Is Neuroscience making UR more attractive?


That notion of salting with fire, of cleansing, is how I came to grips with Universalism. Self-righteous Saul being burned away leaving only Paul. Cowardly Simon being burned away leaving only Peter.

Specifically Rev 2:11 “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt AT ALL by the second death.” – This AT ALL captured me. Didn’t say they wouldnt experience the lake of fire. Simply said it wouldn’t hurt them at all. Like it could hurt others SOME, and others A LOT. Depending on how they “brought forth fruit in keeping with their repentance”.

It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of THE LIVING GOD.


Just reading through this thread (I had been neglecting it) and realizing how closely it relates to Nottrbd’s “The River” story. You all should read it if you haven’t already. Here’s the link: [The River - an Epistemological Fable) I thought it was really, really good.

And yeah, also something I just wrote last night. I posted a separate thread asking for input, but it really relates to what’s being discussed here, and if you have time, It would be great to hear you guys’ input since the subject seems to interest you. You can just comment at the site if you’re inclined to. Here’s the link to the first post, the rest will go up every couple of days. I won’t say what I’m thinking about the elect, free will, Paul, etc., since I just wrote it last night already. :wink:

Blessings, Cindy


Saul pops up from time to time in Paul’s writing. I love this bit at the end of 1 Corinthians: “If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed! Come, Lord! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.”

Here we have Paul and Saul speaking in the same breath. Saul calls down a curse. Paul calls down a blessing.

Excellent catch.


Dear Richard,

I revist this after a couple of years because I recently modified my view by moving into the camp of open theism and I have something better to say than “I hold that human will is somewhere between the notions of Cartesian will and soft determinism.” For example, libertarian free will in open theism means that some human choices are free and contingent in that the decision could go in more than one direction while some human choices are determined by circumstances and can go in only one direction. In this case there is no all or nothing radical view of free will. But some open theists lean close to a radical view of free will and others lean are more realistic about the amount of determinism in human life.

In my case in regards to universalism, I hold that after a given amount of time God would eventually determine the salvation of anybody who might freely hold out from the offer of post-mortem evangelization. I first read this from another open theist Keith DeRose and I felt compelledto agree with him.

I suppose my main point is that views of libertarian free will can avoid extremes of radical free will that have no support from human experience and science.


I’m glad you revived this thread, James, though for different reasons.

Neuroscience has had an interesting part in my finding this forum and beginning my exploration of universalism.

As I mentioned in my introduction, my daughter recently died of a heroin overdose. She was on life support for about 36 hours after it took them 40 minutes to revive her. They don’t know how long she had been unconscious before she was found. (I apologize if these details are difficult for some people to read.) Early on, while we were still in the emergency room, I opened one of my daughter’s eyelids. I thought, “She’s already gone.” Even though the doctors were telling us the situation was very, very grave, they weren’t telling us what her real condition was. It took a nurse saying something rather bluntly before my suspicions were somewhat confirmed. But again, the doctors were not really confirming anything, as they were waiting for the neurologist to come and do tests after a long period of cooling the body. (I’m sorry, but these details do have a point.)

As a result of this not knowing, I did not stay in H’s room as much as I could have or would have had I actually had hope that she might still be with us. After her death, a couple of friends mentioned NDEs. It turned out that Eben Alexander’s book was just about to be released. Dr. Alexander is a neurosurgeon. He claims that his brain was dead but that his consciousness remained active. And, of course, he lived to tell about his experiences. I won’t get into the whole NDE thing, but I began to have serious regrets about not staying with H throughout that period, talking with her, praying with her, whatever. When is a person dead? When machines are keeping a person alive, are they really alive? If a person’s brain is dead but her body is still “alive”, is the soul still present with the body? Could I still have communicated my love to my daughter? When did she actually die?

Several weeks after she died, I was in a bookstore and came across a book by Giulio Tononi, a neuroscientist. It is called “Phi: A Voyage from the Brain to the Soul”. I am still reading it, so I am not sure where Tononi is going with the book. But I am quite interested to get to the “soul” part of this voyage.

Of course, throughout, I have been looking back at H’s short life and wondering how we got to this place. Why did she make the choices she did? Why did her brothers make very different choices? How much of her choices were the result of things happening TO her, things out of her control? Did she have a mental illness (my husband had been looking into this possibility well before H died)? Why did she so often choose the hard path? Could she have chosen differently? How much choice did she have after the first time she sniffed a marker or huffed DustOff? How many brain cells were killed then? And which brain cells? And eventually, after that first dose of heroin, did she have a choice? She knew her life was being destroyed, but she was so addicted. She said, “Mom, it feels like heaven.” Heartbreaking words. How can I blame her for wanting to feel like heaven?

Coming from a reformed Presbyterian view, I asked, “If You are sovereign over all her choices, why did You bring her to this?” And then, “How can I love You if this is who You are?” And I started to look for another way. I am probably what you all call a hopeful universalist. And I hope to become a full universalist. Please convince me, because I want nothing more than to know I will see my little girl again.

And then there is the TIME issue. Why do some people get 100 years to choose Jesus and others get only 21?

One thing I don’t understand about the universalist view: if Jesus’ death saves us all, why would some have to suffer after death when others don’t have to? I agree with some of you above who believe that everyone will have a purifying experience. Doesn’t coming to faith now just get us started on the process sooner? And aren’t some of the things we experience here, whether believers or unbelievers, part of that refining? Losing a child is hell. My daughter’s enslavement to heroin and all its consequences was hell for her. And I mean “hell” in the sense of suffering. And I have no doubt H’s death and at least some of my suffering now is, in part, due to my own sin as a wife, mother, and person. As a Christian, I still hurt people. And aren’t many unbelievers experiencing some pretty horrific suffering here, not least of which is the emptiness they feel as they are separated from God? Isn’t that part of the refining?

I know that many of my questions are newbie questions, but I haven’t yet found the section for newbies.

Thanks for bearing with me.


The whole place is the newbie section, Kelli. I knew though, that if I answered here I’d go way off topic, so I e-mailed you.


I don’t know if Neuroscience is making UR more attractive, but I think it can certainly help inform it. I guess where I come down on the notion of “free will” is more or less compatibilism; we are free to choose within certain predetermined restrictions. Sort of like a computer program, where the computer is allowed to make certain decisions about what to do given the pre-programmed parameters.

Kelli, thanks for sharing your story with us here. While I am still unclear in my own mind as to what happens to us immediately when we die, I am confident that your daughter has ended up or will end up in the presence of our Father (depending on whether we sleep unconsciously for a time after our physical death or not). My personal belief is that if there is any post-mortem suffering; it is corrective in nature, administered by The loving Father, and is fitting as a direct result of choices that we have made.
When our own children make mistakes, we lovingly correct them; The correction may seem harsh to them at times and for a time, but it is ultimately for their restoration; we never reject them. This is how I see God acting.


Thanks, Melchizedek. I am hopeful.


Hi Melchizedek,

In philosophy and theology, the term compatibilism means that everything including free will choices of humans are completely determined. But the concept of humans making choices within predetermined restrictions that allow the choices to go in more than one direction is consistent with the concept of libertarian free will. Perhaps you are merely rejecting radical views of free will but not actually believing in compatibilism?


Hi KelliKae,

My heart goes out to you for all that you have gone through with your daughter. My prayers are with you. I cannot in the short term answer all of your so-called newbie questions, but I want to encourage you that God will never give up on your daughter.

I will say that some people recall things heard while they where in a coma and I believe its always worth trying to talk to and pray for people in coma.


I suppose so. I understood compatibilism to be more of a middle ground I guess.

If that’s correct, then compatibilism seems a bit pedantic then; why not just call it determinism?


That’s a good question, Melchizedek. I only understood these terms within the last couple of years. Compatibilism is also called soft determinism. Determinism is divided into hard determinism and soft determinism. Hard determinism means that every detail in the universe is determined and that there is no free will. Some universalist are hard determinists but none are in academic circles while plenty are loud on the web. Compatibilism or soft determinism means that complete determinism is somehow compatible with free will while incompatibilism says that complete determinism is incompatible with the concept of free will.

For example, Augustine, Aquinas, and Calvin were compatibilists. Arminians are incompatibilists.


Hmm. I guess if there’s something in between soft determinism and libertarian free will, then that’s where I’m at.

I see obvious deterministic tendencies coupled with choice, but I also think libertarian free will is a bit optimistic, at least with respect to certain things.


Hi Melchizedek,

I’m trying to explain that there are moderate versions of libertarian free will (LFW) that include some free choices and some determined choices. Also, the free choices are restricted to logical or physical limitations. You appear to describe a moderate view of LFW while you reject radical views of LFW. Or am I misunderstanding you?


No, I’d say that’s right. I’m just having difficulty finding the appropriate label for it, if there is such a thing.


Kelli, thank you for sharing about your daughter.

Your love for her is palpable, even in this limited and awkward sphere that we call the internet.

And your grief and your love is the main reason why all of this is so important. This is the core of the whole thing.
It’s all about love, and the hope that all will be well in the end.

Whether this is an emotional argument or not, I don’t know, and honestly I don’t care… but if a loving mother cannot see her child again, and see her well, and all because some capricious ‘god’ who appears to care more about his own ‘glory’ than about his own ‘creation’ deems it so, because of ‘sin’ or some other issue he just made up as a way of playing ruler over his creation’s destinies so he could feel big and in control, then what a sad and sick existence we are a part of…

Unfortunately, that’s the basic picture of God, that of an essentially selfish and cruel being who gets away with being selfish and cruel because he’s the one in charge, that much of reformed theology has painted, at least in my mind. :neutral_face:
I confess that I am frustrated with those (usually fundamentalist Christians) who are not willing to call a spade a spade, and say that such a being would indeed be monstrous, one that expected love of his creation but did not practice it himself, one who expected love for enemies but did love his own (I’m sure you get what I mean), and life would really suck if such a being were in fact our creator and was the one in charge. :neutral_face:

I wrestled with this portrait of God in my mind for years, sometimes in agony and deep despair. And thinking that not only myself, but also those who I loved and cared about, were at such a being’s mercy only increased my anxiety… there were of course times when I didn’t see God in that way. There were times I saw God as someone that I could trust, who loved me and who loved everyone… and in those times I walked with a lighter step, with hope.
Perhaps in my heart I’d always been ‘a hopeful universalist’ you might say, though I didn’t know it at the time… looking back on some of my old journal entries and at some of my old poetry, you can see it there, that longing and heart-cry…
But in my head I thought I had to believe in eternal hell, had to believe that some didn’t make it, because it was supposedly a ‘fact’ that I had to deal with, that I had to square with God, had to fit into my heart, so there was a war inside of me, between two pictures of God, one of a loving father, the other of a monstrous tyrant…
So needless to say, it was an up and down journey for me…

Now, after exploring universalism over the last year, after rethinking and reexamining things, I am more hopeful now, and less fearful than I was.
I still struggle sometimes with doubt, doubt that I’m wrong to believe in a God of unfailing love for all, because it may just be too good to be true… sometimes I doubt that God can be trusted, sometimes I even doubt that God is real, and wonder if all my spiritual experiences have all been just mere coincidence and wishful thinking…
Sometimes I’ve wondered if I’m just misguided or deluded or even insane.

And I struggle with other things too, among them my own weaknesses and shortcomings.

But I hold on, and keep going anyway, with whatever faith or hope that I have. I don’t always know why I do, but I do.
Maybe it’s not just willpower, but something more inside of me. Maybe God’s Spirit, working within me. Could be.
I certainly hope so, that I’m not alone as I live my awkward and haphazard life.

But anyways, I see glimpses of something beautiful, or rather, Someone beautiful, and, well, wonderful, even holy (and I mean that in a poetic way rather than a theological way) here and there; I sense such a reality, such a presence, in stories, in literature and music and film, in the warm sun and a sky full of stars, in miracles that can’t be explained, in the love of family and friends, in others, in myself, in laughter and in tears, in the love of a mother for her child…
I could go on, but I do sense that sometimes, in the midst of all ins and outs and ups and downs of life, and it helps me to keep going, to keep trying, and to keep hoping, that somehow, somehow, though I don’t know how, everything’s gonna be alright at the end of the road…
And somehow, all of us will find our way home, and find that our home is not so much a place as a Person, the original Person and maker of all persons, and lover of all persons, including your daughter…

If you knew me personally Kelli, if you could be a fly on the wall throughout any given day of my life, you would know how imperfect I am, and how I rarely live up to my own words, how short I fall of living out the faith and hope I profess… but deep down my hope is that somehow God is indeed so compassionate and gracious, so patient and kind, and so dedicated and faithful to making me whole, that in the end the space between my words and my heart and how I live will close, and I will be all that I was created to be, and so shall we all, even the most broken and the most depraved among us… and it is my hope that even now God is at work, and He will finish His work, until all is well, and then there will be joy, joy as poignant as grief…

Sorry for rambling on, I tend to do that :wink:

Blessings to you Kelli, and may you continue to hold to that hope, hope in God’s unfailing love, and the hope that you will see your daughter again, and hold her in your arms, and hold to it without shame.

Grace and peace to you :slight_smile:



Thanks, Matt.

Everything you said blesses me more than I can say. Thank you.


You are very welcome, Kelli :slight_smile:


Hi KelliKae

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 :smiley: , 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



Aw shucks :blush:

Thanks bro :slight_smile: I appreciate your compliment :slight_smile: I do hope to live up to it… oh God please help me to be the person Johnny thinks I am :laughing:

And Johnny, everything you said here is well-written, wonderful, and encouraging. Thank you for sharing, brother :slight_smile:

Blessings to you :slight_smile: