Personal testimonies regarding UR


#1

Hello it’s firedup2000 again.

I originally posted this question on July 5:

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I agree that just because the text of Scripture does not specifically mention a concept does not mean the concept is not valid. However, in some cases when a concept is not mentioned it is “conspicuous by its absence”. The lack of a direct statement concerning the finitude of the destruction and/or “lake of fire” awaiting present day unbelievers seemed to be just such a a case.

I do not ask this to tear down Christian Universalism but in an attempt to remove seemingly obvious exegetical barriers from a philosophically appealing view.

It is interesting to read in Revelation 21 that the kings and nations of the earth will bring their glory to the heavenly city whose gates are never closed. Perhaps this is just such a text that I am looking for.

I will continue to read and learn.

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When I first submitted my question I did not anticipate that it would generate so much conversation. I read the initial posts and started to review some of the links suggested by Sonia. Unfortunately I had to leave town and could not access the Internet for a while (yes I was visiting another planet). Please do not misinterpret inability to post replies as a lack of interest or appreciation, as I did read through all of them upon my return. I think a few points are in order:

  1. I am new to the blogging world and do not always realize the furor a question can produce.

  2. Aaron37 is not me and I am not Aaron37 in disguise.

  3. Aaron 37 is not my bulldog. In fact I am sympathetic to the Universalist view. However, I do appreciate his knack for drawing out many of the Universalist arguments. The exchange is enlightening.

4.) My firedup2000 userid has nothing to do with my “lake of fire” question but is a common userid I have used since 2000 related to the attitude I would like to have for Christ.

  1. Its probably best to not refer to me as FU2, but whatever. :laughing:

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Perhaps my involvement (or lack thereof) in the previous “lake of fire” thread is “conspicuous by its absence” as well. :wink: I will try to remedy that. JeffA asked for me to introduce myself a little more. Perhaps a telling of my present struggle will suffice for now. (Please forgive the length but there is alot to tell.) :

I’ve been a Christian for over 20 years. I originally came into the Kingdom with an Arminian understanding of salvation. In time I started to see how horrifying it was to believe that my perseverance was dependent upon my free will; my ability or inclination to continually trust in Christ. I then learned of the doctrine of Eternal Security which eventually led me to embrace Calvinism.

I must admit that the “L” (Limited Atonement) of the Calvinistic TULIP was problematic for me in that it seemed to bar me from being able to tell people, with any degree of certainty, that Jesus loves them and died for their sins. Arminians of course object to this as well. However, while they conceive of a God of broad and indiscriminate love, He actually comes off as somewhat impotent and cruel for creating human beings, who he sincerely loves with a desire for salvation, in full knowledge that they would not choose him. (In fact I believe a proper understanding of Total Depravity indicates that none would choose God were it not for Irresistible Grace.) Therefore I deemed myself a four-point Calvinist.

Though I recognized that most of humanity was still not the subject of Christ’s electing and redeeming love, there was at least a sense that God cared enough to go to the cross for them. This love grew out of his “will of disposition”. I accepted the idea that it was this “dispositional” love of God for all that allowed me to love and preach the gospel to all. How this was reconciled with his sovereign “will of decree”, that ultimately determined one’s fate, was a mystery I was willing to leave in God’s hands. At least this gave me a justification for approaching others “in genuine love” with the gospel.

However, as time went on I grew increasingly more uneasy about this apparent contradiction. It bothered me that I could joyously sing songs in church about “my” Redeemer knowing that some of my deceased loved ones were probably in eternal hell because they actively denied the faith. How could I keep that Christian smile plastered on my face knowing that the mass of humanity, who I am presently called to love, will share their fate? This seemed to imply that I did not really love them. What kind of monster was I? Yet this is the exact attitude that God seemed to be calling me to have.

How would I cope with this once I was in heaven? A well-intentioned Arminian friend of mine suggested that once we are in heaven God would remove our memory of lost loved ones and He alone would bear the misery of knowing about their eternal fate. But isn’t there reason to believe that we will remember our lives on Earth and rejoice in the way God directed them and used people, saved or not, to bring us to faith? How do we just remove the memory of people from our existence without removing the content of our lives? This isn’t the movie “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” with a Hollywood script writer who can surgically remove a person from someone’s memory without disrupting every other contingency.

The moments of our lives are intertwined with people who may not be saved, yet they are objects of our love and play important roles in almost every event. In fact if we are truly loving, God would have to remove the memory of just about every person we meet who is unsaved. But even if there was a way to surgically remove our unsaved loved ones from our memories, other unsaved souls would undoubtedly be the loved ones of someone else in heaven. How would we communicate with others in heaven concerning events that involved the loved one of one saved person but not the other saved person? The loved one would be removed from the memory of one saved person but not the other which would make the communication impossible. It doesn’t take long to see that in order for God to shield us from the pain of the loss of our loved ones, he would have to wipe the slate clean in each of our minds. This life would need to be forgotten completely.

Some have suggested that the wonder of God’s glory will be so consuming that it would push the thought of our lost loved ones so far out of our thoughts that it wouldn’t really matter that they exist somewhere in our memory. But if God’s glory is so all-consuming that this would occur, is it not reasonable to believe that it would push the memory of everything from this life out of our thoughts? Likewise, what happens to the memory of various events in our lives when significant, but unsaved people, are pushed out of our thoughts? Again we are in the same situation of an eternity that bears no meaningful remembrance of the temporal life we live now; an eternity that makes no use of the events of our existence now in order to glorify God in the future.

Some have even suggested that God will simply rewrite the story of our lives to include only the loved ones that are saved while removing those who aren’t. However, again it must be pointed out that if we are truly loving, this could involve a major rewrite, removing just about every person we meet. This also involves a deception on God’s part.

Removing individual people from our memories, erasing memories, allowing memories to be pushed out of our minds , rewriting our memories: Does this seem like the way God would do things?

Moreover, what kind of heaven would it be if God alone is bearing the misery of lost souls forever. Do we really want to believe that while we are rejoicing and experiencing perfect bliss, it is only done so at the ongoing expense of God’s disappointment?

No, my Calvinistic understanding told me that God would not be disappointed but would be satisfied in the end. Perhaps I would just be so enamored with God and the wonder of heaven that I would no longer care about the lost souls in Hell, and neither would God. “After all, they are getting what they deserve and what they wanted.” This is the best I could come up with. Oh yes, I wholeheartedly admitted that were it not for the Irresistible Grace of God, I would be receiving the same. No, I adamantly did NOT believe that I deserved any better, but that my salvation was entirely due to God’s sovereign electing choice which was not based upon my righteousness or willing. Nevertheless the doctrine of “eternal torment for some” did lend itself to the idea that God was calling me to join Him in a "serves you right” attitude.

As much as my 5-point Calvinistic pastor urged me to love people and “go on mission” in the world, I started to notice that the lack of certainty about God’ s ultimate attitude towards people served as a psychological barrier to truly do so. How can I pour my love into other people without the assurance that God has at least as much love for them? How can I earnestly contend for their salvation today knowing that for most of them, or even some of them, a tomorrow will come when I will not really care about their damnation? Though these questions bothered me, I tried not to think about it, and continued to raise my hands in worship at church like any other good Christian.

Everything hit the fan when my son, who I truly love more than words can express, started to have intellectual problems with the Bible and became agnostic. While we converse on this and have a great relationship, suddenly this subject was not an abstract problem. I could no longer find contentment in the Christian doctrine. I really had to grapple with the idea that he could be separated from me forever in hell. The mere contemplation of such was an agony beyond words… beyond comprehension. Make no mistake about it, potential future Hell for him is actual present day Hell for me.

A reading of Jonathan Edwards’ paper “The End of the Wicked Contemplated by the Righteous” (biblebb.com/files/edwards/contemplated.htm) counsels me not to fret because, though I am to love my son now, I will hate him then, and rejoice in his never ending torment, when I see that God hated him all along:

Randy Alcorn, author of the book Heaven, concurs even suggesting in an online article (epm.org/resources/2010/Mar/26/if-our-loved-ones-are-hell-wont-spoil-heaven/) that once God’s gifts are removed from those we love we will see them as they truly are and agree with their eternal torment:

This makes me ask: “Shouldn’t we only love and want whoever and whatever pleases and glorifies and reflects God now? If we were to love anything else now wouldn’t that dishonor God? Therefore, by expressing indiscriminate love to everyone now, are we not in danger of loving someone God hates”

Others in church would counsel that this is all a mystery that our minds cannot resolve today but will make sense in the next life. I was told to “Keep loving your son and fighting for his soul.” I thought that maybe I could find some comfort in this, believing that the contradiction would eventually be resolved and all would be bliss in heaven regardless of how I feel about it today. But then I realized any comfort would come at the price of my present day sanity, and I do mean that literally. The love and concern I was feeling, and that God seemed to be calling me to presently have, for my son, was just too great for me to fathom the idea that it might be reversed in heaven.

Formerly, I expected to spend the rest of my life rejoicing in the fact that my son and I served and loved the one true God and would be with Him forever. This made up a large content of our prayers and worship as he grew up. This is what he expected as well; at least until recent months when he hit “intellectual barriers”. In any case, how was I supposed to feel now?! Was I to?:

a.	experience daily terror for his soul.

b.	rejoice that he will one day fuel the fires of hell to glorify God and enhance my appreciation of God and heaven.

Option (a) would seem to ruin the joys of both Earth and heaven while option (b) would seem to contradict one of the very reasons we are to rejoice in our children. In fact, it would seem that the preponderance of Scripture specifically bars us from presently having the attitude of option (b) for anyone, at least as it concerns eternal punishment. Yet if we maintain a doctrine of God ordained “eternal torment for some”, logic would seem to call for it now.

I could no longer handle the well-intentioned exhortations to just leave this apparent mystery in God’s hands. I am not wired this way. It was as if God was calling me to literally go “out my mind” just to survive, albeit in an insane asylum. Either that or consider this life, and the emotions and attitudes we are commanded to feel, to be based on a mere illusion that does not reflect ultimate reality. Believe it or not, I actually tried to do this but could not help seeing life as just a game we are forced to play along with until the true reality is revealed in heaven. This seems to be more akin to the mysticism of Hinduism than Christianity. I thought Christianity was supposed to affirm the reality and importance of matter and our present existence. Is God playing tricks with me? Such thinking leads me to wonder if my own faith is but an illusion. I thought Calvinism would give me assurance and peace but now it provides the exact opposite.

What kind of monstrous and deceptive God is it that we Christians have?!

It was at this time I realized that whatever love I had for other family members, who either died in unbelief or currently walk in it, was not very deep or genuine. I also realized that whatever love I claimed to be expressing for our lost world was even shallower. For now I knew the agony true love can produce in a person when faced with the prospect that the object of their love may face eternal torment.

Moreover, we are always taught in any church, be it Calvinistic or Arminian, that God’s love for souls is infinitely greater than our own and that this quality of love is the goal we should strive for. I wholeheartedly agree. I confess that my earthly ability to love my son is dwarfed by God’s ability. I believe that I am supposed to love others like God loves them. However, if I was to love my son anymore, faced with his current agnosticism, it would kill me this very day. Perhaps the only reason the men in white suits have not taken me away yet is because my love for my son is lacking. Is this something I should be thankful for?! That the deficiency of my ability to love my son, though still immense, is preserving my sanity in the midst of the terror I presently experience for him?!

In an attempt to show the absurdity of my reasoning, someone recently pointed out to me that this is the ‘lot’ for all parents. When they bring children into the world they don’t know what their children will choose just as I don’t know what my son will ultimately choose. My son, as a young adult, is just a little older than the little kids of other parents and he can express himself more intelligently. “But God still calls us to have kids and take that risk, just as he took a risk in creation,” so I am told.

Is this supposed to make me feel better about the situation?! To my mind it just makes God’s program of procreation seem all the more ludicrous. Even if it could be argued that most children of believers ultimately, and finally accept the Christian faith, what about the few that don’t? Is a majority of saved children supposed to make me feel better about the supposed minority of unsaved children?

I know that I am supposed to love Christ more than my son, and I know I must choose God over my son just as Abraham did. As my son grew up I repeatedly told him that Jesus will always be there for him and that I will too. Now I have to ask: “Was this a lie?” I want to tell him that so badly now, but I am afraid I will be contradicting God’s will. After all, if God takes me to heaven and not him, I will be leaving him… forever. While it is true I will do and go wherever Jesus wants me to, I wonder if God ever intended for parents (or siblings, spouses, cousins, friends, church members etc.) to love people under the prospect of having to lose them eternally.

I must admit, with all this in mind I am afraid to love my son more than I already do. It makes me wonder if the doctrine of “eternal torment” has kept me from loving others in the past for the very same reasons. Perhaps this is why, while I am attempting to obey Christ’s commands to love and preach the gospel to unbelievers, I still secretly hold them at arm’s length on an emotional level. What incentive is there to love anybody who is unsaved, knowing that the flipside of such love is the agony of wondering whether or not they will turn to Christ?

Jesus please forgive me, but while you command me to rejoice in the message of the Gospel, I confess that the “news” no longer seems “good”.

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I realize that many of the questions raised here are more philosophical than exegetical. I wonder if there is anybody else out there who experienced or is experiencing similar struggles. I assume that most people were not converted from atheism (or false religion) immediately to Christian Universalism. What was it that pulled you from a traditional Christian approach to Christian Universalism? Was it purely the text of Scripture or did it also have to do with a personal experience and its influence upon your philosophy? Any comments are welcome.


#2

Firedup,

Thanks for the response. Glad you’re here.

The Edwards and Alcorn references are PRICELESS! Thanks.


Firedup: I will continue to read and learn.

Tom: Proof positive that you are not Aaron37.

Tom


#3

Hah. Oh, Tom!

Hm, that sounds a whole lot like my current church “Mars Hill” who, yes, is Calvinistic in theology but does express that God loves everyone. I think the preaching pastor may be a four-point Calvinist, too…

BINGO! :mrgreen:

You are touching on the heart of the universalist argument, good sir. This is such a compelling story and raises some very severe yet honest questions on the topic. I am sympathetic to your situation… in fact, I think I’ll pray for you.

Basically because I prayed the essence of this prayer:

Actually, it didn’t start like that. I have to admit that at first I wasn’t all that concerned about the plight of the lost because the traditional doctrine, especially as described by some deeper thinkers, made sense to me. C.S. Lewis said that it’s just what people eventually choose. I can stomach some of what Aaron’s been posting about people who finally choose into a settled position about their rejection of God better than I can many or most other anti-universalistic ideas; but mostly I think it’s unrealistic and still ultimately impotent on God’s part if not unjust and unloving.

What really started it is when I began to experience more and more of God’s presence. I became so inundated with the pleasure of communion with God that I spontaneously wanted EVERYONE who had ever existed to experience that same communion! I don’t even remember when that happened. In a very ironic way, that moment seems to be timeless… just as eternity is meant to be. I believe it was a very spiritual moment that thus transcended time. Hard to explain that statement but if you’ve come close to such an experience you might know what I mean. In other words, I don’t even remember for sure if the first time I felt that was when I was a small kid or in my very late teens/early twenties. Or maybe it was several moments all fused together in my mind as one.

Regardless, I began to despair, since apparently some weren’t going to ever be able to experience such a thing. It wasn’t that I was necessarily being sympathetic to suffering, although there was some of that I’m sure, as I’m normally not, even to my own, as I just barrel through it pretty stoically for the most part. To me that’s almost the weakest aspect of the reasoning, because none of us are ever promised to be exempt from trials. Now I’m talking about external suffering, mind you… internal suffering is a part of the whole “communion with God” issue.

The fact of the matter is that I could no longer in good conscience keep any of this to myself. Funnily enough I had always shrunk back from evangelism at school because I didn’t think I was consistent enough to be able to present the message. I realize now that I was awaiting correction from God about my very attitude and thoughts regarding them. Yes, there was a huge period in my life where such people disgusted me in a certain way. Now I can’t love them more. But then, I had an attitude problem.

It was only through God’s gracious moving in my life, letting me experience more and more of His love, that I began to want that for everyone.

But the issue was that I could no longer in good conscience decide that it was okay for me to experience such divine richness and goodness while others went without. Yes, they made decisions every day that ran counter to it, but I also knew that they’d never been privileged enough to even encounter it like I had. This didn’t make sense to me. How could millions die every day without an omnipotent God at least giving them a taste of what they could have?

So I began researching eternity. I began to understand that it had nothing to do with time. My dad had already planted the idea in my head when I was a kid (although he’s not a universalist himself, but he’s open to the possibility) that the Greek idea of time was circular and that perhaps after a few ages God would release them or some of them.

So I kinda played around with that idea, and also toyed with the notion that if Jesus came and revealed that this life is not all there is, and that there is more to existence beyond death, a mountain we hitherto could not see past, and proved it by his resurrection… then couldn’t what we call “eternity” be the same kind of phenomenon? They might be destroyed, but then they would be reborn… which would make sense with the idea that we are supposed to be born again. (Later I would remarkably read these very type of words from an author I came to love, named George MacDonald.)

I reasoned that if a person is completely destroyed and then reborn, then we are talking about two different times, or modes of existence, or realms. The person starts all over again, thus the former existence is completely finished (I was thinking of Jesus’ words that whosoever believes has already crossed from death to eternal life) and “wrapped up” in the next (which I found later to fit quite nicely with the idea that death is swallowed up in victory). Thus eternity began to be equated in my mind more with completion than endless duration or a property of time.

Then I began to have a series of strange experiences where I got to know God more and more but in much stranger and shall we say, much more terrible ways. I was learning His holiness and my “utter depravity,” so to speak. I would be completely abandoned and desolated, “found out” and left for dead, deep in my soul. I knew that I was bad from head to foot and there was nobody or nothing that could save me from that. I was wrapped up in my own dead, dark sphere of existence with nothing but hell all around me. God was an eternity away.

And just as I would give up all hope for good and cease striving, suddenly I’d perceive a light breaking through into my darkness out of nowhere. It infiltrated my entire world and resurrected my spirit and gave me complete joy to the bursting. Now all that death and darkness seemed a million miles away. It was hard to even imagine it anymore.

This would cycle through over and over, each time feeling like I was deeper and darker in hell and more and more hopeless. Finally I had a breakthrough experience where (as I’ve described elsewhere) it manifested even in physical trauma and I ended up weeping with snot and everything shuddering next to a tree out in the cold in the middle of nowhere… and there He was, in the midst of all of it, just waiting for me to realize that He had been there all along. Suddenly I had the strength to get up and go back home where I belonged.

There is much, much more to this story (so much more!) especially on the side of my lover, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, to tell… He bore the brunt of it. How can the story ever fully be told? But here I am, and I AM His story, and I just want the whole world to know how utterly good He is, through and through, throughout our long, wearisome lives and beyond.

Amen!


#4

Thank you, Firedup. I do what I can to challenge the false doctrine of UR, biblically. Check out my New topic in the discussion negative section about “2 Cor 5:19 and the only sin that is not forgiven in any age” I have nothing against my brothers and sisters who believe in UR, they are just sincerely wrong.


#5

Firedup,
It’s obvious that you’ve really thought deeply on these things, and I appreciate your for taking the time to share so much.

The short answer would be ‘both’–Scripture + life experience. And not just a single experience, but my lifelong experience, and search for Truth. Universal Reconciliation is a joy to me that I can hardly contain, and has affected my outlook on life in so many ways. But I appreciate your reservations–to abandon the traditional teachings was not a step that I was able to take lightly and without great consideration. It took me 4-6 months of intense scripture study and prayer (6 hours a day or more sometimes) before I was confident that I could trust that God would reconcile ALL to Himself in Christ.

Welcome! I very much enjoyed reading your story and will try to get back later with a proper response.
Sonia


#6

Firedup2000, thanks for sharing. And I’ll gladly address your philosophical questions later, but before that I wanted to share briefly why I’ve come to believe Jesus truly is the savior of all men - that being simply because of my understanding of Scripture. I’ve always had a simple faith in the Lord that he’d work things out. I’d always just accepted that the traditional doctrine of Hell was true. And though I was raised in a denomination that was very exclusive, believing we were the only ones with the truth and going to heaven, I was not overwhelmed with concern for the lost though I trained as a missionary and regularly shared my faith. My trust in Christ trumped any concern for individuals, and all who were close to me had at one point in their life confessed their faith in Christ; so I just trusted God to work things out.

About 1.5 years ago though, I started studying UR a little, looking at the scriptures that affirm UR like Rom.5.18 and Col.1.20, studying them in context to see what they say, assuming that an exegetical study of these passages would NOT affirm UR. But the more I studied them, the more I came to believe that they could possibly mean what they actually say - that the atonement ultimately reconciles all of creation to God, making peace where there was once war! Frankly, this scared the crap out of me, so I decided to stop studing these passages and study the passages on Hell, assuming that they would counter-balance these others for often times the Truth seems to be found in the dynamic tension between opposing “truths”. Of course, this is a fancy way of saying that what we believe doesn’t really make sense.

Anyhow, as I studied what scripture actually says concerning punishment of sin though, I found that scripture does not teach Hell. In fact, if not for the passages that affirm the salvation of all, IF all I looked at were scriptures that speak of punishment of sin and did not look at scriptures that affirm the universality of the Atonement, then I’d likely believe in Annihilation, that those who do not receive Jesus in this life will ultimately be annihilated.

But then as I was studying the meaning of the word Gehenna, I uncovered that to the 1st Century Jew, Gehenna was a theological metaphor used by the Rabbis to speak of Remedial Punishment for most people who go there. It spoke of people encountering the fire of truth and that fire burning the evil and wickedness from them, delivering them from deceptiong, especially self-deception, that kept them bound in sin. The fire of truth set them free, purified and healed their souls, like the presence of the Lord convicted Isaiah of sin, and the fire of the “altar” (the place of sacrifice) burnt Isaiah and purified him making him a spokesman for the Lord.

In studying the passages on Judgment I realized that Judgment is based on how we actually live our lives, what we do with what revelation we recieve from God and on how we treat others. In other words, Judgment is based on works and we shall all be judged according to how we lived, not on just whether or not we believe in Jesus! But the purpose of Judgment is not to exclude people from the kingdom of God; rather, the purpose of judgment is to enable people to embrace the kingdom of God - and that is judgment in this life and the life to come. Judgement is remedial and punishment is remedial - meant to bring a positive change in the ones being judged. We shall all face the judgment; and do not be fooled, God will not be mocked, what a man sows so shall he reap. If he sows to the flesh he’ll reap destruction. But if we sow to the Spirit we’ll reap the Life of God! And remember, this was written to the believer. Judgment is a warning for the believer! The unbeliever doesn’t believe anyhow so warning them of judgment does them no good for they do not believe! But warning the believer of judgment does us tremendous good!

Sadly, by misinterpreting scripture to say the judgment is based on faith and not based on works, the scriptures that speak of judgment loose their power for the believer because believers say, “well, that doesn’t apply to me because I’m saved and have faith in Christ.” Another example of Errant Tradition nullifying the power of scripture to call us to righteousness.

Well, I’ve got to go now, but I look forward to sharing more with you, firedup.

Blessings,
Sherman


#7

How? My only question is how?


#8

Oh yes, I meant to mention that I’m grateful for the quotes from Edwards. I had been wondering if there was something a little more implicating of is outlook than just “sinners piss God off” which has some (limited) scriptural merit.


#9

Firedup,

Thank you for sharing your story. I can very much identify with some of your thoughts and experiences, as I dealt with many of them a few years ago. I don’t have much time to reply, but I wanted to encourage you. Being raised as a Calvinist myself, I also eventually hit a wall where I could not continue if God’s love was not universal. It would all have been too fake. I could not reconcile the person of Jesus with a God who loved a few and not the rest. I eventually couldn’t reconcile the bible with that concept either. However, as you say, the arminian perspective didn’t help much either… I had a great sense of God’s sovereignty and I couldn’t piece it together. How could life have any beauty if God’s love didn’t reach everything? (As a side note, previously to this time, I knew in my heart and through experience that God’s love WAS universal, but I let my theology get in the way of that).

My circumstances led me to beg God to show me who He was - because deep down I think I believed He was good even though I just couldn’t make an eternal hell fit with that. Long story short, I now believe God does love all, and I believe Christ won’t give up until he has accomplished everything for the Father. God has confirmed this for me in some special ways. Don’t get me wrong - sometimes I doubt, but in the end, it is what I believe.

A healthy thing for me was to be very honest with God about how I’m feeling at a particular time - This might sound strange, but I remember a turning point for me was when I very honestly and gently told God that I didn’t really trust him like I had in the past… If we are faithless, he is faithful.

I was not a father when I dealt with much of this, but I am now, and I’m glad that I can rest assured of God’s love for my children. However, now that I am a father, I can even more understand what you might be going through. God loves your son. This might sound strange, but quotes like that from Jonathan Edwards are almost helpful to me in a sense to reveal the absurdity of limiting God’s love in such a way.

I’m not great with words, but I just want to say again that I resonate with so much of what you said. I want to encourage you on your journey.

Andrew


#10

Stellar Renegade,

Thank you very much for your insights, personal reflections, and prayers. It is great to hear that youir interest in sharing Christ is motivated by a desire to tell of his love so that all may experience it, as you are.

For a Philosophy or Religion class, I just wrote a paper that contrasts the Christian view of time with the cyclical, sacred view expressed in Hinduism and other religions. The paper went on to demonstrate how the Christian view of time helped to advance the development of science. I learned a lot about the cyclical Hindu concept of time. While your ideas about eternity are intriguing, it appears that the Bible expresses a linear view of time, where the past is not repeated in any way, but does have great implications for the future. It would seem to me that people do not start “all over again”, even though through the cross God can certainly make all things new. In the Christian view, time always seems to be headed towards definite goals and is not bound up in endless cycles.

What do you think?


#11

Ooooh, very nice. I’d like to see that or at least see how your theory unravels.

No, I definitely agree. I don’t subscribe to the circular view of time, I was just pointing out that my dad had said something that caused me to think of eternal condemnation in a different way. The circular time bit ultimately never made sense to me. I do think in a sense that eternity is best represented by some kind of circle, loop or round shape; but then again, I don’t believe that eternity has anything in itself to do with time. A momentary reality could even be eternal, as long as it was heavenly.

But yeah, upward progression and all that, it’s a beautiful truth. Or else I wouldn’t believe in UR. I did theorize at one point, though, that history seems to cycle back on itself (repeat itself in a sense) while still moving upward, in the basic shape of a spiral. Each point in an upward loop corresponds with something in the former loop.


#12

Dear Sherman,

Thanks for your comments.

It does seem strange that Jesus would suddenly drop the concept of eternal torment in hell upon his listeners who had no concept of the subject from the Old Testament. It would seem that such a profound concept would have been brought up sooner in the Old Testament. Also, if Jesus was referring to eternal hell, it also seems he would have been preaching a doctrine of salvation by works (e.g. Mat 5:29-30 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell{Gehenna}. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell{Gehenna}. )

While it was hard to wrap my mind upon this due to my traditional understanding, it does make sense to think of Gehenna as a metaphor since Jesus used it in the midst of language containing hyperbole already.

I appreciate your comments about Judgment. However, just to be clear, you do believe that Jesus bore the retribution that we deserved for our sins, right? My understanding of the Universalist, as well as the traditional view, is that Jesus bore this penalty so that we would not have to. Therefore, because of the cross, and only because of the Cross, all future punishment on Earth is remedial.

With this in mind is it not true that when a believer dies he or she does not have to face further remedial punishment as well as the second death in Rev 21:8 …

“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

My understanding is that even though a believer’s sin would put him in the category of those in Revelation 21:8, the believer will not face these consequences because he or she is covered in the righteousness of Christ through faith. Is this not your understanding as well?

Isn’t it true that, for believers, any judgment after death is NOT based upon our works, but upon the works of Christ on our behalf which we receive through faith?

Sincerely,
firedup2000


#13

FiredUp - Thank you for sharing your testimony with us. I haven’t replied sooner because I have been away on holiday - so have a lot of catching up to do here :smiley:


#14

I think you’re on the right track, firedup. So the next question one might ask is this: If “Gehenna” is in fact a metaphor, did the metaphor originate with Jesus? Or, was it perhaps derived from another source that would have been well-known to Jesus’ Jewish listeners? I believe it is the latter, and that the origin of the metaphor can be found in chapter 19 of the book of Jeremiah.


#15

The cold contortions of theology that Hell requires is enough to make me a Christian Universalist. The inhuman and frankly bizarre juxtaposition of Jesus Christ overseeing mothers in Heaven rejoicing over their children burning in Hell is impossible to take seriously.

From a biblical standpoint, perhaps the best thing one can do is buy and study the Concordant Literal New Testament. It is perhaps the most accurate English translation of the New Testament, and therein Hell simply disappears.

I also highly recommend reading pretty much anything by the Christian Universalist George MacDonald. He is utterly free of the ridiculous theological jugglery required by Hell. If nothing else, read his three volumes of Unspoken Sermons. If ever a man knew Christ, George MacDonald did.

From a theological standpoint, read St. Gregory of Nyssa (another Christian Universalist). He’s so orthodox that he was one of the three men (along with his brother St. Basil the Great and their friend St. Gregory the Theologian) most responsible for the formulation of the language used to describe the Trinity.


#16

Dear “stellar renegade”,

You said you were interested in the “Time” piece I recently wrote for a Philosophy of Religion class at a local community college. I chose to focus on the Christian view of time but we could have picked any religion. If you still care to read it, it is attached.

FYI we were required to reference the movie “The Gods Must Be Crazy”, which pertained to a Coke bottle intruding upon a primitive African tribe.
Time-alt.pdf (240 KB)


#17

Awesome! Thanks, firedup! I’ll get to it when I have time. :smiley:

Yes, yes, yes! Read those if nothing else, your mind will explode.

Here’s the link to all of them: Unspoken Sermons I, II and III I think you’d most benefit from series III to start off with.


#18

Unspoken Sermons is also available in part on Youtube, here: youtube.com/user/GeorgeMacDonaldWorks

Sonia


#19

Thanks for comments. I am reading the Evangelical Universalist now. I’m in the Revelation chapter.

Just as I was getting comfortable with the idea that Jesus was using Gehenna as a metaphor, albeit a strong one, for some kind of earthly chastisement or consequences, I read …

A few questions:

1.) What is he referring to when he speaks of killing the “soul” in Gehenna? Is destroying the “soul” just another metaphor for remedial chastisement? Or is the destroying of the “soul” just a metaphor to strengthen the severity of the Gehenna metaphor, without indicating the nature, time, or place of Gehenna? How is destroying the soul different from destroying the body?

2.) Gehenna is obviously a metaphor. While I realize the historical basis for the inception of the word, what would first century Jews immediately think Jesus was trying to symbolize with the word Gehenna?

3.) In this verse, is Gehenna being used as a metaphor for earthly punishment OR is it being used as a metaphor for punishment in the next age?

4.) Does the reference to the “soul” necessarily indicate that Gehenna refers to something in the next age?

…a. If so, would not the reference to destroying the “soul” indicate that such a Gehenna must be everlasting
…(as in the case of eternal torment) or final (as in the case of annihilation)?

…b. If not, does this mean that Jesus could somehow destroy the “soul” in an earthly context?

5.) Or in this verse is Jesus merely trying to indicate that he does have power to destroy the soul, be that through eternal torment or annihilation, even though he has made a way such that he will never have to exercise such power? In other words, is Jesus just describing his power while not necessarily trying to teach something about where, when, or how he will use that power?


#20

Shermster would be the best guy to answer your questions. Unfortunately, he just left on vacation for awhile. I’m sure we’ll do our best to help out. Jason would be next up, he’s pretty dang knowledgeable about the subject as well.