The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Another question on God's love

Me neither, which is why I didn’t go that route above. :wink: However, factoring human free will into the situation tends to complexify things (which is why I had to write a rather complex exposition).

Factoring in human free will doesn’t mean God will or even can ultimately lose, but it does mean that some people may (and apparently by prophecy will) continue being obstinate about their sins into the eons of the eons. Robin and Thomas are somewhat more optimistic than I am about everyone simply choosing the rational best once various stumbling blocks are removed, although I certainly agree that removing various stumbling blocks will help.

As to why He doesn’t remove all the stumbling blocks now in this life, I take it (from metaphysical reasoning and scriptural hints) that it has something to do with teaching rebel angels a lesson which will eventually contribute to them also repenting of their sins and being saved (later if not sooner). Putting it simply, the only way they’ll be convinced is if they try their hardest to win (in many various ways) against God first; but we’re the ones who suffer as a result of God’s longsuffering love for them. Some humans will refuse to learn any other way short of that either.

Not exactly what I’m talking about; punishment is about dealing with impenitent sin, and our first human ancestors were punished (but also penitent so the punishment eventually ceased once the consequences played out). There are other ways to purify people post-mortem than by punishment, and I agree that this doesn’t necessarily mean people will immediately choose the good consequentially.

What matters most for Christian universalism, categorically (compared to other theories of salvation), is that God originally persists in acting to save all sinners from sin, until whenever He gets it done by whatever mode (or modes) best fits the situation–but that mode is always going to involve the self-sacrifice of God Himself for sinners in various ways, such as on the cross.

Ever been an unrepentant sinner who refuses to listen to good reason and justice even when you can perceive it and have no stumbling blocks in the way? (I have! So was St. Paul: “Saul, Saul, how hard it is for you, to kick against the goads!”)

Logically the only path left in that case is to make the person inconvenienced by their sins, so they’ll learn to drop them. If you’ve ever been in such a condition yourself, you’ll understand the propriety of punishment. It doesn’t have to be extreme enough to be called torture or torment, but so long as the person insists on holding to sin the inconvenience of the sin is going to increase. Otherwise God would be leaving a person satisfied in their sins.

If I am reading you right, Jason, you are saying that the cross is not the only way in which God can save sinners. I admit I struggle with this idea immensely. If it is true, then the climax of God’s action in human history (salvation history) sounds rather diminished to me. For me, if universalism is to have any credibility it needs to conform to the evangelical idea that Christ, on the cross, is the only way to salvation. Therefore, I have always seen the issue as a question of whether hell prepares a person for the eventual reception of Christ as saviour. I do this because of my extensive study of Pauline language of salvation such as ‘in Christ.’ Plus, I think it forces us to extrapolate too far beyond Scripture in our formulation of our eschatology. I am therefore inclined not to think that God has a different modes of salvation as a back up plan in the preference fails. Just trying to explain my perspective so you will get an idea of how I think.

I originally commenced the thread because I wanted to find out how far some universalists would extend the logic of the argument regarding God’s omnibenelovence + omniscience + omnipotence = His ability to ensure all will be saved. As I have found out, the answer seems to be this, while God can and will save everyone eventually, He could not do so in the first instance (when Adam and Eve first sinned). Ergo, there is some kind of limitation preventing Him from doing so. Even the cross has its limitations. I hope I am not reading you all wrong. But this seems to be what is at least implied by the arguments.

Looking forward to some responses.

Hi Darren,

I would struggle too, but I haven’t understood Jason to be saying this. I look forward to him clarifying this.

I agree

I would modify that a bit like "He could not do so in the first instance (when Adam and Eve first sinned)* if He was to achieve his ultimate purposes.* or “He could have done it, but he chose not to for his wise reasons”.

I don’t see Christian Universalism as saying this. In fact, it is the only view I have found that gives the cross its full significance. Arminianism limits its effectiveness, Calvinism limits its scope, but Universalism gives the cross its full effectiveness and scope.

No, I mean the cross is historically representative of what God is always doing, which is self-sacrificing Himself for the existence of all reality, including for the sake of sinners. God does more, vastly much more, than the cross; and the form of that sacrifice could have been something else, as long as it was emblematically representative. He could have been slowly dissected on a horizontal fork-like object after allowing Himself to be blinded, with His remains fed by the executing rebel authorities to the apostles as part of their capitulation to the authorities, to be vomited and shat out into the sewers and thence into the local garbage dump (set on fire once a week). That isn’t what a tyrant would do for His own enemies; much less would He come back from that to show He still loves them.

Even in our history, God didn’t just manifest one day and call out “Here I Aaaammm!–come and get Me!” :wink: His action of self-sacrificial solidarity was emblematic in the Incarnation, in His life and ministry, even in His relationship with Israel previously. Letting His rebel servants drag His reputation and character through the mud (in various ways and to various degrees, including we Christians afterward) is all part of His overarching action of loving even His enemies. For much the same reason, the innocent suffer for the sake of the guilty; and in any reality where sinners exist, God will humiliate Himself in passion for them, ultimately to the farthest extent that even God Himself can die.

The form of the cross is not itself essential (though meaningful in various ways), but the underlying and foundational truth of the cross is absolutely essential to my soteriological account.

(For a lot more discussion of this and how it fits into my theological accounting as a whole, please see , "The Story of Passion and Atonement"Sword to the Heart, which I’ve made available for free reading and download several years ago here on the forum, at the link above.)

That’s okay, I’m sorry for the misunderstanding. I’m not at all talking about a backup plan. :slight_smile:


As I am sure you are aware Darren, one of the key texts for Christian Universalism is
Colossians 1:20 (NIV)
20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
I don’t think He needs any plan B.

Yes, but Darren is worried that we don’t really take that seriously enough.

That’s a historically reasonable concern, considering that the last large group of universalists dumped such things as affirming the real importance of the sacrifice on the cross. :unamused:

I don’t have time for a long detailed post right now (but I haven’t forgotten, Darren – just been very busy) however I’ll chime in with this too, quickly. I, like everyone I know (as far as I know) here, agree that the work of Jesus on the cross is absolutely essential to our salvation. Most of us don’t go in for the penal substitutionary theory because (as you might have surmised) it doesn’t work (for me) with universalism. Nevertheless, that’s a relatively recent theory. Christus Victor and most of the other theories work just fine. I think the atonement is such a complex subject for us wee humans that God had to give us many pictures of it, and while taken together they give us something of an idea what is involved, we will never fully understand until we see Him.

For me the easiest way to explain is the way Paul did in Romans. One died for all, therefore all died. We have been placed in Christ on the cross and we died with Him that we might also be raised with Him. We can only escape from our old husband/master (sin) by death, and we can only escape from among the dead by following Christ. As in Adam all died, even so in Christ all are made alive.

I’ll be back later . . .

Hi Cindy,

Would I be correct in thinking though that having a penal substitutionary view of the atonement can still work with universalism, and that there are some on this forum who would be in this position?
In Christian Universalism, whatever view one has of the atonement is applied to all people rather than just to some.

Hi Jason,

Thanks Jason. I guess, from Darren’s point of view, he needs to be assured that Universalism does not necessitate such dumping, and so his own study and conclusions re the importance of the cross in salvation can be quite consistent with a Universalist outcome.


Yes, pretty much any form of penal sub atonement (that I’ve ever heard of or can imagine anyway) can fit with some kind of Christian universalism. The ultra-universalists often base their position theologically on PSA: Jesus took all the wrath and punishment of God, so there is no more wrath and punishment of God to come. We have some members who go that route.

What I don’t find it to fit with, ultimately, is trinitarian theism; so I wouldn’t (and didn’t) believe in penal substitution (per se) anyway while still holding to ortho-trin, regardless of being a universalist or not.

Applied with original persistence to all, yes. (Not only to all – Arminians also believe vs. Calvinists that it applies to all people rather than just to some, but Arms deny the original persistence of God on the matter in various ways and for various reasons. We essentially agree with the Calvs vs. the Arms on the original persistence.)

Yes Jason. Thanks for that clarification. I was thinking more in terms of “applied” in contrast to just “offered”. This may be because of my Calvinistic background?

What do you think of these ways of putting it:
“In Christian Universalism, whatever view of the atonement you have, it is both offered to all people, and eventually applied to all people through God’s original persistence”.
“For those from a Calvinist background, whatever view of the atonement you have, it is applied to all, not just to some.
For those from an Arminian background it is applied to all, not just offered to all”?

BTW what do you mean by “original” persistence rather than just “persistence”?

Thanks guys. I am really enjoying the dialogue. I obviously have my own views on salvation but I will usually give a big thumbs up to any attempt at recognising the full breadth of the imagery used by Paul and co to speak of salvation. I am keen to discuss this more but on another thread maybe. For now I still have the same questions. I do not mean to say that you all have got things wrong but that I am still digesting the information. I would like to revisit some earlier parts of the thread to help me clarify things for myself. Would this be ok? I do not know how long these thread are supposed to go.

So let me know and I will ask some more follow up questions pertaining to the original question. And/or I would like to start a new thread on salvation (I am really interested in the ‘in Christ’ terminology and related themes) if anyone cares to do so.

God bless you all.

Oh yeah, I would also like to discuss the issue of metaphorical judgment language (fire, destruction and so forth) on another thread as this came up in by dialogue with Cindy. This will give me a chance to expand my knowledge in this area.

God bless you all, again.

One other current thread has over 400 replies and over 12,000 views and is still growing and popular.
So I think this thread still has some room to grow. :slight_smile:

From my own experience, everyone is pleased for you to begin new threads on topics that interest you.

In what could be called “soft” Arminianism (whether Protestant or Catholic), God persists in saving some sinners from sin, once the sinners have (in effect) convinced God to do so.

A Southern Baptist “soft” Arm would say that if you seriously confessed your sins to God and asked Jesus into your heart (or whatever), you’re safe, God will make sure you’re saved even if you fall back later. (Except they’d say a major fallback indicates you weren’t really serious to begin with. This introduces the usual experiential problem.)

A Roman Catholic “soft” Arm, which is the position they ended up with officially, would say that if you’re baptized by someone who is himself or herself a Christian (usually a priest although on this point I think they allow exceptions for special/emergency circumstances), God will persist in saving you. Thus the importance of infant baptism. You might have to go through a lot of purgatory in the eternal fire proportionate to a backslide (a factor the Southern Baptist typically would deny), but God will still bring you through.

A “hard” Arm (like a specially hardcore “freewill Baptist”) would say that there’s no way to guarantee God will save you before you die, other than to keep the faith perfectly. Or sufficiently perfectly. You know. :wink:

A Calv (Protestant or Roman Catholic, like Augustine) by contrast would insist that no one has to convince God to save anyone; in fact people cannot convince God to save anyone. God already either intends to save you from sin or He doesn’t. If He does, you’ve been elected for salvation by God, and He’ll get it done (by purgatory if necessary, per Calvish RCs like Augustine) – various historical events (like baptism by believers in Catholicism) will be signs that God has elected someone for salvation (and so has allowed and/or brought about the events), but He intended to save whoever He saves from the beginning. (The evident signs may or may not be exclusive. RCs used to teach that unless someone was baptized in this life God wouldn’t save them; now they teach that God may save those post-mortem who weren’t baptized in this life, or not baptized by a proper representative. The baptism is directly related either way to God’s intention to persist; Arm and Calv RCs debate, or once debated, over what precisely the baptism indicated.)

Arms (like my mother) like to say they have just the same assurance of persistence as Calvs, but that isn’t exactly true: there’s a big and important technical distinction, if God has to be convinced to persist in saving someone or if that persistence is by His gracious and original choice.

The worry of whether God will persist for every individual, is in different ways a main factor in conversion from Arm to Calv or from Calv to Arm: how can I be sure God will persist for me?

But the worry about scope being inclusive enough “for me” on one hand, or the persistence being guaranteed “for me” on the other (or for other people), leads to a very similar underlying experiential problem:

1.1.) Hard Arm: have I really persisted, or persisted “enough”, and/or in the right way?
1.2.) Soft Arm: was I really serious, did I really do the right things or enough of the right things the right way, to obtain God’s persistence?

The Calv (and Kath) assurance to either of those is that no one has to convince God to save people from sin, He chooses to do so from the beginning. Whoever He has authoritatively chosen, He will certainly persist.

2.1.) Calv: am I really among the scope of those whom God intends to save? How can I be sure?

The Arm (and Kath) assurance to that, is that God originally intends to save everyone from sin. The scope of His salvation certainly includes you and whoever else you may be worried about.

3.) Everyone: are my experiences of assurance only mistakes or delusions?

None of us are really free from this doubt in principle, since our rationales may turn out to be invalid but we haven’t realized it yet, or our data may not be sufficiently accurate, or our experiential experiences (so to speak) may be from something evil disguised in light. We all have to do the best we can under the circumstances.

And maybe our root assurance should be not for our own salvation, or for anyone else’s, but a hope (at least, or a trust if we can manage it) that God is both loving and just, since without one or both those truths we’re all screwed anyway. :slight_smile:

Agreed, don’t worry; just remember no one automatically visits a thread, so our attention may have wandered off to something else shiny to chew on! (Or words to that effect. :slight_smile: )

Thanks Jason for your comment on “original persistence”. It helped me to better understand the different ways that people think and to be thankful for God’s persistence with me.

You’re welcome. I myself just learned today for the first time (from [tag]Sherman[/tag]) that the conservative denomination known as the “Church of Christ” (not to be confused with the UCC, who are almost as religiously over-liberal as the UUs) is one of the hard Arm groups! I had always had an impression they were Calv! (From their absolute stance that anyone not explicitly in their group won’t be saved.)

Yes, ultimately Arminianism leads to a complete insecurity in one’s relationship with God for one’s relationship with God is ultimately dependant upon one’s own choices, not upon the love and goodness of God but upon one’s own love and goodness.

Of course, Calvinism leads to insecurity also. Does one really know that he/she is loved by God if God does not love everyone?

I have somehow missed this thread, but will read through it when I get a chance.