A healthy Christian approach to thinking about faith is going to involve all of these and it’s going to be a constant moving around between the poles. Back and forth, as you reason them with Scripture and experience and tradition.
There are also people who come from the other direction - not Christian nonuniversalism but atheism or agnosticism. For these people, universalism is appealing. I daresay that just as eternal torment drives believers to become nonbelievers (if they don’t find out about universalism along the way), it also hugely discourages atheists and agnostics from becoming believers.
But I’ve found among some believers the fear that embracing Universalism will lead to an uninhibited life of sinning because if all eventually will be saved, why not be a dedicated hedonist in this life? In fact, these believers use that as an excuse for dismissing Universalism.
Of course, that attitude suggests a question for these people: what primarily motivates your belief in the first place? Is it the love of God or the avoidance of hell? If it’s the former, then you wouldn’t really think Universalism would lead to an uninhibited life of sinning. If it’s the latter, then you’re believing for the wrong reason.
Thus, the thought in some that embracing Universalism will lead to an uninhibited life of sinning reveals an underlying problem with what motivates their belief in the first place.
Spot on, well put!
Yes, in my experience my outspoken atheist friends and relatives are far more open to Christian Universalism than any other type of Christianity. More than once they’ve said things like, “If I were a Christian, I’d hold a universalist view of salvation.” I’ve had many more fruitful conversations about Christianity since becoming a universalist.
Indeed, it’s concerning when someone’s first objection to universalism is, “Why would anyone bother to become a Christian if hell didn’t exist?”
From my experience this is largely unfounded. The best thing I ever did was quit caring about all my faults. The result? The same place as I was when I cared about my faults and every little sin. Except, I am far more healthy mentally and no longer suffer from guilt and tormenting thoughts. I would never go back to a sin conscious lifestyle. Never, ever…
Naturally, if something is harmful, and I can see it, then I will naturally change. But someone telling me something is harmful without actually seeing how, can do nothing to induce change, nor should it, IMO. Which is why I don’t feel guilty over things I don’t consider wrong, but others may.
Actually, there was a change when I quit being concious. I had more empathy for other people. I personally believe that evangelical Christianity focuses on self above all. I find that troubling. Jesus said “He who seeks to save his life shall lose it” I often wonder if that didn’t go above most people’s heads. It sure seemed true to me… The obessesion with personal salvation is pretty much a trap, imo and whether this was Jesus intention or not, it is still a truism.
What’s amusing and interesting to me, is that I’ve also occasionally had snippy retorts from a few atheists along the lines of “Why would I bother to become a Christian if hell didn’t exist?”
One of those few such atheists (whose name I could quote, in a post I could link to – off site, not here of course) actually went on to say, after he finally at long last came to realize that I’m a Christian Universalist (after several years of me saying such things… he isn’t the brightest bulb in the tree), that people like Robin Parry and Thomas Talbott (and me by inclusion and context, though he didn’t name me specifically, but I was being talked about) are the WORST kind of Christian. Why?
Because we make Christianity seem more likely to be true!
I have had some genuine compliments I treasure in my life – and also this! But it does illustrate Lancia’'s observation (which we’ve all made before I suppose), that some people are just looking to see how much they can safely get away with, whether as believers or unbelievers.
That’s quite a compliment
Apparently the worst kind of Christians focus on God’s love while the best kind focus on God’s wrath!
Good question. I explained in my very first post on this forum (in Introductions) how I first started thinking about universalism just over two years ago. Definitely not Tradition - I did not know anything about universalism, perhaps some vague idea about a heresy held by a few misguided people, one to be avoided by a good Calvinist.
Experience? - yes, very much so, as explained in my opening post. Scripture? - definitely, following my experience. Then Reason kicked in.
I still attend a Reformed church but the fellowship is limited because the subject is taboo. I dare not bring it up for discussion, nor do I wish to be a stumbling block, which makes for a rather lonely existence within my circle of friends and acquaintances. It’s a bit like being on a small boat on a vast ocean with no other sail in sight.
This was my experience as well. It makes me wonder how many people are sympathetic to this, but were just like you or me. It is almost like a stoic front.
I find this is true with pretty much any taboo subject. Many are secretively of the same position, but will not join you if brought up for fear of being kicked out of the assembly. The thing is, being kicked out is probably the best thing that could happen, as people are really your comrades if they turn on you for a particular belief.
I attended a Reformed church for almost 17 years and when I became a universalist, I avoided bringing it up at church or Bible studies but as I still discussed it online, I was pushed out of the denomination. I pray that God gives you the strength to persevere and ideally, opens the door for more open and deeper fellowship.
You mean they tracked you on-line? I suppose they could do that to me, but how? Is that ethical? All I did was tell my pastor and two elders about my experience. I was asked to keep quiet about what happened and have fallen back on a bible verse I have adopted as my own: Rom. 14:22 “Hast thou faith? Keep it to thyself.”
The church that let me remain with the pastor’s blessing started confronting me two days after one lay leader asked to be my facebook friend. I have to think he brought pressure after seeing a quote affirming a universalist sentiment on my page.
I have long since stopped using Facebook, but you may still find me on there. They don’t like to lose members - not good for advertising revenue, I suppose. I’m not on Twitter either. Social media can be dangerous.
I was openly a universalist on Facebook and this forum as I believe it’s not right for any church to control every aspect of one’s life