Joe: Universalism - Whether to draw the line?


A friend from church has a blog and one of his posts is Where to draw the line: the command to break fellowship. I’ve taken it as an opportunity to anonymously “test the water” in respect to his view of where EU fits. Today I asked:

What do you think (be honest as I genuinely want to improve at my communication skills, particular when it comes to something I hold so dear)?

More importantly, please also pray that the Spirit works in him to help him see the truth, or at least the possibility. I intend on telling him it’s me soon, but I just didn’t want him to soften his initial response because he knows me. Obviously he may well just find me here if he Googles EU :sunglasses: Anyway, I think/hope he’ll understand and not take offence :confused:


Wow Alex, this person really went into a lot of detail about his thoughts on when to disassociate or leave a church. What an opportune time to introduce your question, which I saw you went ahead and asked.

I don’t know how he will define teaching a different gospel, but in our church I do think they feel like enough is different that we have been blamed for the reason why our church is not thriving, growing. My dad teaches Sunday School, which I love, so thankfully, our pastor does not share their view and graciously allows us to continue studying. I must admit, even I, a lot of the time remark, if only in my head, how different my outlook is compared to theirs. Tho, I don’t know if mine or theirs counts as heresy, even if I do feel they are significantly limiting God’s love, grace for all.

In reading this blog it mentioned heresy is teaching that doesn’t follow scripture. The hard part for our church would be to show how what we are studying is not scriptural. If we are able to give an account of our faith, using scripture, then we should be included, right? Scripture can be complex and allow for varying views so I think it is a good question who and what can be included. I do feel worried for you that, for someone as concerned as this blogger seems to be with lack of heresy, it could open a can of worms for you.

I’m looking forward to seeing how he/she responds to your question.


I’m so terrible with wording myself. It’s not my gift. I hope someone else will be able to give you more insight. I know my dad is always telling me to keep it brief and to the point. I think you did well on that. :slight_smile:

I wonder if with Calvinists if there is a way of presenting it that you’ve become convinced that the promises of God really are for all? That God really loves the whole world, in a saving way, and that you’ve become convinced that the purpose of hell is not for eternal conscious torment, but for correction.

I’ve just been amazed, with my Calvinist friends, that the real difference is who God loves and is trying to save - some vs. all.


Wow, I agree with Amy, that post was really well-worded. Although it seems that he’s really set on the idea of universalism being true. Besides that, though, he seemed to have a really gracious response. Very clever there, responding anonymously! :wink: Nice. By the way, I go to Mark Driscoll’s church (but not the campus he preaches live at).

Amy, I think you worded everything very nicely. :slight_smile: It must be refreshing in one sense to have your beliefs off your chest so you don’t feel like you’re keeping it all to yourself…




Growing up with fairly strong Calvinist influence, that was the thing that troubled me most about Christianity–that God, being sovereign over salvation, would not choose to save everyone. But I didn’t quite believe it, I think. I had troubling, unacknowledged, discordant views trying to live together in my brain–because I was not willing to “explain away” such sweeping statements as John 3:16. When I came to believe in UR, suddenly things started to “click” and make sense like never before.



Yes, I found that too.


It seems evident that your friend is not at all open to considering universalism as a valid, scriptural option for true Christians. He seems to basically be saying that it’s okay to stay in the church so long as you recognize that your universalism is wrong, and you’re trying to overcome it! But he may be misconstruing what you mean by “universalism.”

He writes:

You can see he understands that the implications of universalism change much more than simply the question of how many people end up in hell. Universalism changes (or “distorts” as he puts it) one’s perspective on most Christian doctrines. I happen to think those changes are for the better, but no doubt he would strongly disagree.

He continues:

Obviously he implies that universalists are picking and choosing what they wish to believe–discarding the parts of the Bible that are unsatisfying to them. Well, most of us here would disagree with this assessment. In fact, we could with at least as much cause, accuse him of doing the same! But as I said above, perhaps he doesn’t understand exactly what you mean by universalism.

He does seem to be very convinced that no other views than his own are scripturally plausible.

Next step is to let him know who you are, explain that you see universalism as a doctrine true to the whole of scripture, and see if he’s open to further discussion, or if he’s ready to denounce you as a dangerous, contentious, discordant heretic. :stuck_out_tongue: Sounds like he’s at least willing to try to convince you of your error! :sunglasses:



That’s the vibe I’m getting too.

He might do, I’m asking him to unpack it further. I think that Calvinism does the distortion. The changes I’ve seen UR make so far are for the better.

Exactly :slight_smile:

It certainly comes across that way in his blog.

I was going to but when I discussed it over with my wife, she said I had to be careful not to appear to be going behind our church leaders’ backs (although I’ve already told one of them and he wasn’t to phased :sunglasses: ). Therefore, I will endeavor to give Robin’s intro, even in draft, to them as soon as possible.

Anyway, before I read your advice, I posted my initial response:


And my next one:



Are those really the same criteria, and the same application of criteria, by which he himself would try to decide whether he should stay or leave a congregation? Does it seem to you (you’re more familiar with him) that he is giving you the same advice he would apply for himself if he found himself coming to believe Calvinist theology to be true in a strongly (or at least predominately) Arminian congregation?


I’ll be honest, I’ve avoided it for a while because a web site with sound, clear and well organized materials needs to be created and managed. Without that, I would strongly advise not to promote it until we get that done.

Alex, my inclination is that your better off with Talbott’s book, because most people can read it. The two people I gave TEU to both could not read it because it was way over their heads.



The writer of this blog, tho, seems like a person that has studied, might be able to follow TEU, especially since he seems to take a great interest in theology.

He effectively communicates his thoughts. And I agree with Sonia’s observation that he does not seem open to considering how EU might be a worthy belief, tho he most likely doesn’t understand it, and that if you are seriously considering it, it puts you on the outs. I was afraid of that! His truth, since it is not yours, seems problematical for him. I do think there is hope though. :smiley: I always think there is hope. How classic! :laughing:

As I was reading along, using his standard as a measure, I was a go on almost every number. :open_mouth: I think I have some patience, ability to shut up when I need to, but my paradigm has definitely shifted (as you guys suggest, my thinking is now clicking more), and I feel pretty excited about it so that sometimes I will feel the need to say something, so long as it is appropriate. Knowing the little bit that I know of you, Alex, you are not far off from me. Both of us seem to have dads that have influenced our thinking and opened up a new world of increased love and hope. It’s hard not to be excited about that!

Now that we are out of the closet, so to speak, it has been a relief. My dad will often comment that it feels good to have some freedom to be himself, even if people aren’t in agreement with him. At first I enjoyed being incognito just to be able to observe people’s reactions. If you aren’t decided, don’t come off too strongly, I think they engage the ideas more. It’s quite shocking to a lot of folks, that don’t understand where we are coming from, and it demands moving at a slow pace. After a while, I just wanted to be out with it. If I was rejected, I was rejected. I’m not afraid to discuss it, but try not to go around pushing it in other people’s faces. It’s nice to be able to be yourself and say what you really think. Of course, I don’t live on an island! There are times that I wish we could go back into hiding. I’m not really sure , tho, if it’d be more beneficial for helping people understand where we are coming from (because it almost feels impossible) or if it’d just be nice to be seen as one of them and not as a heretic. :confused:

He may be underestimating just how gung ho you are to explore all these things with him and thinking you don’t have a leg to stand on. It will be more than he’s bargained for, but a perfect treat for someone as fascinated with the bible as he! :sunglasses:


Good point. I think somethings would apply like: being a teacher requires greater scrutiny, are there fruits of the Spirit, are you being self controlled, etc. Understandably he feels he is on a solid foundation and I can’t possibly be right. That’s a common starting point I’ve found, hopefully I can show him at least the possibility of hope.

True there’s still a lot of work to be done, but I think we are already making some progress: growing a community, gathering materials on the topic, having mostly respectful conversations :sunglasses: At the moment I’m letting it self promote, after we improve and organise the content, I’ll revisit the official promotion.

I found the two people I’ve lent Talbott’s book to, both got a put off by his “attack” on Calvin at the start of the book, before even getting to the meat of the arguments. I’ve bought 10 more copies of TEU and given them to some people, so I hope they can understand it :confused: I’ll let people know the responses I get.

I think he could handle it, if I could convince he to actually read the book!

And I praise God for that :smiley:

I agree Amy, I would like not to have to hide. However, my biggest concern is how my wife and children would be treated if I was excommunicated :frowning: now produces 188 results!


Once I let him know it’s me, I’ll invite him over to our forum, as he writes almost as much as Jason does :wink:

We’ve moved the conversation to a new post “


I was going to say that it’s not that people remain unconvinced, that makes it impossible, it’s that it’s difficult to get them to engage the topic and read the book. My dad and I were discussing what it is that makes certain people more able to embrace UR. We decided that it’s mostly people who are not happy with their understanding, especially hell. Gene, in particular, was always confused about the Arminian and Calvinist sounding passages and how they fit together. He was keenly aware of the inconsistencies and would bring them up regularly, whereas everyone else in the bible study was not bothered and thought he was just creating problems. I think I’m outside that group in that I went along with the mainstream, didn’t think much about the problem of hell, and was influenced by my dad. So, it’s not impossible that others too should be affected by us.

It would be nice if they reject our understanding that they do so understanding our viewpoint.

Alex, I really feel for you guys over there. I hope you won’t be excommunicated! This guy sounds thoughtful enough that he will be able to, at least, consider your points. On the other hand, he also seems willing to just embrace the fact that God isn’t always good as part of his accepting things the way they are. But, what choice does he have, I guess, given his understanding. I wouldn’t rush anything. I’d take it really, really slow. I remember early on getting really excited about some passages and telling a friend from church while we were sitting out having a garage sale. I think it was just too much for her. She did start to avoid me and then curiously never invited me back, which seemed strange. Must have been the UR. Maybe I could have taken it slower? Maybe not? At some point we all yearn to be free, to be able to share our thoughts, so it’s inevitable, I think, that we get to a point where we just have to say something. When and how much is the tricky part! And I don’t know how convinced your wife is, but as you continue talking about these things she’ll eventually, I imagine, come to the place you are where, in order to have meaningful fellowship, it will require being able to share, not that everyone should agree. What kind of meaningful fellowship can we have when people don’t really know what is in our heart and we have to keep super secret the hope that we have, that really seems like no small potatoes! Well, on that score, this site is an encouragement for us all!

Alex, where does your dad fellowship? Does he live close by? Perhaps he is as much a support to you as my dad is to me?


Alex, I’m starting now to read his latest response and the wheels in my head are spinning. It’s like you just want to jump in there and start explaining the view!

One in particular is the 2 Thess. 1:8,9 passage. We don’t disagree, of course, that God will punish. Just, what is that punishment for? We have a way of understanding everlasting destruction, not as endless. And the shut out part, it was explained to me, isn’t in the original language of the text. It’s more like they’ll experience the fiery presence coming from the Lord. I’m not sure how they got shut out from coming from? Maybe someone knows more about this? I’ll have to revisit this with my dad. (I think it’s in Talbott’s and/or Parry’s books too)That’s so often the case. I remember just enough to know there’s a point, but not enough to remember exactly what it is. :lol In any event even if they were shut out from the presense of the Lord it wouldn’t have to be forever.

This just goes to show how many points there are to be made, even about one single passage, and why we have to take it slowly. Our understanding on various topics has influenced how we read the text and it’s probably going to feel like a bit much for this guy. It’s almost like you have to see the bigger picture first to become convinced of smaller texts like these, that God’s purpose really isn’t just to fry people forever?

And this guy does write a lot! It’s fun to go through and compare where our thoughts are different. I wonder, tho, if you should address all he says in one foul swoop or take smaller bits and start addressing it slowly? Sometimes I never know how interested someone will be that I get nervous and want to lay it all out on the table right away. I don’t think that’s ever worked too well because they can’t process it all, it’s too much.


Same here. :laughing:

The ironic thing (one of several) is that when I first came to believe universalism, I not only had come to believe trinitarian theism much more strongly and coherently, but also as a direct result had come to believe much more strongly in the heinousness and penalty of sin. Both beliefs of which (on the strong heinousness and penalty) I still hold!–but now I hold them in coherent context of their relation to the active interpersonal unity of God Most High as the foundation of all reality (even of sinners, despite our rebellions as sinners).

Also, I could start picking a bit at some of the theological inconsistencies in his approach… :wink: (Though admirably he hasn’t written many such inconsistencies yet! He sounds a little more self-critical than I had gathered at first, too.)

Anyway, following along the correspondence with interest.


Yes, it would be nice to at least get to that stage.

Thanks Amy, it certainly would be a sad outcome.

He will genuinely try to. He is a compassionate and loving person.

10 minutes drive south, at Margate Christian Church, where he is actually on the leadership team :astonished: One of my brothers also goes there, however, I used to find it frustrating (probably due to my reserved nature) for being too charismatic. I’m sure they would have us there is things went sour. Mum & Dad only live 5 minutes further south, so we see them at least once a week, which is a great support :slight_smile:

I’ll keep posting then :sunglasses:


Please let me know if you have any suggestions for better answers or if I’ve made any mistakes or dumb arguments :blush: