I thought it was a very interesting, insightful and nuanced articulation of essentially “hopeful” vs. “dogmatic” universalism that I have not heard framed in quite this way previously. Here are some of my thoughts on it:
Compare Paul Young’s first broad statements about the ideas behind universalism (coupled with some things he says later in the video as well) with his discounting of universalism as valid “doctrinally” later in the video. I think he makes some good points here re: forcing thoughts/ ideas we encounter in scripture into deterministic doctrinal boxes into which they don’t quite fit. (I think we run into some of the same problems with the doctrine of Trinity, to be honest; I’ll let you all take that whichever direction you want to go with it )
While he doesn’t say it in the video, I believe his overall take is that while universalism may not “follow” from his initial statements about the ideas surrounding universalism in terms of a deterministic, dogmatic doctrinal formulation; I do think it follows (and I think he thinks it follows) from the other positive statements he made about it in the video. He rightly points out that it is more of a character of God/ relational issue than it is an issue of “doctrine”, per se. (As it also is with so many other things we encounter in scripture).
I have heard a number of progressive Christians lately either “badmouth” the idea of universalism or state that they categorically are not one, without ever stopping to explain exactly what they mean by that. Which always and instantly makes me wonder what they do actually mean by that. I think the ideas in this video are an important addition to the discussion on universalism!
Thanks so much for posting this, Melchi. I really enjoyed it. And in case anyone is hesitating to click the link lest it take too much time, the video is short and interesting.
I think he’s worried about determinism and that’s his reason for hedging. It doesn’t make sense to me that anyone could resist perfect joy for an eternity unless that person were insane (not free) or had a false picture of what he was clinging to as well as of what he was rejecting.
Absolutely; and I think he’s right to be averse to the type of determinism he describes in the video. I also don’t think it makes any sense that anyone could resist forever either, and I’ll bet if you asked him that question, he would probably affirm that. Like Richard Beck, I can’t imagine that there is any other suitable ending to the story. His main point there seemed to be the false constructs of doctrinal certainty that we often try to employ, when there is actually far more ambiguity present in scripture than we have traditionally allowed; not just with respect to universalism. I’d guess if you reduced him to a more brief definition, he’d probably say that scripture implies universalism, but doesn’t dogmatically state it.
I also appreciated his comments about not taking an “all roads lead to Rome” approach to universalism, especially since he was careful to articulate what he meant by that.
I agree, Melchi. I did leave a comment there, so I’ll try to remember to get back and see whether the moderator approves it, and whether I get a reply. Have you read his recent book “Crossroads”? Is it any good?
I haven’t read it, so I have no clue. I’m not even sure what it’s about.
Here’s the blurb from the book:
“Anthony Spencer is egotistical, proud of being a self-made business success at the peak of his game, even though the cost of winning was painfully high. A cerebral hemorrhage leaves Tony comatose in a hospital ICU. He ‘awakens’ to find himself in a surreal world, a ‘living’ landscape that mirrors dimensions of his earthly life, from the beautiful to the corrupt. It is here that he has vivid interactions with others he assumes are projections of his own subconscious, but whose directions he follows nonetheless with the possibility that they might lead to authenticity and perhaps, redemption. The adventure draws Tony into deep relational entanglements where he is able to ‘see’ through the literal eyes and experiences of others, but is “blind” to the consequences of hiding his personal agenda and loss that emerge to war against the processes of healing and trust. Will this unexpected coalescing of events cause Tony to examine his life and realize he built a house of cards on the poisoned grounds of a broken heart? Will he also have the courage to make a critical choice that can undo a major injustice he set in motion before falling into a coma?”
Sounds like another book along the lines of The Shack. Amazon reviews average 4.5 out of 5 stars, so I’m guessing it’s good.
It’s an interesting interview; thanks for posting it.
I appreciated his overview of all being created in, by, and for Jesus. I’d tend to disagree with him on determinism. I see determinism in scripture and in reality. I was just thinking yesterday how the most important factor in being likely to be a Christian is “choosing” to have Christian parents, considering that most people who are Christian have Christian parents. And but of course, we do not “choose” who our parents are or what other influences come into our life. I also believe that salvation is an act of God in our lives. Being born of the Spirit is not due to the will of man, but the will of God. If God doesn’t turn the light on we remain in darkness. The dead and slaves do not make choices. Before choices can be made the dead must be raised to life and slaves must be set free. I see UR as the natural outcome of believing 1) God is sovereign (Calvinism) and 2) God is love (Arminianism).
I never quite understand how people have so little trust in God that they don’t think that He could win a person over to Himself if He persisted so. I understand how they could have grown up in a church that tacitly thought so, I understand how they could have been surrounded by a thought or doctrine that effectively said so, I understand how they could initially be taken in by it. What I don’t understand is how they could possibly think through it, find themselves working through the logic of it, believing that God desires to save everyone out of his infinite love and still think that a person with their miserable, pathetic excuse for a will could resist Him forever. Surely it only takes a mustard seed of faith to believe that God can reconcile a person to Himself if He really wanted to? I mean really wanted to, not ‘tried a little bit for 70 or 80 years and then stopped at the chosen cut-off point’.
Worse is those who believe that there comes a point where sinners just cannot be reconciled to God, where it becomes impossible because of the sinful, stubborn state they have found themselves in, as if God’s desire for humans to turn to Him, at least in part, out of their own will is so essential that He considers their ‘will’ more important than their actual reconciliation - that He wouldn’t stop them falling into a genuinely irreconcilable state, if such a state exists. I get quite annoyed that people believe God would create the universe and everything in it and be willing to sacrifice the eternal loss of even one human soul for the others. Fortunately, His love is not like that. He goes out to find the lost sheep and he damn well finds it and brings it back in the end!
Speaking of determinism, I’m actually becoming more convinced of the essence and extent of God’s providence. For a while I was lost in a nightmare that went back-and-forth, where God leaves us to ourselves, occasionally interferes but very rarely so and where we seem to have to chase Him to have any impact. I don’t really/can’t believe that anymore. I reckon we’ll be amazed one day just how much God was involved in and how much He determined even the very smallest of things that we go through everyday. That doesn’t mean everything happens because He wanted it to but I believe He does everything He can to reconcile our wills with His and that He is always working to save us from our sin. Most of the time we probably won’t be aware of it but I think God probably has His reasons behind that.
Well, I see your point here too. He may have taken his point a bit too far, but I still think he’s mostly pushing back against the tendency we have in the church to be too certain of doctrinal positions, whatever they may be. But I definitely see what you’re pointing out in scripture as well. Tony Kriz (The interviewer) gives a pushback statement here: tonykriz.com/universalism-w-paul … -response/
in which he somewhat differently articulates a rebuttal to universalism that I think most of us have heard in various forms…
Here was my response (to my friend that pointed out his response) to the negative part of his comments:
“We need to remember that blanket universalism (all will be saved) really is an invalidating belief. It invalidates people’s basic humanity and, at least how it is most often framed, it is a violent sort of forced destiny. The irony is that people want to defend universalism as a doctrine of love, but I am not sure that we small humans can imagine it as such in light of our understanding of actualization and free will.” And: ““I am not a universalist. The Bible speaks as if some are going to be with God and some will not and I hold to that belief.”
A few thoughts on Tony’s response:
This is a bit different way to state an argument against universalism that I have heard before in many forms. I have two main problems with it: 1) There is a huge assumption here that our free will is of paramount importance to God, and that this somehow trumps His clearly stated will and goals. But I don’t really see this idea reflected in scripture; quite the opposite in fact. E.g., Where was Saul/ Paul’s free will at his conversion on the Damascus road? The fact is, the scripture pretty clearly points out in a number of places (especially in combination) that the salvation of all is God’s endgame, and that God will ultimately accomplish this. I think Tom Talbott in The Inescapable Love of God does a pretty good job of arguing that God will accomplish this without violating our free will. I think God is more clever and skilled at accomplishing His will than this argument in all its forms gives credit for. And further, do we really want to say that God has given us a power greater than his own? Also, how does this invalidate our basic humanity? I rather think it validates it, at least in terms of expressing our ultimate value to God. It is out of character for God to create creatures for whom He knows there is absolutely no hope. Problem 2) has to do with the second statement. I’m not going to pretend that the passages Tony is referring to that seem to refer to the idea that some will be with God and some will not don’t exist; they do. But the issue here is twofold; the first is the assumption that this describes the final state, which is pretty hard to prove, especially in light of the second, which is that this assumption is based partly on ignoring (or simply not equally valuing) the other passages that indicate the success and scope of God’s program of redemption, and that this happens in broad stages, not all at once (and not everyone at once).