The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Jesus has reconciled everyone whether they know it or not

I would like to test drive an idea…

Jesus has reconciled everyone, past, present and future, by his death on the cross.
The efficacy of his work does not depend on us accepting it personally. It is an objective fact.
Faith is just accepting it for ourselves.
Christians are the ones that have believed and realised this fact and enjoy the benefits.
Non Christians are also saved; they just haven’t believed or realised it yet. But not believing does not change the efficacy of the atonement.
For example, if a court lets someone off a fine but the offender does not know it, this does not mean he is not let off.
This radically changes how I see non-Christians. They are ‘right with God’ already, through the work Christ has done, and are able to experience God on occasions, no matter what belief is held by them. But they haven’t realised the enormity of their privileges in Christ.
This also explains a lot of worldwide religious experience which is traditionally outside the Christian/evangelical box.

Would you mind driving this round the block and letting me have your impressions?

Thank you

Charlie Brown


Here’s my impression. The view that our response is irrelevant to reconciliation has often been presented on this site. My own sense is that few find it fully persuasive, because it seems to minimize the Bible’s ability to see reconciliation as past, present, and future, warning those who resist being reconciled now of serious consequences. Just separating the “efficacy of the atonement” from “enjoying the benefits of reconciliation” seems to recognize the Biblical tension that makes our response vital to meaningful “efficacy.” Even before the cross, I’d argue that God Is committed to everyone as his beloved offspring who can experience Him and to whom forgiveness is available (and I warmly appreciate your effort as a chaplain to convey this). Yet I perceive that the reality remains that they can be presently alienated, and in any practical sense not very ‘right with God,’ apart from an appropriate response and repentance. Of course, our differences here may largely lie in semantics, emphasis, and perhaps differing assumptions on the nature of Jesus’ atonement.

Grace be with you,


Hi, Charlie

Great topic! :smiley: I think that one’s view of the meaning and mechanism, etc. of the atonement would have a big impact on the ideas you’ve presented here. I’m guessing that you’re more or less assuming penal substitution? If that’s the case, certainly it makes sense. You bring up the analogy of a court ordered fine being paid. I have an experience with this. Someone (a bank) once mistakenly paid my property taxes. The county treasurer would then not allow me to pay them because they were already paid. It was pretty weird. Even when I figured out who it was and called and wrote to them, they couldn’t get their books straight, so that half a year I went tax free. Now if it was ME, I’d have found THAT mistake in a hurry. :unamused:

If you go with PS, then I think that’s the end of it. The sin is paid for and that’s all that matters; you’re in. PS, imo, minimizes our need to be freed from SIN as opposed to our being freed from the alleged PENALTY of sin. The PS advocate sees death as the penalty of sin (or usually, he sees ECT as the penalty for sin). The other atonement theories leave room for, I think, a more comprehensive and complete remedy for sin.

The WAGES of sin is death – SIN (not God, in this passage) is said to pay a wage, and that wage is death. But the gift of God is life in Jesus Christ our Lord. So sin leads to death, but Jesus made a way for us to have life. That life comes through death, in dying to ourselves (I think that means dying to our flesh/sarx, to the law, to sin) by having been, of God, placed in Christ on the cross. In Christ, all those of the first Adam are gathered together on the cross, and we died, in Christ, the 2nd Adam, we are made alive unto God. In this view, Jesus isn’t paying for our sins so much as He is making a way for us to DIE to them, gain victory over the flesh/sarx, and live holy lives pleasing to our Father. PS doesn’t really do that. It just gets us off the punishment for sin. It doesn’t propose a way to make us pure, as far as I can see. We’re led to believe that some magical something happens at death or at the resurrection and we will no longer be enslaved to sin. I’m not sure it works that way. If it did, then why not an instant fix at the moment of conversion, or at the moment of Jesus’ death? What is this something that will suddenly perfect us through no will of our own? (There are certainly universalists who believe this, and that’s fine, but I’m not convinced . . . .)

I guess I would say that everyone is welcome, invited, commanded to return to the Father – every prodigal son will be received – whether they know it or not. God does NOT need to be reconciled to us. He’s waiting, scanning the hills, longing for us to return to His loving embrace. God our Father is AMAZING. HOW could ANYONE love so much??? He’s standing there searching, His heart heavy and aching, for the first sight of a beloved, traitorous son to come dragging his heels home just because he’s run out of funds and is starving. It doesn’t matter to Him. Everything else will come later. His son is HOME and for now, nothing else need be said. Be assured though, that son will need to learn love or he’ll never be happy in the Father’s house, and the Father is able to teach him love. But that’s beside the point of your post. The thing is, it isn’t that Father needs to be reconciled (as by a sacrifice for sin) to us. The bible never says that. It is WE who must be reconciled to HIM – He isn’t the barrier. It’s our stubborn refusal to come home.

Really, He’s always been ready to receive any of His beloved children who long to be reconciled to Him. Did He refuse to receive David’s repentance? Did He say, “Well, that’s great, Davey – I’m glad you’ve come to your senses. The thing is, I can’t forgive you until they sacrifice My Son on the cross to appease My justice. You’re just going to have to hold on until then.” God forgave him right then and there, and it wasn’t like, “not valid until payment is made in full for the sin in question.” It was done. Just like it was done when Jesus forgave the paralytic and others. No mention of this needing to be redeemed once Jesus had died and thereby made payment for the forgiveness He’d fronted out to a few lucky souls.

I think Jesus died to break the hold on us that sin had through the law, not to appease the wrath of God, or to pay a legally mandated fine to mollify an offended Justice. He died to set us free from sin, not just to get us off the hook.

Since the death of Jesus allows us to become free, and calls to us, “Be reconciled to God,” we need to actually come to our Father’s outstretched arms and reconcile ourselves (through the power of Christ) to our position as His children. We need to accept HIM. HE has always accepted us. So, if we don’t know it – if we don’t come to Him – I’m not sure how that could be called reconciliation. If an earthly child refuses to return and receive the love of his erstwhile rejected father, how can we call that a reconciliation? That is only a continuation of the status quo – a father longing, yearning for his beloved daughter or son to return to him, and the son or daughter preferring to feed pigs in a foreign land where no love is.

So . . . that’s my take on it. I agree that everyone has the means to be free, is welcome to return to the Father, and CAN return through the power of God in Christ Jesus (having been given the power to become the children of God), but as GMac said, “No one ever got home without GOING home.” You do need to go home, whether as the bedraggled starving son, or as the coin discovered behind the sofa by the Holy Spirit, or as the stray hapless sheep carried home over the shoulders of the rejoicing Shepherd. SOMEHOW or other, we have to GO home if we’re ever to BE home.

Blessings, Cindy

Hi Charlie, (Love the name by the way!)

I think my view is pretty similar to Cindy’s. My current thinking is that the atonement was, is and will be effective for everyone (and of course that everyone will eventually be fully reconciled). I don’t think everyone automatically realizes the reconciliation, because that’s the bit that appears to be more of a two-way street to be fully effected (would that be a dual-carriageway in the UK? :wink: ). I think that’s why we as the firstfruits/ “elect” have been given the ministry of reconciliation. We are here to help others recognize what they already have in Christ so they can be fully reconciled to God, and actually experience all of the benefits of that.

Nice to meet you Charlie Brown! :smiley: ( I too love the name and the associations with it)

I suppose my take is close to Cindy’s. I do think we are forgiven our sins (in fact, I’m not sure Christ’s death has whole lot to do with forgiveness of sins—I take a fairly Girardian view of the atonement, which I think is also is similar to George MacDonald’s.) That being said, if we are all indeed forgiven our sins, what are we to do with the sin we still commit? This is where Christianity makes the difference-- we all must “be perfect” eventually and have our characters changed to where to act unlovingly is entirely foreign. As Christians, we have a model, the perfect example in Jesus to follow and imitate. Most importantly, we also have the Spirit given to us to help illuminate the steps we take when the next step is shrouded in mist. If we fail to understand or follow, I think God makes it more and more clear what is the right way. I think, if need be, we will experience the painful results of our bad decisions (as Tom Talbott discusses) and begin to understand the “way” and follow it.

I do believe that all of us will end up in the same place, but seeing the truth early, as a Christian, will (perhaps) get us there sooner. Of course the more we understand, the more work we have to do in serving our brothers and sisters and helping*** them*** understand the truth. (“Of whom much is given, much is expected”)

Those are some of my thoughts, anyway :smiley:

All the best,


Hi Everyone

Thanks for all your impressions!

It was really helpful to hear how important our view of the atonement is in this discussion. It made me reflect.

I guess I am holding to Penal Substitution as my main view (which, incidentally, has never slowed down my sanctification!), but which should accommodate other scriptural aspects. I like this quote from Theopedia … _atonement ] that tries this holistic approach…

Relation to other doctrines
The principle of penal substitution is held, by many of its proponents, to be the control through which all other views of the accomplishments of Christ on the cross are to be seen and the mechanic by which all other accomplishments work. Some examples of this are given below.
The cross as ransom. ~ Jesus is described as having paid our ransom on the cross; but this image only works because Jesus was paying our penalty in our stead. The cross as example. ~ Christians truly should be inspired by Christ’s work on the cross to self-sacrifice; but this only happens because before our identification with Christ in his sufferings, Christ identified with us in our sin, bearing the punishment due in place of us. The cross as victory. ~ Christ’s death and resurrection were real victories over sin and death and hell; but once again, we only take part in the victory of the Son of God by virtue of our union with him, we can only be united with him if our sin is dealt with, that can only happen by the punishment for our sin being borne, and that punishment was borne by Christ our substitute. The cross as reconciliation. ~ “…God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them…” (2 Cor. 5:19, ESV). The exchange being contemplated here is that our sins are taken away by Christ’s death and thus, we are made acceptable to God.
For further explanation and clarification, see Stott’s The Cross of Christ, which deals with this controlling imagery in some detail (pp. 168-203, 217-224, 231-239).

I am excited to imagine that if Cindy is correct, and if PS is the mainstream evangelical theory (another discussion!) the view I am coming to is of a ‘done deal’, and that all are saved now, not in the future.

I have found the following post by Richard Beck, (coming out of his thought on Pauline New Perspective)

*"The issue, in my opinion, boils down to this: Is forgiveness actual or potential?

Ponder the relationship between God and those who, at this moment, stand in a place of rebellion toward God. Are these people, in light of Jesus’s death for them, already forgiven? Or is God currently withholding forgiveness, waiting for the person to respond and repent? In the former forgiveness is actual–the death of Jesus created a new state of affairs, a new reality, a reality where the wall of enmity between God and humanity has been eradicated. In the latter view forgiveness is potential–you’re not yet forgiven. The death of Christ, in this view, merely opens up the possibility for forgiveness. But as things stand right now you are not forgiven.

Because of the work of Christ on the cross the wall of hostility and accusation between God and humanity was finally and decisively broken down. Forgiveness becomes our new reality. A new world has been created. Everyone has already been forgiven in Christ. The call is to recognize this reality and live into it. To trust (have “faith in”) what the faithfulness of Jesus has accomplished for us “while we were yet sinners.”

Because of the atoning death of Jesus on the cross forgiveness is actual. Because of the cross a new reality has been created between God and humanity. Faith is recognizing that reality and rejoicing in it.

Let me phrase it this way. The atonement exists no matter what. If nobody responds in faith it exists. If a few people respond in faith it exists. If everyone responds in faith it exits. That’s my point. The atonement exists no matter how many people respond…".*

It has been fascinating to read some classic statements by evangelicals who boldly state that Christ has died for all, and in the next breath say that salvation won’t work unless you respond by faith, repentance and even good living. There seems to me an awkward dissonance in our message here!

Should we reframe faith and repentance as a realisation, a necessary way to appreciate the truth of our new standing with God as already forgiven children, rather than as something that enables God to save us?


Charlie Brown


This may partly be semantics. But you seem to maintain defining “salvation” as distinct from any change in the response and deliverance we experience in our life. When you speak of our “sin” being “taken away” by Jesus you appear to mean that we are exempted from its’ penalty or consequences, rather than Paul’s notion in Romans 8 that his atonement enables us to fulfill the intention of God’s law in our actual life. This interpretation of being delivered from sin (made “acceptable” irregardless of whether our response or life changes) is one that P.S. seems to encourage. E.g. the editor of Christianity Today, Mark Galli, recently posted that he sees no moral difference in Christians and the sin in their lives, and was strongly challenged on NT grounds by Scot McKnight on his Jesus Creed blog. The rest of us who have participated here so far appear closer to McKnight and are uncomfortable with affirming that such a separation is consistent with the thrust of the Biblical narrative.


I think that your sign-off – Shalom – pretty much says it all. Complete peace, wellness, wholeness . . . that is God’s plan and intent for us, and it requires, for its actualization, complete freedom from sin (not just from its consequences).

Love, Cindy

Just throwing this out here for discussion… George MacDonald would not agree. God is always willing to forgive (even post mortem) but we must first repent. He said God holds our hand with his face turned away from us if we harbor in forgiveness in our hearts. Lets be honest… Forgiveness is difficult. No, not for trivial matters… But a brother who offends over and over? It isn’t easy! Yet necessary.

Jesus has reconciled everyone whether they know it or not? –-I believe so. Does forgiveness NEED repentance? well NO. There is however great reward in repentance as it recognises and imbibes the fuller blessing inherent within forgiveness.