The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Col 1, 1 Cor 15, Already-Not Yet, and the Parousia

I happened to find my friend Paul Manata’s new weblog this morning (tracking back an excellent bit of satire reported from his site by another friend, Dr. Victor Reppert); and out of curiosity poked around to see if he had discussed universalism yet anywhere.

In fact, back on Sept 25, he posted this interesting article critiquing a universalistic understanding of Colossians 1:15-20 and 1 Corinthians 15:20-28. Especially Robin Parry’s comments on those verses from TEU.

Put briefly, Paul’s rebuttal is that the already/not-yet distinction would work in an argument for universalism here if there was scriptural evidence that this distinction continued to hold true in the eschaton, after the resurrection of the evil and the good. Since Paul doesn’t think there is any such evidence, and (not only a silence on the topic but) plenty of testimony suggesting or outright indicating the not-yet factor no longer applies (i.e. a final division), then the universalism argument from those verses cannot be true.

I hope to set up a post exchange discussion with him later this week, but preliminary comments are certainly welcome! (Paul is Reformed/Calv, not Reformed/Arm, by the way. Or as he would say, Reformed. :mrgreen: )

Thanks Jason. I get worried when people say "interesting argument (or article) because by “interesting” the English seem to mean, “That’s clearly nonsense.” They’re just more polite about saying that than we are! :laughing:

It doesn’t make sense that it would carry on for (at least) all of the eschaton, because at some point there has to be some resolution. I think the more important thing is that we’re told what that resolution is!
To me, that seals the deal.
You can make all the arguments like this that you want, but there is clear evidence that God gets 100% return on his investment.

Jason, are you confident that you have a good reply or do you fear that perhaps universalism has been trumped?

It was an thought-provoking and well written article … if just a bit complicated. I wish I had more to offer but I’ll also be interested to see how the discussion goes.

Hey roof,
I read the article and didn’t see UR as being trumped at all. I always crack up at how much people think they understand eschatology when God has left out a LOT of information. Different people have different views from the SAME bible on all kinds of end times theology, including how many ages their are, when the millenium is, whether or not there is a rapture, etc. etc. UR does not rest on a few proof texts. I’m thinking about jumping in on his site and discussing this argument, but I’m not sure if I have the time, but even as I was reading I saw holes in his argument. Finally, there are simply too many scriptures where God himself says that he is not the kind of guy who punishes forever for me to accept ECT. I’m still open to annihilationism, but I really can’t see eternal hell in the bible without major contradictions in what God says about himself.

lol eager much? :laughing:

how could a few proof texts trump the message of the ENTIRE BIBLE


No, I don’t think EU has been trumped. But I do think it’s a better-than-usual challenge, worth looking at and talking about. :slight_smile:


No, I don’t think the argument is trash. PaulM made a very admirable attempt, but I’m confident I’ve got a good reply. I’ve pinged Robin about it, too, although I haven’t heard back from him yet. (That was only yesterday.)

Hopefully I’ll be able to type up a reply to it today sometime. Paul’s argument is more in-depth than the brief principle summary I gave, and deserves some chewing over. I might even be able to reply in a way that Paul would agree with in principle while still disagreeing as to the application of the principle. :slight_smile:

quite interesting, but it only raises problems for a certain form of mechanic that is debated to see how this works in practice.
it seems to me that not all of us believe in the necessity of a hell period, only of a refining, which could last as long as it needs to, and there’s no reason it couldn’t happen before the next age is ushered in properly.

but in the Bible you clearly have all creation divorced from God, and God promising (not just in Paul’s letters) that His anger doesn’t endure forever, that He doesn’t cast aside forever, that when He is lifted, He will draw all men…etc etc
the metanarrative is still that God will remarry divorced creation. nothing is excluded but sin and death.

the mechanics are of course debatable and interesting and valuable. but i think you have to start from the point that Scripture promises unambiguously that all will be reconciled. how and when that happens is left rather vague, and probably on purpose. if we had all the answers handed to us we’d become proud and lazy. if God slowly reveals His grace in greater and greater increments, the glory is His and the joy ours.

also, Paul still wrote in the age before Jerusalem fell. if that’s the case, the age of which he speaks as a present age is rendered more ambiguous, as that age fell with Jerusalem, as far as i’m aware…that’s truly when the age of sacrifice was over.

we see alot in Scripture i think about things needing to be actualised even though the work is done. for example, we’re reconciled now, but it requires actualisation at some point…
the age of the OT ended with Christ saying “it is finished”, but was actualised in 70AD…

i may be rambling now, so i will stop.

Hi Jason, I’d also say the argument is still being developed, so the blog serves to put forth the chicken scratches. As with the other argument I made here a while back, the push back from you guys will be good as it will help me fine tune the argument and address objections in future iterations of the argument.

lol eager much? :laughing:

how could a few proof texts trump the message of the ENTIRE BIBLE

Eager for what- to see UR defeated? I don’t want that, I hope that UR is true. But I don’t want to believe it for comfort’s sake either.

Eager for what- to see UR defeated? I don’t want that, I hope that UR is true. But I don’t want to believe it for comfort’s sake either.
sorry it was just your wording :wink:
i do appreciate your cautious approach and asking of the difficult questions!!! it’s great you’re here as without people questioning everything, it could get dangerous.

I’m still struggling with the notion of hell at all, now that I know the scripture doesn’t actually contain such a word, though it may contain a semblance of at least the general concept. But if indeed there is an eschatological “hell”, it doesn’t look much at all like what tradition has taught us, from what I can see.

Please allow me to clarify, by the way (and with his permission), that “DualCitizen” is Paul Manata. :smiley:

(I wasn’t sure he wanted that known, so I’ve been sort-of treating them as maybe different people since he registered a few months ago. But he rather outed himself in that reply, so I checked to make sure I could clarify things publicly.)

For DualCitizen Paul!

Thanks for seriously engaging Col. 1/1 Cor. 15.!!! Your eschatological interpretation does suggest evangelical universalism is untenable. For it’s “clear” to you that at the ‘parousia’ the coming age is “fully realized,” and Christ’s enemies are instantly “fully defeated” (implying no further developments). And then, “already/not yet is totally foreign!”

But I find varying Jewish & Christian claims to have known how Biblical eschatological events will look have one thing in common: they appear regularly mistaken on what they thought they knew. Do you know that the way its’ realities are portrayed requires your interpretation? Doesn’t e.g. N. T. Wright see “sheep and goats separated” as happening in AD 70, long before all enemies are fully defeated? Where are we told that for Christ’s enemies, all suffering and other processes can’t continue at the parousia’s new age? Wouldn’t most scholars say that Paul hardly spells out the nature of the eschatology of unbelievers (or that “people hostile to God” do remain in Revelation’s final eschatological visions)?

Hebrew Scripture’s readers might have perceived there was little room revealed even for post death flourishing. But you are sure that the N.T. insists that all eschatological realities must “coincide” and can’t be “spread out.” Yet your assurance of what the classic texts mean cannot develop, does not weigh the positive arguments for believing that God could achieve a more victorious end. Perhaps e.g. you could append a positive account of the kind of “reconciliation” for which you think the blood of the cross in such passages is encouraging us to hope.

Grace be with you,
Bob Wilson

Hi Bob. Great question posed!

Hi Bob,

I don’t say that “I am sure.” I say that the way things look and read to me (and not just me, I cited several scholars), it appears that there’s tensions. I even find support in my view in Parry’s appeal to the already/not yet and “this age” and “the age to come.” So I’d say that I don’t have epistemic certainty, I’d say that my position seems more plausible than its denial. I fully admit I could be wrong. But that, of course, doesn’t imply that I am wrong.

Hi Paul,

I like your spirit, and sympathize with everything in your response. I too admit that I can be and undoubtedly am wrong about plenty of things. I do apologize that characterizing your view as “sure” exaggerated. But along with vouching for scholars who agree with you, your repeated account of some of your interpretations as “clear,” and citing alternative ones as found “nowhere,” and as “untenable” sounded wrongly exaggerated and far too assured to me. For I suggested resting on an understanding of eschatology is building on an especially debated and unclear area.

As I implied, which “position seems most plausible” tends to be shaped by the sense in one’s tradition of all the arguments and of Scripture as a whole. So yes, the Bible’s exhortations all addressed to those in this age that emphasize how important response is now, offers plausibility to your view that God cannot participate in any further dealings or developments. But for those who see the nature of existence beyond history not to be the Biblical focus and far from assured clarity, the rest of the Bible’s compelling (at least to them) assurances about God’s character and promises may lead them to think different conclusions are the more plausible understanding of the whole.

I think that if one thing could be said of eschatology with great certainty it would be that we don’t have epistemic certainty! :smiley: God says very little about what happens from the point a man dies until the second death & beyond, and yet for many a great deal of time goes by. In God’s own wisdom he chose to say very little and we must trust Him there. I would venture to say that, were God to reveal to us what He does between the time a man dies and the point where he has “reconciled all things” whatever that means as a future reality, that volumes could be written. But I’m just speculating.

Thanks Bob.

I dunno, if eschatological claims are really that shaky and we’re all feeling our way around a dark room, that seems to put the kabosh on universalism, as the position seem almost entirely about what will happen in the eschaton! :slight_smile:

In any event, much of my argument was based on what seemed to be premises Parry accepted, and he did say that Paul would be confused to hear that those reconciled to Christ were being punished in the age to come—which seems to not only make a claim about the eschatological state, but (kinda) confirm my view of the age to come, though I don’t take it where Parry does.