Evangelical Universalist Church


#1

Hi all

I’m interested in what type of fellowship UR evangelicals have. Do any of you go to a UR church? Do any avoid church? Have any found churches amongst the popular evangelical protestant arena that are preaching UR?

(Obviously when I say ‘church’ I mean the local assembly not the catholic body of Christ)


#2

I don’t outright avoid church, but I find it hard to worship in church now. Not only is the hope of the gospel of salvation from sin too notably different sometimes, but I cringe whenever technical heresies are appealed to in order to keep them up. (Denying God’s omnipresence, or schisming between the Persons, seem to be the most common.)

I often feel now like I’m stuck worshiping in an area that’s just about 100% Mormon. Many Mormons are fine people, and I have not a doubt that many are good servants of Christ instead of goats (as I might be); but still, I would find it extremely uncomfortable to worship in a Mormon religious service.

It isn’t quite that bad, of course–conservative (and even moderate) Protestants, as well as RCCs (and the EOx), are at least nominally trinitarian, so our theologies aren’t that different. But it hurts to hear leaders and teachers throw those beliefs out the window or over their shoulders (temporarily though that might be), and it hurts worse to hear them do it in order to defend hopelessness. I often feel nausea and pain. (Ironically, a Mormon church would be more theologically consistent in its non-universalism! :wink: )

Other people wouldn’t be as sensitive to that as I am–and good for them! :laughing: But that doesn’t help me any. :frowning:


#3

Only a few people in my church (a house church service of a local Presbyterian church, which happens to meet in my house) know so far. I’m slowly (mainly so I don’t get accused of being a “false” teacher) letting the leaders know, so I expect a rocky road ahead. I love the people at my church, but I fear that they’ll eventually decide it’s “necessary” to excommunicate me :confused: I guess then I’ll be forced to find EU church!

In regards, to now, it’s already hard at times when people bring up UR passages but don’t see the UR in them :cry:


#4

As for me, I’m having difficulty in my Anglican fellowship (charismatic). Have any of you found a EU church to attend?


#5

the only EU churches i know of in the US consist of a few soteriological universalist Baptists in the Appalacian mountains. not sure i’ll ever get down there, but they sound like an interesting group. most other Baptists don’t seem to think much of them. :cry:

my husband and i attend a small, international Baptist church with a traditional understanding of salvation (those who died as saved believers enter Heaven, all others suffer for eternity in Hell). it’s one of the few churches near to us which is conservative, reverent, joyful, and welcoming (my husband and i are an inter-racial couple, and an international congregation is the only place we feel accepted, frankly). i’m not open with anyone about my hope in UR. not even sure exactly what i believe as far as that goes. but i do believe that saving faith in God’s Son may be possible after death, for all.

i would love to see what an EU church would look like, though. with so many of us reading and appreciating men like Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and Phillip Yancey, it would be neat to see what all of that would look like, come together.


#6

If it became a choice between maintaining unity and maintaining UR, I would compromise UR and say, “I hope and pray all will be saved”. Very few would disagree with that. What I think in my own head and heart is my own business. What I tell my friends in private is my own business also.

In our day and age, the Church no longer can afford the luxury of bickering and splintering over non-central doctrines.


#7

So where do you fellowship Allan, and how do they react to the belief in UR?


#8

Dad, I totally agree that

isn’t good, however, upholding Truth is very important. I see UR as a core doctrine. God’s ultimate Love, Purpose & Plan for everyone. Particularly compared to ECT which I think makes God out to be a failure. i.e. He either doesn’t ultimately love everyone or is incompetent at achieving his purposes.

Love is patient. So I aim to be patient with people who don’t yet (for they all will eventually :mrgreen: ) see the Truth of UR. I won’t try to cause divisions in my church (and will try to be tactful and loving), however, I won’t be silenced on the issue. I think it’s part of our calling to seek to see God’s name/character understood and honored (“hallowed be Thy name”). ECT often makes people appalled (opposite of honor) by who Christian’s claim God to be.


#9

As I’ve shared on other posts, I was not excommunicated, but I was marginalized (and my wife felt shunned) at my previous fellowship. We now attend a local assembly of God but I am very hesitant to build friendships or get too involved. I’ve come to realize the truth that one cannot pour new wine into an old wineskin. I hope to start a fellowship some day, some day soon I hope. I find it increasingly hard, grevious even, to attend fellowships that are exclusive. And it greaves me that if I’m open about my beliefs, it’s likely others otherwise good people will think negatively of me and often react in fear and aggression.

I’d love to be a member of a fellowship of believers that is Christian, inclusive, universalistic, evangelical, charismatic, transethnic, egalitarian, youthful and contemporary - a fellowship of believers whose foundation is not a specific systematic theology, but has a simple foundation of love for Jesus, one another, and love for all humanity! Some day, hopefully soon!


#10

I also see UR as a core doctrine. It reflects on God’s character, His love and judgments. It also has an impact on if we come to Him because of His love and what He’s done for us and for freedom from sin, or out of fear of retribution. I am not attending church anymore mostly because I see it as a God club, it’s kind of like a show. Also because I think there is a guilt factor attached to it. You know, you’re supposed to go to church and if you don’t as a Christian then there must be something wrong with your spiritual life. Gathering together at a house for fellowship, prayer and support sounds better to me than what church tends to be like now days. And then together taking care of the poor, and sharing the good news. I think that believers can fellowship and be the church in this way and still graciously disagree.


#11

Hi Pilgrim,

We (my husband and kids) attend a conservative independent bible church which does not teach universalism (and I don’t know of any churches in my area that do). I can’t classify it either as Calvinist or Arminian, since the pastors maintain that Scripture teaches a “paradox”: both that God is sovereign over salvation, and that man chooses to reject or accept Christ. How this works is an “unrevealed mystery” but since both are taught, both must be recognized as true.

That was taught recently as part of the Ephesians series, currently being done. Then he taught on the summing up of all things in Christ–which was great, except he added “of course that doesn’t mean everyone will be Christians.” But following the “paradox logic”, it would seem that to be consistent, they ought to say, “The Bible teaches that everyone will be saved, and also that some will be eternally in hell. This is a paradox we can’t understand, but must hold to both since scripture teaches both.” :laughing: :laughing: :wink:

I’d like to see universalism acknowledged as a valid scriptural hope within evangelicalism, but I don’t know if that’s anywhere in the near future. As you know, my husband and I are beginning to discuss universalism with one of the pastors of our church. We haven’t gotten far yet (and my husband sees the possibilities but is not a convinced universalist), but I hope we can at least show that it’s not contrary to scripture.

One thing I do see at this church is a genuine desire to be true to scripture, and a genuine desire to love and practice the things Christ teaches us. It’s not a “hellfire and damnation” church by any stretch, and when hell is spoken of it is with genuine regret.

In an email to me about our meetings, Don wrote (somewhat jokingly) “I’m not relishing my role as an advocate of hell.” LOL (I replied “Why should you not if you believe it’s true and of God?”) But I appreciate that attitude.

I’ve been thinking about the idea of “primary doctrines” or “core doctrines”. I’m thinking these really would be the doctrines that have to do directly with our actions. “Love your enemy, forgive that you may be forgiven, repay evil with good, etc” Everything beyond these is secondary. We are to “be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect” and we start by doing the things Christ tells us to do. As we grow in knowledge of God (including his ‘purpose of the ages which he accomplished in Christ’–universal reconciliation) that should make us increasingly able (or at least accountable) to live out the will of God on earth.

Doctrinal knowledge of itself is worthless–not to mention the fact that none of us ‘know it all.’ Indeed, Paul tells us that knowledge, understanding of mysteries and prophesies, even faith, martyrdom, sacrificial giving and service–all those things are worthless if we don’t have love in us.

Therefore the primary doctrine, as I see it, is love. Love God and love your neighbor. Everything else is secondary–but useful and important as well. I’m reminded of Jesus saying, “You tithe your mint and herbs, but you’ve neglected the weightier matters: justice, faith, mercy … you should have attended to those, and not left the other undone.” So it’s not that doctrines of knowledge are unimportant, but that they are secondary, and none of us are perfect in knowledge. When I see a church practicing the teachings of Christ and teaching people to do these things, I’m not going to be too bothered if their knowledge of God’s ultimate purpose (as I understand it) is a little lacking.

Sonia


#12

Hi Sonia,

The problem that I’ve run into is that the churches I’ve thought of joining all have as a scentence in their Statement of Faith that Jesus fails to save some of humanity (of course it’s worded differently, but that’s the essence of it). And agreement with the Statement of Faith is part of membership. So, I can attend but not be a member of those churches. And this grieves me.


#13

Sherman,

I understand your position as well, and sympathize with it! I’m not saying everyone should be just like me–just sharing where I’m at personally. I’m also not called to any kind of official ministry/leadership/teaching role at this time.

Incidentally one of the unique things about my church is that there is no membership. The stated reason is that they don’t want people to equate church membership with being right with God. They do have a sentence in their belief statement affirming the hopeless ‘lostness’ of the lost: “We believe in the bodily resurrection of the dead… of the unbeliever, who has persistently rejected Christ in the present life, to judgment, everlasting punishment, and separation forever from God.” I don’t believe anyone really and truly knows Christ and persistently rejects him–but I disagree with what they mean by the statement and the assumption that such people do exist.

But, anyway, I most certainly don’t fault your decisions, and don’t want you to think I am. :sunglasses: Each of us must walk the path our Lord leads us on, and I’ve enjoyed reading what you’ve shared about your journey.

Sonia


#14

It’s good to hear from you Sonia. I think you hit the nail on the head. It’s all about Love, ie desiring and working for the welfare of other than self.
Although I’ve only been a hopeful universalist for about 2 years, I’ve struggled for a long time with how up-beat and happy my churches have been when we believe that the vast majority of humanity will end up in ECT. I think there’s a fundamental problem with that approach and attitude (or spirit). Isn’t it the most depressing and heart-wrenching concept possible?
So I ask myself, how important is it that my church preaches GOOD NEWS for ‘the other’ (ie whatever I’m not)?
Many non-believers talk about hypocricy in the churches. Is it hypocritical to preach sacrificial love, exhibit joyfulness at one’s own salvation and at the same time believe that so many will be horrifically tormented for all eternity?

Is this fundamental or secondary? I’d appreciate your thoughts.

PS. I’m also very encouraged to hear of your discussions and am praying earnestly that God will reveal more of himself in your fellowship.

God bless you.


#15

I don’t think it’s necessarily hypocritical–that’s a charge of intentionally false play-acting, and out of all the non-universalists I have known or ever heard of, the only ones I might make that charge about are ones who are clearly being hypocritical in their ministry in other ways (i.e. the stereotypical Reverend Sendmoney televangelist.)

I do think it’s an incoherency, but people can hold incoherent ideas without really realizing they’re incoherent; or even realizing they’re incoherent but thinking that it doesn’t matter if theology is incoherent (or even believing that ‘real’ theology is supposed to be incoherent!) Even in those latter cases, they aren’t necessarily being hypocrtical, though.


#16

Hi Sonia,

Thanks, I didn’t think you were being negative in any way. And I do appreciate your gracefulness and sensitivity. I was just sharing my experience.

Blessings,
Sherman


#17

yes, perhaps hypocritical was the wrong word. I am certain that some put on a false front of happiness because they really feel the need to conform to the tribal values, but that’s another matter

However, I’m afraid I think ‘incoherent’ also falls far short of the reality. It’s much more than incoherent. I believe it’s impossible to have experienced the love of God, believe that the vast majority will end up in ECT and be joyous.
God’s love is not a selfish trip.
For example, to believe in predestination and full blown free-will may be termed ‘incoherent’, but this is more than that and is far more than just intellectual or academic.
If 20 people are burning to death in an inferno (including some I love), whilst I have just been dragged to safety, I would be more than ‘incoherent’ if I smiled and danced for joy.

Put it this way, an atheist should be happier than many an evangelical.


#18

Hi Pilgrim, you raise an interesting point. Can/should Christians be “joyful” believing that some/most of humanity end up in Hell? I suppose that depends on how much Christians love non-Christians and how much they really believe in Hell. I believe that most simply do not think about Hell very much at all. And many are not very concerned with the needs or fate of others whom they do not know. Worrying about someone going to Hell usually only comes up in regards to close loved ones who are not saved and pass away. And then believers usually find some reason to hope that their loved one either confessed Christ at a young age or did so before they died, thus hoping that the person is actually saved.

This discussion reminds me of a book I intend to purchase - St. Jerome’s Conspiracy. Has anyone read it?


#19

Hi Sherman
Thanks.
I think you may be right. I suppose the churches I’ve attended have all made great play re concern for the lost. Years ago I was told that as christians our main purpose is ‘Worship and Witness’. If that’s the case then I think I need remedial lessons.

(Sorry I’ve not come across that book)


#20

Wow, it’s so interesting to read everyone’s experiences. I’m wondering if what might account for Sonia’s more positive experience in church is that she’s been able to interact some with the Pastor, come out with her differences though she doesn’t make them the focus, and still feel valued and respected. My experience is closer to many of the others in that I’m finding it difficult in my home church, for many of the reasons Jason and others cited. (Interesting too that I’ve found some commonality with the Mormons that have come to my house.) I attend an American Baptist church. It’d be nice if the congregation shared Sonia’s view that love is primary. Maybe they’d say it is. I’ve found that a key focus for many Christians is that we have all the right ideas, that this is what defines us and determines whether we get a pass to heaven. I feel like UR has increased the grace I’m able to have toward others, that don’t see it my way, but the more they learn of me from indirect places, like FB, they are annoyed and think my priorities are all out of whack. My dad was recently sharing with me that he’d learned that it’d been said, amongst the church leaders, that a possible reason for why our church is not growing is that they have heretics, like us, in their midst. :astonished: Maybe if there really existed a church where love was the primary doctrine I wouldn’t long for an EU church. I can see so many benefits to one, like all the reasons people have already posted, and would love to join Sherman’s, if only it weren’t in Tennessee. Bummer! Amy