Brief UR essay on


Interesting little essay on Universalism over on First Things:

Here, rev Russell E. Saltzman takes the somewhat squishy position that “Pushed on the matter I guess I would confess to being something of a universalist.”

On reading further, it seems he’s a fairly good grasp of what’s involved, yet remains somehow apologetic to his presumed audience (or his own background?) for conveying this hopeful stance.

I very much appreciated his sound awareness that a great many early fathers believed in Universalism; many seem unaware of this. He caught me a bit off guard when he says: "The *most obvious *question about universalism is the “Hitler problem.” I wrote a brief response to that idea which I hopes indicates it’s not as big a problem as he imagines. (For me, the “most obvious” problem is the severe clash of annihilation/ECT with the character of God…)

Overall interesting, as is the discussion that follows. Seems many of the common protests against Universalism are brought up (though in no real depth) as are a few supporting ideas.

Nice to see this topic being talked about though!!


Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Interesting read. At least Saltzman has the gumption to look things up for himself instead of blindly following blind men into a ditch. My question was never, “Is Hitler in Hell?” (especially since hell is simply the grave) but my question was, “What about Judas?” Jesus said it would be better for Judas If he’d never been born. In Chapter 17 of Gospel of John, Jesus says, "NONE have been lost, EXCEPT that one doomed to perdition. (It’s pretty obvious he was referring to Judas) Don’t get me wrong, I’m thoroughly a universalist in that, IMO, if even one escapes the Love of God, then Satan wins. I’m not saying Judas and Adolpho won’t spend time getting cleansed of their sin while in the Lake of Fire(our God is a consuming fire) but that the blood of the Lamb will ultimately be applied with mercy and grace out of love.
Since there is nothing we can do to save our own souls, there is nothing we can do to lose our souls.(Ultimately) Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.
Neither Judas nor Hitler did anything that surprised God or wasn’t part of God’s ultimate plan.


I read somewhere (where escapes me just now) that this saying meant it would have been better for Judas to have been conceived but not carried to term. Makes sense to me. Same for Hitler and his fellows, I’d venture to suggest. None of these has apparently made any progress in this life. :frowning:


I’ve heard that also. I suppose it has to do with the amount of punishment before ultimate reconciliation since not even being born in sin would seem the fewest stripes except for those that now have no condemnation in Christ.


I’m not sure ‘punishment’ with all its baggage is the best possible word in a case like this, though. To me (and maybe not to everyone else) punishment brings up thoughts of retribution. While I’m okay with that in a person who has committed wrongs willfully and knowingly, I’m not so okay with it in the case of an unborn child. Maybe it’s just that it makes me “feel better” :laughing: but I prefer “training” in a case like this. Every child needs training, and not all find it pleasant. They do not all always need punishment. Eventually every child needs chastisement. Those who willfully behave in an unloving way toward God and fellow humans most likely deserve and certainly need (imo) some form of correction/punishment. Some of them maybe need a LOT! :wink:


I’m forgetful lately but I thought the word in the Greek was “kolasis” and always meant “corrective”
Maybe if they aren’t born they aren’t “born in sin” but I even have a problem with corrective punishment for less than a 6 month old. I don’t know.


There’s some dispute over whether it always only means corrective punishment. The few times it’s used in the NT aren’t obviously only corrective, and apparently outside the NT it was occasionally used with intention of hopeless punishment.

#8 … n-mt-2624/

You’re welcome :smiley:


So Ace, in Hope Beyond Hell it essentially says that Jesus is saying, “it would have been better for me, if Judas had never been born”? This seems a bit clunky to me, and Beauchmeins argument isn’t exactly robust.

Seems to me that Jesus is using a bit of hyperbole here. Apparently he did that from time to time. :wink:


He did indeed, and I find that to be a preferable explanation too. But given that I am not an inerrantist. I think a far more likely scenario is that Matthew had no idea what the exact words were that Jesus said.

At the same time, most of my discussion about UR takes place with literalists and inerrantists. People like this would likely find hyperbole to be a weak defence.


I don’t know it would have been better for Jesus if Judas had never been born…if it wasn’t Judas, it would have been some other “friend” that betrayed him as all the prophecy needed to be filled, (the betrayal, the cross, the 30 pieces of silver, drinking from the cup, the timing of the passover lamb, etc.)


I don’t recall what thread I did it in, but I hashed out the grammar at one point and decided Christ probably wasn’t saying “better for Me if that man had not been born”.

However, when that phrase is used elsewhere in the Bible, it’s a call for pity and mercy on the person so described. So I’m not too worried about Jesus using it about Judas. Matthew after all is the author who goes most out of his way to open up audience pity for Judas.


Do you have examples of that Jason? Thanks :slight_smile:


I don’t know whether this is relevant - but as far as I can see (and I assume this is what Jason is referring to) the poetic hyperbole ‘better I had never been born’ occurs a number of times in the OT to mean inconsolable lamentation and disillusionment; a state of mind and heart that is to be pitied/sympathised with rather than seen as condign punishment (because it also can afflict the righteous). See Jeremiah 20:14-18; Job 3:3 – 13; and Ecclesiastes 4:1-3). And indeed Judas is overcome with terrible remorse at the betrayal – and his suicide is an act that is a statement of the despair of ‘better I had never been born’. But this says nothing about Judas eternal destiny – and does not preclude our sympathy for Judas.


There’s a thread on Judas already here on site where Nottribd makes all of the points I make above rather better.

I found out today that Origen, in his commentary on Matthew, cites a tradition that it was not only Judas who was involved in the betrayal of Jesus – so were the other disciples; and that Judas had good portions in his soul. This seems more in keeping with the spirit of Matthew. The other trajectory of the Judas story that ends with Papias’ grotesque description of Judas growing to enormous size and bursting when run down by a chariot is clearly making Judas the scapegoat for Jesus death (Papias was writing in the first century).

I have heard of one other merciful tradition in the early church which has it that Judas – in dying before Jesus – was down in Hades in time to be liberated by Jesus at the Harrowing of Hell. I no longer have the source for this story – has anyone else heard of it (it suggests that some hoped that Judas might be redeemed also).



I hadn’t heard of that tradition of Judas being barely in hades before Jesus arrives, Sobor, but it does fit well into widespread (though not universal) belief of the early church that Christ emptied the punitive side of hades during the harrowing.

Yes, I was thinking of those examples, and also of something along that line from Job (I don’t have the exact chapter and verse at hand but it’s fairly well-known, Job wishes he had died before being born, etc.) I seem to recall one or more of the Psalms saying something of this sort as well.

One might reply that these examples are asking for pity on one’s own self, but the principle is still the same.