The Evangelical Universalist Forum

If everyone will be saved what is the point of having this life when we know all will be saved in the future?

We had a question in chapel about, “what the point of this world is if there is a next world to come.” I bit my tongue and let others answer this one because of my universalism.

I am curious how you all would answer it?

I would say that the purpose of this life is, by the grace of God, to participate in the process of being saved from wrongdoing, and developing a righteous character. If that purpose is not being fulfilled, then it will be necessary for God to correct us post-mortem. And that correction process may be unpleasant and, if we resist it, take a long time.


Here’s a take from way back -
“The glory of Christianity is the pure and lofty action which it communicates to the human mind. It does not breathe a timid, abject spirit. If it did it would deserve no praise. It gives power, energy, courage, constancy to the will; love, disinterestedness, enlarged affection to the heart; soundness, clearness, and vigour to the understanding. It rescues him who receives it from sin, from the sway of the passions; gives him the full and free use of his best powers; brings out and brightens the divine image in which he was created; and in this way not only bestows the promise but the beginning of heaven. This is the excellence of Christianity.” - Channing of course :slight_smile:

Christianity is much more than being ‘saved’ at the end - it’s about imitating God in this life, like well-beloved children love and imitate their Father. It’s about developing the depth of character and the height of our fulfilled potential in this life - as a preparation for the next. And much more…

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If there were no “this life”, then would humanity exist? Would the Word have become flesh, died on a cross & resurrected?

Maybe we should just grab the bull by the horns here and say it: This life here and now is for developing the character we will carry with us and be judged on in the next life. Not judged as to whether we are ‘saved’ or not, but as to the rewards we have been promised IFF we are faithful, obedient; to the losses we will have to endure for unfaithfulness and disobedience, and to the corrections of our character that we need to grow better and better and thus happier and happier forever.
We cannot hide behind Jesus and expect to be rewarded for His faithfulness - God has done us the appalling compliment of loving our souls infinitely, and entrusting us to develop them in a Christlike manner. We have to do that - in partnership with HIm on our journey to Him.
Yes those are sobering facts. We gotta deal with it. We will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. It is up to us IN THIS LIFE to be found worthy - not perfect of course!! Duh…

" “Be thou glad sleeper and thy sorrow offcast. I am the gate to all good adventure.”

I’d say to learn. I don’t see how this is related to universalism, whether all are saved or not, the question remains the same.

This life is a temporal classroom to prepare us for eternity.

As beings with free will, we need to learn to obey, rest in, and enjoy God (though Jesus, by the Holy Spirit). The extent to which we learn these classroom lessons—on earth, or in hell and then the lake of fire—will determine how profoundly we enjoy eternity.

Or more likely, there are no limits: our free will choices will continue in eternity, allowing us to go on learning and growing and advancing perpetually in our experience of God and His love.

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I think much of the root in the question is over the whole purpose of life. The popular assumption is that life on earth is just a test to see who is worthy for heaven or hell. I had always been bothered about this assumption, and found more often than not, that life on earth is seen more or less a throw away in order to get to heaven. But like many have said, life on earth is the process of forging an identity. The best analogy I can think of is writing a book, but not through words, but through living. I know this is quite hard to understand, and frankly I dont understand this too well either. But here’s my best attempt. Eternity is not endless time or strict timelessness, but the presence of all time. Exactly how this works out, I cannot explain.

Here’s another take, which sounds radical to modern Protestant and modernism in general. I think it’s healthy and gospel. This is from Dr. Channing’s The Evil of Sin, and may be the most important explanation of the real importance of morality (the entire essay, not just this snippet) that I have ever read. A taste:

"I will only add, that to suppose no connection to exist between the present and the future character, is to take away the use of the present state.
Why are we placed in a state of discipline, exposed to temptation, encompassed with suffering, if, without discipline and by a sovereign act of omnipotence, we are all of us, be our present characters which they may, soon and suddenly to be made perfect in virtue and perfect in happiness.
Let us not listen for a moment to a doctrine so irrational as that our present characters do not follow us into a future world. If we are to live again, let us settle it as a sure fact, that we shall carry with us our present minds, such as we now make them ; that we shall reap good or ill according to their improvement or corruption ;
We live in a world where, if we please, we may forget ourselves, may delude our selves, may intoxicate our minds with false hopes, and may find for a time a deceitful joy in an evil course. In this respect the future will differ from the present world. After death, character will produce its full effect. According to the Scriptures, the colour of our future existence will be wholly determined by the habits and principles which we carry into it. The circumstances which in this life prevent vice, sin, wrong-doing, from inflicting pain, will not operate hereafter. There the evil mind will be exposed to its own terrible agency, and nothing, nothing will interfere between the transgressor and his own awakened conscience. I ask you to pause and weigh this distinction between the present and future. In the present life we have, as I have said, the means of escaping, amusing, and forgetting ourselves. Once in the course of every daily revolution of the sun we all of us find refuge, and many a long refuge, in sleep ; and he who has lived without God, and in violation of his duty, hears not for hours a whisper of the monitor within. But sleep is a function of our present animal frame, and let not the transgressor anticipate this boon in the world of retribution before him.
It may be, and he has reason to fear, that in that state repose will not weigh down his eyelids, that conscience will not slumber there, that night and day the same reproaching voice is to cry within, that unre-pented sin will fasten with unrelaxing grasp on the ever-waking soul. What an immense change in condition would the removal of this single alleviation of suffering produce ?

I posted the whole thing here:

Channing, William Ellery, 1780-1842. Complete works, including The perfect life and containing a copious index and a table of Scripture references (Kindle Locations 14402-14408). London, christian Life Pub. Co…
@Paidion - do you think GMac would agree with this? Do you agree with it in part, at least?
@BrianC @Agnostic_Gabe

I know this topic is a little old, but I’ll share my view.

God said He knew Jeremiah before He placed him in his mother’s womb. And tons of Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) involve people dying and then reliving what happened to them before they came to this life, or it involves them going to heaven and remembering that they used to live there and chose to live a life on earth in order to learn.

The next logical question is usually, “Why on earth would we choose to come from heaven to this horrible life? If we were perfect there, what can we learn here?”

Those questions are very earth-centric or human-centric in view rather than considering our perspective from there. There are built in assumptions such as what perfection is and that a perfect person cannot learn anything new, as well as suffering having no use.

There’s no sin in heaven and no suffering. And just because a person is “perfect” in heaven doesn’t mean they can’t grow. In fact, one of the most important parts of relationships is experiences with others. The more experiences you have with a friend, the deeper your relationship, generally speaking. Also, you can gain a whole lot of compassion for others just by going through difficult things they’ve been through. If you’re in heaven, you aren’t going to be able to experience certain things like sin, shame, the struggles of life, pain, etc. That means you can’t truly understand those things without experiencing them firsthand. So the only way to experience sin is to be born on earth, to have your memory of who you really are wiped, to have your ancestors’ sins passed down to you, and to be raised by imperfect parents. Once you can sin and feel shameful, you can learn from the experience and you’ll also appreciate heaven more when you get back there.

So if we have this experience here and other people have experiences as humans, as well, we’ll end up forming deeper relationships with them due to the common shared experiences of life. Also, we’d have an intimate understanding of sin and the damage it causes. Pain is the best teacher I’ve found so far, so I’m thankful for the pain I’ve been throufh.

The purpose of life here on Earth would be to learn through experiences, and to help others learn by playing our part here on earth. If we hurt someone, they have that experience to learn from. And when others hurt us, we have that experience to learn from, as well. We couldn’t have gotten that experience in heaven. And it’s that type of firsthand experience with pain that grows our compassion.

So we’re here to learn, grow our hearts, and help others learn through helping them or hurting them or just experiencing life with them. What we mean for evil, God means for good. So even the worst parts of life have learning value after we die. Those may be the most beneficial parts of life.

I don’t really want to go into more detail. I think that pretty much gets the point across. I could be wrong with this view, of course, but there’s an awful lot of evidence that supports it. We’ve seen this life as a morality test for so long, but I think it’s just a school, sort of. Also, I think we can probably choose to come back and live more lives if we want to learn more. This view retains our free will, which means God’s unconditionally-loving nature is left intact, as well.

Some may say, “Why can’t God just download the learning into us? Why ask us if we want to live a life to learn this stuff so that we must suffer to learn it?”

It’s pretty simple, really. Someone can tell you about their struggles of poverty and abuse when they were a child, and that gives you a shallow intellectual understanding of it. But if you go through it yourself, it makes a world of difference in understanding because it doesn’t just connect with your mind in a shallow way–it connects with your emotions and your heart. It has a massive impact on you. So how useful would it be for you to have this information just downloaded into you from God without going through it yourself and knowing you didn’t genuinely go through it yourself? Seems like a false experience to me when God is all about truth.

I better go to bed…my eyes won’t stay open and my sentences might not be making sense at this point. lol

I have no idea. God will sort it out though, is my belief.
I don’t know what will happen, specifically, in His plan for us in the life after death.
Thanks for reading.
Do you see any strength to the OP?

Hmm, I am not sure to be honest. The problem I struggle with is the dichotomy of heaven (all good, perfect character) and hell (all bad, evil behavior). With Channing, the logical conclusion is that this dichotomy does not exist. Instead, it is essentially the same as earth with one difference: nothing to hold us back. That is what I read from this excerpt. You know I am not one for dogma, so I think his idea is definitely plausible. But it still does cause me to question our present existence (the playground called Earth). Channing veers off from orthodoxy here. I’d be curious to know how evangelicals would take this.

Thanks for the comment. Evangelicals will hate this.
I will say, that had I been taught this, instead of easy grace and instant forgiveness; if I’d really known that our chosen moral behavior and growth is something we carry with us, no magic in the next life - I would have chosen much differently. Forgiveness is a wonderful thing!! But our character is what has been damaged, maybe not to the public as many of our sins are ‘private’ - but the Day will show them, and Grace will have to help us rebuild, to be fit for that life.
My feeling is that he is right, but does not expand on what the love and correction of God in the next life of immortality will do for those who need the guidance and chastening.
His approach iow seems very holistic to me - grace, love, judgment, chastising, a greater and greater life of immortality.

This was part of a newsletter today, from RC priest Richard Rohr. Let me share the paragraph I liked:

Contemplation is immersion in the God who created this world for all of us. And the mystics of every major religion . . . remind us of that. Hinduism tells us that within the cave of the heart, God dwells, not just in the forest. And the Buddhists say, “Buddha is present in all places, in all beings, in all things, in all lands, not just in the monastery.” “Where can I go to flee from your presence?” the Jewish Psalmist says [Psalm 139:7]. “Whithersoever you turn, there is the face of God,” Islam teaches. And Christianity reminds us always: “Ever since the creation of the world, God’s invisible nature has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” [Romans 1:20]. . . .

Nice thought, I don’t quite see the relevance to the OP however.
Which if you had read…blah blah blah…:slight_smile:

Yep, but there may be no Heaven and Hell, as you already know, so how do we deal with friends and family who believe in such things

You might try understanding that they are actually right. It’s a gamble either way, but trying to persuade them they are wrong MIGHT be trifling with God’s truth.

And this I think is true. I’m living my life as well as I can based on this.

Origen believed that the purpose of God behind the creation of this temporal universe was redemptive. So to ask what the purpose of this life is, if everyone is to be saved is like asking what is the purpose of life if life’s purpose will be fulfilled.