the progress of some that seems very slow indeed is greater progress than we, who do not have their handicaps, can discern from our limited vantage point, and vice-versa. Ultimately no one can make it without coming by the Way, going through the Door, and being set free by the Truth, but the Good Shepherd cares for His sheep, and does not stop searching until every lost one is found.

But I digress. I don’t think hell has anything to do with physical torture. It certainly is unpleasant and involves whatever is needed to bring the person to repentance, and if that involves experiencing the pain s/he has caused to others, then that’s what it takes. Heart surgery is not pretty, and may not even prolong a life by much, yet people request it every single day and willingly endure it and its aftermath in the hope it will improve their physical health. We don’t wring our hands and wonder why the doctor would do such a thing, cause such torment, to a person who never desired to do wrong. We praise the competent surgeon even when the treatment fails.

I believe the damned walk through precisely the paths they need to walk in order to come to a knowledge of the truth. If that incidentally involves physical pain, then it will be worth it to them in the end. The pain is not given to them as torment but as a cure. I do not think it always must or even usually must involve physical pain. It will certainly involve some degree of anguish of spirit and heart, insofar as that may be needed. Just as a lover suffers anguish when she cannot find a beloved, the lost suffer because of a relationship they do not have. The psalmist adjures us to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” Yet some people have a need to taste absolutely everything else first before they can be coaxed to reconciliation with the God who is light, who will reveal and yes, destroy, their darkness.

And here I see that I skipped over your middle point (above) asking why, if Adam and Eve, who were innocent of sin and not inclined toward sin, nevertheless sinned, why we would expect the one purified of sin in “heaven” to remain so. I hope I’ve got that right. If not, please correct me. But if that’s your question, I would say that Adam and Eve were innocent but they had not been tested; they had not become pure by making the right choices; they were not complete and mature. I don’t think God desires us to return to that state, but to move on toward completed “sonship” (not in the sense of only male “sons”) toward maturity, toward a tested and refined and complete righteousness. A righteousness that knows what sin is and has rejected it and been inured against its deceitful “allure,” to whom sin is not only forbidden and resisted, but undesirable, unthinkable, abhorrent. A righteousness that by reason of perfected love, is fully proof against sin. We are all being conformed to the image of Christ. Until that change has fully taken place, we are not fully “saved,” since the thing we are saved from is sin itself – not sins, but sin. It is sin that leads to death, and having been saved from it, we are also saved from death. Where death has been put to death, nothing is left but life.

I hope this helps – I believe I can support this from scripture, btw, but it would take a lot longer. If you know the word, as you seem to do, I think you’ll be able to discern. If you have objections from scripture, please don’t hesitate to bring them up. You won’t hurt anyone’s feelings by doing so, and certainly not mine. :slight_smile: Sometimes it takes a lot of give and take just to communicate with one another where we’re each coming from.

Blessings, Cindy

Cindy, you really do express things clearly and beautifully. Not just in this comment, but generally. I am very thankful to God for his gift to you and your faithfulness in using it to help others.

And here I see that I skipped over your middle point (above) asking why, if Adam and Eve, who were innocent of sin and not inclined toward sin, nevertheless sinned, why we would expect the one purified of sin in “heaven” to remain so. I hope I’ve got that right. If not, please correct me. But if that’s your question, I would say that Adam and Eve were innocent but they had not been tested; they had not become pure by making the right choices; they were not complete and mature. I don’t think God desires us to return to that state, but to move on toward completed “sonship” (not in the sense of only male “sons”) toward maturity, toward a tested and refined and complete righteousness. A righteousness that knows what sin is and has rejected it and been inured against its deceitful “allure,” to whom sin is not only forbidden and resisted, but undesirable, unthinkable, abhorrent. A righteousness that by reason of perfected love, is fully proof against sin. We are all being conformed to the image of Christ. Until that change has fully taken place, we are not fully “saved,” since the thing we are saved from is sin itself – not sins, but sin. It is sin that leads to death, and having been saved from it, we are also saved from death. Where death has been put to death, nothing is left but life.

The development of our being, becoming mature is all the points I tried to make as well, however I believe you worded it better :slight_smile: well done and thanks.

Excellent discussion folks. I am pleased as it gives me much to think about. I am aware that not all universalists think alike on many issue and I want to be sensitive to this. However, I am currently not aware of the fullness of the diversity. I can only go by what I have read by Robin Parry and Thomas Talbot, and by what I am discovering here.

The only reason I spoke of punishment in the terms I have so far is because that is what I have encountered in the authors I reference earlier in the thread.

Cindy, I have recently read an essay by an evangelical writer named William Crockett in which he defends the idea that the NT language and imagery used to speak about hell is properly taken as metaphorical and not literal (against someone like John Walvoord). I found this essay quite compelling in that the breadth of the images and language used, if taken literally, do not make sense. So, when I speak of ‘torture’ I do not necessarily think it is entirely (or even completely) physical - but I get the feeling the biblical language is meant to make me feel hell is terrible for the sufferer To be honest, I have not yet done enough study to be precise in what I believe - other than to say a strictly literal understanding of the language is woefully inadequate (this is really a question of hermeneutics).

My point is that I have sympathy for your position as you seek to take the metaphorical nature of the language seriously. The question still remains, however, what this all means and I will pursue much of this in other threads.

I can only make a few observations at this point due to my own limitations.

First, the metaphorical nature of language does not necessarily lead to a universalistic position. William Crockett, whom I mentioned above, makes the same kinds of points you do but believes in eternal punishment. Similarly, John Stott and Clark Pinnock embrace the metaphorical view but lean towards annihilation of those in hell. I do not think there is a literal lake of fire, but this does not necessarily lead me to universalism.

Second, although it is easy to identify that metaphorical language is being used it is not so easy to ascertain exactly the meaning of the metaphor. We bring our worldview to the text and there is such a distance between the original authors and us. This is unavoidable. So although you and I both recognise the probable metaphorical nature of the lake of fire, we come to different positions because we bring different assumptions and presuppositions to the text. Since I am not yet a universalist I am interpreting the significance of the lake differently form you. But this is the purpose of my questions. I want to see if my assumptions need to change.

Third, metaphorical language is designed to engage the readers emotional sphere. Thus, word studies can be of limited value. Once has to study the whole, and even then we get back to the problem I mentioned above.

Fourth, be careful of making broad statements. Fire is also used to represent the presence and judgement of God (I can get examples later if you want but the burning bush comes to mind right now).

I would like to discuss this more but I am out of time. Will check in after a few days. Please add any more insight you have on metaphorical language. Bring some Scripture to the table and I will too.

Oh what fun we will have
Signing off for now.

Thanks you guys. :slight_smile: Darren, I am trying to read your reply but I have a little granddaughter telling me jokes and giggling at me. :laughing: I will have to wait as I can’t seem to concentrate just now. :wink:

Our own James Goetz has written an article on theodicy that is helpful for this topic. … odicy.html