Matt tipped me off to this thread. (BTW, as I’m sure you have discovered, Matt is just about the kindest, most empathetic person I’ve come across on this forum – and there are many very good and very kind people here. In fact, we call him our own prophet , so beautifully and honestly does he speak the true things of God.)
While I don’t know much about neuroscience, I thought perhaps my own experience might be of some encouragement to you in your exploration of Universalism.
I am so very sorry for the loss of your beloved daughter. My best friend Gary died, suddenly of a heart attack, just over five years ago. While I’m sure the pain of that loss doesn’t begin to compare with the loss of the greatest gift we are given in this world – our children – it was nevertheless the single worst day of my life when I got the call to say he had died. (I don’t have children of my own, although I do have two grown-up stepdaughters and two wonderful step grandchildren.)
I suppose I have been a ‘hopeful Universalist’ pretty much ever since I became a Christian. If I believed in ‘hell’ at all, I imagined it to be something very much like this world, only without Christ, and I rationalised it by saying to myself that if somebody could knowingly and deliberately reject God in this life, but still be as content as many atheists appear to be, then maybe ‘hell’ wouldn’t be so bad for them. I figured I would never see my atheist friends or family again after death, but reluctantly I accepted that.
Gary was an atheist. He rejected religion completely, felt no need for a ‘spiritual’ dimension to his life, or for the comforts religion can bring. He wasn’t afraid of death either. He was also a good man – clever, funny, totally non-judgemental, tremendously loyal, a brilliant father to his two young children.
After he died I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I couldn’t stop thinking that it couldn’t be right that a good man like Gary would be condemned to eternal hell by our loving Father, just because, for whatever reason, he couldn’t bring himself to believe in Him. And it was this thought, this inability to accept orthodox teaching on the fate of ‘the lost’ that led me to explore Christian Universalism earnestly.
Five years later I am as convinced of the truth of UR as I am of anything I believe. I am a thoroughly dogmatic (Arminian) Universalist – so much so that I find it incredible to believe that I was ever not a Universalist, or that other Christians continue to fail to see the truth of UR. To me it is so blindingly obvious that UR is true that I get exasperated talking to other people who don’t – or can’t – believe it. Which is rank hypocrisy given my own previous beliefs, but there you go!
Time and again I have encountered the objection from traditionalists that I only believe in UR because I want it to be true. It’s purely emotional, wishful thinking because I can’t face the truth that loved ones are lost forever (or that God isn’t loving enough and powerful enough to save everybody, but that’s another story).
But do you know what I say to those people? You’re right. Of course I want UR to be true. What decent human being wouldn’t? What decent person wouldn’t want to know their deceased loved ones are okay, regardless of their beliefs, and that they will be reunited with them one day? So in that respect I am just like any other normal person – religious or not.
We have to ask ourselves, why do we feel this way? Where does this feeling come from if not from God Himself? Why, if God exists but UR isn’t true, does He allow us to continue to yearn that it is? Why would He create us with the ability to give birth to a child, to love that child with all our heart and mind and soul, and then lose that child forever – if He is truly as good and loving as the Bible and Jesus say He is?
Further, I say to all those traditionalists who reject UR, why are you a Christian at all? Is it because you cleverly, soberly and objectively realised that Christianity was true, and you therefore ought to believe it and follow Jesus? Or was it because you needed Him? Is it because you were full of pain or doubt or fear? Is it because you realised how empty and meaningless a life without God really is? Is it because you were sick to your stomach of your own failings, your own inability to be the person you want to be? Or is it, perhaps, simply because you were afraid of the consequences of not believing, afraid of the ‘eternal hell’ you heard about in church?
If you answered yes to any of those questions – and if they were honest, I guess many Christians would have to do just that – then aren’t you guilty of ‘wanting Christianity to be true’? Aren’t you too guilty of wishful thinking?
Of course, as Christians we would say no, it’s not wishful thinking. Just because we want God to be real, and Christianity to be true, doesn’t mean He isn’t or it isn’t.
Well for me, it’s the same with UR. We want it to be true because we’re made by God to feel that way.
But then again, wanting something to be true doesn’t make it so.
And so we must explore what the scriptures say – in an ‘unbiased’ translation. What do they say about God? What do they say is His plan for His creation? We must think, soberly and clearly, without the blinkers of orthodoxy, about what God must be like and how He will ultimately deal with His wayward children, about what true justice entails. We must listen to the witness of our hearts.
And when we do all those things, honestly, casting aside what we have been told is the truth and making our own minds up – as Jesus commanded us to do – based on the evidence, well, for me, it’s a no brainer. We become Christian Universalists.
KelliKae, I’m only one guy trying to follow the light God has given me. But I am convinced beyond all doubt that if God exists, then He will save your daughter and my friend just as surely as He saved Peter and Paul and Thomas – and you and me and everybody else.
It bothers me not one whit that some Christians call me a heretic for my beliefs. It bothers me not in the slightest that they accuse me of wishful thinking, of putting emotion above logic or scripture. It bothers me no more than a fly bothers an elephant.
For me, if God exists, Universalism is necessarily entailed, simple as that. I cannot ‘prove’ that logically, but I feel it in my heart and in my soul.
You will see your beloved daughter again, KelliKae. The Bible makes it quite clear that God wants her salvation, and God always gets what He wants.
1 Timothy 2: 3-4: “This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants [Greek = thelo = wills, purposes (Strongs number G2309] all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
Peace and love to you