The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Our image of God?

Lately I have been in discussion with our Christian brothers and sisters who believe in the doctrine of hell or eternal torment, and I could never understand why the refuse to believe in God’s promise to Abraham, until it hit me this morning. They have created an image of God out of their own image. What I mean is that they read scripture and interpret it with their adamic carnal minds. For example, they believe that the Lake of Fire is a real place, when in fact it is not, for I personally believe it to be something else. So how do we help them see the promise made for us by our Father? I know that it is all in God’s plan, but is there any way to help them understand how they interpret scripture? I so much want to help as many as I can to see the truth and believe in it. This wonderful good news needs to be told to as many as possible. Any suggestion is welcome.

Great question Sword.

This is something I’ve encountered that really bugs me too. Many Christians are actually blind to the fact that they take certain scriptures at face value and then claim other scriptures that could just as easily be taken at face value are allegorical, or metaphorical, or are constrained by some other set of scriptures.


This is often brought up as describing a literal hell and the description of hell in this verse is to be taken completely at face value. So, then if you ask if gouging eyes is also literal then the answer is “no”. The gouging part is NOT to be taken literally. So even within this one short verse the rules of interpretation change depending on the person’s face value bias.

I’ve had conversations with people who would not admit or could not see that their bias existed even when looking at a short verse like this.

For a while I thought the first step towards getting folks to see even the possibility of UR was to get them to realize they do apply a bias. I would freely admit my own bias to them, but had a VERY hard time getting them to even consider they might have one. They would claim things like their view was truth and not a bias.

Anyway I sort of gave up with this tactic because the results led me be to believe this is a supernatural thing and something else has to happen for many church people to become open to UR.

It is either fear or pride, or maybe a mix of both that keeps peoples minds closed. You have to appeal to reason. If people refuse to be rational, the discussion will not get anywhere in my opinion. Good luck! :wink:

Even accepting the possibility of UR is a radical paradigm shift for almost all Christians, especially passionate Evangelicals. The certainty of damnation and Hell is a foundational principle of the traditional Christian God-view and world-view and effects ones understanding of everything. To remove the threat of Hell is to shake the very foundation of one’s whole theology. It’s no wonder that many people are unwilling to even consider the possibility of UR.

How do we overcome this? The same way we lead anyone to Christ - prayer and planting seeds of love, kindness, and the Word. The parable of the sower is very encouraging for it recognizes that some people will receive, others will not; and of those who receive, some cannot handle the heat that will follow and others let the cares of this life choke it out. Some though receive it and it eventually brings forth a harvest of righteousness! All we can do is plant for we never know the condition of another person’s heart.

There are many passages in which Hell is read into them. And of course, Hell being mistranslated INTO English translations certainly doesn’t help. All we can do is pray, love, and share what we believe and why we’ve come to believe it, trusting God to bring about His will in and through our lives!

One of my favorite quotes on the idea of man’s image of God comes from Brennan Manning, who said: “God created man in his own image, and then we returned the favor”. :wink:

Actually, I wouldn’t use Matthew 18:9 as an example of bias. IMO, Jesus is using hyperbole (gouging out of eyes) to demonstrate how much we DON’T want to be thrown into the “fires” of hell. I agree that fire is symbolic and hell is other than we have been taught, but in this verse, it seems to me that Jesus is in fact talking about the lengths one might reasonably put oneself to in order to avoid a season of rehabilitation in hell.

But as for the Lake of Fire, that doesn’t even figure. I don’t understand people who want to take Revelation literally. It is apocryphal literature, plain and simple. Very little of it can be taken at its face meaning. If your friends don’t understand that or can’t accede to it once you explain the genre, then perhaps they’re not ready to receive what you have to share with them.

Well, I have to agree with most of all what everyone has said. After ready L. Ray Smiths letter to John Hagee on his sermon about the seven wonders of hell, I was disturbed when Ray pointed out how Hagee says that hell is heavens trash dump. Can you believe that? Calling those billions Hagee believes that are in hell are nothing but trash? Most sadly is how Ray explains how the congregation continually applauds pastor Hagee during the sermon. I have come to the sad and horrible conclusion that most hell believers are hell wishers. I know this sounds harsh, but is it not true? They believe that our Father believer’s that those who they think are in this mythical hell deserve everything they get. So they themselves must also believe these souls in their hell deserve eternal torture. If they did not believe they did, that would show others that they are more compassionate than our Father is. Make no mistake. They have a hidden thirst for vengeance on nonbelievers and most of all, us Universalist’s. They may tolerate JW’s, SDA’s, Mormon’s, Jews’, Muslims’, Buddhist’s and Hindu’s, but through my experience with many of these Christians, they hate us and what we believe in. I know that Christ told His disciples that they hated Him first. It is so tragic the direction the church continues to follow. They are missing out of one of the greatest truths given to us all. No fear of death. For the truth has set us free. Thank you all for reading and your comments.


There is a good deal of brainwashing (unintentionally) going on with this hell believing thing. The reason it was so hard for me to overcome was the same reason that it is for anyone; this is what I was taught to believe was truth from a very young age, by people who didn’t know any better, because they were taught similarly. It truly takes an act of the holy spirit to see it differently. But I think we should expect people in the traditional church to hate us for this view. I only have one friend who knows about and disagrees with me on my universalism that can look past it and not treat me differently because of it.
There is nothing so loathsome as the truth when it cannot be accepted…

I’m not sure if I can agree that the majority of people who classify themselves as Christians relish the doctrine of hell… some do, I’m sure, and they are often the loudest and the most obnoxious and often get the most airtime in the public forum (which makes their number seem greater then it really is, I think), but I think the average person who believes in God and Jesus isn’t dancing a jig because of their most likely pretty vague views on hell… but then again, when it comes down to it, I can only speak with any measure of authority about my own experience. :neutral_face:

When I believed in hell (or tried to accept it anyway), I did so because I felt I had to, that it was just a reality I had to accept and deal with (though I had no idea what that reality would look like when it actually happened, which in some way made it even more terrifying at times, when I thought of my family or my friends, or even myself, in darker moments)…
I believed it because I felt like there was no other choice in the matter, if I wanted to have any kind of relationship with God, or with Jesus… I just had to try to accept His ‘justice’ even though it didn’t make any sense to me…
And I wrestled with it… a lot.

I faced many dark days and nights agonizing, struggling, crying, screaming, hating and cussing out God (or to be more accurate, my twisted image of God), emotionally imploding and mentally cracking because of things like this…
This may not be a universal experience for all those who believe in hell, but I don’t believe it is rare.
I’ve heard enough stories of similar struggles people have had with this to know I’m far from alone in this.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that the average person in the pew (or not in the pew), though they may not experience violent depression because of their belief in hell, aren’t excited about it either.
I think many people, like C.S. Lewis, would say that if there was one doctrine that they could throw out of the Christian faith, if they had the power to do so, it would be the doctrine of hell.
But they don’t feel they have that power. They believe that, like I did, that ‘this is just how things are’ and they have to live with it, and trust God as much as they can in the face of it. :neutral_face:

Most of us, I think, sadly, eventually become numb to it, and just don’t really think about it much anymore, which is honestly where I think I was heading in my mindset before I found out about UR. :neutral_face:
Of course, when God comes along, like I believe He did with me, and through working in my life and my heart (and I believe in answer to all those those dark days and nights), to throw this doctrine out Himself, that’s a different story. :slight_smile:

The fact is, people here, like Revival for instance, who believe in this doctrine, will not change their views because of anyone, including us, convincing them, no matter how eloquent or logical or profound our arguments may be.
I have tried to convince atheists and others of my faith in God at times, but thus far it really hasn’t gotten me very far at all…
When it comes down to it, like others have said here, only God Himself through His Spirit could open anyone’s eyes to this, or to anything of importance for that matter…
God may work through us to bring others to this place, or to any place He wants them to be, but ultimately it is a thing of divine grace, and not of human desire or effort…

The best things we can do, again by God’s grace and with God’s help, I think, when arguments for UR, no matter how well laid out they may be, fall flat, is to treat those on the other side of this with love, and to pray.
This is easier said than done, of course, because love is hard (like Jesus said, ‘It is hard to follow me!’), and even praying is hard sometimes, with the busyness and tiredness of our daily lives.
But then whatever love we show, and whatever prayers we bring to God, will not be shown or brought in vain. :slight_smile:

And we can always remember that each and every person belongs to their Creator, and He is the only One who knows what to do and how to break through to them. He has broken through to me at many times and in many ways… and I’m sure He is fully capable of doing the same with anyone and everyone else, in due time. :slight_smile:

And all of us here need this grace, need the Lord to be our helper, in this. We are all in the dark in one way or another, and we all need light to walk by.
But we can hold on to the hope that one day God will turn on the lights for everyone, and instead of finding a monster waiting to devour them, they will find a father waiting to embrace them.

And may it be so. :slight_smile:

Blessings :slight_smile:


I agree. Most of the people I’ve talked to about hell aren’t believing it because they like it, but because they believe that is what the Bible teaches. That’s where I was. And often it is fear which keeps people from being willing to question. I felt fear when I began to question.

I like what Sherman said about hell being foundational to people’s belief systems. It’s true. When you say hell isn’t eternal, they say, “Then why did Jesus have to die?” I asked that too. Today’s mainstream Christianity is built on the idea that once we die our fate is forever sealed – Jesus died to save us from hell if we put our faith in Him during this lifetime.

But Jesus died to save us from our sins. In sin, we are children of wrath – we are “dead” and living in hell – in separation from our Father. Jesus died to free us from sin, death, and the consequent “hell” – to bring home the lost sheep to his Father. Jesus died so that hell wouldn’t be eternal. It’s a whole different paradigm.


To accept UR requires a complete paradigm shift for most evangelical believers. And such radical paradigm shifts are very scary. I’ve experienced two such radical paradigm shifts in my life and both shook me to my core. Both we so foundational in my life that it set in motion for me a process of reexamining everything built upon or related to those two doctrines.

In short, I understand how scary it is to have your whole world shaken, and thus I try not to take it as a personal attack when people treat me badly because I share or they find out that I’ve come to believe UR. Fear causes people to do all manner of evil. Fear is not logical and does not respond to logic or reason. And fear comes from insecurity; and the doctrine of Hell produces insecurity in people. Many are not really secure in their own salvation, much less in the salvation of others whom they love. The more they believe salvation to be dependent upon believing and/or acting right, the more they are fearful of anything that they’d see as moving them or others whom they love towards possibly believing or acting wrongly, in their opinion. And thus they try to control the circumstances and others in their lives so as to minimize the possibility of lose. And with, in their minds, ECT hanging over their heads and the heads of everyone they know, then there is much fear.

Thankfully, God does not give us a spirit of fear, but one of power, security, and a sound mind. Trusting in Him for our salvation and the salvation of others is very empowering. I suppose part of the reason I was even open to UR is because God has proven His faithfulness to me over and over again, and thus I’ve come to have a wonderful faith in Jesus.

So very true. Take this verse for instance:

1 John 4:18:There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

How does this apply to the ECT doctrine? How can it?