My journey to universalism


#1

Hello everyone

I am fairly new to the idea of Universalism. I’ve come to believe in it over the course of the last few months, but only learnt it had a name a few weeks ago :mrgreen:

There have been a number of lines of reasoning that have lead me to conclude that it is the only reasonable interpretation of God’s plan. Most of these have already been discussed in detail on this forum. There is one though, that hasn’t to the best of my knowledge. I originally started thinking along these lines after receiving a challenge to a comment I made on an atheist blog.

I would like to discuss it here and get your thoughts on this.

God created humanity with freewill so that we could have the choice to follow him. What is the value of love if there is not the possibility to hate? Sin is a necessary consequence of freewill. They are inextricably linked. Freewill cannot exist without the possibility of sin and sin cannot exist without freewill (the ability to choose).

What shall we say of heaven one day? Will there be freewill in heaven? Will we choose to love and worship God in heaven? We know that in heaven all things will be made new and there will be no sin. How is it that sin cannot exist without freewill on earth, yet freewill can exist in heaven without the possibility of sin? The only feasible explanation is that although we will be free to sin in heaven, we will have no desire to sin in heaven. It will simply lose its appeal and so nobody will chose it. We could then ask: Would it not have been better for God to create humanity without the desire to sin in the first place? What is the purpose of this initial round on earth, with the experience of sin and all the suffering it brings?

Perhaps it is only through this experience of sin that we can develop a healthy distaste for it? Perhaps the whole purpose of living in a fallen world is to experience what it is like to live in a world devoid of holiness? If we could experience all of the consequences of our sinful decisions, (In a single moment, experience the effects they had on others and ourselves) would that not give us a healthy respect for Gods authority? Would that not cause sin to lose its appeal, and in doing so, allow for an eternity of freewill where people choose holiness?

Perhaps this is what is meant when Adam and Eve chose to gain the knowledge of evil. They chose to experience what it would be like living in a world devoid of God, and in so doing learn the reason for our reliance on him.

It was this idea that God intended all men to experience living in disobedience that lead me to a Universalist perspective of Christianity. If God intended this of us, then God has a purpose for it. That purpose being for all men to live in a state of harmony with God, fully understanding the consequences of sin.

Interestingly, I discovered the verse Romans 11:32 on this forum, which strongly confirms this view. “For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all”.


#2

Welcome to the forum, btw! :smiley:

Members here seem about evenly split on the existence (and/or extent) of man’s free will; and while I don’t have a feel yet for the proportion (the topic just hasn’t come up as often yet), some of us are strongly in favor of God having intended our fall while some of us are not. (And some of us don’t believe in a fall of man at all.)

I do believe in an inherited fall; and I do believe in derivative free will (but not to the ontological extreme some libertarians seem to insist on); but I do not believe that God necessarily intended for humanity to fall. Nor do I believe Rom 11 has to entail that; and in regard to the Greek terms and grammar I would argue for a somewhat different meaning. Rom 8:19-23 would be a better scriptural reference in that direction, though obviously I still don’t think it necessarily means that God intended us to fall. I do think this (and other testimony) means that God takes the final authoritative responsibility for what happened, though, and that it wasn’t a surprise to God’s omniscience; and that’s pretty close to your position. :slight_smile:


#3

Hi Ace,

Welcome to the forum!

I only have time for a brief reply. I do believe that we will become ‘willingly’ unable to sin, and that is part of what it means to grow up into the likeness of Christ. I think of it like this: I am physically capable of breaking into and robbing my neighbor’s house. However, that is not something I have any desire to do–it is so agaist my character that I would be shocked at myself if the idea of it even occured to me, and anyone who suggested it to me would find themselves being rebuked. It would be correct to say that “I am not able to do that.”

That is just one example of a possible sin. There are many sins that are not impossible to me yet–I am sorry to say!-- but I believe that as we grow up into Christ–putting off the old man, and putting on the new-- more and more sins will be like that to us, until it is impossible for us to sin–not because we are prevented by something outside of ourselves, but because we are constrained by our mature selves.

When I was a child I did many things I am ashamed of, and would never do now–that is how it is when we grow up–and we are still growing up into true sons and daughters of God.

I know that only addresses a bit of your post, but maybe more later. You raise some good questions, and I’m far from feeling like I have this all figured out. I hope others will have some thoughts to share!

Sonia


#4

I agree. All sin derives from an insecurity or perceived personal advantage or gain by doing it. The risk versus reward varies in the mind of a person in this life but when one realizes that they will not suffer loss for doing what is right and good, and that there is no advantage to sinning, there is no desire to sin and no temptation can seize you.


#5

Hi Jason thanks for the warm welcome. :smiley:

You mention you believe that the fall wasn’t a surprise to God’s omniscience. If I could be so bold as to try and summarise what I think I hear you saying, it’s that: “God intended us to experience what it would be like to be faced with the possibility of sin, while also knowing that we would end up choosing sin.” When you factor in that last part, I don’t see how this is all that different from: “God intended us to experience living in sin”.

Notice I am being careful not to say that God made people sin. If he made us sin, we wouldn’t be able to decide against it, and equally we couldn’t be held accountable for it. What I am saying is that God made us with the possibility for sin knowing full well that we would choose it, and in so knowing had an underlying purpose in our experience of sin. I feel I’m justified in saying that God had a purpose for this, because he is a purposeful God. (I’m sure you agree with this?) I don’t see him as doing things for the sake of it. Rom 8:28 seems to hint at this on a personal level: God has a purpose to all the things that happen to us as individuals. Should he not also have had a purpose for placing the tree in the garden (whether figurative or literal)?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but with these things considered, our views seem identical.


#6

Hi Sonia, it’s nice to meet you. I appreciate your ideas on this. :mrgreen:

You raise an interesting point, and I think what you’re saying is an aspect of the reasoning I’ve tried to present. There are some flaws I think I can spot in your reasoning though. For one thing, it’s not only Christians that put aside certain behaviours when they grow up. For example, when I was growing up, I did certain things I’m ashamed of now, but the same can be said for my non-Christian friends. They’re not growing more in the likeness of Christ; they just reached a point in maturity where they started to think about how their behaviours can affect others. Equally, I know a number of “Christians” that are saved, but aren’t bothered in becoming increasingly Christ like. I believe I will see them in heaven, so where does their reformative process kick in?

Our reasoning is similar in that: I think that through people being made fully aware of the consequences of their sinful decisions, as well as an awareness of the state of a world steeped in sin, they will develop a natural revulsion for it. To me, this is the same as becoming increasingly Christ like, because the essence of becoming more Christ like involves learning to love others as much as ourselves, learning to empathise and so becoming less selfish.

I don’t think that even the best of Christians will die having finally learnt to become as perfect as Christ, so there still has to be some step involved where we learn the true nature of sin, and so learn to revile sin for the rest of time. I think an experience of the full consequences of of having lived in sin will do this. This seems to provide a good explanation for why we need to be in a sinful state on earth in the first place, and why God didn’t create us as the perfect beings we will one day become.

Now that’s an interesting idea! I’ve always wondered what life would be like if we could read each other’s thoughts. There would be no point lying, and there would be no point scheming. Essentially we would live in a sinless world. Granted, people might get offended often but they would get used to it eventually. Perhaps there will be no private thoughts between the citizens of heaven, and this alone is enough to remove the motivation for sin?

I realise this isn’t what you’re saying, and it’s a ridiculous idea anyway since God will deal with our desire to sin, and not just the practicalities of the matter.

One thing your view doesn’t seem to be able to answer though is why we’re on earth? Why this round one? God must have had a purpose, surely we can make an educated guess as to what it was?


#7

Because God desires for you to be an individual with your own experiences, and your own solutions whether good or evil because those experiences shape you and give you a voice. There is no round one, this is it, those who don’t learn now will have a process they must endure (whether instant or time enduring it matters not) where they must trust and change their mind about their motivations. Those who learned this lesson now reign with Christ and will be the one’s who administer healing to the nations that did not learn.


#8

Welcome to the forum, Aceofspades25! I don’t have time to really comment on your opening post yet, but I do want to say that I’m in agreement with much of what you say! :slight_smile:


#9

As long as there’s a qualification to the effect of, “But in another sense God never intended us to experience that”, I would have no objection. You’ve clarified that you don’t believe God made us fall, and that’s the kind of intention I’m denying. As is often (always?) the case in relationships between an omniscient omnipotent God and a derivatively free reality, there’s a complex reality. Which is why well-intentioned extremists can take one or the other side (in this case “He intended it!” “No He didn’t!”) and both be saying something right yet both somehow be wrong (because they aren’t accounting for the truth of each other).


#10

lol… to me it just sounds like you’re claiming that God contradicts himself. I realise you’re not making this claim, because you use the phrase “In another sense”. I would claim that that “In another sense” is just another way of saying that God never wanted us to fall and he would have prefered if we hadn’t, but since he knew that we would, it was his intention that we would.

If this wasn’t the case, surely he would never have planted “the tree” in “the garden”


#11

Thanks for the welcome Aaron :smiley:


#12

I think the question of whether or not God “intended” that Adam and Eve sin touches upon the idea that Scripture reveals two wills of God: his “prescriptive (or moral) will” (which is reflective of God’s perfect understanding of what will make us presently happy, and is made known to us in his law/commands), and his sovereign, “decretive will” (which is hidden from us unless revealed in prophecy, and is comprehensive of all that has and will take place in history). When we look at the “fall of man” from this perspective, we may say that, while Adam’s sin was a violation of God’s “prescriptive will” (for this act was inconsistent with Adam’s present happiness), it was still fully embraced by God’s “decretive will” (for this event was a part of God’s benevolent plan for the human race all along, as seems to be taught in Rom 8:20-21). We may say the same thing in regards to the crucifixion of Christ: while the sin of those who condemned Christ to death was a clear violation of God’s “prescriptive will,” it was at the same time completely consistent with his “decretive will” (see, for example, Acts 2:23; 4:27-28).


#13

Another good post, Aaron.


#14

I couldn’t have (and indeed I didn’t) said it better.


#15

That is a wonderful explanation Aaron. Thank you for sharing that.

Welcome Ace, happy to have you share the journey. I’ve been giving you a difficult time with your WWJD question and enjoying every moment of it. :mrgreen:

I hold to an absolute sovereign God who yes … can I say it … even authors and utilizes sin. I can’t wait to get to the end and see the benevolent conclusion as to, “why sin?”

Be blessed my friend and I’m looking forward to see how and whether He gets you out of that WWJD hole He dug for you, :mrgreen:

John


#16

Thanks John

I’d prefer if we stayed on topic here, I’m interested to see if anybody has any reasonable objection to this line of thought.


#17

Whatever “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” was, is, or stands for–and notably it seems to occupy the same ‘space’ in the garden as the tree of life–both the knowledge and the “fruit” of the tree (whatever “fruit” was, is or stands for) were good. This is expressly stated in the story, and more to the point it would be ludicrous for the knowledge of good and evil to be itself evil and yet be held by God (including whatever heavenly persons are being spoken of by God).

Putting “the tree” in “the garden” is not the main problem with the question of God’s intentions regarding Man’s fall. Allowing “the dragon” into “the garden” with hostile access to the people (and being absent in some fashion during the temptation), and (apparently) proscribing the attainment of that which would have been good for them to have, are the main problems.

The story details show at least an intention by God to this extent: that mankind should be tested, and that mankind should one way or another receive knowledge of good and evil. The humans are rational beings, and the story shows that they did what they did for no good reason but rather willfully against what logical light they had. They chose to do that which was anti-rational; and they willfully chose to break an already-established personal faith.

Consequently, they received the knowledge of good and evil, but they chose to receive it one way when, had they chosen to remain rational and personally faithful–which they could have easily done, the incident was not automatic in its results–they would have received that knowledge another way: by the self-abasing discipline of personal loyalty and rationality, the choice not to put themselves over against what light they could see.

To borrow a phrase from my novel–itself borrowed from either Lewis or MacDonald; I forget which but most likely the latter–they chose ambition instead of aspiration.

They wouldn’t even have needed the dragon there, already an enemy of God, to make that choice. (And after all, who tempted the dragon to be an enemy of God, if an enemy of God is needed to lead a creature to fall?! More likely the dragon was there for the dragon’s ultimate benefit, as Satan/Leviathan is brought to consider Job.) But to make the choice, elements for making that choice one way or another would have to be present; and those elements are directly provided by God.

That doesn’t mean God, the omniscient, couldn’t see from His vantage what the outcome would be. But there is a big difference between knowing what a choice will be, and acting in regard to that event as though the event is something other than a choice which, from the side of the chooser, could go one way or the other.

There is a difference, in other words, between God intending us to fall and so setting things up so that we would necessarily fall (which is why I was using the term “necessarily” in my denial), and God intending us to have a choice while seeing from His vantage point what our choice will certainly be in response to His intention that we have a choice in the matter. The latter certainty wasn’t deterministic on God’s part; God didn’t determine humanity’s fall for us. (Though if we suffer now from an inherited effect as a consequence, then that effect is determined for us by the preceding event.)

Nevertheless, God was also personally responsible for the situation being such that we could fall; including, first and foremost, for creating us as creatures who could possibly fall. God doesn’t shirk that responsibility. Neither (according to the scriptures) does He intend for us to shirk ours–not with primary intention.


#18

I’m sure you realise that the point I was making there, had nothing to do with “the tree” in “the garden”. This is why I used quotes.

Whether temptation came from a tree, a snake or indeed anything else is beside the point.
The point I was making was that: Whatever it was that ultimately caused the fall of man, it was created by a God that knew it would have this effect. He planted something for us to trip over, hoping and requiring that we wouldn’t, while expecting that we would.

I think I understand your reservation: You wouldn’t want it to seem that God was responsible for the fall just because he knew it was always going to go that way. I don’t think that reservation is warranted. God acting in regard to the fall as though he knows the outcome to that choice does not mitigate our responsibility, since his foreknowledge does not hinder our ability to choose.

I think the difference in our views can highlighted quite effectively by an interesting argument I heard on a debate show a few days ago. An ex-Christian atheist argued that:

God is like a father who promised to take his children to that evenings show at the cinema so long as they behaved. When they failed to behave, he revealed that he never even bought the cinema tickets because he was expecting them to fail.

While this sort of behaviour may seem shocking to a parent, the problem with this illustration is that one cannot compare an omniscient God to a fallible father. It is good for a fallible father to expect the best from his children. It would be ridiculous for an omniscient father to expect something that would never happen. This action would not undermine an omniscient father’s promise, since if the children had chosen to behave; he would have had prior knowledge of this and have bought the tickets. The children would have received their reward if they had behaved.

If the father knew the outcome with certainty he would be able act on his promise before they chose, regardless of what the children would choose.


#19

WELCOME ACE:)


#20

I find this a VERY interesting Commentary On Genesis (and I personally believe it’s right on the mark.)