EU: A most frustrating “argument” vs U.R.


While I appreciate that there are reasoned and principled arguments against Universal Reconciliation (and have, so far anyway, found all of them more than adequately refuted by Talbott and R Parry and so many of you on this site ) there is an argument against UR that frustrates me terribly. Not because it’s a good one but because it’s so common and so readily used by most Christians.

It comes to their lips as a sudden insight; yet it is so wrongheaded that it is, instead, breathtakingly, well, hard to find a better word than stupid for this. Stupid as in utterly disconnected from reality and what’s really important to God and those who claim His mantle. Not happy to use such a blunt word (stupid) but am afraid it fits all to well.

And here it is (it’s been mentioned from time to time here…)

**“well! if everybody is going to be saved, then nothing we do matters and why not just go ahead and keep on sinning! There’s no ‘cost’ to sin, so UR is license and free reign for sin!” **

Oh my! Where to begin…

Let me say straight away that I too feared maybe encountering something like this here on this site – way back when I joined early ’09. You know, that UR doesn’t take sin “seriously”. But a reason I have come to really appreciate this site is because of the absolute clarity you all seem to have on the utter horror of sin. You all seem to have a profound sense of just how heinous a thing it is to part ways with the will and plan of the loving Father of us all, as seen in the person of the Christ.

Go ahead and keep on sinning? Are you kidding me?? And so nail, yet again as it were, our Savior to that Cross? The utter sickness of saying such a thing overtly implies that sin is more fun! - more fulfilling - more rational, than coming to the genuine fullness of life as promised by Jesus. I’m very sad to consider that any Christian who employes this argument must see his own denial of self as some sort of “chore” whose goal is to achieve Paradise. As if the martyrdom of and for Jesus consists of giving up the pleasures of “sin for a season”. That’s deplorable.

I’ll just be blunt and confess straight away that I find this particular line of thinking so odious that it has lead me to consider simply stifling my UR convictions and going completely underground with it. For even the thought that my joy at God’s prediction and promise of UR might serve as catalyst and empowerment to sin is enough to make me shiver.

It’s a universe of difference between “behave; and maybe get your sorry butt into heaven” versus “Can you see what God has gone through to win you back to trust? Do you not comprehend that all He’s ever wanted for you is what is best for you? How could you possibly yearn for the sick and selfish and temporary “rush” of sin instead of for the very Bread of Life?”

The necessity of putting this into words is almost beyond belief! Yet countless folks just nod and say “yeah; if all are saved, lets go party”. One senses, deeply and with sadness, that their hearts never were in the right place from the start. As if God’s plan and way for us is surely more boring, and uncool, and harsh, and noxious than is this sin track over here where the real action and excitement are. It reeks of the trope that following God is hard work; while sinners have all the “fun”. It’s hard for me to convey just how much contempt I have for this pathetic misunderstanding.

Take the world, but give me Jesus… That’s the attitude I find here. I really believe that our UR proponents here have found UR to be that blessed assurance that propels us to live MORE holy lives, not less. For to willingly hurt, yet again, our God and our Savior, under the pretense of “fun and fulfillment” is, literally, unthinkable…

This seems so obvious to me that I fear no one has really bothered to formally lay out a decent response to this utterly frustrating canard.

So might you complete this thought?

“UR does the exact opposite of enabling me to continue sinning because…”



Simple but lovely thought

Whilst I’d be hesitant to call anyone stupid, I understand what you’re saying. It certainly seems a very common “conclusion” that people come up with. As Craig said, sadly there are people who do use this as an excuse to sin and so that doesn’t help the situation :frowning:

However, I totally agree with you and what you’ve already put forward about why it shouldn’t be the conclusion. When Luke asked me on his blog a few months ago, here was my initial attempt to answer him:
1. Rom 6:1-2 (NIV)

2. Should I rebel from my earthly parents just because I know they will take me back? No way, the suffering you would cause is still very real and it would take years of hard work to mend the relationship.

3. Every step away from God, is a step you have to eventually crawl back over. Just because you might be doing the crawling back in the afterlife in no way reduces the difficulty (I wouldn’t be surprised if it was actually harder). As far as I know, time in the afterlife will still be time.

4. Jesus tells us it’s much better to “settle out of court” rather than face the judge.

5. Remedial punishment is still painful, possibly more so because at the end you have to ashamedly “hug” the person you have wronged.

Another friend said the same argument can be “used” against mainstream Christianity, “You can do what you want with your life, just remember to repent on you death bed!”


It’s probably a common reaction because it’s a valid argument against Universalism.

In traditional Christianity there remains the option of repenting on your deathbed as illustrated by the the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Luke 20:1-15). (This is the scandal of grace, that some Hell-bound sinners are offered a last minute stay of execution!) However both Talbot and Parry downplay the urgency felt in much of the New Testament for salvation this side of death. An urgency that would be rendered peculiar if a second chance existed after death.

Adam and Eve in the best possible communion with God, choose the worst horror. Unthinkable that they would knowingly choose filth in the face of glory. And as the Apostle Paul points out people get what they want, they get their desired estrangement from God.

Although as I pointed out earlier Alex, the problem with using Romans 6 is that it’s addressed to Christians. Romans 1:7 "To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints."

But your parents would still take you back, in fact you could devise the worst possible humiliation and suffering and you’d still be reconciled. With this line of argument the quantity, quality or length of present pain/suffering etc don’t seem to have long lasting effects in the face of universal eternity with God.

Jesus tells us to settle out of court because facing the judge means getting what you deserve.

But the end doesn’t justify the means. If what your saying is true then the original crime was a good thing because it brought about reconciliation.


I think I can use Rom 6 here because Bobx3 said he is concerned that it’s an “argument”



Morning guys:

Of course you are right Alex; to call someone stupid is immature and unlikely to further any sort of conversation. But calling someone stupid, versus calling an idea stupid are a bit different; thought that distinction is never accepted by the person whose idea is being called stupid!! That’s just psychology 101 I guess! I chose the word deliberately because I wanted to underline my frustration at not being able to well articulate just why it’s such a bad argument. Your subsequent observations are also right on in my book.

The REASON this argument really is not valid to my mind is that it denies the centrality of relationship with God as what saves us. It’s far far more than some distant and isolated balancing of the books (so to speak) but involves an utter transformation of the mind and soul and “heart”; a heart transplant, if you will, so dramatic and monumental that it’s likened to “death”. So to use this argument (ie I’m saved so I’ll keep on sinning) is an abject denial of relationship – for if real relationship is present, it will see immediately and instinctively that you simply don’t willingly cause pain to the other. Thus when I hear this argument I shudder because I doubt the person using it HAS contemplated the implications of what he’s said! And that also contributes to the frustration of course!

Let me just say here that part of what’s drawn me to this site and kept me here is the keen awareness of this very sort of dynamic. Just for two examples read these bits by GM (now known as RParry)

Eulogy for a non Christian friend

and How Universalism has impacted my life

Here GM displays great sensitivity to the fact that UR really can be badly misunderstood and used to justify ill. And he doesn’t believe in teaching/preaching it in such a way as to deny judgment and the coming transformative pain of “hell”.

And I find very interesting Luke your observations on so called “deathbed” conversions. I asked our friend Aaron about a similar thing (over on “the intermediate state of the dead” thread) as to when this change/conversion/transformation takes place (since he agrees that it appears many go to their grave unrepentant) given his belief that the dead know nothing; they are asleep.

Also, I’ve come to reject the idea of God giving someone a “second” chance; I see the entire matter as one big continuation of the SAME chance God gives. I also would reject your assertion that “Talbot and Parry downplay the urgency felt in much of the New Testament for salvation this side of death” – that’s not how I’ve read them at all.

And Luke, your question about Adam and Eve is an incredibly fascinating one which has been discussed many times on this site. No time to find specific spots for you now but it’s a great question about which Tom Talbott and Jason P and others have made many interesting observations. And this plunges us of course headlong into the wonderful discussion about the existence and nature of “free will”. And I’ve sided strongly with Talbott when he says that a decision against God is anything but free; it is, rather, ultimately an act of insanity and the product of delusion. ie the antithesis of freedom. And It would thus make no sense to simply obliterate (annihilation) or torment forever (ECT) those so drowning in their own illusions and so God can and does enter the scene to rectify that situation. Painful as it is, it is likened to “hell”.

All very wonderfully intriguing for me :smiley: :smiley: :smiley:



I disagree. In fact, a careful rendering of Romans 1:7 could actually raise the verse to UR. “To all in Rome who are loved by God” Just how many in Rome does God love? All of them? Is there anyone in Rome whom God doesn’t love? Does not God so love the world, of which Rome is a part of? And what is the ultimate goal God has for those whom He loves? To be called saints? Unless you want to play the Calv card, it seems rather an inclusive statement to me.


Exactly my first thought whenever I hear this kind of “argument” brought up. (In Greek I think Paul’s statement is even stronger: “MAY IT NEVER BE!!”)

But of course, the person who brings up this kind of argument is responding to ultra-universalism anyway. Ultra-u’s would still reject that kind of thinking for various correct reasons (i.e. reasons I also agreed to be true, and reasons which make logical sense if they’re right instead), but I always simply answer, “I believe VERY strongly in hell. And with that kind of attitude, you won’t be avoiding it–even if you’re a Christian. You won’t ever be leaving it either, so long as that’s how you insist on thinking about sin.”

On the other hand, I have a lot more respect for a subtle but crucially very different version of the same objection (as have many other universalists throughout Christian history, back at least as far as Origen): if we preach universalism, other people will think this means they can go out and sin freely.

My answer to such people (and apparently Luke is one–I hope and trust not one of the other kind, looking for an excuse to freely sin if only they can avoid any unpleasantness to themselves for doing so!) usually runs along this line:

‘If those other people willfully ignore what I (and other universalists) warn about the wrath of God, then so be it; that was going to be a problem anyway, no matter what you or I told them. If they’re too stupid to understand, that’s going to be a problem no matter what you or I tell them, too, unless we tell them something too simple to be Christianity anyway. But those other people aren’t here, and I’m not talking to them right now. We’re talking about you and me, what we ought to believe is true. Truth can be abused or misunderstood, whatever the truth may be; but the abuse does not abolish the use, and we ought to be concerned with what is true first, and then deal with unpleasant consequences of truth afterward while not denying the truth.’

Certainly non-universalists can understand that principle: because most often they regard holding non-universalism (of whichever sort) to be a hard truth that ought to be held and taught despite their grief about the hopeless tragedy it represents that they would otherwise rather not be true. Nor would they accept possible or even probable abuses of the truth of that doctrine as an excuse not to properly teach the doctrine. That kind of heroic realism is definitely admirable and proper!–but then so much for using worry, about how other people will wrongly take universalism (in this or that way), as an argument against teaching universalism. Much less as any kind of argument against the truth of universalism.


Allow me to add as a personal witness: whenever I have sinned, ever since I became a universalist, I can vouch with 100% assurance and honesty, I have never once, NOT EVER ONCE, excused my sin (before or after the fact) with the wave off of, “Ah, pft, it doesn’t matter, I’m going to get into heaven anyway.”

I really do not have words strong enough to curse that kind of attitude. (Nor to curse my actual attitudes when I sin, which are bad enough, but thank God not that.)

That kind of attitude is also utterly and completely antithetical to how I came to believe Christian universalism is true in the first place. I was growing far more conscious of how reprehensible even my smallest sins are, and so of both the wrath of God against sin and the grace of God for the sinner. Not that I didn’t already believe such things, but my consciousness of them was vastly increased thanks to a disciplinary exercise I was engaging in.

Also thanks, no doubt in the least, to the immense personal pain and trial I could already foresee coming in my life, and just how heinous I would be to sin in order to avoid the pain and (so to speak) try to save myself–by hoping for the death of someone else’s hope of salvation.

God… damn… me!–an adulterer and a murderer, the chief of sinners!–rather than that I should hope against salvation. Better that I should die the death, than that I should act against another man’s hope of salvation.

How much more so would I rather be blotted from the book than that God should be merciless to the one I love the most. Am I better man than St. Paul?! Than Moses?! By God I know I am not!! Let me be accursed from Christ, if that were possible, rather than that God should not be faithful to save!!!

But there is no need to offer my life: FOR GOD MOST HIGH OFFERS UP HIS LIFE FOREVER!!!

No one can outgive God. No one can even distantly come close.

But I can at least push on the place that He makes for me at the yoke He bears

for her sake, the beloved



Amen. Sin callouses the heart and produces destruction in one’s life separate from the final state of salvation which is assured in Christ Jesus. As Paul states in 1 Corinthians 3, there is only ONE FOUNDATION which is laid and it is Jesus Christ. Be careful how we build because we can gain reward in Christ, or suffer loss but be saved as one through fire. There is no excuse to sin, even if Jesus taken upon Himself the sin of the world.


Suppose I believe in God because I’m terrified of hell. I’ll do whatever it takes to save my own skin. Why isn’t this a staggering sin? I’m obsessed with self-preservation, with getting out of jail for free. I don’t love God; I love myself. God becomes the means to my end.

I want to love God because I find him supremely beautiful, not because he scares me witless.


As wonderful a summary statement as I’ve ever heard!



That, and even more importantly (vastly more importantly), it produces destruction in other people’s lives. Not least in the destruction voluntarily borne by God Himself, self-sacrificially. But also in the lives of people for whom God Himself gives His own life at every conceiveable level of love.

Bleep, bleep, bleepity bleep [size=200]***NO!***[/size] Curses and forum formatting not strong enough to express rejection. (“Never Enough Dakka” comes close.)

But again, I want to strenuously distinguish such an argument from a concern that, in effect, ‘other people might make such an argument’. That concern is an honorable one, and deserves every respect; even though I think it weighs exactly nothing against the question of whether universalism is true, per se.



Although, speaking as a miserable sinner, scaring me witless isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. :mrgreen:

(Though I rather consider it more of scaring someone straight, like a wake-up call, not witless. :wink: )



That still doesn’t work Alex, Romans 6 only applies if your a Christian, if you decide to stop being a Christian and doing whatever pleases you, including spitting in God’s face (Hello Adam and Eve) then surely you’ve stepped outside Romans 6. The only way Romans 6 works for the universalist argument is to say everyone is a Christian or effectively a Christian.


I think that explanation overcomplicates what happened with Adam and Eve, for reasons we don’t know this side of eternity, they choose themselves over God. They did so in the face of a perfect loving relationship with God and so according to Romans 1 God gave them over to what they wanted. To say they weren’t in their right mind or ignorant introduces ideas that aren’t present in Genesis 3 or in the Apostle’s Paul’s various explanations of the Fall.


This is the only viable Universalist explanation but it in turn raises other peculiar issues. Sorry to invoke Godwin’s law but it saves time, so by this interpretation Hitler was a Christian?

I think Calvin gets all his ideas about predestination from the Bible. (Romans 9:11-13 etc)


No but God doesn’t just love Christians! He loves even His enemies :astonished:


I think there is also a confusion here about what Jesus came to do - didn’t he come to turn each one from his iniquities rather than to save them from the punishment/consequences of those iniquities? From my view (in from the outside so to speak) I always get a whiff of the older son complaining that it isn’t fair. The prodigal certainly wasn’t saved from having to eat pig food for all that time or living in squalor - the older son suffered none of those things and can quite rightly be said to have been saved from them - if you will, the father in the parable was the saviour of all his sons but especially the older son as he enjoyed the benefits of sonship for longer. However, which one loved more? The younger of course because he was forgiven more.

The wood, hay and stubble in the Christian’s life will have to be burned away and I doubt there will be many (any?) whose works laid on the foundation of Christ will be entirely fashioned of silver, gold or precious jewels.

Even as a doubter, I too deplore the attitude that one is only a Christian because of fear of hell (and have said so many times on this board). The Christian’s mission is simply to announce to the world ‘be reconciled to God and enjoy the new life that I have’. That new life including the ability to turn from your iniquities and hence stop storing up wrath for yourself.


However, as far as I know, he never even mentions that “God is Love” in all the Institutes, which makes me think he may have unfortunately fallen into the category of “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” :open_mouth: Sorry I’m not trying to be rude to Calvinists, it’s just that it genuinely makes me very suspicious of his theology.


But what does “God is love” mean? Love is a description but God is first a foremost a being: “I am who I am.” (Exodus 3:14) (This confusion has come up before, love does not describe the essential essence of God, it is an attribute.)


I agree God is who he is, but surely it’s at least an important enough attribute to mention, given how strongly Paul and John speak about it? :confused:

My wife said God isn’t just described as just “loving” but as LOVE.

Also Love is central to the Trinity…


Nineteenth-century Universalist leader Hosea Ballou was riding the circuit in the New Hampshire hills with a Baptist preacher one afternoon. They argued theology as they traveled. At one point, the Baptist looked over and said, “Brother Ballou, if I were a Universalist and feared not the fires of hell, I could hit you over the head, steal your horse and saddle, and ride away, and I’d still go to heaven.” Hosea Ballou looked over at him and said, “If you were a Universalist, the idea would never occur to you.”

—told by the Rev. Elizabeth Strong