The Evangelical Universalist Forum

McClymond, Fulkerson and Hieston discussions

Yes Dave :smiley: - it is an extraordinary thing to say; absolutely gobsmackingly so. I thought it was meant to be the resurrection that brought us to this realisation. Also I take issue with the use of the word ‘discipleship’ here because in the lecture and in the discussion this is connected with Bonheoffer who believed in God as one who suffers with us and allows himself to be pushed to the margins, and believed in Jesus as ‘the man for others’ (as a corrective to Luther’s emphasis that Jesus is primarily ‘for me’).

One of the really depressing things about pastor Hieston’s thoughts here is the way in which the death of someone who one has felt affection for but died a non believer and then goes to judgement and eternal conscious torment is only worried about in terms of how tough it is for him and fellow ECT believers at these times (and how it is necessary to be silent and seek peace in God who will explain all one day). I remember Michelle Arimault, who is Gary Arimault’s wife and a Jewish Christian, reflecting on the holocaust and saying - quite rightly - is God just going to resurrect millions of people who died under torture just to torture them some more and this time for eternity? That seems to me a perfectly valid question to ask - and I wouldn’t want to seek peace in God at my disquiet for having thought about the question if Jesus’ is 'as Bonheoffer would have it 'the man for others. (Yes I do feel angry at the misappropriation of Bonheoffer btw :imp: )

Is it just me or is this a very strange interpretation/ use of the Book of Job in any one else’s view?

I’m trying to understand this one as someone who is not a Calvinist. Job and his friends certainly don’t see the bigger picture but the bigger story in the book of Job is not human wickedness or depravity (unless we rightly see that Job’s so called friends are being cruel in their comforting). What they don’t see is that God has allowed the Satan to test Job’s faith surely? Obviously the idea of eternal conscious torment doesn’t get a look in – this is not what is testing Job’s faith. Also Job is not a Jew, and so he his strictly outside of the Mosaic covenant – so this is in many ways a universalist text. And Job’s repentance at this end is not repentance at wickedness but turning away from his doubt that God is his redeemer. It’s not a book that can be fitted into any simple scheme of doctrine – and that’s the whole point. But I guess it’s use here must imply the following interpretation of Job through the lens of a proof text from Paul -


Well Romans 9:22-23 does not necessarily yield this interpretation (unless you are already looking at it through a Calvinist lens). And Pauls’ thoughts on vessels of wrath is nowhere implied in the Book of Job. So I find Pastor Hieston’s use of Job perplexing (even with some help from Francis Chan) .

That nice restful, comforting image from Jonathan Edwards proffered by Dr McClymond almost seems Universalist – but we know different in the light of ‘Sinners in the hands of an Angry God’. :confused:

The article brings up some excellent points, especially that the Judgement Jesus brings is through the sword in His mouth. Of course, we know that the “sword” is the Word of God. Jesus even said so in the Gospels:

"And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.

He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: ***the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.***" - John 12:47-48

The difference, however, is that Jesus is not going to come back as a meek, lowly servant that will merely teach the Word from the Father. Those words will be backed up with action. The power of His Word will be fully manifest in all His glory. That doesn’t sound very pacifistic to me, even if the language is symbolic. In fact, it sounds very discomforting, if you ask me. What was it that Jesus warned? “…fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Nothing about the last day promises to be pleasant.

Besides all that, I don’t just merely consider the Gospels. There are promises to Israel that I believe are yet to be fulfilled which I believe the coming of Christ as described in Rev 19 will be a part of. He will rule Israel as King.

I only see Job as a demonstration of the sovereignty of God in situations we don’t understand, yet a patient Job in the midst of calamity. Job had no control over the events he suffered. He just took it all in. But while he suffered, he was careful not to put an accusation on God. “Though He slay me, yet will I serve Him”. His wife wanted him to curse God, but he just sat in sackcloth and ashes because he recognized himself as dust of God’s creation. It was simply submitting himself to God and whatever situation God willed him to be in.

His friends, of course, thought that Job sinned in some way, and gave him sore advice along those lines. But in the end, Job had done nothing to deserve his suffering. And all God did was show Job that He was the Creator and Master of the universe, and in control of everything, despite temporal appearances.

Did it seem to Job that God controlled everything? Probably not, since all these things happened to him. But remember, this was all a challenge by Satan to see if Job would curse God if bad things happened to him. And evidently, Satan lost the challenge, because God not only restored Job, but gave him double blessings in the end. It was all about preserverance in an evil and corrupt world. It had very little to do with salvation.

If anyone was lost, it was Job’s friends. But even then, Job accepted their sacrifices and prayed for them on their behalf.

I don’t want to get into an extensive discussion on Romans 9, except to say that I fail to see any correlation between Job and this passage. And also, I don’t see why Calvinists insist on using Romans 9 as a general relevation of the state of humanity as a whole when the passage is speaking specifically of Israel vs those who oppose her. It speaks nothing of individual salvation. Nor of individual damnation, for that matter. It doesn’t even speak of national damnation in the case of Egypt, except that in Egypt’s case they were thwarted from taking Israel back again and gave God the opportunity at that time to demonstrate His power in favor of Israel, whom He redeemed from captivity in Egypt. That is the mercy shown here, not salvation in Calvary’s sense.

The phrase, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” comes from Exodus 33 (well after the events in Egypt) and is in context of Israel being in favor with God as God’s people whom He called out. It had more to do with God’s care for His servant Israel than His distaste for anyone else. It is not used in a negative context, as the Calvinists seem need to use it.

Hi Dondi :slight_smile:

I quote here from Sherman on another thread -

The last judgment is not the final act for Universalists – the restoration of all things in Christ is the final act after the purification of all creatures and all creation. Some Christians think that what Christ the slaughtered lamb does in Revelation – as he did on the cross is to uncover human violence that is already in the hearts of men when unconditional love appears. God hands us over to our violence as Christ was handed over to our violence (and not to God’s violence) but the outcome of this in the end is healing and reconciliation. (This idea obviously informs Gregory of Nyssa’s homily on the plagues of Egypt for example)This does not mean the judgement is pleasant or wishy washy in any way – but it is saving love doing the judging rather than the wrath of the infinitely offended one who demands infinite punishment of those who have not been justified by faith in Christ’s substitution. I know we don’t’ agree about these things here – some of us stress God’s violence at our sins in a more active way than I would - but people who believe in ‘hell’ don’t agree either. C.S. Lewis who believed in the possibility that we may chose final separation from God (and for this reason is quoted by DR McClymond at the close of this dialogue) would have been horrified at the ideas of Jonathan Edwards for whom God actually tortures people for eternity and delights in this (as do the elect of God). A lot of the thoughts behind the ‘abominable fancy’ that anticipates the blessed enjoying the torments of the damned and God laughing with them seems to come from de-contextualised bits from the imprecatory Psalms which again C.S. Lewis found very problematic in his Reflections on the Psalms (so he’s not really an ally for Dr McClymond here)

(I think the word ‘pacifist’ was used in the article purely concerning Bonheoffer’s reluctance to be associated with killing – a reluctance which he(rightly IMHO) overcame but still felt he was involving himself in the lesser of two evils rather than glorying in killing as a positive good (again a proper and Christian response to necessary uses of violence IMHO)

Regarding ‘the restored Israel’ – again that’s something on which there will be divergences of opinion here. My point in raising the issue of dispensationalism is that it most often goes hand in hand with belief in eternal damnation but from a Calvinist perspective it must be seen as a derangement of the biblical narrative. A universalist movement that Dr McClymond does not consider that grows up from inside conservative dispensationalist Christianity is A.E. Koch and the Concordant Publishing concern (and has no connection to the Philadelphians or Boehmenists that I know of)

One thing I do know is that as far as the Jews go, universalists have an excellent record of philo-Semitism going back to Origen. If you are interested in Origen’s attitude towards the Jews here is a scholarly article

I’m at one with you on Job :smiley: .

All good wishes


During the time of the first Great Awakening big segments of American society were offended by the hellfire preaching - it was normal within a certain a subculture but by no means normal to all Americans. There was a lot of questioning of Hell among Christians in the early modern period that began roughly five hundred years ago - the questions started as soon as people were allowed to asks those questions without fearing death or imprisonment.

Regarding other cultures believing wholesale in eternal hell - it’s never been a mainstream idea in rabbinical Judaism and the merciful texts of the Talmud date back to at least the time of Augustine. In Zoroastrianism there is a universalist tradition which may well have been the dominant one at the time of Christ and the Magi. The issue of the eternity of hells torments and who actually goes to hell has always been a contested issue in Islam. Are there any other religions that speak of hell as a final destination?

they’ve agreed. i do not. it seems that there is ample evidence that not all orthodox church fathers do not agree with that, and a reasonable percentage of them thoroughly disagree.

so…the get out clause is that God will explain one day? what if He’s already explained: God desires all to be saved, and Love never fails? that doesn’t require any of this “there there, the worst has happened…and will continue to happen for all eternity to your loved one, but don’t worry, God will explain it to you in a way that satisfies you one day, and you’ll be able to enjoy the fact.”
Job as said previously has no bearing on ECT. nothing in the OT does! which is surprising, given that almost all (if not all) Israel’s neighbours had afterlives. Israel just had Sheol, and the vague promise of resurrection or future peace and prosperity.
i don’t think Job discounted wickedness. i think that was core to his argument…he WASN’T wicked. his friends argued he must be. God said STFU to his friends and then asked Job how he could possibly hope to understand (which doesn’t superficially seem that helpful, but certainly doesn’t seem to indicate eternal punishment). it’s an odd tale, and i have issues with everything being ok in the end when Job had lost family he’d not see again this side of heaven (no issues of ECT for them are evident here…Job sacrificed for them in case they sinned, and the story doesn’t contradict that morality, so they’d be ok if anyone was).

so inappropriate quoting Jonathan Edwards here, relevant to this discussion. Jonathan Edwards has doubtless influenced countless universalists inadvertently with his bizarre medieval and pagan view of God.
God’s judgements are wise and true…no universalist will contradict that. it isn’t fair to most strands of UR that i’m aware of to assume that no justice takes place in this view. judgement is paramount, but also seen in the light of Hebrews and Proverbs, where we learn that a loving parent will sometimes have to chastise their child…but for their betterment and correction. not for retribution, and certainly not to lock them up and throw away the key.

I think the fact that we aren’t God is also emphasised by Postmodern thought which makes plain our inability to grasp all truth in neat concrete soundbytes.
another thing is that previous cultures might be offended if we told them black people were just as human as they were. the past is not always a good gauge of morality. even if you believe that those in the past had a higher moral standard from which we’ve fallen (disproved 2 sentences ago), that doesn’t work for Calvinism, because i’m reasonably sure Total Depravity doesn’t have degrees…like they were slightly less totally depraved than we are :laughing:
so that’s just a stupid and facetious thing to say.
but seriously, if God knows how to give good gifts to His children, that indicates that He is the best of all Parents. which means that He knows that fear is a crap motivator, but love is the best motivator. So hell does not lead to discipleship. hell unchecked breeds awful, compassionless people that only give a toss for themselves and their friends and family, or hell leads to distress and mental anguish if the people are more Christlike in their compassion.
anyone that suggests that God would be “happy” (because of that Psalm where God laughs at the ridiculousness of the heathens raging) about suffering, and that we will unlearn the lesson He’s spent aeons teaching us about forgiveness, grace and redemption so that we also join in on this abominable celebration of pain and hopelessness cannot know God, even to the tiny degree to which i know Him…and that’s saying something.

personally, i think this notion that “plain readings” of (poor translations) of Scripture, coupled with bad reasoning, awful history, logical fallacy etc etc as a means of doing justice to God’s word is pure idolatry. rather than worship the God who redeems them, they worship a book, and an idea imported from Pagan Rome by those that sought to dominate using this new religion.

it’s sickening.

Good points James :smiley: Well at long last I’m getting fed up here – I hate to say it but ever now and them I can see why people get annoyed with hard line Calvinists (I’m beginning to think that I prefer the sectarians to the seemingly irenical ones because at least you know where you stand with the sectarians :laughing: ). So here’s my stab at the final discussion which you can all add to.

This discussion does not deal with the New Testament doctrine of mercy at all!

There is no doctrine of hell in the Old Testament - pure and simple. There is a gradual development of ideas of punishments and rewards in the world to come but in most of the Old Testament God’s retributive judgements take place purely in this life (and sheol is not the same as hell – everyone knows this!!!l). As well as assuming teaching on total depravity, PSA. Christ against culture, an iffy definition of postmodernism as a term of abuse etc these discussions and the lecture also assume a presuppositional, axiomatic sense of scripture (and a Calvinists one at that, rather than a Lutheran or a dispensationalist one for example). This makes it impossible for the participants to look at developments in understanding that take place within the Old Testament and between the Old and the New Testaments even though these are starring them in the face. So as Dave said earlier they present us with false choices regarding the ‘biblical data’. This is not a new false choice (as it were). We find it in St Augustine’s polemics against the Pelagian Julian of Eclanum. Augustine argues from the collective judgments of the Flood and the Cherems that unbapstised children can rightly be damned for collective original sin rather than for actual sins (just as God destroyed or had others destroy children in these collective judgements). Julian is horrified quoting Jeremiah that the child will not pay for the sin of the father and we are only responsible for our own sins. Who is right?

I can’t see anything to disagree with here.

We’ve looked at this above. Babylon as a city that is decoyed never to be rebuilt speaks of the ruin of an empire. IN the Book of Revelation Babylon is a symbol of everything that oppresses the people of God and everything that is an impediment to God’s Shalom – it doesn’t stand for individuals.

These judgements on sin the OT are acts of destruction in time and not damnation in eternity. Jesus refers to these collective judgements in his discourses about the destruction of Jerusalem IMHO. Oh and btw John Calvin left Christendom a poisonous legacy when he restored the relevance of the Cherem texts – this we know well. (And Jesus does seem to revoke the Cherem judgement with his merciful treatment of the Canaanite woman in Matthew’s Gospel!)

People gnash their teeth in Jesus‘s parables - people who are expecting wrath judgement and hell but expecting them for other people rather than themselves. And actually if the judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah was irrevocable why does Jesus speak of the people from these cities accusing the sinful generation of Jesus’ day on the Day of the Lord?

In the NT Jesus singles out the ones who expect retribution to fall on others rather than themselves for admonition.

In Revelation the Saints long for vindication and the end of persecution and for a cosmos made whole by God’s justice. There is nothing to suggest that they long for the eternal damnation of others (and longing for God’s judgement in Pastor Hieston’s remarks primarily means longing for his vindictive judgment against others rather than for his restoration of Shalom according to where his emphasis falls)

BTW I also see distributive justice in the OT – it’s a major theme in the prophets and is especially strong in Amos. Gods laughing the nations to scorn in Psalm 2 is ,as James has already noted, a figure of speech highlighting the stupid arrogance of the nations who think they are greater than God (and these are the very same nations who are restored at the close of the Book of Revelations). The warning ‘kiss the son unless you perish’ does not imply eternal hell – the Psalm is not about judgment of individuals - but anyway it is a controversial way of translating this phrase. A case can be made for it but many think it is not what the author intended (and we have to make the translators of the KJV inerrant to insist on this reading)

We have not been seduced by the idea that everyone is essentially good I think (even those of us who think that everyone is not totally depraved and that grace completes/heals nature rather than destroys it. We believe God’s love will restore everyone eventually – which is a different belief.
The idea that we should love others – including or enemies -is a rather central Christian belief anyway (and judgement is very much linked to our treatment of others in the Parable of the Sheep and Goats). I find it a little disturbing that Jesus as teacher who invites us to imitate him as he imitates the Father, and Jesus as shepherd have completely disappeared from this discourse that emphasises only Jesus as substitute and Jesus as avenging judge.

Have already commented on the use of C.S. Lewis here in a previous post.

I’ll end with a poem by Bonheoffer who has been so badly misrepresented in this lecture and these discussions (and to be fair think it was done through ignorance rather than through actual intention to mislead - but the ignorance was fuelled by wanting to be identified with the good guys against the universalist bad guys so it has some self righteous culpability).

The poem was written while Bonheoffer was awaiting execution as he could hear the Allied bombs dropping with apocalyptic power.

(Letters and Papers from Prison, p. 134)

Note ‘bestead’ = placed in a position of sorrow and anguish.

Who are the ones who call out ‘how long Lord’ in Revelation if not the martyrs? Here is a record of a martyr giving this plea - and it does not entail longing for the ECT of his enemies. I also remember the incredibly brave 2nd century martyr St Perpetua who died with great courage encouraging her fellow Christians as they faced the beasts being giving courage by a dream that here little brother who had died of face cancer as a pagan was healed and within God’s love (for this reason Augustine found her flaky and suspect).

This is what Bonheoffer actually had to say about apocatastasis - he never completely made up his mind but he had his strong hopes:

Excellent post.
So ironic that a hopeful Universalist would be misappropriated by those who don’t agree with UR

Thanks James - I think the only one that I’d like more information on is Kierkegaard - he did say something that affirmed universal salvation unequivocally but I’d like to know more about how this fits in with other things he said since he often spoke through assumed characters but as for Bonheoffer, he’s been misused. (He also had a Karl Barth type ‘Christology’ and believed in the kenotic, suffering, and ‘marginalised’ God in Christ)

Yes for Kierkegaard I also have the following quotations

Not famine, not pestilence, not war will bring back seriousness. It is not until the eternal punishments of hell regain their reality that [humans] will turn serious.

Soren Kierkegaard, quoted in Time, January 27, 1961, p.50. (but I can’t for the life of me find confirmation of this quotation)

He also certainly did write -

“If, after the Final Judgment, there remains only one sinner in Hell and I happen to be that sinner, I will celebrate from the abyss the Justice of God.”

  • but this hardly chimes with the views and aspirations of the discussion participant’s. But it would be good to have confirmations about Kierkegaard’s view from a Kierkegaard scholar. Like Bonheoffer he appears to be undergoing rehabilitation with American conservative evangelicals - because like Bonheoffer Francis Schaeffer also placed him in hell.

I think the key thing about Kierkegaard as heretic - in terms of conservative evangelical apologetics - is not that he was a universalist but that he had no time for objective truth whatsoever -‘All decisiveness inheres in subjectivity, only in subjectivity is there decision, to seek objectivity is to be in error’. So he is in fundamental disagreement with all attempts to argue for an axiomatic objective faith (against Carl Henry, Francis Schaffer etc…). As such he is an odd ally of Dr McClymond - I don’t quite understand his take on presuppositionalism or that of Carl Henry’s; is the apparent irenicism to do with a willingness to collaborate with and co-opt other Christians who at least share some important presuppositions (like the doctrine of hell)?

Anyway Kierkegaard was a Christian Universalist, according to his journals, “If others go to Hell, I will go too. But I do not believe that; on the contrary, I believe that all will be saved, myself with them—something which arouses my deepest amazement.” However, as the wiki article says -

However, the ‘perhaps’ is not an outright denial and the tow quotations above may well fit a larger picture. The one about the need to reclaim the vision of hell - if genuine - may well be simply about the need to face our individual despair (since Kierkegaard had no time for objective doctrine). The one about being the last sinner in hell with everyone else saved seems a hyperbole for coming face to face with an absolute claim upon oneself.

Not believing in objectivity sounds a tad post-modern to me. As you say, he is an odd ally for McClymond and co.

If he was the only sinner in hell, and he glorified God from there…why would he be in hell for any more time than that? surely the hellbound gnash their teeth in rage at God’s justice, according to this sort of reasoning. i would say that as soon as a sinner recognised their need for judgement, they’d no longer be in hell, because nobody who praises God can do so without the Holy Spirit, and so they would have to embrace Him to praise God…and then how could they be in hell, if hell is absence from God? So this statement to me, taken to its logical end, seems to indicate universal salvation.

Excellent point James - indeed this is so :smiley:

Several great observation already in this thread .

I am perplexed at his conclusion that " God’s love crushes my enemies" ? How could this be the case when Christ commanded His followers to love and pray for their enemies. ( Luke 6:35). The psalms are full of human emotions, if he is using the psalms of David to support his view, his foundation in on quick sand.

Nicely put. Totally agree.He clearly argues from such a bizarre inerrantist viewpoint that even these clearly human emotions must be dictated by the Holy Spirit. One wonders about the bits where david says no one praises God from Sheol which indicates a belief in death that contradicts the evangelical normal belief…i bet the say what i always heard as a child, that david didnt know better, but this contradicts the notion that the psalms are infallible

Yes I guess someone who believed in soul sleep could get round this - namely the soul dies with the body and is not resurrected until the last day (but not I think in terms of what David probably believed - if we are permitted to take an historical view of scripture - namely that the biblical evidence suggest that resurrection was not a belief of the Hebrews during David’s’ time). But soul sleep is not the normal evangelical belief (and Calvin fulminated against it and was the first Reformer to name it as heresy).

Pastor Hieston appears to be contemplating eschatological justice here and associating the amazed anticipation of this with the psalms that bring call down vengeance upon enemies. But yes indeedy - what has happened to the injunction to love enemies and be merciful in imitation of the Father? :confused: It is confined to the exegetical footnotes it seems.

Here’s an interesting one from ‘Hell in a cultural perspective’ (that also features a Psalm of David) -

These thoughts are not well developed; but a thread on this site that clarifies these issues very well is David Konstans’ thoughts about the meaning of forgiveness at -

A very woolly synopsis of David Konstan’s wonderful little article is that in New Testament terms it is for God alone to forgive and bring radical change and healing to a person. We human beings must release each others from debt, apologise and make peace with each other and not hold grudges because God has forgiven us - but God alone can give real forgiveness (I think that’s about right :confused: ). So in this sense King David was right to pray to God ‘against you and you alone have I sinned’. Also Bonheoffer (see above) was right to suggest that those who receive God’s costly grace should hope that this grace will extend to everyone - because we are all implicated in/affected by each others sins in the first place. :slight_smile:

Exactly. I don’t even know how he can logically say you must have wrath with love ? But the very foundation of how he defines wrath is another matter. But again , if the foundation is such as ect, it follows the same pattern in each and every turn ( or verse they interpret).