Criteria for an Evangelical Universalism


#1

This coming summer I’m going to be teaching some classes at the Pepperdine Lectureship entitled “Love Wins: Evangelical Universalism in the Churches of Christ.” For those of you unfamiliar with the Churches of Christ, my faith tradition, this is sort of a big deal. I don’t know if the topic of UR has ever been broached in such a high profile venue within my faith tradition. (Although Thomas Talbott did discuss universalism this last summer at a Church of Christ gathering, the Christian Scholar’s Conference at Lipscomb University. But Thomas is not a member of the Churches of Christ.)

As a part of these classes I’m going to set out some criteria for an evangelical universalism. The basic question will be: What sorts of things do we need to see from an “evangelical universalism” if it is to find a place within our faith tradition?

Borrowing from Robin Parry’s work, my tentative list for such criteria:

1. Biblical
The vision of UR has to be grounded in the biblical witness.

2. Christocentric
Salvation has to be “in” and “through” Christ.

3. Atonement
The death of Jesus is understood to be an atoning sacrifice for human sinfulness. (Point of clarification: Atonement doesn’t have to be limited to this view, but this view has to be included.)

4. Judgment/Justice/Hell
Related to #1, all the texts in the bible regarding hell, Gehenna, judgment, and the lake of fire have to be included (and even emphasized).

5. Evangelistic
The vision of UR must create energy, motivation and zeal for the gospel proclamation.

To be sure there are many background/creedal issues that could also be included. But all that will be assumed by my generally evangelical audience. So for them, I’m going to argue that if UR can clear these five hurtles it could properly be called an evangelical soteriology.


#2

Awesome to hear it’s being discussed so prominently in your faith tradition!

I think your 5 points are good, although I’d probably tweak 2. to be:

Salvation is only by God’s grace, and only “through” faith in Christ.

It sounds like you’ve already read this powerpoint presentation by Robin but just in case you haven’t, I highly recommend it: viewtopic.php?f=45&t=1365


#3

Agreed with Alex’s suggested tweak, even though #3 probably excludes me.

(Depends on whether “Jesus sacrificed Himself to human sinfulness to atone us to God” would fit the definition given.)

But I always preferred being called an orthodox Christian universalist anyway. :wink:


#4

It excludes me as well. I don’t consider myself an evangelical. But my tradition does. #3 is more for my tradition/audience than for me.


#5

I am very much borrowing Robin’s stuff, but I hadn’t seen this PowerPoint. So thanks!


#6

In the past I know people have used stuff I’ve written forum against me so let me explicitly say that I haven’t completely settled my mind about this - particularly as I haven’t yet read any books on this & considered every relevant verse. Anyway, I don’t know if this is too much of a stretch :confused: but I interpret this as:

The death of Jesus was (& is) atoning because it was an act of love that attracts us & brings us to Him so we can become at-one (reconciled) with God - something the Holy Spirit uses to help us repent & stop being hostile to Him. Jesus is the Prodigal Father who goes to the pigpen to rescue His son & enable him to come home.

The death of Jesus was a sacrifice - He suffered & gave up His life freely.

The death of Jesus was because of human sinfulness i.e. if humans weren’t sinful they wouldn’t have killed Him.