Not only is there a lack of support for universalism, but there are decisive arguments against it.
Universalism is contrary to the implications of being created in the image of God. God made humankind in His image (Genesis 1:27) which included freedom. For everyone to be saved, those who refuse to love God would be forced to love him against their will. Forced “freedom” is not freedom. A corollary to this is that universalism is contrary to God’s love. Forced love is not love, but a kind of rape. No truly loving being forces himself on another.
Universalism is contrary to God’s perfection and justice. God is absolutely holy. And as such He must separate Himself from and punish sin. Hence, as long as there is someone living in sin and rebellion against God, God must punish them. The Bible identifies this place of separation and punishment as hell (see Matthew 5, 10, 25).
Universalism is based on Scriptures wrenched out of context, and it ignores other clear passages.
Universalism is based on a kind of Freudian illusion. Sigmund Freud called any belief based on a wish to be an illusion. We do not wish anyone to suffer in hell forever, and this strong wish seems to be a primary impulse in the Universalist thinking. But it is an illusion to believe that all wishes will be fulfilled.
I was going to make a quip about how your placement of this in “Discussion Affirmative” wasn’t exactly something to inspire confidence in your analytical ability. But I see you’ve moved it to General Discussion (as well as posting a copy in Biblical Theology, too), so quip averted I guess. (Darn. )
An issue that many universalists, including myself, are keenly aware of, and so reject as being proper behavior by God in salvation.
At the same time, metaphysically (and Biblically) speaking, it’s impossible for God not to ‘force Himself on us’ in some ways, insofar as it is by His continuing action that we live and move and hold together and have our being (physically, spiritually and mentally). The analogy to rape, while appropriate in some ways, is not appropriate in others. This is one reason why some universalists, though not all by far, believe and claim that God will simply poof people into being good, or otherwise simply force them into being good. I don’t agree with them on that, but I do acknowledge that their case has some real and important strengths to it.
(The distinction, by the way, is not exactly between Arminianistic universalists and Calvinistic universalists; but differences between us on this topic do roughly tend to follow those categories, insofar as Arms tend to appeal to God’s love for the person and Calvs tend to appeal to God’s sovereignty.)
Also positions that many of us actually accept, including myself. I am repeatedly on record as stating that God will not stop punishing sin so long as someone is living in sin and rebellion against God. (Incidentally, I think I mention that again in the “Gehenna?” thread you contributed to.)
I do (and logically must) qualify the ‘separation’ claim, however, insofar as God cannot punish sinners while separating Himself completely from them; nor can sinners exist apart from God at all. I affirm God’s omnipresence, and have done so many numerous times while arguing for universalism. It is, in fact, one of the doctrines which shape my understanding and belief and affirmation of universalism (considering that many, though not all, non-universalist positions end up denying God’s omnipresence or effectively requiring sinners to keep existing as either independent entities or else dependent on something else ontologically parallel to God. I’m an orthodox trinitarian theist first, a universalist afterward.)
I will add that if I thought universalism to be contrary to God’s justice, I would disavow it instantly; as I do in some cases disavow varieties of universalism that I find to be contrary to God’s justice. But, because I strongly believe orthodox trinitarian theism to be true, and because I do take very seriously all the Biblical testimony on God’s justice, I affirm as a result that universalism (of a particular kind) is also true.
Our difference here may be (as it often has been, in my experience) a substantially different understanding of what primarily and positively constitutes God’s justice. I don’t deny, indeed I affirm, that punishment of sinners is part of God’s fulfillment of His justice. But I find and believe that God’s justice is inherent in Himself (I could quote prooftexts if you want, but I think you already accept this, too); consequently, God’s justice cannot be primarily about punishment of sinners. Rather (as the Bible often testifies, which you ought to be familiar with, too), the justice of God is positively fulfilled by fairness and cooperation and love between and among persons. Just as the Persons of the Trinity are not unjust to one another, but only and ever just to one another, so God primarily and basically acts toward fulfillment with and among created persons.
There would be no fulfillment of justice, if God annihilated sinners out of existence; and there would be no fulfillment of justice if God ever punished hopelessly (because then sin would exceed grace, and the unjust person would never come to fulfill justice under God: being a just and righteous person.)
It is because I believe so strongly in the justice of God as well as in the love of God–fundamentally, in God, they are the same thing–that I am a universalist.
Some varieties are, I have to agree. But then, how clear does the reading and the context of Rev 19 seem to you? (I have to warn that this is a bit of a trick question: the context is routinely obscured by translators, leaving people just reading the passage without any way of even seeing other possibilities in the text – clearly or contextually. But you might have a Bible with the proper translation at the key point; or you might be able to read it in Greek.)
The Freudian card can be played in so many ways that it cancels itself out.
A person may believe X because he wishes X to be true. (Which is how Freud would have explained my belief in God at all. Yours, too. He would have explained my belief in 1 John 4:16 that way, too.)
A person may disbelieve X because he wishes X to be false! (I have in fact run into people who truly wish for hated monsters to be hopelessly punished forever one way or another; it is, in fact, a want in my own heart as well! So, does that make Arm or Calv soteriology false?)
A person may believe X because he wishes Y to be true instead. (On the conservative principle of hoping and planning for the worst so that any surprises will only be pleasant.)
A person may believe X because he is wishes Y to not be true instead. (Basically your explanation. Freud would have explained your hope for any salvation at all along the same line.)
If you’re going to make declarations that someone’s beliefs are only assertive wish-illusions, you might as well be comprehensive about it!
Still, I suppose I am glad that you are so quickly able to come to such firmly decisive and final conclusions after, what, a whole week’s of study on the topic? Goodness, my years and years of study and reading and thinking about it seem so, I dunno… what’s the word I’m looking for… illusionary, I guess.
But, more seriously: everyone has to make do the best they can with whatever they have, however little that might be. If this is the best you can do, then so be it – and I’m not even kidding when I say, more power to you. I wish that I hadn’t been so busy lately, so that I could write more replies to your posts; but then again, it might not have made much difference either.
your posting alot is not troublesome at all. People here are truly trying to be objective concerning faith in Christ Jesus. What people want is to have real discussions on scriptures. This would also include scriptures which don’t seem to align with Universalism. It’s frustrating for people who are trying to be objective when people come claiming the falsity of any view and cannot admit that their own view has problems.
Here would be an example of Free will.
If God judges people according to the light that they have then why does the church need to spread the gospel?
If receiving more light makes you more culpable than is it better to not receive the light at all?
If you, being one who believes in free will, cannot see this needs explaining then we will not be able to absorb anything you explain. For if one cannot see his own defects then what makes him think he can see everyone elses? Everyone’s got logs in their eyes, just not everyone admits it.
you said: If God judges people according to the light that they have then why does the church need to spread the gospel?
If receiving more light makes you more culpable than is it better to not receive the light at all?
I read it and I see no where where it says God judges people according to the light that they have.
But I dont wish to digress. What I’m trying to help you understand is that Free will is ridden with problems and seems to hold some contradiction with passages which says that it is God’s purpose and will which prevails, that God directs his footsteps, that God CAUSES us to walk in his ways.
But so we don’t have 2 conversations running lets take it to one thread ok. I’ll continue on this thread. I won’t bother with the other thread.
Read it again… it does say that God let them go there way to a depraved ( reprobate) mind because they worshiped the creature rather than the creator ( which is idolatry). Another words, they had creation to testify of God and they knew He existed ( the light) and they chose idolatry rather than giving God thanks. ( Romans 1:19-28)
Was that you at some time as well? Did you ever live in rebellion to God? And if so then why is it then that your heart was soft? Would you deny that the reason you turned to God was because of his mercy in TURNING you toward him (he softened your heart) or would you accept it that God in fact softened your heart to receive the gospel? A good example would be lydia in Acts 16:
14One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.
So a series of questions:
Did God violate her free choice?
Had God not opened her heart would or could she have received the gospel? (was she free to choose)?
Lydia became a Christian. She heard the gospel, the Lord opened her heart to heed the things she heard, and she was baptized. The account of her conversion must surely be consistent with other conversion accounts recorded in Acts. God is no respecter of persons; He shows no partiality in the matter of salvation (cf. Acts 10:34ff.). He did nothing to bring about the salvation of Lydia that He did not do for those on Pentecost, Simon the sorcerer, the Ethiopian eunuch, or the Philippian jailor. And He did nothing for them that He would not do for you or me.
This being true, one might well ask, “Does this mean the Lord will open the hearts of those outside of Christ today like He did in Lydia’s case?” Consistency would seem to demand it. If so, the fundamental issue involves determining what was done in Lydia’s case. We must ask, in what way was Lydia’s heart closed or what was her condition before the Lord opened her heart? What was the result of her heart being opened? And, exactly how did God do it? These are the basic questions. The Bible gives good, basic answers.
Lydia – a worshiper before her heart was opened
Lydia “worshipped God” before she met Paul. In the original language of the New Testament, the particular word translated “worshipped” (sebomene) was used to refer to “pagans who accepted the ethical monotheism of Judaism and attended the synagogue, but who did not obligate themselves to keep the whole Jewish law” (Ardnt & Gingrich, 1979, p. 746). However, they “worshipped the only true God” and did so “in specific acts” (Kittell & Friedrich, 1971, p. 172).
Whatever God did to Lydia’s heart, He did not have to force her to want to serve Him. She wanted that. She was already His worshiper, albeit in accordance with limited and outdated knowledge of His will. In Lydia’s case, God did not directly overwhelm a rank sinner who had no inclination to do right in order to force a change of heart. Those who claim He does so today have no basis for it from this conversion account.
Lydia heard, then heeded.
God did not have to open Lydia’s heart to force her to listen to the evangelists’ message either. A careful reading of the text shows this plainly. The first phrase of Acts 16:14 is, “Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us.” This was before the Lord opened Lydia’s heart “to heed the things spoken by Paul.” Lydia “heard” the gospel before the Lord opened her heart in that she listened to the words spoken by Paul and gave them her mental attention. She did not “heed” or “attend to” what she heard until after the Lord opened her heart. There is obviously a difference in this text between hearing and heeding, or as the King James Version has it, hearing and attending. Appreciating this difference is crucial to understanding what God did and how He did it.
The words “heed” and “attend” accurately convey into English the sense of the word found in the ancient language of Acts (prosecho). These words (both English and Greek) sometimes mean simply “to hear,” “observe” or “give mental attention to”, while at other times they mean “to do” or tend to (cf. Wigram). For instance, Timothy was urged to command some in Ephesus not to “give heed to fables and endless genealogies which cause disputes…” (I Timothy 1:4). People should not give these things their “mental attention.” On the other hand, Hebrews 7:13 uses the same Greek word in reference to priests giving “attendance at the altar”; here it is obvious that to “attend” means “to do” service or “tend to”. In Lydia’s case, “heed” must also denote “to do,” because she had already “heard.”
Lydia heeded as a result of her heart being opened.
Clearly, when the Lord opened her heart to “heed the things spoken by Paul,” Lydia was moved to respond to the gospel message – to do what she had heard she needed to do. She heeded the things spoken by Paul “when she and her household were baptized” (Acts 16:15). Some of the better modern English versions of the Bible do a good job of showing this. The New International Version reads, “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message,” and the New American Standard Bible states, "And the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.
Conclusion…How did God open Lydia’s heart?
Many believe that God opened Lydia’s heart to hear Paul. We have shown that notion to be incorrect; God opened her heart “to heed.” However, those in error on the point typically have another erroneous concept – that God opened Lydia’s heart by a direct and immediate operation of the Holy Spirit – that He supernaturally altered Lydia’s emotional processes to compel her to hear and obey.
Of course the God of heaven has many instruments at His disposal. We can imagine that He could choose to accomplish His will by many different means. The question is, what means has He chosen? How does He open the hearts of men and women to the obedience of faith? How did He open Lydia’s heart to respond to the gospel? Was it through a supernatural means not mentioned in the text or was it through the word of God spoken by Paul?
It is a plain fact that there is no mention in Acts 16:13-15 of the direct working of the Spirit of God. To assert that God used that means to prompt obedience from Lydia is to inject something into the scriptures that just isn’t there. What is there, plainly, is the gospel message “spoken by Paul.”
God used the preaching of Paul and his fellow evangelists as the instrument to open hearts to the obedience of faith. On one occasion, Paul and Barnabas recounted to the church in Antioch “all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). In 2 Corinthians 5:20a Paul wrote, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us.”. The message of the gospel, proclaimed by God’s people, is His tool in the hearts of men.
Today, as it was with Lydia so long ago, the gospel is “the power of God to salvation” (Romans 1:16). Only when people hear it can their hearts be opened to faith and obedience (cf. Romans 10:17; 6:17).
There is much to chew on here and so give me some time to work through it carefully. Thank you for your response I appreciate the time you took and hope we can actually have a meaningful conversation.
The way I view Universalism is different from some others who believe in a post-death conversion of some sort. The way I would see this is that when someone dies, his soul becomes free from the flesh with all its lusts and human frailties; the flesh decays and is gone, along with any propensity to sin. This is because the bodies we have in this life are corruptible. When one is resurrected he is given an incorruptible body that is not capable of sin. Realizing that Christ is the Savior is an epiphany - not a decision one makes. In this we find, “every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord,” and God becomes “all in all.”
As I have asserted before, Christ’s victory is two-fold. In this life, salvation is from the corruption caused by sin. Notice in this scripture that the penalty for carnal-mindedness is corruption, not hell.
Gal 6:8a For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption,…
Those who are overcome in sin suffer a hell on earth. Christ came to deliver us from corruption unto a life full of spiritual blessings; namely, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self control. This is salvation in this life and is the first of Christ’s two-fold victory. Receiving this kind of salvation requires faith and discipleship.
The second of Christs two-fold victory is salvation from death. This deliverance from death and corruption is for all of mankind as outlined in the the first paragraph above. Consider the following quote from Paul.
Rom 8:18-23 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.
Here we learn that the Children of God (believers) will be revealed (resurrected) into a glorious liberty. After this, the rest of creation (mankind) will also be delivered from death and corruption into the same glorious liberty. I think it is interesting to note that Paul says that the creation was unwillingly subjected to futility. Perhaps that is what Paul was referring to when he wrote…
Rom 11:32 For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
Now I will admit that the details of how God works all this out is a mystery, but it seems apparent to me that He does. Praise be to God.
1 Cor 15:21-22 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.
I have a strong appreciation for that paragraph from Rom 8.
But I also have to note that even in that verse from Galatians you quoted, Todd, the sin precedes the corruption of the flesh.
Corruption leads to sin, too: I don’t deny that. But I think that the scriptural testimony goes both ways. To some degree we only need to be healed. But then we also need to repent of willingly adding to our problems (and to other people’s propensity to sin) ourselves.
All of nature didn’t originally sin, I agree, but was subjected instead to sin and so to corruption. All of which happens within the responsibility and the authority of God–even though it also happens in another way against His will, it still occurs within His will in other ways.
In effect, the innocent (even Nature as a whole) is subjected to futility because God loves even children of His who refuse to be good and instead rebel. The innocent suffer because God loves the guilty, too. What He doesn’t love is their sins and their sinning. But as the highest authority, within Whose authority this has all happened, God won’t quit until He delivers all creation (innocent and guilty both) out of the bondage of sin. God does not subject the innocent to sin’s corrupting effects in hopelessness, but does in so hope.
(Which, as you otherwise note, has to be hope for the sinner, too: the one who sows to his flesh, reaping corruption as a result. Not only in himself but spreading to other persons as well, insofar as the sinner has power to do so.)
Yes, that’s how I see it too. Sin leads to corruption. We reap what we sow; if we sin, we reap corruption, which is the natural consequence God has ordained (or, as it is often called, God’s wrath). God’s wrath is a corrupted life. Man’s propensity to sin leads to corruption which leads to more sin and more corruption; it is a slippery slope. Mankind was unwillingly subjected to futility through being created in corruptible bodies. Only through repentance, faith and discipleship can one be saved from this corruption in this life. However, as I tried to explain, death rids us of our corruptible body; when one is resurrected in his new incorruptible body his propensity to sin is gone, everyone (all mankind) will join together in praising God. There will be no need for repentance in the resurrection because all will be raised incorruptible, both the just and the unjust; “in Christ all will be made alive.”
I agree with much of your view Todd but believe also physical death carries a transitional phase where man’s physical life is measured (judgement) and Christ is revealed(mercy and healing). What is the length of time with regard to this transitory phase? I don’t know. In comparison to what we know as time on earth this phase may be almost instantaneous. As far as measuring the transitory realm well I am reminded His peace and government shall know no end of increase. And remember the Kingdom of God is within. Is our salvation complete before the last person lives out their life and is gathered back to the Father? I don’t think so, for our patience and wait is the measure of love of neighbor. We cannot be complete until the last man has bowed and confessed Jesus.
Which brings up two questions; “what is time outside of the physical body?” and "is God timeless?’ I guess we got to die to find out … and then it might still take a while.
Thank God, He is Good with regards to all He does and this I can bank on. Some days knowing more than that, just seems to bruise my brain as it may be evidenced with my rambling message.
This is a topic I hope to catch up on over in the discussions we were having prior to BA arriving on the forum to give us (in bits and pieces) his final thoughts on UR, btw.
I think God’s wrath goes somewhat beyond only natural consequences of sin (both biblically and in logical principle), but leaving that aside for another discussion –
– do you not see why, even as a matter of logical note (not even counting discussion about scriptures testifying, as Jeff points out, to a resurrection to judgment in some contrast to being resurrected to life eonian), I am not as optimistic as you are about the capability of resurrection to result in us all becoming thereby good and faithful people?
Our propensity to sin may then be gone, insofar as that propensity was based on a corruption of our nature; but you just agreed that sin is what leads (and so was what led) to that corruption in the first place.
Consequently, there is a type of sin which cannot be only healed away, and from which being raised in an incorruptible body will not save us (nor insulate us from doing). Even if our bodies have by the grace of God become immune from being corrupted by our choices to sin, our choice to sin may still remain in effect, not only as a continuing possibility but as an actuality.