The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Can a belief in Universalism accomodate the harsh teachings

Like the reality of Sin, Hell, Suffering, Evil, Judgment and Death. I find that sometimes the doctrine is seen as being all warm and fuzzy, where severity, choice, and urgency are undermined.

Joe, I think you are describing modern, liberal, universalism. This is the very reason I do not accept the term “universalist” for myself.

God’s judgments, though remedial and not punitive, may in some cases be quite severe. There is good reason to avoid them such intense correction by becoming righteous before God NOW. Nevertheless, God will administer no more discomfort or pain to anyone than is absolutely necessary.

the worm devours decaying rotten flesh (in this world doctors use maggots to cleanse decaying flesh)…the fire is the fire of God…after death the unrepentant is chastised and purified by God’s Divine eternal fire and the sinners sinful rotten soul is destroyed by the ‘worm’ of God (which does not die like earthly maggots do)…after this process the sinner is able to see Jesus for who He is and is able to cry out to Jesus and be redeemed from the Lake of Fire after facing the horror of their sins and suffering the consequences of sin and the effect their sins had on God, themselves and others…even so the sinner (in his soul) will suffer some kind of eternal loss though his spirit will ultimately be saved…** the Bible never speaks of a man’s spirit being destroyed only his body and soul **…the punishments of God in the next life are CORRECTIVE not vindictive !..still, does this sound severe enough for you ?,

Neil, how do you understand the “spirit” and the “soul” of a person, and what is the difference between the two?

Why must universalism necessarily accommodate itself to the so-called “harsh teachings”? Frankly, we as human beings have a tendency (or bias) to treat urgent and severe ideas as intrinsically more truthful that “warm and fuzzy” ones, out of fear, I suppose, that we might be tricking ourselves otherwise. I often suspect that even universalists will over-play the harsh and severe elements of the belief to give it a greater sense of honesty and truthfulness (I say this as a universalist myself). I think universalists ought to be a tad skeptical of paradigms of understanding that give fear and harshness too much sway.

Cancer patients, heart patients, sufferers of many horrible illnesses, are made to suffer even more by the treatments given by their doctors. Human doctors are imperfect, but I think for the most part (that is to say the vast majority), doctors do the best they can to cure their patients of their horrible diseases. Patients are not punished for their diseases (though I don’t rule out the idea that God does perhaps punish some for their willfully hateful actions), nevertheless the cure of many illnesses is punishing. It’s a punishing cure. No one wants to go through this kind of thing, yet for the chance of obtaining better life or more life, most people WILL gladly suffer it. Most people will beg for it.

If sin is a disease, I see no reason to suppose that its cure would be any more pleasant than the cure of many other diseases. Paul said that if we would judge ourselves we would not be judged. I think what he was saying here was that if we judge our sins to BE sins, and subsequently turn away from those sins in appropriate horror, then there will be no need for any outside cure. We have judged ourselves albeit with the help of God and we need not be judged further.

God is a father and He is a GOOD father. A good father does not allow his child to forgo the cure of any illness he may suffer, unless perhaps that cure has very very little chance of working. That is not the case with our Father God. Father God knows that his medicine WILL work, and yes, if necessary I think he would even force it down our throats. A human father would, if he loved his child. He would not say, “Well Johnny I would like to save your life, but I respect your free will, so I will not force you to take this treatment even though I KNOW it would heal you. If you choose to die then there’s nothing I can do to stop you.” I find that ridiculous. Nevertheless, I think God has his ways of persuading his children, and since he has unlimited time in which to do that, it seems likely to me that he will in fact NOT force his cures upon us. He can afford to wait, as an earthly father could not.

It’s possible, and I think very, very likely that part of the cure may actually BE punishment. Earthly fathers chastise their children and should we not receive chastisement from our Heavenly Father for our good? I think that God will do everything necessary to make his children into the image of Christ, just as Paul says He is doing now with the elect. Those who came to the vineyard late are paid exactly the same wage as those who came early. I do believe that in the end, we will all be equal. Some of us will be marginally older, perhaps more mature, but that doesn’t mean that we will be better than our younger brothers and sisters at all. How could we be? We will all be one.

i like the ‘sin as a disease’ model. A disease needing a cure, and happily some ministers are ‘curates’, one of the little towns in That Hideous Strength was named ‘cure hardy’ (clever) and I somewhere ran across the phrase concerning God’s ‘slow skill’ in curing/healing.

I don’t think the disease model is big in Protestant circles - I was in a number of those circles and the focus was forgiveness of sins - a wonderful thing! - but very little focus on Father’s slow skill - patient, life-long and longer, wise over the long haul, continuing even when we are not aware of it. So much importance is put on the big experience, the slaying of the Spirit, the remarkable conversions, the miracles - not saying those things are of no value, just saying that the importance of them fades for me when I consider that work is being done in me, and in us, slowly patiently wisely and oh so skillfully. We’ll see it all when we are able.

Yeah there’s very often a focus on the one-time events rather than the process, which can be helpful in some senses but unhelpful in others. Too much focus on salvation from punishment rather than salvation from sin!

I always like MacDonald on this sort of stuff - it might not be the case for some when reading him but I take great encouragement from his emphasis on the pain and struggle of being saved from sin. Quite often a ‘one-time event’ focus can give you the push that you need in the short term (and sometimes in the long term) but it can also make the suffering that follows seem rather pointless; “God has forgiven me and healed me, everything’s done, why does He leave me in the daily drag of life? What is the point of all the rest of this?”. I love MacDonald’s focus on how hard it is to be saved from sin, how painful the journey of salvation can be at times, how much of a struggle daily life can be, how much we must put aside to follow Jesus - it just feels more real you know? Especially when you know it’s also coming from a place where God’s love and justice is for us and always will be for us.

Well said. I like reading GMac for the same reasons as well.

The “universalists” I know are all way more conservative than the Lutherans or Catholics in my country. Also Jehova Witnesses who at least do not believe in hell are far more conservative than Lutherans who at least according to their dogma must believe in eternal damnation, I can hardly imagine that they actually do anyway, at least not the liberals among them who embrace gay marriage and appease to Islam.

Just some commentaries here.

Jehovah Witnesses have their own translation of the bible. The view they champion on hell is called conditional immorality and annihilation. It’s a view I favor and is now a well established evangelical position. But I first give folks a chance for salvation, by inclusivism and possible postmortem opporunities. See Those Who Have Never Heard: A Survey of the Major Positions. For they record, it also covers universalism.
“appease to Islam” needs more explanation. Today I am going to visit a local Islamic center - at my request. But I believe in peaceful coexistence with other faith traditions - whenever possible. I recommend this book. But won’t mention it to Muslims, as she is viewed as a heretic. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the author of Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now. It has gotten 4.4 out of 5 stars, by about 450 reviewers on Amazon and I just finished it. It lays the cards out on the table - as they really are.

Well, I’m back for my 2 hour visit, to the local Islamic center. Everyone was nice and I shared my visit, with 2 females from Wheaton College. I promised not to ask any “controversial” questions, in my email. I did limit my questions to “simple” ones, like:

If I master MSA (Modern Standard Arabic), what percentage of the Koran would I understand, since it is written in classical Arabic?
Can you explain Islamic banking to me?

I had a change to visit a cultuaral program there tomorrow, but I had to decline. I have a meeting of the Mandarin Language, meet-up group tomorrow. But I found out one of the Wheaton College Women, was from Brazil. So I did ask if all is well, in Brazilian Portuguese.

I’m sure the center would prefer I learn about Islam from them. Rather then the College of Dupage, Eastern Orthodox Christian, who has his PhD in philosophy from Yale.

And now on to more “intellectual” activites. Like watching the old Western - Wanted Dead or Alive (Say. Isn’t the Indian in this episode, the same one who played Tonto in the Lone Ranger?). Or the Walking Dead tomorrow night (i.e. I have to see what the Zombies are up to). They might even have a Zombie love story. :laughing:

And I’m on the mailing list, for future Islamic center activities. :smiley:

I visited the local Islamic center yesterday. Here’s some feedback I emailed them today (The same would go here for folks from different universal perspectives and other non-universal perspectives):

Hi xxx:

Thanks again for the opportunity to visit the center. You and xxx were very nice. I like to label any exchanges as “having a dialogue”. When you have a dialogue, you are trying to understand another persons position. While you might not change a person’s position (i.e. the Christian becomes a Muslim or vice versa), you understand why they believe and act in certain ways.

in the dialogue with xxx and the Wheaton Christian girls, he was really treading on deep theological waters - without realizing it.

For example. Let’s call the apostles who wrote the gospels messengers, so we are on the same page. Let’s assume the gospel writers were multilingual and God speaks to them directly (i.e. inspired). How does this compare or contrast with a prophet receiving a revelation from God, via an angel? What makes one method more or less accurate then another?
If Mohammad had 2 different phases in his life and mission - one at Mecca and one at Medina - how do we put these different phases, into a comprehensive perspective? Yesterday, you were emphasizing the Mecca aspects of peace, etc. But ISIS would emphasize the Medina aspects. Perhaps both can correctly claim to be right.

So a dialogue can thread on deep theological and philosophical ground - without being offensive to either party. We are trying to improve our understanding of positions and beliefs.

I look forward to continuing our dialogue of understanding. Thanks again.

Please note: image not included in email.