The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Evangelical Universalist Church

Hi Pilgrim,
This reply grew larger than I intended, but I’ll leave it long …

I was pretty much depressed all my life before I understood UR. I felt guilty because a Christian is ‘supposed’ to be characterized by joy, and I didn’t know why I was depressed until it went away when I came to believe that God doesn’t ever shut the door on anyone or stop working towards their salvation. Hell was always vividly real to me. But I think (as Sherman also said) most people don’t think about it much–maybe it’s too abstract or faraway, or maybe in their heart of hearts they don’t really believe it. Sometimes it becomes real to a person with the death of an unsaved person they love. Maybe it was more real to me because my mom and her side of the family are mostly not Christian. Their cultural religion is Buddhism. So from a young age I was faced with the dilemma of having loved ones who did not know Christ and who did not take me seriously if I tried to share with them.

I do find it troubling that so many Christians just go blithely along through life with nary a thought for those who are perishing, but I think that apathy is encouraged by the idea that they can’t really do anything about it. According to traditional doctrine, the mission is largely a failure, and that’s just how it is. And that knowledge also discourages Christians from really loving others like Christ tells us to.

I think it’s quite possible to have joy in one’s own salvation, even alongside a belief in the hopeless lostness of others. If you believe that they choose to remain lost, to reject the offered salvation, what can you do? They don’t really want to be saved—the gates of hell are locked from within (was that CS Lewis who said that?)

Or, speaking from my own experience, even though I was depressed because I believed in hopelessness, many times I would be overwhelmed with the joy of knowing God. That was completely apart from and unrelated to the lostness of others and in hindsight I’d say I was catching glimpses of promises I didn’t yet understand. I feel that joy now when I look at the stars or the mountains or beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and to me they are promises of glorious things. If someone could convince me that my hope of UR was wrong, I would feel that all the beauty and magnificence in the world was a lie–empty and worthless.

I guess I’d say that joy in one’s own salvation combined with disregard of others’ lostness is a matter of maturity more than hypocrisy. Babies are pretty selfish critters, but (hopefully) they get less so as they grow up. Perhaps it is a similar process for Christians. We may begin only glad that we’ve escaped hell, but as we grow in love we become more attuned to others’ needs–and start to care. Then our own joy and happiness becomes inextricably entwined with theirs–but we have to grow into this.

Concern for the salvation of others is fundamental–and truly I do think every Christian should at least wish that UR could be true… The spirit of UR is fundamental–we’re to love our enemies and forgive our debtors.

And that brings me back to what I said before: that the primary doctrines are those that directly deal with our actions. :sunglasses: Everything else is important insofar as it enables us to better hold the primary doctrines. Is it better to expound on the principles of agape love or to “visit widows and orphans in their distress”? Is it better to understand the theory of UR or to “go and be reconciled to your brother who has something against you”?

I thank you!


Excellent post (and testimony) Sonia!

Incidentally, I’ve been meaning to ask for some time what kind of Buddhism your mother and her family tends to… profess? Apply? Believe? Believe in? (Not really sure what terminology to use there…)

There are several very distinct variants, and I know most Chinese (considered numerically) are encouraged to believe a type that amounts to an ‘atheistic’ Buddhism (thanks to the Cultural Revolution).

It isn’t a terribly important question. I’m just trivially curious. :slight_smile:

This, of course, is one of the big selling points to Calvinistic soteriology: they believe the mission is 100% successful!

But that involves a different understanding of God’s intentions; namely, He must not intend to save many (or even most) sinners from sin. So He never even acts to do so, even though Calvinists typically agree (as part of their 100% assurance of salvation for the elect) that Christ’s salvation would otherwise be 100% sufficient to save all sinners from sin. If that’s what God ever intended.

Ironically, this belief in an utterly hopeless non-elect (even a substantially large number of them, and apparently even a super-majority of them) tends quite logically to discourage Calvinists from really loving others like Christ tells us to. God doesn’t really love the non-elect, and we shouldn’t either: it is forbidden, and a sin, for a man to be more merciful than God. Etc.

Calvinists get around this, to their credit, by appeal to the idea that only God knows for sure who is really non-elect, so until this is revealed humans have a temporary excuse to love the non-elect like they were elect, since we non-omniscient humans don’t know any better not to love them. We’re only sinning by ignorance in loving the non-elect. :unamused: Or hey, God told us to do it, so we can’t be sinning to really love the non-elect, right? Although we would be sinning to love the non-elect once God reveals them to be non-elect.

I guess a dedicated Calv would say (and have often said to me) that we aren’t really discouraged from loving others the way Christ tells us to, because Christ doesn’t tell us to love the non-elect, only to love the elect. This only becomes a problem if we believe Christ tells us to love everybody, including the non-elect. But only Arms (and Kaths) believe that–those heretics. :mrgreen: Don’t believe their heresy and there won’t be a problem, duh, q.e.d. (This is why Arms are almost universalists, and will lead you to universalism if you believe their heresy! I’m always amused to hear this, because of course I hear the same thing from Arm theologians when critiquing Calvs, too, though not quite as often. Each side critiques the others for, among other things, teaching that God loves sinners too much.)

Hi Jason:

How would a Arm critique a Calv for teaching that God loves sinners too much?

There’s a lot of quotable things in your post Sonia :slight_smile:

especially when combined with premillennialsim. i.e. things are just going to get worse, you should expect churches to be shrinking into a persecuted remnant, which potentially means maybe 99% of the world going will be going permanently to Hell, according to ECT :open_mouth:

Sadly people have a tendency to start to assume they can determine the who the non-elect are e.g. heretics, false teachers, sinners (especially easy to label ones, like criminals, murders, homosexuals, etc.), people who stick to other religions (even after hearing the Gospel). Once they determine that someone is non-elect, it obviously a possibility that they then feel they are actually imitating God, by hating, persecuting, or even torturing and killing them :astonished:

I love this quote from Jurgen Moltmann.

“The more I love God the more gladly I exist. The more immediately and wholly I exist, the more I sense the living God, the inexhaustible well of life.”

Robin Parry, in his latest book *All shall be well *, argues that universalism lies somewhere between heresy and dogma. Theologoumena is the official term, and yes, I had to check the spelling.

I agree with you. Hellism blasphemes God’s good name in ways that appall me, but people say all sorts of nonsense about God and He seems to cope quite well. (It reminds me of the Dufflepuds in Dawntreader, and their opinions of the Magician.) But divisions in the Church also blaspheme his good name. The world will know we are Christ’s disciples by our love, not by our concept of hell.

(Most of your friends wouldn’t deny God’s love, but they do stress human stubbornness. Lewis’s “Hell is bolted from the inside” has a lot of currency.)

see also … umena.html

I agree, God is Love and love is patient. Whilst I try also to be patient, I don’t want people to continue living in darkness when there is light.

To a large degree, I agree. Thinking of Rom 12:18 “where possible, live in peace” and more direct passages which talk of unity within the Church. However, there’s also the question of whether they’ll have me, once they know where I stand. I’ll have to tell them, otherwise they would be assuming I was agreement with them, when I wasn’t, which feels like deception.

However, our concept of Hell often effects our ability and motivation to love :frowning:

I’m very grateful for that!

I think it’s something that certainly makes people who believe in ECT more comfortable but I think that the bible speaks of damnation as something God does. Furthermore, I think people in Hell won’t want to be there. So overall, I think the analogy is actually unhelpful.

That would be harder, but some of them could do so; I’ve seen it happen.

If the Arm (1) affirms that nothing makes God give up on the sinner (some teach something makes God give up eventually instead); and (2) affirms that God stops loving sinners in hell (which most do); then logically their complaint about the Calv doctrine of persistence is that the Calv is stressing God’s love too much at the expense of God’s wrath (or God’s “justice” as they would probably say instead, meaning something less than trinitarian justice).

Remember, an Arminian as such cannot accept the Calv doctrine of God’s persistence in salvation without becoming a universalist due to the Arm scope of God’s intention in salvation. There has to be a limitation somewhere on the victory of God’s salvation.

There are of course some Arminians (Lewis being the one of this sort I’m most familiar with, considering I’m a student of his :mrgreen: ) who affirm that God still loves sinners in hell as much as they will let Him; but the logical relation there is that God had to give up acting to save them from sin because something (basically a sinner, whether that sinner or a more powerful one like Satan) made God give up. Relatedly, Arm annihilationists, when they think in terms of annihilation being a direct punishment of God (and most annis do) have a tendency to promote annihilation as being more loving than the punishment of eternal conscious torment.

So on the balance Arms will tend to claim Calvs preach a less loving God. But some are in a position to critique Calvs as preaching a too-loving God. When an Arm has an idea of God simply opening a door to provide a way for salvation, which door He will eventually shut, that kind of Arm will tend to complain that it is beneath the dignity of God to suppose He actually goes through that door after the 100th sheep (or the faithless wife), much less that He never gives up until He leads (or brings) the sheep (or the wife) home back through that door. People aren’t that important to God (so they essentially would say), only important enough to open a door for.

(Such Arms will avoid critique of their own position by painting that kind of salvation as a forced seduction, basically a rape, of the soul. But in my experience when I point out I’m talking about God persisting until He leads the soul back into loyalty with Him, not about forcibly raping the soul back into loyalty or geasing the soul by rewiring her to just be a good little Barbie, they still have to come up with a reason for rejecting such a self-sacrificing saving grace by God–so they’ll go the route of denying God loves sinners that much. I’m thus, they would say, promoting God’s love at the expense of His justice or His holiness, by which they only mean God’s wrath or pride or something like that.)

Yep; as I’ve pointed out before (and even though Calvs usually know they’re supposed to try to avoid doing this), once the doctrine of the perma-doomed non-elect is accepted, it’s simply natural to want to know who those cigarette people are (no better than cigarettes, as one recent convert to Calvinism told me–while stressing she didn’t for a moment believe this, yet still offering this as a way she copes with the notion of the non-elect) so that we (the elect, who surely aren’t deceived about being of the elect!) can protect ourselves from them.

Also, loving is hard, so again it’s natural to want to conserve our energy and resources by identifying who it is we aren’t supposed to love (more than in an incidental fashion, as a side effect of loving some other person or people, which the non-elect will benefit from accidentally but unavoidably–for now.)

Jesus of course seems to know nothing of this as it’s with the obviously un-elect that he chooses to eat and drink (you don’t get called winebibber for no reason :wink: ).

Hey Amy, it happens that I live in TN, just North of Nashville. I do have some major roadblocks to overcome before I launch the fellowship; so I’d certainly appreciate you praying for me and my family.


I’ve been contemplating the various responses that have been shared on this thread concerning how accepted UR believers are in their non-UR churches. And I believe there are three primary factors that determine how much rejection a person will face.

  1. How exclusive the church is.

  2. How open one is about his/her belief in UR.

  3. How influential the person is.

  4. The more inclusive the church, the more they are open to varying beliefs. Sadly though, from experience those who are open to both Calvinists and Arminianists often draw the line at accepting Universalists. It’s amazing, they can respect and accept those who understand salvation completely different, but they cannot respect and accept those who understand damnation differently.

  5. Of course, as long as one does not openly share that he believes Jesus really is the savior of the world, then there is no problem.

  6. What I’ve come to increasingly realize though is that the more respected and influential the person is, the more he/she will likely suffer rejection if he comes out and openly shares his belief in UR - even in otherwise inclusive churches.

Oh man, I’d just responded, but I guess I took too much time and it logged me out. Gotta start over again. Let’s see if I can make this short.

Sonia, you did have so many wonderful quotes. Thanks for sharing! My favorite was that you were catching glimpses of promises you didn’t yet understand.

Sherman, I would love to pray with you for God’s help to overcome the barriers to starting a church. I’m thankful for your heart to do this. How I’ve longed for such a fellowship here in CA! Oh, and very interesting insight you’ve gathered about the experiences people are likely to have once they admit their belief in universalism.

I’d shared in depth how I’ve come to grips with how my former view of hell, ECT, prevented me from loving people. I have concerete memories of this from high school, that only have become clear to me as my thinking has changed. I attended a conservative Baptist church, was the pastor’s daughter, and considered myself a serious Christian, but remember that a lot of my energy was on figuring out who’d be with me in heaven and who’d wind up in hell. I figured there were a lot of people, too lost, to ever repent. I reasoned, if even unconsciously, that I was, somehow, worth more to God being that I’d be with him in heaven and the others would never experience that fellowship. I thought to myself how could God really love them if he was willing to lose them, right? If God thought it best to cut his losses, then why shouldn’t I. I didn’t see a God that’s love would be committed to them. Instead of reaching out to others, I’d silently thrown in the towel. After all, why should I care so much if God, all powerful, wasn’t even going to be effective? He found it more useful to allow them freedom of choice to damn themselves. It’s been helpful since not to see myself as better hearted, capable of repenting when they are not. And helpful to believe that God really loves all in a saving way. I’ve often thought about how different I’d be if I could go back to high school and do it differently. Thank goodness that’s not necessary! :laughing:

It’s been wonderful to have the insight of Talbott and Parry. I’ve even found it helpful in my job as substitute with high schoolers. A few weeks back I encountered this very tough class. They were the failures - immature, laughed at inappropriate things, lacked discipline, couldn’t focus to save their lives, etc. It really occurred to me, after reading Talbott, that they are lost - not able to act in their best interest (to study and secure their future) and this was reason for me to not give up and have mercy on them, even tough love. I found it comforting, when I looked out over the class, that there is a God that is committed to bringing all of them to him, won’t allow them to continue in their irrationality forever, and it does not depend on their effort. It’s really no small hope that we hold.

Hi Amy, I totally misread your post and thought you were in TN. oops. Thanks for the post though, sharing your testimony. I enjoyed reading it. How is your family taking your faith in Christ for the salvation of others, not just yourself?

From experience, those with the strongest negative reaction to UR are often filled with fear, afraid that if other’s believe UR they’ll give themselves over to sin or not be active in sharing the Gospel. And yet, I’ve found that grace frees people from sin, whereas fear empowers sin. God did not give us a spirit of fear but one of love and sound thinking.

Concerning people not sharing the Gospel if they believe UR, actually few Christians, less than 10%, have shared their faith in Christ in the last year, and many have never shared their faith. Why do so few Christians share the “gospel”? Maybe because it’s NOT good news, and people do not like to be the bearer of bad news. Maybe because they do not really believe it’s going to do any good anyhow because most people are not going to believe it anyhow - especially if they live in a country where the “gospel” has been widely preached. And maybe they don’t share their faith because it is rooted in judmentalism and pride - we’re good and they’re bad, we’re good/smart enough to choose to follow Christ and they’re not, etc. And through in the whole belief that the world’s going to get worse and worse until finally the Lord comes and burns it all up and one can only hope to hold the fort, to work to keep the kingdom of God on earth from shrinking to nothing. And yet even that’s futile because some day, likely soon, the whole things going to hell in a hand-basket and God’s going to call us few believers out of here.

Well, anyhow, I’ll get off my soap-box for now. I just am very tired of the foolish knee-jerk reactions of people when they just consider UR.

Hi Sherman, Yes, I’m in CA. I’m also Auggybendoggy’s wife and Bob Wilson’s daughter. I’m fortunate to be surrounded with family that is also hopeful for the salvation of others. My dad has had a huge impact on me. As he’d learn/read, he’d bring it all back to Gene and I. It was several years discussing it all before I’d become convinced of it and have the courage to share my hope with others. Which, as you rightly suggest, I do more than ever. My grandmother, my dad’s mom, has also become convinced of it, though she is careful not to be too vocal of it around other family because it is upsetting to them. She really use to discourage me from sharing it too much and thought it not that important. I think she has come away from that some and sees that it does have some value to hope this way. She is just realistic about the difficulty people have coming to grips with it. My own mom, however, is not yet convinced and she and I go around and around on things. She’s constantly trying to tell me that people have a choice and I’m always saying that I know choices are important, but that no one can resist God forever because it’s irrational. At some point others, just as herself, will know the benefit of following God. I think she’ll come around. :laughing: Our church is not so open and we have to be very careful with what we say. I learned, indirectly, that some things I posted on FB, in discussion with others, were disturbing to the people in my church. It even had them looking at my dad and wondering if he should be teaching Sunday School. That is my favorite hour of the week and I do not want to jeopardize that! He does not teach universalism, just goes through the scripture, but is careful to have people consider, in the text, how it is that God works to save us.

Gene and I receive the most opposition from his family. They think we are pretty much out to lunch. It feels as if they leave us out a lot. His older sister does not invite us over anymore, but maybe there are other reasons? :frowning:

It sure has been freeing for me though, just in the way I look at other people. I hadn’t realized how much I’d judged, as - like you say - it was built into my system. I’m less inclined to judge others, if even I do get impatient at times with Calvinism (that God only loves some in a saving way) and Arminism (that for me, boils down to God only being able to save the better hearted). I think Talbott makes such great sense of these two opposing viewpoints, brings them together nicely. I think it makes so much sense that I’m eager to explain it to others. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see how God is able to save all, right? :smiley: It hasn’t been well received yet so I’ve decided I need to be careful not to overwhelm people. They must be at the point where their system is not working for them. I do get somewhat discouraged at the lack of discussion over the bible. It’s as if most think there is only one way to see it and they aren’t open to seeing new things. It’s not hard to convince me that we are lost and need God’s influence, faithfulness to bring us to where he wants us.

I ,too, have heard all the reasons for not believing UR that you have. Gene and I were talking, last night at dinner, about the time we brought it up with his aunt and she responded, “But that wouldn’t be fair.” It really struck us that she doesn’t see a whole lot of value to following Jesus now.We’ve also had people say that then what would be the purpose of this life and Jesus. Others, that to them it seems at least a good thing, that wouldn’t want to incorrectly tell someone there was hope when there really wasn’t. To all these things there are reasonable answers. I take hell a lot more serious, now, as I realize God is committed to doing a work and it might be necessary! I’m in agreement that grace frees us, whereas fear can be damaging. Where sin abounds let grace abound all the more!!!

I can’t speak for others about why they don’t share their faith more, but I’ve reasoned that we’ll share when we have something to share. It’s just natural to share the things we are excited about. I don’t have to try hard to share my faith. I just naturally, usually to people’s dismay, want to talk about these things. I have to try hard not to share. :laughing: There is a lot that can be frustrating. Hang in there, Sherman! It’s helped me that the truth is the truth. It’s never gonna change. I don’t need to force it. Of course, this is just the kind of attitude that many Christians don’t like, right? I’m relying too much on God’s grace. I give up. :laughing:

Jason, I thought Lewis was dead? :frowning:

I can relate to that Amy :laughing:

I agree Sherman, I’ve certainly felt that way before.

As I’ve said before, I personally feel I’d be at least misleading my church, if I didn’t let them know my position. As I know they probably don’t approve and I’d prefer to tell them rather than be discovered via FB or something. Having said that, I’m still waiting for the right moment to tell my main church leaders (I’ve told one elder so far) :confused:

I totally agree Jeff :sunglasses:

Her approach of dehumanising them doesn’t sound very loving :unamused:

Hi Amy,
I think the case may be more that I have just kept my mouth shut–having learned that patience is a virtue. :wink: “There’s a time to speak and a time to be silent.” This last few weeks is the first time I’ve discussed universalism openly with anyone at this church (other than my husband!). We’re meeting with Don, who’s the “outreach pastor”, and he’s the only one I’ve spoken to. I assume he’s probably discussing this with the other pastors, but I don’t know that for sure. I had mixed feelings about the prospect of this study–delighted on one hand but also somewhat reluctant because I hate the idea of having this doctrine, this precious pearl of knowledge that I love, become a source of division and quarreling.

I laughed when my husband told me he had asked Don if there was a group we could join that would like to study universalism. He’s forgotten over the last few years just how very radical the idea is.

Except for online fellowship I’ve been very isolated in my universalism. When I first started exploring the idea the reaction I got from my husband was shocking to me and very hurtful–and I that was when I was just barely beginning to explore the idea and wasn’t anywhere near convinced! I could hardly say anything before I was met with unconsidered, vehemently aggressive rejection. He wouldn’t even look at scripture with me. Any attempt on my part to discuss it generally ended with him yelling and me in tears. And my husband can be quite long winded, so a couple of sentences from me might result in 20 minutes of angry lecturing from him! LOL (Yes I can laugh now!) But that sure didn’t put me off from studying more, and when I found more I couldn’t keep silent about it.

Now, after 5 or 6 years of exposure he’s starting to think I’m on to something. :laughing: But that reaction from him at the very beginning put a real damper, to say the least, on my impulse to talk about it to others–besides the fact that I wasn’t wanting to share something I wasn’t convinced of and risk sending others down a wrong path.

We were at a Reformed church at the time, and I didn’t have close enough friends there to talk about this with (we’ve moved long distances several times during our marriage, and I’m not good at building close relationships quickly), and then we left that church and came to the one we’re currently at–and by that time I was fully convinced, but it wasn’t something to talk about to people whom I barely knew and who barely knew me. So I was very lonely for a time. And it was good. I needed to learn to stand alone. I’m reminded of Lucy at the beginning of Prince Caspian. She sees Aslan and the others don’t–she has to learn to follow him, even if others don’t believe her.

And I really began to learn patience and waiting on God. I’m a quiet kind of person anyway–the opposite of my husband… as soon as he starts thinking seriously about it he’s off starting bible studies about it, LOL. We compliment each other well.

Ouch! That would be difficult. I have no guarantee that things won’t play out that way in my church. I honestly do have great respect for the pastors and I’m eager to see if these men will live up to my high regard. If not, well… my experience with my husband was somewhat of a baptism of fire for me, and I’m not in any way afraid of any amount of rejection. It’s also given me plenty of time to learn my stuff and be “prepared to give an answer” to anyone who asks about the hope I have. (Sometimes I feel very inadequate to the task and wish I had another 5 or 10 years–didn’t Paul get 14 years in Arabia? :wink: ) I only pray that any reproach that comes my way will be in spite of righteousness and not because I’ve done anything to deserve it!


I agree.

:open_mouth: Glad you and your marriage got past that stage intact! That’s a big achievement in this day & age.

When I was a child, my parents read the series to us every few years, so I have many fond memories and useful analogies as a result :slight_smile:

Same here, except given the smallish community of Tasmania (only 500,000 people), I’ve known many of these people since I was born (& related by marriage too)! :confused:

I’m concerned about how it will effect my 3 year old’s and wife’s relationships (she is already at a disadvantage as she moved down here from mainland Australia only a few years ago).

I get often get nervous speaking, so I’m hoping they will read the book and then discuss it via email or this forum.


I haven’t quite figured out how you guys are quoting. I see the quote button, but haven’t been able to put it together. I’m quite technologicly challenged, esp.compared to Gene. Thankfully, tomorrow I can ask him. It sure makes addressing people so much easier.

Sonia, I’m really quite amazed at your journey! I was fortunate to have my dad, someone I highly respect, bringing me the info. on a silver platter, making it unavoidable for me to ponder. Even then, I was in shock with the stuff he was brining me and had Gene to process it with. If it hadn’t have been my dad, someone I trusted, I’m quite sure I would have rejected it outright and not have been able to think about something so foreign. We can talk of how secondary this is, but when people hear it, it feels like a complete shake up of their understanding. When this happens it is very disconcerting and feels like unstable ground. That’s a feeling very few are comfortable with. It really helps when there is someone close to us that can guide us. And, it sounds like your husband is following my path. He’s warmed up to it enough to now be asking the questions and is really wanting to contemplate the answers. I was laughing with you that after 5 to 6 years he thinks you may be on to something. But look out, from your description he might take off and run with it. The cat will definitely be out of the bag! I do hope your pastor’s/friend’s reactions are generous spirited. Hopefully they love and respect you enough to let you explain and believe differenly. It’s probably a good thing, though, that you are prepared for some rejection, just in case.

It sure would be awful to have something so wonderful become a source of division. I wonder if we are real with people, though, if there is anyway to avoid it? I’m an idealist and like to think that being sweet as pie and not pushing people beyond their limit we can avoid that, but I don’t know? Unity and love are only surface if they can’t stand a little rocking of the boat, right? I mean how much do you have going for you when a little good news threatens to ruin the enterprise. :confused: I need to think about this more.

Patience and keeping silent are not my strengths, unfortunately, but I am very much working on it! There is a lot of wisdom in that. I’m also not afraid of rejection for truth’s sake, but I don’t want to deserve it, like you said. I’m trying to remind myself to ask sincere questions when I interact with people, instead of making assumptions and giving my view right away.

How wonderful, if even only online, to have a group of people that understands and is asking similar questions.

Hi Amy,

Your story makes a nice allegory of faith in God. You had faith (trusted despite misgivings) that your Dad wouldn’t be leading you to destruction with this information :smiley: .